I think one of the reasons God put me in the path of the life of Father Seraphim, is that I, too, am a crippled and deformed Christian. I love God with my mind, my strength, even my soul, but I do not love him well with my heart. My Restoration Movement upbringing, and my lifelong training in various fora of academia, have certainly developed my mind. But it has left atrophied and stunted that central part of me that is the heart.
‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ Without truth there is no Christianity, and without knowledge of Christian truth one cannot be a Christian. And the end of this knowledge is not power, what science wishes; nor is it consolation or comfort or security or ego-bolstering, whatever the cults of the subjective desire. Its end is freedom, Christian, Divine-human freedom, the freedom of men, the sons of God.
The knowledge that brings freedom is beyond any subject-object categorization; it is knowledge in which the whole man participates, which informs the human being in his entirety. It is gained not by research or special experiences, but by living a Christian life, with the aid of the sacraments, prayer, fasting–and our encounters with other human beings. It is not a knowledge of which one can say, ‘I know (or have experienced) this or that,’ but one which is revealed in all that one does, alone or in company, and is present in all that one thinks. The Christian desires to be one with the Truth, Who is Christ Jesus; and so the Christian is what he knows. He who rejects Christ does not know Him; he who accepts Him but does not live the fully Christian life, does not know Him fully. Only the deified man knows fully–as fully as man may know; the rest of us are merely striving to be Christians, that is, knowers.
Just as it was with Father Seraphim, it is the life of the Church, the wholeness of Orthodox worship, the Sacraments, that have opened the pathway to the heart, and to the experience of the union with God. By Father Seraphim’s intercessions (and here), I have come to a greater (though still extremely limited) understanding of the relationship of prayer, especially the Jesus prayer, and the heart. And it is changing me.
The last great writing project I had here on this blog was my series on true philosophia. Earlier this year I began a series of reflections on St. Gregory Palamas’ Dialogue, but that series lies languishing. I am finding it ever more difficult to write of my faith from the standpoint I am most used to do: that of the intellect.
Do not mistake: I am not denying the intellect, or the service of the intellect to Christ and his Church. Heavens, where would I be without some of the reading I’ve done on Orthodoxy which is expressed in distinctly and challenging intellectual terms. My favorite Orthodox reading is still history and theology. Metropolitan Hierotheos’ The Person in the Orthodox Tradition graces my shelves (though as yet unread).
But I clearly have made a shift in the working out of my salvation with fear and trembling. It is to unite my mind and my strength, my soul, in the heart in prayer and obedience to Christ. Thankfully, I have Father Seraphim as a guide and exemplar.