"After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways .... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church." St. Philaret of NY 1985

A Christian's Responsibility to Acquire Knowledge of God


A Christian's Responsibility to Acquire Knowledge of God
      As Christians, our first and basic obligation to God is to love Him. Man, however, will not and cannot love those whom he does not know. It follows that we must therefore know God. Sadly, this responsibility is one of the least observed today. It was different in earlier times when there was a marked interest in theological questions, and the thirst for religious knowledge deeply seized Christian souls. St. Gregory the Theologian testifies that in his time even tradeswomen at the market, instead of selling their wares preferred to argue about the consubstantiality and seeming substantiality' of the Son of God. Now, many intellectuals, even among those writing and speaking about various purely religious topics, are positively afraid of any kind of theology. They consider all its questions and clarifications as rather scholastic and far removed from life.

 From here stems the dreadful religious ignorance of so many of us in not knowing the basic truths of our faith. A majority of educated Russians are able to enumerate without a mistake all the rulers of the House of Romanoff, the principal Russian writers, etc. It is considered shameful for an intelligent person not to know this. But ask them to name the most important dogmas of the Christian faith or the names of Christ's twelve Apostles (who did immeasurably more for man than any tsar or writer), in nine out of ten cases the results will be sad indeed. What is worse, ignorance in this area is not still considered shameful, and people admit to it with a light heart.
One cannot deny that it is of utmost importance for each Christian to know the basic content of his faith and its fundamental truths, about the dogma of the Trinity, Divine Love, the Incarnation, the redemptive death and resurrection of the Saviour, about the future fate of the world and of man, etc. These questions are neither alien nor wearisome for man, but full of life and significance, insofar as the very meaning and destiny of his life are decided by them.
    All these questions, of course, connect to one: does God exist and Who is He? These questions are of exceptional importance even for people with little faith. But for true believers, to know God is to know what He means for us and, furthermore, to know what His will is in regard to us. This knowledge is the basic, most important and most valuable there is. Christian life itself is determined first of all precisely by the knowledge of God. The Lord Himself, while praying to His Father before His suffering, said that "this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only True God and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent" (John 18:3).
     From all this we see that our immediate Christian obligation is to know God. The way to this knowledge, in addition to spiritual reading, is by means of reflection upon God, purposefully bringing into one's consciousness and then dwelling upon an image of God, His highest characteristics, the work of our salvation, our eternal future, etc. Such thoughts about God were cherished by our righteous forebears in the Faith, but for many, very many of us, they are unfortunately altogether unfamiliar.
The knowledge of God spoken of here is, of course, not a purely intellectual knowledge received through the faculty of memory. Christianity is life; it rests upon the experience of the heart and is therefore received by different people in different ways. The more a Christian shapes his personal life to accord with the truths and commandments of his faith, a task admitting great internal struggle, the deeper he assimilates Christianity. And on the contrary, if a man relates to his faith dryly, only outwardly and formally, and is not directed in his personal life by the calls from Christ's Holy Gospel, then he does not accept Christianity into his soul and heart, and the deep content of the truths of the Christian faith remain alien to him.