2013.03.31 sermon by Father Jonah 馬可福音 Mark 2:1-11
神非受造的恩典與真正的友誼 The Uncreated Grace of God and True Friendship
今天是大齋期的第二個星期日，教會慶祝偉大的教父、神學家、Thesaloniki的主教Gregorias Palamas的聖日。教會提供我們許多方法，幫助我們為復活節的來臨做好靈性準備。藉著這些方法，我們可以沐浴在上帝的愛中，讓身心得到淨化，讓靈性逐漸提昇。Gregorias Palamas是教會偉大的靈修導師。他為內容抽象而豐富的「正教神學」和「正教靈修生活」提出了完整的系統。今天，我想要與各位分享Gregorias Palamas的一些教導和典範。
我想要再一次強調Gregorias Palamas所提出的「非受造之光」的神學重要性。「非受造之光」就好像舊約中提到的光。它是燃燒的灌木叢。整個宇宙都是一棵燃燒的灌木，因為耶穌基督天主子進入了我們的宇宙。我們應該將宇宙看成是一棵燃燒的灌木。我們可以用肉眼看見上帝的恩典。看看這些鳥兒[手指向陽台，一群鳥兒來到陽台]，看看整個宇宙，都充滿了上帝的光。Gregorias Palamas和教父們所說的「上帝的光」指的並不是這種光[手指向天花板的燈]。我們應該要看自己內在的光，讓自己成為這光。「上帝的光」也是耶穌「顯聖容」所散發的光，在這幅聖像畫中，你們可以看見耶穌基督充滿了光。[手指向聖像畫] 事實上，他就是光，他的衣服、甚至他身邊的岩石都充滿了光。這光究竟是什麼？對於希臘僧侶Balaam來說，此光是受造的，就像是雲一般，一下子出現、一下子消失。從聖經和教會過去的經驗可知，此光就是上帝。這就是為什麼，我們說此光來自於內在[手指向聖像畫]。如果上帝也願意，我們誦持「心禱」時就能看見自己內在的光，我們甚至會變成此光，將此光放射至整個世界。就好像摩西散發的光芒一樣，他的面容有了巨大的改變，人們都不敢直視他的臉。由古至今，聖徒的光芒也一直被看見。
由此可見，Gregorias Palamas的神學非常偉大，它真切地詮釋出我們如何參與上帝、如何奉獻自己，真正與上帝合一。確實，在世界上，我們無法找到另一件事，可以與「在聖禮儀中與上帝合一」比擬。我們領受了耶穌基督、讓他與我們合一的同時，他如何在我們體內作用、對我們產生影響呢？他改變了我們，而且我們可以看見他的光 —- 我們的內在也轉化為這份謙卑。聖父、聖子、聖靈，或者說聖三的能量，在我們體內作用。這種奉獻自我、天人合一的過程，就是生命的目的。
獻身於上帝的恩典、上帝的光是非常重要的，但是，只靠自己一人，它無法實現。在教會中，我們從來不是孤獨一人。我也不像那些隱居在山上的人那樣，宣稱自己擁有獨特的力量，你們來找我的時候，我就變魔術、行奇蹟。無論我們身在何處，都能領受上帝的恩典，因為我們都是上帝的孩子，我們是教會大家庭的一份子。祈禱的時候，我們會說：「我們在天上的父。」我不會說：「我的父。」我擁有兄弟姊妹，大家都是天父的子女，天父也是耶穌基督的父，祂將我們結合為一體。在聖禮儀的前祝聖禮中，你們會看見，神父拿著蠟燭並說：「基督的光照亮我們每個人。」此光就是上帝的光。Gregorias Palams的詮釋如此的美妙。Balaam是一位不可知論者，他曾說：「關於上帝，以人類的語言，我們無法說什麼，因此我們不該談論這個話題。」然而，對Gregorias Palamas而言，it is中的is不是am。.在英文中，沒有陰性、中性、陽性之分。Gregorias Palamas說，摩西問上帝「你是誰」時，上帝並沒有回答「我就是我的本質」，而是說我是o-on [手指向一幅聖像畫]，o-on代表了「我就是存在的那一位」。因此，走向我們的是上帝本人，祂賜給我們祂的恩典。這是非常重要的。祂除了祝福「我」之外，還祝福了我們的關係、我們的朋友，因為「真正的友誼」也是上帝的恩賜。
On the Second Sunday of the Great Lent, the Church puts in front of us the memory of the great Father and Theologian, Gregorias Palamas, the archbishop of Thesaloniki. And the Church is doing this because every Sunday, as we say, during this spiritual preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Church is giving us different ways to gradually improve in spirituality, in the love of God and in the cleaning of our souls and bodies. And today it is the great teacher of spirituality, the great teacher of the Church. For many it is the second Sunday of Orthodoxy because Gregorias Palamas is the abstract, the integration of Orthodox theology and Orthodox spiritual life. And this is why today we will say a few things about what he is teaching us and what is his great example in his teachings.
