It is all too common in our contemporary western worldview to consider God as being absent. Even for believers, it is common to hear that the mode of presence of God has changed: the past had all these prophets and saints, and we have “nothing” to show for God’s presence 1. In other words, God is absent from our lives. At “best”, we might see him in images, feelings, or imagination.
As Fr. Stephen Freeman writes 2, we end up considering reality as two different layers: a higher/supernatural one for God and a normal one for human lives. In this “two-storey universe”, akin to a house, we don’t quite know what’s happening on the second storey, and so we forget it. Of course, this also has implications about the direct “meddling” of the second-storey in the first: miracles “can’t” exist, and saints are just “moral” figures 3. The next step, for a secular society (i.e. where we shouldn’t let the second-storey knowledge/information interfere with our decisions in the first-storey), is to consider that there isn’t any second-storey at all: there is just one and it’s up to us to figure it out.
For those with a more symbolic mindset, or traditional Christians in general, this is deeply flawed. A symbolic perception 4 of reality is to consider that there are patterns which lay themselves out in concrete reality through ‘things’; be they of a material, social, psychological, theological, etc. nature. Ultimately, however, the patterns and the things are “the same”: we perceive differently two things which are bound together, and the symbolic knowledge is to perceive them back together. Not “piece them back together”, mind you, since they already are together. You can understand this from the Greek word sumbolon, meaning symbol. Originally, the word represented an object broken in half where two people each kept a piece of it as a sign of hospitality. Fr. Dragos Giulea comments: “The symbolon, therefore, is not the whole but the visible part sending to the invisible one with which it makes a whole. From there it will have the meaning of sign, seal, treaty, symbol, even passport, because they were the visible part and proof of something.” Heaven and earth are joined together in a symbol.
One case of such thinking is with regards to God’s presence and absence: we perceive God as being sometimes absent from our life, and sometimes present, and we have trouble understanding why that is so. In this article, I will try to tackle a fragment of this problem. I am by no means a theologian and this article is not a definite answer to that complex and existential issue 5. Rather, I’ll try to point to a potential perceptive solution to this question by delving into two parts of scripture which seem completely unrelated at first glance but deal with the issue of how God is perceived or not perceived: the book of Job and the two disciples from Emmaus in Saint Luke’s Gospel 6.
Originally, this article was titled “The Presence and Absence of God” and dealt with the issue of the “presence” of God from an ontological point of view. However, as it was rightly pointed out to me by Fr. Dragos Giulea, a theologian and philosopher, this is an inaccurate choice of words. God is present at all times, although sometimes in an invisible way. It is therefore an epistemological matter of perception. So what looks like, to us, a matter of “absence” is rather a matter of “not perceived”, and what looks like a matter of “presence” is rather a matter of “perceived”. Some parts of the article will still deal with the very concrete presence of God, and sometimes with our own subjective lack of perception of that presence, usually due to our own inability to see or feel His divine energies.
THE COSMIC PRESENCE OF GOD IN JOB
There never was, and never will be a place on earth free from sorrows. The only sorrow-less place possible is in the heart, when the Lord is present there.
– St Nikon of Optima
Introduction to the Book of Job
The book of Job in the Bible is a wonderful text that is very rich and deep 7. It deals primarily with theodicy, i.e. the question of “why is there evil in a good universe?” and our inability to properly comprehend God’s ways 8. For the Church Fathers, the figure of Job is also a powerful ideal of endurance, of “suffering” (from the latin suffere, to bear): he lost everything, yet in the end, he still sides with God.
To summarize briefly the book of Job: A man named Job, a very pious and devoted servant of God 9, is the target of “the Satan” 10. Satan, standing at the council of God 11, says that Job is only following the word of God because his life is, essentially, perfect: “Does Job fear God for nothing?”. Indeed, he has fortune, children, a wife, good neighbours, etc. God says that it is not so, and the Satan “challenges” God 12: if I take away what he has, he will rebuke you. God, in a sense, “accepts” the challenge: Job loses everything (fortune, health, children, social relationships, etc.). Throughout this ordeal, Job is “comforted” by his friends who expose to him various theodicies and explanations for his downfall, generally putting the blame on Job. Job challenges the most common theodicies of humankind as they are told by his “friends”, and in the end, he challenges God to explain Himself both for his situation and for evil in general. God replies with what some modern readers consider an unsatisfactory answer 13 because it does not seem to be an answer to evil or an answer to why this happened to Job (Job however is more than satisfied by the reply) and then gives back to Job everything he had lost. In the end, Job returns to his righteous ways of serving and praising God 14.
