Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Absence of God

Every now and then, I find myself taking a detour through the theology and spirituality of Eastern Christianity... I am challenged by its depth, but it also helps me to keep my Western Christian ways of thinking in perspective. Lately, I've been rereading some of the writings of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of Sourozh. These books were given to me back when I was investigating the Catholic Church by one of my high school teachers who was Eastern Orthodox at the time (and is now in full communion with the Church of Rome).

In the book "Beginning to Pray", Met. Anthony devotes a chapter discussing what he calls "The Absence of God". Of course, what he is suggesting is not that God is absent, but that there are times when our perception would suggest to us that He is absent. We need to take care when we pray not to let even those things or persons for whom we are praying get in the way of the focus of our prayer - the eternal God. Met. Anthony writes:
Let us think of our prayers, yours and mine; think of the warmth, the depth and intensity of your prayer when it concerns someone you love or something which matters to your life. Then your heart is open, all your inner self is recollected in the prayer. Does it mean that God matters to you? No, it does not. It simply means that the subject matter of your prayer matters to you. For when you have made your passionate, deep, intense prayer concerning the person you love or the situation that worries you, and you turn to the next item, which does not matter so much -- if you suddenly grow cold, what has changed? Has God grown cold? Has He gone? No, it means that all the elation, all the intensity in your prayer was not born of God's presence, of your faith in Him, of your longing for Him, of your awareness of Him; it was born of nothing but concern for him or her or it, not For God.
Is God absent? Those times are actually moments when we must recognize most fully our need for Him. Met. Anthony continues:
As long as we ourselves are real, as long as we are truly ourselves, God can be present and do something with us. But the moment we try to be what we are not, there is nothing left to say or have; we become a fictitious personality, an unreal presence, and this unreal presence cannot be approached by God...

In order to be able to pray, we must be within the situation which is defined as the kingdom of God. We must recognize that He is God, that He is King, we must surrender to Him.
Isn't this the basic principle that underlies our own human relationships?

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