During this period we must pray more. But what is prayer, the proper prayer? Of course the Church has many prayers for us, so I will speak of the teachings of Gregorias Palamas, gradually starting from the first things, which are not easy of course, but they are very deep and they are the heart of Orthodox spirituality.
First of all, Gregorias is the teacher of the Prayer of the Heart. As a teacher of the Prayer of the Heart, he gives us different ways and especially the way of the Prayer of the Heart, which is what? It is not only the different prayers we have, but it is also the prayer that never ceases: to say in our hearts, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” This we start saying in our mind and gradually from our mind it goes to our heart and unites all our human being and it changes our life.
In our life, as you know we have the internal dialogue, we have this always, even now you have different thoughts that are coming, they never stop. But when we have this word, His name inside our mind, this gradually changes: it enters, let’s say to speak in the language of computers, it changes the operating system of our mind. And then the word of Jesus Christ enters into our heart. And then our heart starts to do two jobs. The one is that we do our job every day, we can concentrate on our job, we can teach, we can do whatever we do. The other is the continuous prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” And when, as Gregorias Palamas says and my spiritual father teaches, it is me, but it is all the universe, it is not only me. This is the core of the Orthodox prayers, and if the grace of God wants and if God is doing this miracle to us, this prayer comes automatically, without any effort. It comes, it just comes. It’s like breathing. Of course we breathe and we do it naturally, and the breathing of the soul is to say the name of Jesus Christ.
Gregorias Palams was the great teacher of the Prayer of the Heart, and we have a lot of his writings in the book of Philokalia and also in many other books. Especially in this period we must start to practice, a little bit, every day, the Prayer of the Heart, especially when we are in the MRT, on the bus, going to our job, when we walk outside. All these things bring us an unbelievable peace and the Grace of God.
But when I say to you, “the Grace of God,” what do we mean by the Grace of God? Because anybody can say this, right? I say, “God bless you. May you have the grace of God.” What is this? Is the Grace of God something simple that I give you? For example when I say, “I give you my blessing.” [making the sign of the cross] What exactly am I giving you? Do I give myself? Of course not. Actually on Mount Athos we say, “Give me a blessing,” and it is a word, practically, to give you some money or some help, some food or some bread, or something. But this is not the idea of a blessing because the Grace of God – and it was a question, and still it is for other Christians, maybe not for Orthodox – is this God giving you something, for example money or some good thoughts so you can work better in your job? It is not like this.
The great contribution of Gregorias Palamas was to say, it is God himself who is working in you in me in everybody, but he is working in you without giving you his essence. Why do I say this? Because there was this question during this time by a Greek monk who came from Italy and he was raised by Western spirituality so he started saying [various things that were against Orthodoxy]. First of all, his spiritual life was a fake spiritual life: he was not receiving the Holy Communion, as many historians of this period say. And because he was not receiving the Holy Communion, he could not receive the Grace of God. And also he was a cheater. Once, because he was very educated, he was humiliated in Constantinople for some mathematical and philosophical questions, and he never confessed [his resentment] actually, truly. You know some people confess, “I have stolen from my mother a candy but they don’t confess the big thing, for example, “I want to do something against the Church or other people.
So what did he do? He went to Mount Athos and he saw the fathers there saying, of course we say this, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” He asked, “What is this?” And he examined this as if he was a great master. The fathers said, “We see the light of God.” He said, “What, you are heretics.” So Gregorias Palams wrote a lot because he had the Prayer of the Heart as a gift from the Holy Mother herself because he knew her and he was talking to her. So Gregorias explained that the Grace of God is God himself. In Western theology they cannot understand that in God we have distinctions. Yes, God is the absolute simplicity, but also we distinguish. Simplicity is not a simple thing, like we understand with our human mind what is simple and what is not simple. For example, for God we have one essence but we have three persons, right? And this does not stop God from being simple.