Suffering and Humanity
In Latin, the word for suffering is linked deeply with the action of bearing, or sustaining. That suffering is associated with evil. In French, this is even easier to understand as we use ”J’ai mal”, literally translated as ”I have evil” (which means ”I have pain”). In the case of Job, this suffering is ”unjustified”, in that it is not a moral suffering, nor a ”natural” suffering; nor is it just physical or psychological : he suffers because God doesn’t answer him. He has in himself pure suffering, on every level of his being. However, the question in Job is not only about suffering, but much more about language 15, and how we can speak of/about God and suffering. It is also at the center of the issue of our perception of God.
Of course, the character of Job is a rebel, but a ”just rebel” in the sense that he doesn’t see fit to negate God, neither to diminish Him: he wants to speak to Him, to understand Him. To Job, there is no ”interested faith” in resurrection or supra-terrestrial retribution 16: he prays to God in gratitude, freely and disinterestedly; therefore Satan had already lost his bet.
The answer of God seems to cause problems to most readers 17; but in truth, this answer is all that was needed. God told Job that he was right to revolt 18, because he continued to believe. Job asked to see God, to which God replied, notably by accusing Job’s ”friends”of speaking ill 19. For God, their ”ethics” are a source of immorality because we cannot think theologically suffering through morality (even less so think God and his presence). God refuses to let Himself be caged in the logic of morality and retribution. In doing so, God sets Himself apart from an anthropocentric soteriology and already shows us how he is absent from “normal” discourse. God realigns the discourse with cosmogony and the order of things.
God recognizes the existence of ”evil suffering” (privative and illogical suffering) that can be fought against: he tells Job that He is controlling and subduing at all times these forces of chaos such as Behemoth and Leviathan 20. But God also shows Job his temporal and spatial finitude from which stem his ignorance. God shows that His will and goodness are not for humans only, but for the whole of Creation. God, by showing His gratuitous creative Will and Love, takes the fight directly beyond anthropocentric views. And that is the whole of God’s answer to suffering even if he does not answer it ‘‘directly’’: suffering and evil will always be difficult for man to ”bear”, to ”support” (latin ”suffere”) if one centers his view on Man as man 21.
But if man considers suffering as Creation (Adam) centered on God, everything changes. Humanity is not the center of God, God is the center of All; therefore, Job, as man, is not the measure of things. Man is a stranger in a strange land, God rejoices in Himself and Creation without him: Job cannot judge Creation from an anthropocentric perspective (that is, a finite and non-static point of view). Only God can be the Final Judge. He asks Job to go beyond anthropocentric existentialism. Job finally understands his finite nature on earth, and by this dialogue with God, retakes his dignity of Adam the fallen that wants to be united with Him 22.
In the end, we must understand that Job challenges God and is not passive. The question of Job is not ”Why me?”, but rather ”Why us God?”. He speaks to Him as a fallen Adam, representing the whole of the human race that demands answers on suffering: why is it that God let the world be ”imperfect” and why doesn’t he act upon it? Is He not all-powerful? The theodicy therefore becomes a question of cosmodicy 23. And it is that aspect that I will deal with: the relationship of God with his Creation.
God’s Presence and Absence in Job
Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake.
– C.S. Lewis
Speaking of the chaotic potentiality of the cosmos through a discussion on Behemoth and Leviathan 24, God makes us remember that where there is chaos, it need not be “evil”. In other words, “nature”, as it is, represents a form of chaos (see ancient kings hunting animals through their kingdom to make it safer, more ”orderly”; or the primordial waters being a symbol of chaos). Yet this chaos is not to man’s command 25, it is only to God’s. Evil and suffering, which stem in part from chaotic forces, are fought upon, but never totally destroyed; it will only be redeemed at the end of time. The very existence of evil and chaos gives man the choice between good and evil, and the option to ultimately transcend them both to gain access to God directly.
