To Live Without Distraction

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.

+++

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.

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22 Responses to “To Live Without Distraction”

  1. Twitter Trackbacks for To Live Without Distraction « Glory to God for All Things [fatherstephen.wordpress.com] on Topsy.com Says:

    […] To Live Without Distraction « Glory to God for All Things fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2009/ – view page – cached Abba 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… (Read more)Abba 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. (Read less) — From the page […]

  2. November In My Soul Says:

    Father,

    Blogs and those things that we do with the best of intentions inevitably bring additional issues and responsibilities into our lives. Thank you for your hard work and for being a vehicle of God’s love to us.

    Your comment that, “Thus knowledge of God is always a revelation, always a matter of grace, never a matter of achievement or attainment,” was a revelation to me. I had not fully considered that even the knowledge of His presence is an act of love for us. His love was something I accepted and took as a given. But that He chose to reveal Himself, to allow us to know Him was a decision He made I guess goes back to the very beginning of things (or at least our knowledge of them).

    So much said in so little. Again, thanks.

  3. Yudikris Says:

    Father,

    How beautiful is this post🙂, very true. Thanks!

  4. Russell Mangiapane Says:

    Father, forgive me, but the verses at the end of your post are actually 1 John 4:20-21. I had to look them up as I had never read them translated that way before. I like it! What version are you quoting from?

  5. fatherstephen Says:

    I am not so much citing a quote as citing a justification for the statement, we only know God to the extent that we love our enemies:

    Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

    To not love our enemies is “to love not,” and to the extent we “love not” we do not know God. It is the consequence of those verses in application.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you for your honesty, Father Stephen. It is nice to know that others are honest about their distractions and struggles because all too often I believe people hide this kind of thing and try to keep up their “church faces” all the time. I, too, am feeling a season of distraction–well more like discontentment in needing to address some issues in my life. I am incredibly grateful for the Sacrament of Confession for allowing me to voice my discontentment. It is comforting to me know that God can handle my discontentment; I take comfort in the Psalms or in the experience of someone like Jacob who wrestled with God.

    Though I don’t know you, I will keep you in my prayers.

  7. coffeezombie Says:

    “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.”

    This connects in my mind with a comment you made recently in response to a question about striving toward perfection: you said that ‘perfection’ is a false goal.

    It is so easy to do all of these “works” without even thinking about God, trusting instead that if we can do all these things, we’ll be saved, that is, making the works into an end in themselves. But, rather, the purpose of all that we do, far from earning us anything, is merely to prepare ourselves to receive God’s grace when He chooses to visit us. All of these things are simply the attentiveness of keeping our lamp trimmed so that when the bridegroom comes, we’re ready to accompany him.

    So, we keep praying, fasting, communing, confessing, forgiving, and, ultimately, waiting.🙂

  8. anthony Says:

    your blog matters for me because I discover people who (at least try) put God at the center of their life. I thank you for it.

  9. leonard Nugent Says:

    The Christian way of life is 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.” It strikes me that 1 Corinitians 13 is very little “known” by most christians, even if they can recite it from memory. There is a lot of change that needs to occur before the reunion of all christians takes place but it seems to me that a lot can be demanded by those who deeply “know” 1 corinitians 13

  10. Scott Weatherhogge Says:

    Father,

    “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.”

    You have no idea how this post has helped this abased and weeping Protestant. May God bless you, sir. Please pray for me. You can be sure that I will be praying for you.

  11. Deacon Woodcutter Says:

    Father Stephen, thanks for your blog! I read it everyday and find an abundance of good things that keep me focused on God. I thank God for his gift of you to us. May you continue on your way, focused on God.
    Blessings, Deacon Woodcutter

  12. davidp Says:

    AFR and the Illumined Heart podcast just had a recent podcast on this….how western christianity has lost it´s way from a liturgical worship in knowing God to what most christian know now…just to know God through their dogmatic and credal statements and boxing them intellectually. This happened via Kant & Hegel philosophizing of religion.

  13. Self-made men vs the greatest men « theology like a child Says:

    […] […]

  14. Nathan Says:

    Father,

    I love this post – I think a lot of this corresponds to what Jesus said about the faith of children, which I have just written about.

    I hope you don’t mind me linking to my blog here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/self-made-men-vs-the-greatest-men/

    I am also glad to see your words about Father Hopko and the wrath of God.

    Thanks again for all you do.

    ~Nathan

  15. Mike N Says:

    Thank you for your good work Father,

    As a beginning convert I frequently check your posts. Many times your thoughts stimulate further reading around the web. Here is an excerpt about saints I reflected on after reading this post:

    “Who ever approaches a saint discovers in him the peak of goodness, purity, and spiritual power covered over by the veil of humility. He is the illustration of the greatness and power of kenosis. From the saint there radiates an imperturbable quiet or peace and simultaneously a participation in the pain of others that reaches the point of tears. He is rooted in the loving and suffering stability of God Incarnate and rest in the eternity of the power and goodness of God….

    Dimitru Staniloae. The Experience of God, Holy Cross Press, pp. 232-234

    Peace be with you,
    –Mike N

  16. Dean Arnold Says:

    I got a real jolt the other day from reading about the saint of the day on the OCA calendar.

    It was Longinus, the Roman centurian who thrust the spear into Jesus’s side. He later went on to become a great evangelist.

    Blood and water spurt out when the spear pierced the side of Christ, and the water happen to hit the eyes of Longinus, who suffered some kind of eye disease. He was immediately healed.

    Now, there’s a good example of loving your enemies.

  17. Eleni Says:

    Father, There is a “time for all things”; there is also a “time of rest”. Bishop Anthony Bloom in “Living Prayer” states “our relation with God is based on Reality, we are free to come and free to go”; “in our relatioships with others , if it is based on Reality, we are free to come and free to go. Anything else is based on human expectations.” I think we struggle with change based upon our own personal human expectation. I pray that you feel at Peace during this time…….and perhaps you may return when the time is ripe? Thank You…..

  18. anonymousgodblogger Says:

    Your blog has meant and continues to mean a whole whole whole lot to to me and to those with whom I share it!

  19. Damaris Says:

    I second all the comments about how much this blog means to me. And perhaps the most important thing about it is your refusal to be distracted from the messages you have been given to share. This post is an excellent example of what I’m saying. Thank you that your writing keeps pulling me back to what’s important.

  20. payton Says:

    “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.”

    Beautiful. May I learn this same humility in every crevice of my life.

  21. Why Can’t I Be Like This Guy? « Catholic Coffee Drinkers Says:

    […] Posted by M. Jordan Lichens under Blogging, Blogroll, Orthodox Church Leave a Comment  Father Stephen writes yet another post that makes his blog required daily reading for me.  Reposting an earlier […]

  22. easton Says:

    father, thank you for this. i am going through a similar situation. sometimes i feel that i am finding distractions to keep me from the feelings i have…..if that makes sense? anyway, thanks for always coming back to what really matters.

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