So Gregorias Palamas, and not only him, from the very beginning, from the Bible and before the Bible, we hae another distinction, the glory of God, the uncreated energy of God. For Western theology, God is actus purus, he is only energy. So what can I do? It is like the sun: all I can do is to gaze at the sun. The sun is there, it is very beautiful and I see the sun and I feel happy. But, as they say, I cannot be united with the sun because then I would be the sun, right? And if I am united with God, then I would be God. And so ethics for the Western world is some practice, to be a good person. For us the ethics is an ontological thing: it’s a change because God enters into us, by himself, by his uncreated energy, by his glory.
You see, God said to Moses, “You cannot see me.” But He told him, “You will see my body. Glory will pass in front of you and you will see my back.” Actually, of course God has no back and front. So did Moses see God or not? If you ask people here in Taiwan, they say, “No.” or they don’t know what to say. He saw God and he did not see God. He did not see the essence of God, which is only known and participated by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and nobody else. But he saw – and not only saw – he was in the uncreated energy of God. The Bible says the glory of God or the energy. Jesus says, “I saw power coming out of me.” What is this power? As Apostle Paul says, the energia and the energimata the result of the energies of God.
So when God gives you humility, it is God Himself who enters you. When he gives you love, it is God himself who enters you. Like the Bible says so beautifully and so poetically, for the prophet Isaiah, he says that it was a storm and God was not there; it was like fire and God was not there, and it was like a breeze, a small beautiful air. And there was God.
For the energy of God I will use some examples. It is like when you drink water but you warm the water and this warm water enters you and warms all your body. It is like having a heater and you put your hands there and all your circulation changes because the heat enters your body. So when I say to you to have the Grace of God, it is like I have a mirror and I reflect the love of God, and I send to you God himself, and He enters to you. When we say, “May God give you repentence,” the repentence is not to feel humiliated, or to blackmail God, or to say, “Oh, I am nothing and do this.” [beats his breast] It is a complete change of attitude: it is the entrance of God as humility inside us. And it is Him. This is why repentance has nothing to do with the human way of life. And this is why there is fake repentance, like when people see confession as a simple thing: “I did this, I did that, so I repent.” And especially we know these things when people are lying in confession, as it has happened here to many people. The result is to cheat the Grace of God. God enters and then He goes out. Like Balaam, who split the Church and created a big problem in the Church.
So we must enjoy this, that the ethics is an ontological thing, it is God who is working in us. And you will say, “But how come this is?” But this is the Love of God. God acts on all in His universe, personally. He does not act like somebody, for example, who made a watch in a factory; I buy the watch, nobody cares, and the watch continues to work. It’s not like this. But He cares, and He sends his energy, his uncreated energies which are hypostatic energies, but not athripostasis, which means they don’t exist outside of God. They are not separated from God: it is God Himself acting by different ways in His freedom. All the universe is full of the uncreated energy of God, in small ways and in very strong ways. In less ways because God is giving light to the world. And from this point of view the world is good. And as Christians we should see the world as a manifestation of the Grace of God. You see why we can speak about theology. In the Western way of theology, we say there are no proofs of God. But in the Orthodox way and because of Gregorias Palamas we can speak about the proofs, the logical way talking about God, but this logic is the Patristic logic. From the Bible we can speak about God because of the uncreated energy of God entering into us. And of course this is mostly because God became human, and he enters into us by the Holy Communion.
But once more to say how important is the theology of the uncreated light and of Gregorias Palams. It is like to see the light in the Old Testament. It was a burning bush. All the universe is a burning bush because Jesus Christ entered into the universe, the Son of God entered into the universe. And we should see the universe as a burning bush. With our eyes we see the Grace of God. All these birds here [pointing to the balcony where birds come] or all the universe is full of this light of God. When I say to see the light of God, I don’t mean – and Gregorias Palamas and all the Fathers of the Church that we celebrate today did not say to see the light of God like I see this light here [points to the ceiling], but to see the light inside me, and to become light. And this was the light of the Transfiguration, you see there the icon of the transfiguration, Jesus Christ became full of light, and actually he was light, his clothes, and even the rocks around him. What was this light? For this Greek monk, Balaam, because he was cheating and because of the way he grew up as a spy and his way of thinking [his version of the light] was, just as he writes, as something created, like a cloud, it is created, it appears and then it disappears from this world. But from the Bible, from the experience of the Church, this light is God. This is why we say the light comes from inside [pointing to icons]. And when we have the Prayer of the Heart and when God wants, yes, we see the light inside us because we become light and because radiate this light to the world. And this we have from Moses, as I say, his face changed and even his people could not dare to see his face. And to all the saints that we have seen from very ancient times to today.