On the other hand, if there would be only chaos, then nothing could be. Everything would be pure materiality without form or potentiality. In other words, God does fight evil: he constrains it and rules over it so that there is a balance that permits us to love and serve Him. He is therefore the first of those who fight evil and chaos. And we, as Adam, must share this fight in the ordering of the cosmos, the society, the family, the body and most importantly, our mind and being. We participate in the order of God by being orderly (on a micro and macrocosmic scale) and constraining chaos within and without ourselves.
The book of Job presents some arguments against God, for God, and through God: but never without God. Job is there to remind us that we can live and think everything through God. In other words, we need not to stop believing, stop desiring union with Him, or stop desiring knowledge of Him because of contingencies (like suffering). There is no possible atheism; the problem is not with God, but with Man. There is no need to condemn man for suffering (as the friends of Job attempt to do), nor is there reason to stop believing in God (as God reminds us). Because he does indeed act upon evil, even if from our perspective it does not seem like he is doing “all that he could” (cf. Abraham and God in Genesis 18:23-33).
As such, Job represents the perfect believer: he serves without having seen or received, and serves with a disinterested will. Even after speaking with God, there is no mention of seeing God directly or his energies; rather he saw Creation under a new eye and through it, Him who made it 26. The truth of Creation is the truth of foundation (Temple of Jerusalem) and the truth of Christ (the Church). God is present through his Creation like he is through His Temple or His Son. God is the cornerstone of the Cosmos. God gives Himself to see everywhere in His Creation: it is up to us to see Him. This is our first mode of perception of Him.
THE LITURGICAL PRESENCE OF GOD IN SAINT LUKE’S GOSPEL
Introduction to the Gospel’s Mention of the Two Disciples
As it is said in the liturgy of the Easter Vigil : the Resurrection of Christ is the rebirth of the whole of Creation. In the Gospels, the writers have used words (with regards to this resurrection) like “eigeirô” (to wake up) in response to the term “koïmao” (to sleep); “anistème” (to get up) and “anastasis” (to get up from a fall); and saying that he now lives (“zaô“). If the author would only have used words like “back from the dead” or “raised from death”, it would have been only a matter of the resurrection of the flesh, a mere reanimation of a corpse 27. This however, is not what Saint Luke wants to share with us.
For him and the other evangelists, we cannot reduce the resurrection to a matter of “living man”. It is about a living God. That is why it was added that He is glorified and exalted, that He has ascended. The vocabulary chosen is always that of glorification (as with God) and verticality (getting up literally meaning to put oneself in a straight position). It is to enter the glory of God.
There are many stories dealing with many different themes after the resurrection of Christ, and we shall try to delve deeper into one of them: the two disciples of Emmaus meeting Christ on the road. To summarize briefly the story: Two disciples are going to Emmaus after all that has transpired (death and the empty tomb). On the way there, they meet Christ appearing to them but they only recognize Him as a stranger 28. He asks them why they are despondent and sad: they answer that it is because of what just happened with Jesus, and they express their doubts and concerns 29. Christ chastises them for their unbelief and tells them he will explain everything, which he does by going through the scripture and the events of Jesus’s life 30. The disciples ask Him to stay with them for a communal meal, which he does. As he breaks the bread according to the last supper, they recognize Him and he disappears from their sight 31. They ponder on what happened saying that their hearts “burned” within them and then reveal what has happened to the other disciples 32.
Discipleship, Eucharistic Communion and Presence of Christ
It is interesting to note that Luke 24:13-32 is making a reference to Genesis 18:1-16 where Abraham meets with the “three angels” and receives them 33. Also, there are a lot of words which parallel one another in both texts in the Septuagint (“ôphtè”, “ophtalmoi”, “kai idou”, “euriskein”, “enantion”, “lambanein arton”, “kata-klinein”, etc.). The reason is to emphasize both traditions and the fact that the death and resurrection of Christ is a good news (evangelion), just as with Sarah and Abraham, and a primordial return to the pre-fallen state of Creation.
