Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Try to think about the absence of God, and do realize that before you can knock at the door – and remember that it is not only at the door of the Kingdom understood in the general way, but that Christ really says ‘I am the door’ – before you knock at the door, you must realize that you are outside. If you spend your time imagining that in a mad way you are already in the Kingdom of God, there is certainly no point in knocking at any door for it to be opened. Obviously, you must look round trying to see where are the angels and the saints, and where the mansion is which belongs to you, and when you see nothing but darkness or walls, you can quite legitimately find it surprising that Paradise is so unattractive. We must all realize that we are still outsiders to the kingdom of God, and then ask ourselves ‘Where is the door and how does one knock at it?’

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This wonderful quote from Met. Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray (his subsequent chapter is on ‘how to knock’) underlines the simple centrality of Christ. In discussions of Church, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that it is Christ Himself whom we seek in the Church. He is everything. This is not to say that “the Church is of little importance.” No one who has endured difficulties in order to become an Orthodox Christian would ever say such a thing. But such difficulties are rightly endured if we encounter them for the excellency of knowing Christ. If someone says, “I don’t need all that to know Christ,” there is little argument to be made. It was quite some time before I realized that the Christ I sought to know has a Bride and a Mother and brothers and sisters and is surrounded with a great cloud of witnesses. It was indeed a long time in my Christian life before I realized that to know Christ fully would require that I also know all these whom He loves. I know today that were all these others to be taken away, my knowledge of Christ would be impaired and my heart would break.

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15 Responses to “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”

  1. Edmund Says:

    Beautiful. This line stirred me: ” I know today that were all these others to be taken away, my knowledge of Christ would be impaired and my heart would break.”

  2. Dn Charles Says:

    Powerful quote. Thanks.

  3. Don Bradley Says:

    A few years back you recommended to me a short book on the subject of knowing God. The entire book was available online. As I recall, it was written about 100 years ago, seemed quite rigorous and monastic. The chapters were quite short, around 30 to 40 of them. Do you recall the book?

  4. Ioannis Freeman Says:

    “We must all realize that we are still outsiders to the kingdom of God, and then ask ourselves ‘Where is the door, and how does one knock at it?’”–Met. Anthony of blessed memory

    Adjusting attention to answer the question “Where do I stand?” seems simple enough, on the one hand. It is simple for me, indeed, to determine (1) where I stand and (2) decide if space separates me from the door, (3) how to bridge a gap between where I stand and the door, (4) then make a plan to bridge the gap, and (5) finally knock on the door.

    Forgive my linear decision-making model. However, Metropolitan Anthony’s metaphor is spatial, and I think that the metaphor calls for a spiritual analogue of physical space or distance to describe why isolationist sentiments such as “Jesus and me” fail to trigger the mind’s attention. How so? I answer this question by reflecting on trial and error lessons, most of which having been of the error variety in my memory.

    A particular error pertains to how I see myself in relationship to Christ versus how I ought to see myself—in all honesty, the way that I am. While the error of dishonest self-appraisal happens when I stray from routine contact with the “…Bride and a Mother and brothers and sisters and…a great cloud of witnesses” of Christ, a return to routine contact with all of them makes me ask myself just where I stand. Any local parish ya-ya or Giorgos will tell you the truth concerning where I had stood all along. Yet, all along, I have always known Christ. Indeed, that’s because I am a so-called cradle Christian.

    As a cradle Christian, I cannot recall a day passing without a desire for prayer. It also means that I assume at least two meanings of knowing Christ: (1) knowledge “of” Christ and (2) knowing Christ as one Person of the Holy Trinity in personal encounters. You may say that a guy like me is blessed, and I would agree. But you may not know that cradle Christians risk self-delusion by assuming themselves to be “inside the door.” Nevertheless, they are not inside the door of the Kingdom of God, as Metropolitan Anthony states in the quote above. They know the truth of this if they ask.

    Odds are that cradle Christians would not ask where they stand in relationship to the door of the Kingdom without others questioning them. For this reason I agree with Father Stephen that if “…all these others to be taken away, my knowledge of Christ would be impaired and my heart would break.”

  5. Mark Says:

    Was it not Blessed Augustine who, in a homily, said “I do not wished to be saved without you [his congregation]”?

  6. Pr. Dorin Says:

    Father Stephen,

    this is the new our location Teologie pentru azi:

    http://www.teologiepentruazi.ro/

    With all my happiness for you and for you family!

  7. fatherstephen Says:

    Pr. Dorin,
    I will change the address today! Many thanks!

  8. fatherstephen Says:

    Don,
    I think the book was ‘the Way of the Ascetics’ by Tito Coliander. It is available at this link.

  9. Don Bradley Says:

    I feared you would remember. That is it. Nonetheless, thank you.

  10. Prudence True Says:

    Maybe an openess to God which comes with a purity of heart is, as you say, “engrafted” through Orthodoxy. This strikes me as different than an individual’s sole (not soul), or self-seeking pursuit of Christ.

  11. Micah Says:

    I dare say Prudence, it is the Father Who seeks us. Where would we even begin to seek Him?

  12. Prudence True Says:

    good point

  13. Diane Says:

    The quote at the beginning confuses me in that it seems contradictory to the concept of heaven as the journey as well as the destination.I understand that the Orthodox view of salvation is more process-oriented than is the Baptist (with which I grew up) and that idea is beginning to make sense to me due,in no small part, to reading your entries. What Catherine of Siena said appears consistent with the interpretation in that she refers to Christ as “the way”.Does Metropolitan Anthony use the term “the door” in a similar fashion? Maybe it is the wording I do not understand;it sounds to me as though he thinks that even Christians are not inside “the kingdom of heaven” which also brings to mind the scripture stating that the kingdom is within the believer.Could you please,at your convenience,explain the perceived discrepancy?
    Gratefully,
    Diane

  14. fatherstephen Says:

    Diane,
    Met. Anthony is using “inside the kingdom” as a description for the quality of our living relationship with Christ now. So that metaphorically, even believers stand at the door and knock in our efforts to truly pray.

  15. Kevin Thomas Says:

    Fr. Stephen,
    This reminded me of the opening chapter or introduction to Fr. Patrick Reardon’s book, _Christ in His Saints_, in which he points out the same truth of “Christ.” Viz., that one cannot simply “come to Jesus” without coming to the heavenly Jerusalem, the throne of the Living God, to innumerable angels, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to the blood of the Lamb, etc…. in other words, if I want to come to Jesus, I have to come to all that he sums up in himself.
    Thanks,
    Thomas

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