Archive for October 27th, 2009

To Live Without Distraction

October 27, 2009

MonkPrayerAbba Arsenius avoided discussion of the Scripture, even though he was an excellent expositor. He was also reluctant to write letters to anyone. When he attended public worship, he sat behind a pillar to prevent himself or others from being distracted.

Writing as I do is a great distraction (sometimes for me, sometimes for others). To speak is also to offer a target (for criticism, for disagreement or worse). For a variety of reasons, I have more distraction than usual of late. Most of that distraction has come from within myself and very little from without. There are seasons in life. I daily give thanks for what has been given me, both expected and unexpected, including those things that are associated with writing. I have noted in a recent article that one should “not read more in a day than one prays.” That standard also applies to writing. Write less, pray more.

From one of my earliest articles I offer the following. I wrote it as I began the work of this blog, lest at any time I forget what I am about. As I read it, nothing has changed. For those who pray, remember me. For those who do not pray, I will remember you. May God remember us all.

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What matters:

God matters and what matters to God matters. I know that sounds very redundant, but I’m not sure how else I want to say it. There are many things that do not matter – because they do not matter to God. Knowing the difference between the two – what matters to God and what does not requires that we know God.

And this is theology – to know God. If I have a commitment in theology, it is to insist that we never forget that it is to know God. Many of the arguments (unending) and debates (interminable) are not about what we know, but about what we think.

Thinking is not bad, nor is it wrong, but thinking is not the same thing as theology. It is, of course, possible to think about theology, but this is not to be confused with theology itself.

Knowing God is not in itself an intellectual activity for God is not an idea, nor a thought. God may be known because He isperson. Indeed, He is only made known to us as person (we do not know His essence). We cannot know God objectively – that is He is not the object of our knowledge. He is known as we know a person. This is always a free gift, given to us in love. Thus knowledge of God is always a revelation, always a matter of grace, never a matter of achievement or attainment.

It matters that we know God because knowledge of God is life itself. “This is eternal life,” Jesus said, “to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”

The Orthodox way of life is only about knowing God. Everything we do, whether it is prayer, communion, confession, forgiveness, fasting – all of it is about knowing God. If it is about something else, then it is delusion and a distraction from our life’s only purpose.

Knowing God is not a distraction from knowing other persons, nor is knowing other persons a distraction from knowing God. But, like God, knowing other persons is not the same thing as thinking about them, much less is it objectifying them.

Knowing others is so far from being a distraction from knowing God, that it is actually essential to knowing God. We cannot say we love God, whom we have not seen, and hate our brother whom we do see, St. John tells us. We only know God to the extent that we love our enemies (1 John 4:7-8).

And this matters.

This blog does not matter – except that I may share something that makes it possible for someone to know God or someone may share something that allows themselves to be known. This matters.