The first thing that sets the mood is the double irony presented: the two men don’t recognize the truth from both the women and Jesus, just in front of them. The women, even if they represented less than men in ancient law (you needed the testimony of two women to equal that of one man in the eyes of the law), believed the angels (Luke 24:5-12), even if they didn’t see Jesus. They went beyond reason, and, because of that, were the first apostles of the good news of Christ’s resurrection. Those men on the road cannot open their eyes, and they are unable to open their heart (seat of the intellect even here, see Luke 24:25; 32) to higher truths, having their “faces downcast”. Their earthly feelings cloud them from seeing the truth: they couldn’t recognize the pattern of the event unfolding in front of them 34.
The second thing that is important with the teaching of Saint Luke is the kerygmatic doctrine hidden in the story. It is twofold. First of all, the meaning is that of the traditional liturgy of the Christian Church: it is Sunday, it uses mediation of the community, the Exalted One has the initiative, there is use of Scriptures, and it culminates in the ritual of the Eucharist. It also uses the same structure: teachings from the Scriptures (old and new), then an interpretation and actualization of the Gospel (good news), and finally the Eucharist (i.e. a communal meal). Second, it is a summary of the teachings of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Luke, even paralleling the structure of Luke 10 (the Good Samaritan). The Eucharist uses words from the separation of bread for the multiplicity earlier in Luke: it marks Christ as the sustainer of both the flesh (Luke 9:10-17) and the spirit (Luke 24, as the “opener of the scriptures”).
Thirdly and most importantly, this story asks the question: where can we find Him? Both disciples gave up, closed their eyes to the truth, and spoke only of what they knew on the rational level. They knew a lot of facts and they had proofs (Scriptures, the women, etc.); yet they were still closed to truth and faith. Because of burning passions, that truth and faith was kept hidden from that seat of the intellect, their very hearts. But the Logos, both as a scriptural body (teachings, liturgy) and Eucharistic body (rites, initiation) opened their hearts: it was a necessary threshold to be crossed. They thought Jesus as a prophet at first, powerful in deeds and speech; then he was a Messiah coming to save the Kingdom of God on earth; then he was revealed as what He is 35. The only way they could see Him was to go through the process, to walk the Way with Him 36. They had to be initiated through the Holy Communion 37. Then, and only then, their eyes were opened to His glory, through the sacramental rite, which would be repeated each Sunday; but also at each meal, at each moment of their lives trying to live in Him, to be dead to the world and alive in Him, just as He did (see Saint Paul letter to the Romans 6:3-11). This is our second mode of perception of Him.
Why is it that at that precise moment he disappeared? Because His mode of presence is absence 38. God reveals Himself in an invisible way, for all times and ages; it is still his mode in our time because He is beyond-being, beyond-existence as asserted by Saint Dyonisius. He is, yet he is not, because as a Father once said: ” If God exists, we do not exist. If we exist, God does not exist. ” 39. His presence is unperceived, not absent.
Therefore the world is not a dark illusion, but a grand theophany in which God reveals Himself in Himself by Himself. In being totally transcendent, yet present in the immanence of His operations, powers and energies which act and sustain the universe 40, there is a rejection of dualism and pantheism. God reveals Himself in a sacramental manner (as Christ reveals Himself in the Eucharist) through Creation; therefore, there exists an earthly symbolism in the cosmos that alludes to supra-terrestrial symbols. What are symbols therefore? Unification of the Divine and the Human, of God and Adam. Therefore Creation is, as the Church Fathers said 41, an open book for us to understand and behold the Creator. The cosmos is therefore the “Grail” of God: He pours Himself into it for us to partake of it at the altar during the Divine Liturgy.
- This is not the position of the author, as you’ll read, but I think it’s common enough to share it here. The sanctity of our time through elders and saints is also a topic of its own which I will not consider here, neither will I consider grace, God’s energies or miracles. As Fr. Andrew Damick says, it is the Christian faith to trust those testimonies and the fruits that from them.
