Master of all things, Lord of heaven and earth, and of every creature visible and invisible, You are seated upon the throne of glory and behold the depths. You are without beginning, invisible, incomprehensible, beyond words, unchangeable. You are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
(Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, p. 24)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.
In the Old Testament, only God the Father is revealed. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, is foretold. The “spirit” is mentioned. However, the Trinitarian nature of God is not fully revealed and explained until the New Testament. Moses converses with God, but He does not see God, except for one instance in Exodus 33, when He sees the back of God. In Exodus 33:18-23, we read,
Moses said, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory.” And He said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you My name ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” He said, “you cannot see My face; for man shall not see Me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me where you shall stand upon the rock; and while My glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with My hand until I have passed by; then I will take away Me hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
Throughout the Old Testament, God visits His people with His voice, speaking with people like Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Elijah. They do not see God’s face.
In Exodus 20, God gives Moses the Ten Commandments, beginning with these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:2-3) There is a list the Orthodox Christians use in preparation for confession. There are many iterations of this list, but basically, it is the Ten Commandments with subheadings under each of them, that mention sinful things people do that should be confessed and repented of. Under the first commandment, there is a question which asks “Is God the source and center of my life?” The sun is at the center of the solar system. All the planets revolve around it. The same thing is supposed to be true with God in our lives. He is supposed to be like the sun, the center of all things. And we are supposed to rotate around Him, as opposed to the other way around, where we are at the center and He rotates around us. The cause of all of our sins can be traced ultimately to this question, is He the source and center of things? Sin is only possible when we move Him off the center for a moment. When He is at the center, then we cannot sin. We must move Him from that pedestal in order to sin.
We believe that God is the source of life. He is revealed as the Creator. In the Creed which we recite, the first phrase is, “I believe: in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” While, the majority of the Creed is dedicated to speaking of the person of Jesus Christ, the Creed begins with a confession of faith about the Father.
The Prayer of St. Basil continues, quoting these words of the Creed, that He is Lord of “every creature visible and invisible.” The prayer carries out the description of God even further. He is seated upon a throne of glory and beholds all things. He is without beginning, in other words He is uncreated. This is important, especially in the arena of people who say that the theory of evolution makes the story of creation impossible. To which I counter with a visual of 100 dominoes laid out on a table. Knock down the first one and all one hundred will go down. Does the 100th domino fall because of the 99th or because of the 1st? The answer is both. We believe that God intentionally created at each stage of creation. In other words, human beings did not evolve from animals but were deliberately created. Evolution has also occurred in each species, as in certain parts of the world, people have larger hands, or tougher skin, a process that has evolved in them based on the kind of hard labor that they do. However, even if we believed that God created the first thing and everything evolved from there, we still have God as the Creator. As for those who argue that the first thing that happened was a big bang and everything else evolved from there, the question becomes what caused that? And perhaps the answer is that gasses came together. But then the question becomes who caused that. And thus we move farther and farther back with actions and reactions and eventually we come to the first action for which we have no explanation. And here is God. Whatever that first thing was, whether it was light, an explosion or anything else, at the center and source of that is God.
The prayer continues that God is invisible. St. Gregory Palamas wrote about the essence and energies of God, and how we can experience God in His energies, but not in His essence. God is invisible and so are His energies, of love, grace, and peace (among other things). We can’t hold peace in our hands, yet we’ve all felt peace. We can’t buy grace, but we can experience it. We can’t earn love, but we’ve all enjoyed it.
Finally, God is incomprehensible, which is why we must have faith, because we can’t have exhaustive knowledge. We will never experience the full essence of God in this life—that remains for eternal life. We can read, study, pray and learn a lot about God. But we will never have exhaustive knowledge.
Ask yourself today, (and everyday) is God the source and center of my life today? Why or why not?
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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