Philoxenus of Mabbug: For the giving of thanks have we received speech from God our Creator Sunday, Jun 5 2016 

philoxenos_of_mabbugFaith…makes certain that God is, and enquires not.

It holds His words to be sure and seeks not to investigate His nature.

It hearkens to His words, and judges not His deeds and actions.

[…] When it is God Himself who speaks, and the Lord of the universe Who says that He will perform it, it is necessary for us to believe.

For it is sufficient for the persuading of our faith that it is God Himself Who speaks and will perform.

And man has not the power to judge His will; for how can man who hath been made judge the will of Him that created him?

For as the vessel cannot chide the handicraftsman and ask why he hath thus formed it, or judge any of his works, so also is it with man who is a rational vessel, and has no power to chide the Workman Who made him.

And although man possesses the speech of knowledge, it was given to him not so that he could  judge the will of Him that made him, but that he might be a panegyrist of the knowledge which formed him.

For the rational man is farther removed from the power of scrutinizing His Creator than is the speechless vessel from the power of criticising him that made it.

For the giving of thanks have we received speech from God our Creator, and in order that we may admire His created things He has placed in us thoughts of knowledge.

He has made us to possess a sense of wisdom so that we may perceive Him and He has placed within our soul the sense of discernment so that we may receive a foretaste of His gracious acts.

He has given to us the eye of faith which can see deeply into His secret things so that we may see Him in His works.

God is too great to be investigated by the thoughts, and His dispensation surpasses the seeking out of speech. And with His nature go also His works. For, as His nature is inscrutable, so also the deeds and actions of His nature cannot be sought out.

[…] As He cannot be judged by us as to why He has made us in this form, and why He has formed us, and placed us in the world in this order of constitution, so also none of His wishes can be found fault with by us, either as to why He willed thus, or why He performed thus.

Philoxenus of Mabbug (d. 523): Discourse 2 – on Faith [adapted].

Basil the Great: God’s energies come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach Saturday, Jan 2 2016 

St-Basil-the-GreatWe know the greatness of God, His power, His wisdom, His goodness, His providence over us, and the justness of His judgment; but not His very essence.

[…] Our idea of God is gathered from all the attributes which I have enumerated.

Some say “God is simple, and whatever attribute you have reckoned as knowable are of His essence.”

When all these high attributes have been enumerated, are they all names of one essence?

[…] The energies are various, and the essence simple, but we say that we know our God from His energies, but do not undertake to approach near to His essence.

His energies come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach.

[…] I do know that He exists. What His essence is, I look at as beyond intelligence.

How then am I saved?  Through faith.  It is faith sufficient to know that God exists, without knowing what He is; and “He is a rewarder of them that seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).

So knowledge of the divine essence involves perception of His incomprehensibility, and the object of our worship is not that of which we comprehend the essence, but of which we comprehend that the essence exists.

“No man hath seen God at any time, the Only-begotten which is in the bosom hath declared him” (John 1:18).

What of the Father did the Only-begotten Son declare?  His essence or His power?  If His power, we know so much as He declared to us.  If His essence, tell me where He said that His essence was the being unbegotten?

When did Abraham worship?  Was it not when he believed?  And when did he believe?  Was it not when he was called?  Where in this place is there any testimony in Scripture to Abraham’s comprehending?

When did the disciples worship Him?  Was it not when they saw creation subject to Him?  It was from the obedience of sea and winds to Him that they recognised His Godhead.

Therefore the knowledge came from the energies, and the worship from the knowledge.  “Believest thou that I am able to do this?”  “I believe, Lord” (Matt. 9:28), and he worshipped Him.

So worship follows faith, and faith is confirmed by power.  But if you say that the believer also knows, he knows from what he believes; and vice versa he believes from what he knows.  We know God from His power.  We, therefore, believe in Him who is known, and we worship Him who is believed in.

Basil the Great (330-379): Letter 234 [slightly adapted].

Basil the Great: The mind is a wonderful thing, and therein we possess that which is after the image of the Creator Wednesday, Dec 16 2015 

St-Basil-the-GreatThe mind is a wonderful thing, and therein we possess that which is after the image of the Creator.

[…] But there are in it two faculties; in accordance with the view of us who believe in God, the one evil, that of the dæmons which draws us on to their own apostasy; and the divine and the good, which brings us to the likeness of God.

When, therefore, the mind remains alone and unaided, it contemplates small things, commensurate with itself.

When it yields to those who deceive it, it nullifies its proper judgment, and is concerned with monstrous fancies.

Then it considers wood to be no longer wood, but a god; then it looks on gold no longer as money, but as an object of worship.

If on the other hand it assents to its diviner part, and accepts the boons of the Spirit, then, so far as its nature admits, it becomes perceptive of the divine.

[…]  The mind which is impregnated with the Godhead of the Spirit is at once capable of viewing great objects; it beholds the divine beauty, though only so far as grace imparts and its nature receives.

[…] The judgment of our mind is given us for the understanding of the truth.

Now our God is the very truth. So the primary function of our mind is to know one God, but to know Him so far as the infinitely great can be known by the very small.

When our eyes are first brought to the perception of visible objects, all visible objects are not at once brought into sight.

The hemisphere of heaven is not beheld with one glance, but we are surrounded by a certain appearance, though in reality many things, not to say all things, in it are unperceived;—the nature of the stars, their greatness, their distances, their movements, their conjunctions, their intervals, their other conditions, the actual essence of the firmament….

Nevertheless, no one would allege the heaven to be invisible because of what is unknown; it would be said to be visible on account of our limited perception of it.

It is just the same in the case of God.  If the mind has been injured by devils it will be guilty of idolatry, or will be perverted to some other form of impiety.  But if it has yielded to the aid of the Spirit, it will have understanding of the truth, and will know God.

But it will know Him, as the Apostle says, in part; and in the life to come more perfectly.  For “when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:10).

Basil the Great (330-379): Letter 233.