- Freeman, Stephen (Fr.), Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, Conciliar Press, 2010
- On the subject of miracles, I suggest reading what Jean-Philippe Marceau wrote about that subject on this blog: https://thesymbolicworld.com/articles/miracles-responding-to-objections/ and https://thesymbolicworld.com/articles/investigating-miracles-with-lewis-and-vervaeke/. Also, I suggest looking at Saint Maximus the Confessor Ambiguum 42 where he reasons about God, logoi and the mode of operation of things.
- The symbolic perception is also tied in to the “sacramental” vision of the Church, as Fr. Dragos Giulea comments: “Symbolic and sacramental do not overlap completely. Symbolic implies a simultaneous reasoning of the seen and unseen part. However, this is the way religions have ever seen reality. Sacramental, for that reason, of course implies a simultaneous vision of the world, seen and unseen. Sacramental, nevertheless, refers to God’s special actions or operations in the world in a ritual or through a ritual.”
- This article will present one way of seeing God’s presence through his absence which will, spoiler alert, revolve around the Liturgy and the Eucharist. However, the Presence of God is very real in all christians at all times and in His Church (see 1 Cor. 6:19). For more information on this, it is strongly suggested to read “The Religion of the Apostle” by Fr. Stephen de Young, especially chapter 2 ‘The Spirit, Presence and Name of God’. De Young, Stephen (Fr.), The Religion of the Apostle, Ancient Faith Ministries, 2021
- It is important to note that there are many other places where the Lord dwells than what will be said here. A choice was made by the author because he liked both of those texts.
- It is also a complex scriptural text which has been known to be for a long time. For example, Saint Jerome says of it (speaking of translation): ” And this translation follows no translator of the ancients, but will rather convey from the speech itself (which is) Hebrew and Arabic and sometimes Syrian, now words, now meanings, now both together. For even among the Hebrews the whole book is considered oblique and slippery and what the Greek rhetors call figuratively arranged (εσχηματισμενος), and while one thing is said, it does another, as if you would hold tightly an eel or a little murena fish, when you press harder, then the sooner it escapes.”
- cf. “The Religion of the Apostle” by Fr. Stephen de Young
- It stated that he is a stranger, a non-Israelite gentile form the land of Uz, yet he still believes. It is a “free” and disinterested faith. He doesn’t ask for more riches, for resurrection, for anything but God Himself. Saint Greogory the Dialogist says that he was a good man among bad men, like Lot, “Hence it is that the same blessed Job bears witness to himself, saying, I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls. [Job 30, 29]”.
- As a side note, the focus should not be put between Satan and God, but rather between human and humans, and in the end, between God and Adam. Satan here is to be taken as an accusation toward Job (the word Satan can be interpreted as ”the accusator”). It is not about a cosmic battle between God and Satan, as this would be futile in the conclusion of God’s answer to Job (more on it later). The challenge is on God himself: it is theocentric. In the same vein, if there is some difference and surface contradiction with other books of the Bible such as Genesis, we must not see them as being unrelated: the author of Job wrote with Genesis in mind, and he gave us a complementary (but not contradictory) observation that leads to questions and insights on the cosmos. On the subject of Satan and the devil and the distinction between them, I suggest reading the sub-chapter on that subject in “The Religion of the Apostle” by Fr. Stephen de Young
- For those unfamiliar with the concept of the “Lord of Hosts”, the council of God, the relationship of God with other created beings of immaterial powers, it is highly suggested to listen to the “Lord of Spirits” podcast from Ancient Faith Ministry. To summarize, the council of God is where his ministring angels (and after Christ, saints) are “assembled” to listen to God’s ‘orders’.
- “[God’s] hand” must be understood in a variety of ways. It is either the power that punishes or serves punishment, usually referred to in the Scripture as “tools of wrath,” or the protecting and guarding power in the Scripture, “No one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Even the Son can be shielded by the hand which protects and supports those who are under it, in accordance with the word, “The right hand of the Lord [has] exalted [me]; the right hand of the Lord acts valiantly.” The quoted words prove that no one is tempted without God’s permission. For God says, “See, I have given everything into your hand.” But in order to show that this permission is given [only] with restrictions, it is added, “Only do not stretch out your hand against him.” Thus afflictions occur neither due to fate nor arbitrarily but due to God’s permission, in order—as mentioned in the beginning—to proclaim Job’s virtue, but sometimes for other reasons, concerning which we will speak later on. – Didymus the Blind
- It is also important to note that the reader knows things that Job doesn’t. Job is not privy to the reality of his situation and neither does he receives a full answer from God on the original reason. In other words, there are always questions to which only God knows the answer.
