And The World Did Not Know Him

“The theologian very quickly counters these things by saying, ‘The world did not know him.’ He does not say that he was at fault for being unknown. Let the world blame its own weakness. The Son enlightens, but the creature blunts the grace. The creature was loaned the sight to conceive of the one who is God by nature, but it squandered the gift and limited the scope of its contemplation to created things. It shrank from going further. It buried the illumination by laziness. It neglected the gift. This is what Paul commands his disciple to be careful of, so that it does not happen to him (1Tim 4.14, 2 Tim 4.5). Therefore, the indifference of those who are enlightened has nothing to do with the light. The light of the sun rises on everyone but is no help to the blind. Nevertheless, this is no reason for us to blame the sun’s rays. Instead, let us blame the defective eye because the sun was giving light but the eye was not receiving it.
I think we should consider the Only Begotten in the same way. He is the true light, but the ‘god of this age,’ as Paul says, ‘has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light’ of the knowledge of God that is in them (2 Cor 4.4). We say that people are subject to blindness in this respect: not that they come into a total lack of light (for God-given intelligence is certainly preserved in their nature), but they extinguish it with a foolish way of life. And by turning to the worse, they in a way erode and melt away the measure of grace. That is why it is only right that when the supremely wise Psalmist plays the part of such a person for us, he asks to be enlightened, saying to God, ‘Open my eyes, and I will perceive your wonders out of your law (Ps 118.18).’ ‘For He gave the law as a help (Is 8.20) to rekindle the Divine light in us and to clear away the darkness imposed by ancient ignorance like a sort of film over the eyes of the heart.” St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on The Gospel of John, Book 1, Commentary on Jonh 1.10.

Both in the fall of our forebears but also in our own lives, this is the reality that is played out. God, Who shines as radiant as the sun, is a light to all and shows compassion upon all as we see in the words of Christ,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5.43-48.

God is not apt to close Himself off form those who disbelieve or do not wish to partake of the light. Rather, as St. Cyril says, we blunt the light through our desire to not see and wallow in darkness. Let us retrain our eye to be able to see the Good where He truly is and not simply where our sense pleasures may lead us. While the body is in no way evil, if it is made the end (telos) and purpose our of existence, we will have come short. Rather than using our physical existence to come to a greater knowledge of God (even through our bewilderment at the beauty of creation) we have turned the body into the goal of our life. If this is so then we inevitably subject ourselves to slavery in the never-ending desire to quench the flames of the passions which have no rest other than in God. This is what St. Paul teaches is the purpose of the destruction of death and him who has the power of it, the devil;

“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2.14-15

This is the bondage by which we become trapped in the sense pleasures and see no other purpose for our lives other than the continual satisfaction of the passions. The fathers speak of this as a result of the knowledge of death which brings about a desire for the satisfaction of our pleasures in any available source. In this way we come into bondage rather than the knowledge of Him Who is the purpose of our whole lives. This is how we can properly interpret St. Paul’s letter to the Romans,

“Having become mortal engendering mortal children, Adam and his race find themselves forced to struggle for their existence as individuals, for this existence is continually threatened. But the struggle for existence creates in turn egotism and consequently sin. Finally, these personal sins lead to the just sentence of death. Therein the literal grammatical sense of Romans 5:12 finds its meaning: ‘Death spread to all men, because of which all men sinned.” Fr. John Meyendorff. Byzantine theology: Historical trends and doctrinal themes. Fordham Univ Press, 1979. p160.

This same fear is something St. Antony of the desert speaks of, as narrated by St. Athanasius;

“But the inroad and the display of the evil spirits is fraught with confusion, with din, with sounds and cryings such as the disturbance of boorish youths or robbers would occasion. From which arise fear in the heart, tumult and confusion of thought, dejection, hatred towards them who live a life of discipline, indifference, grief, remembrance of kinsfolk and fear of death, and finally desire of evil things, disregard of virtue and unsettled habits. Whenever, therefore, you have seen something and are afraid, if your fear is immediately taken away and in place of it comes joy unspeakable, cheerfulness, courage, renewed strength, calmness of thought and all those I named before boldness and love toward God, take courage and pray. For joy and a settled state of soul show the holiness of him who is present.” St. Athanasius, The Life of Antony, 36

This may be familiar to our modern ears as we are constantly surrounded by sound, distraction, the next pleasure or the next ‘getaway’. In our never-ending attempt to ‘get away’, we never face our desires or our passions head on. In constantly fulfilling these passions of ours (despondency among the foremost in the writings of the fathers), we never meet them head on, in turn we never learn that their fulfillment is not in simply quashing them but is to be found in Him for Whom we live, God. Let us open our hearts and minds to hearing and seeking Him in Whom we find rest and Who shines bright as the sun waiting for our return.


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