And from this point of view, the theology of Gregorias Palamas is so great to express exactly that we have participation with God, and then we have the dedication , which means this union with God. Yes, there is nothing more in this world or the other world than the Holy Communion. But when I receive Jesus Christ inside me, how does he act, how does he work? He changes me and I see the light – not me – and I become this humility in me. It is Him who works by the energies of the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit, of the one God that works in us. This dedication is the purpose of our life.
It is important that we don’t stay too magical in this experience. It is important that we don’t focus too much on practices. Yes, there are practices in the Prayer of the Heart, but it needs to be with a spiritual teacher and it needs to be in the Church in the right way. For example, someone who does not confess, who does not receive the Holy Communion, how will he practice? But even if he does not, he must try and then he will a miracle, he will see the miracle of God.
It is very important that this dedication, this Grace of God, this Light of God does not come individually. We are not individuals in the Church, like I am sitting in a mountain or somewhere else and I have powers and you come here and I do some magical performance. Everywhere we are, we receive the Grace of God as members of our brothers, as children of God. When I say, “Our Father who art in Heaven,” I don’t say, “my Father,” I say, “our Father,” right? I have brothers who have the same Father and so there is this brotherhood because we have the common Father, the Father of Jesus Christ, who unites us.
So we say in the pre-sanctified Liturgy that we have, you see the priest takes the candle and says, “The light of Christ enlightens all.” So now you understand what I mean in our pre-sanctified Liturgy: it is this Light of God Gregorias Palams that speaks of so wonderfully, and so beautifully. And of course he says that we know God, because Balaam was an agnostic, he was saying, “Well, we cannot say anything about God, so don’t talk about this.” But for Gregorias Palamas it is “is”, not “am”. In English it is impossible to say this word there is one word for the masculine and one for the neutral. Gregorias Palamas says that when when Moses asked God who He was, He did not say, “I am the essence,” He said “I am o-on.” You see the name here [pointing to an icon], o-on I am the one who exists. So it is personal, God is coming to us, He is caring for us, and He is giving us His Grace. And this is very important: He is blessing not only me, but our relationships, our friends, because the real friendship is also a gift of God.
And why do I say about real friendship? Because today in the Gospel we hear about real friendship. There was this person who was paralyzed so he could not go to Jesus Christ, and his good friends – the Gospel does not say anything about them, we do not know their names – but the good friends, they did their duty, and this duty could put them in prison, because if there is real love, there is nothing that can stop this real love. The house was full of people who cared only for themselves, but the good friends found a way, they went to the roof of the house and broke the roof. (Actually, I suppose they should pay money later to he who had the house, right?) Then with ropes they put down their paralyzed friend. This is the real friendship, friendship that cannot stop, friendship that cannot abandon in difficult times, friendship that has consequences – they could go to prison because of this and they could be humiliated when the others said, you crazy people what are you doing?
Because of these things, what was there? What was there uniting them? This uncreated energy of God. It is God who is that friend to us, and from this friendship come all the other friendships. And this love made the miracle. Because, you know so many people were seeing Jesus Christ and there was not an obvious miracle for them. But through the love of a good friend something happened, the cure happened. And you see, Jesus Christ said to the paralyzed person, “Your sins are forgiven.” And later he told him to take up his bed. Why? To show as a symbol that when God forgives us, our previous life is not for nothing. It is not a wasted life but it becomes a lesson. It becomes an experience that can help others. It can become something that we can use in the future for other people, and it can help the others. So this symbol of the paralysis that put this poor person for one life as a little dead – now he becomes like a flag, and this flag is a message for all the others who are in this condition: that there is hope, and that there is friendship, and that there is the love of God.
Finally, you may say that this Love of God is coming, but suppose I don’t want it? First of all, we receive a little bit because we are alive, and the fact that we are alive is a gift of God. The fact that we are alive and we have the privilege to refuse God is also a gift of God. And the fact that we are alive, and the fact that we have the ability to love, as we love, it is also a gift of God. It’s a little bit of the uncreated Grace of God. If we want more, God is not forcing us, but he is asking us, like he asked Simon Zelotes the Apostle. He said, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?” And if we say, “Yes, Lord, I love You.” He will enter into us much more strongly, and he will become life to us, life that unites us with all.
So, practicing the Prayer of the Heart, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” remember the teachings and this uncreated energy of God and be inside this Light of God. Amen.
 1Cor. 12:6 And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all.
1Cor. 12:6 καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων (=workings, energies)εἰσίν, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεὸς ὁ ἐνεργῶν (=who works) )τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. English cannot really give a good translation on this. (FJ)
αυθυποστατον (hypostatic but self-existing, like for example your hand to exist independently from you ) (FJ)