- The story is more complex than what I make it, so I urge readers to go read the original. This summary is sufficient for the point I am trying to make here in this article.
- The ”friends” of Job answer him using various approaches to theodicy. Some use collective retribution, individual retribution, immanent justice, the radical indignity of man, divine pedagogy, etc. Job himself doesn’t revolt so much against suffering in his dialogue with them, but rather against the speech of his friends; they are speaking either lies or not considering his personal and very real experience. Job refuses a theology that is not anchored in experience and into which truth is grafted. Truth must be appropriated.
- Job has no direct knowledge of the Word of God, nor the incarnation or the escathological judgement as it is made known to us.
- For that answer in the text, see Job 38 to 41
- We can infer this from the fact that God doesn’t rebuke him but rather offers explanation. It also parallels God’s views on suffering and pain in John 9 where people wants to attribute physical suffering (blindness) to the sin of a man or his parents: Christ says that it is neither.
- Job himself does so when he answers them in Job 26. Some aspects of the arguments of the friends of Job are taken anew and repurposed by God, such as the ignorance of man: but they are justified because they come from Him, instead of being accusations thrown form one man to another.
- More than that, God is maintaining creation and the cosmos as it is. As Saint Maximus the Confessor says in his Ad Thalassium 2: “God, as he alone knew how, completed the primary principles (logoi) of creatures and the universal essences of beings once for all. Yet he is still at work, not only preserving theses creatures in their very existence but effecting the formation, progress and sustenance of the individual parts that are potential within them.” Translation and edition by Paul M. Blowers and Robert Louis, “Selected Writings from St Maximus the Confessor”, 2003.
- Although this article is not about theodicy and many much more intelligent men than me have spoken at length about the question of evil, I would say that the conclusion of putting the Gospels and Job side by side for an answer on theodicy would be this: evil “exists”; it can be fought against; God fights it supremely by being the first and last to do so (especially with regards to his Death and resurrection); and that the only “worthy” suffering is suffering for God’s sake, including his Love for humankind (the proof being the sacrifice of Christ himself on the Cross). This does not contradict the more common theological view that evil exists only existantially insofar as it is lived, but not metaphysically as it is a privation of being and goodness.
- I cannot stress enough how important it is that God answers Job. It, on one end, justifies Job requests and revolt to God and on the other end, opens a dialogue with him, just as with the prophets and the patriarchs. It is interesting to note that the story of Job is very ancient, and that very few humans had spoken with God prior to Job.
- This shift is not simple, and the theodicy aspect has been written enough to fill an entire library. I will not deal with it here in more details even if it seems unsatisfactory to readers.
- Leviathan comes in many forms and shapes throughout the Scripture (see also Psalm 74). He is akin to a sea-beast or as a response to the Caananite monster-god of Chaos (Lotan, Yam), which also correspond to Tiamat. In any case, he is part of God’s creation, and this is the main point in Job: all things belong to God. In Psalm 104, we can even see that the creature of the sea, Leviathan, is the “plaything” of God (hebrew ‘saheq’).
- The idea is that Job is so small and his gripe so loose in the cosmic story of the world, that it is only up to God’s grace. God has to go through all of creation to show him this. The same motif can be seen in many Psalms, but also in creation where Adam is made steward of God’s creation without being a “Lord” of creation as God is.
- We shall return in a future article on this subject, God willing, i.e. of “nature as scripture” and the sacramental nature of Creation.
- On that subject, it is suggested to listen to the Lord of Spirits podcast episode labeled “We Have Seen the Lord”. The same episode also tackles the same passage from Saint Luke’s Gospel.
- Rightly also he refrained from manifesting to them a form which they might recognize, doing that outwardly in the eyes of the body, which was done by themselves inwardly in tile eyes of the mind. For they in themselves inwardly both loved and doubted. Therefore to them as they talked of Him He exhibited His presence, but as they doubted of Him He concealed the appearance which they knew. – Saint Gregory the Dialogist
- He appeared to them in a different form, in which they were not permitted to know Him; for it follows, And their eyes were holden that they should not know him; in order truly that they may reveal their entirely doubtful conceptions, and uncovering their wound may receive a cure. – Saint Theophilus of Antioch
- In this discourse the Lord shows that the law was necessary to make ready the way and the ministry of the prophets to prepare people for faith in this marvelous act, so that when the resurrection really took place, those who were troubled at its greatness might remember what was said of old and be induced to believe. He brings forward, therefore, Moses and the prophets, interpreting their hidden meaning and making plain to the worthy what to the unworthy was obscure. In this way he settles in them the ancient and hereditary faith taught them by the sacred books which they possessed. For nothing which comes from God is without its use, but all have their appointed place and service. In their due place servants were sent to make ready for the presence of the Master. They brought in beforehand prophecy as the necessary preparative for faith, so that, like some royal treasure, what had been foretold might in due season be brought forward from the concealment of its former obscurity, unveiled and made plain by the clearness of the interpretation. – Saint Cyril of Alexandria
- He blessed the bread, broke it, and they recognized him. That’s how you recognize Christ—those of you who believe he is the Christ. – Blessed Augustine
- Good then is love, having wings of burning fire, that flies through the breasts and hearts of the saints and consumes whatever is material and earthly but tests whatever is pure and with its fire makes better whatever it has touched. This fire the Lord Jesus sent upon earth. Faith shone bright, devotion was enkindled, love was illuminated, and justice was resplendent. With this fire he inflamed the heart of his apostles, as Cleopas bears witness, saying, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Therefore the wings of fire are the flames of the divine Scripture. – Saint Ambrose of Milan
- The structure is the same:
1- Arrival of the characters
2- Hospitality towards them
3- Exchange of thoughts
4- Context of feast
5- Superior knowledge given by host
6- Sudden disappearance of characters
- On that subject, I suggest reading this excellent article on “perception” by Jean-Philippe Marceau dealing with the same passage of the Gospel of Saint Luke: https://thesymbolicworld.com/articles/bible/perception-is-symbolic/
- This ambiguity in the perception of who Christ is amongst the disciple is a constant theme in the Gospel. No one really knows or understand Who He is. Even after the resurrection, some doubt or are troubled.
- There is a lot of vocabulary in Luke which alludes to the road, the way, or walking: «eisodo», «odos» and «exodos» mainly. The beginning is marked by the «eisodo», and his death by «exodos». Even the following of Christ is described as a way, a path.
- Blessed Augustine added that this sacrament “brings us together in recognizing him”, hence adding a communal aspect to our knowledge and appreciation of the presence of God. This is why we say, in the Orthodox Church, after the Eucharist that “We have seen the Light!”.
- It is important to note that when we say “presence” and “absence”, we speak mostly of our perception. God is present at all time in everything in an invisible way and the distinction made here is from our own human limitation. The means by which we can see Him, and the reasons why our society and culture has been so lost to that perception is well beyond the scope of this article.
- Meaning that God and his creation cannot both “exist” in the same manner: a deficiency of both speech and intellectual categories.
- For more on this, read the Cappadocians Fathers, Saint Maximus and Saint Gregory Palamas
- Seeing “Nature as Scripture” will have to be tackled elsewhere as it is an immense project. However, we can point out to two specific aspects. The first is the scriptural substance of nature. As such, St John Damascene writes that nature is a living icon of the face of God (On Holy Images). Secondly, there is something sacramental and even liturgical about nature. This can be seen, for example, in the Saturday Vespers prayers where nature offers himself up to God. It is also possible to see this in Philo of Alexandria and roman catholic thinkers such as Bernard of Clairvaux. This last one wrote: “What I know of the divine science and holy scripture, I learnt in the woods and fields.”