Notes From a Retreat-IIB

{More notes taken from my retreat dedicated to Dionysius the Areopagite and his theme of Luminous Darkness, as given in reflections composed by Fr. Maximos Davies of Holy Resurrection Monastery}

How does the Incarnation reveal the incompleteness of the New Age/Pagan way of considering the universe?


With the Incarnation, we can see that the love for Christ is actually Love for us. Christ became one of Us.


With other views besides the Christian mysticism, there is a one way surrender, an ontotheology.
All is absorbed into “nirvana”, for example. There is no mutual movement of Incarnation from The Absolute God to His Creation at a central point in history.

God is like the center of a wheel, holding all things in the circle together, in every part of the circle. In pantheism, this is a distinct matter, because the center is not the circle itself. We can see this in Dionysius’ writings in Divine Names II.9.

Further also, the most conspicuous fact of all theology—-the God-formation of Jesus amongst us—-is both unutterable by every expression and unknown to every mind, even to the very foremost of the most reverend angels. The fact indeed that. He took substance as man, we have received as a mystery, but we do not know in what manner, from virginal bloods, by a different law, beyond nature, He was formed, and how, with dry feet, having a bodily bulk and weight of matter, He marched upon the liquid and unstable substance; and so, with regard to all the other features of the super-physical physiology of Jesus. Now, we have elsewhere sufficiently spoken of these things, and they have been celebrated by our illustrious leader, in his Theological Elements, in a manner far beyond natural ability—-things which that illustrious man acquired, either from the sacred theologians, or comprehended from the scientific, search of the Oracles, from manifold struggles and investigations respecting the same, or was instructed from a sort of more Divine Inspiration, not only having learnt, but having felt the pangs of things Divine, and from his sympathy with them, if I may so speak, having been perfected to their untaught and mystic union and acceptance. And that we may display, in fewest words, the many and blessed visions of his most excellent intelligence, the following are the things he says, concerning the Lord Jesus, in the Theological Elements compiled by him.

In the Incarnation, the Nameless one becomes known by many names.
We see the Nameless one in the whole World, in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments.

The Real Force of God would annihilate us.

Evil is non-being, the lack of a presence.

Thinking and knowing reality is not a matter of merely thinking God’s thoughts after him, but is most deeply being known by Him.

Experiencing God is like God’s act of creation–it is the cause of us. We could say, “I have temperance”, and have a sense of reality.

But in the mystical view of reality, we would really say, “Temperance has me.”

This eliminates the distinction between the one who is known, and the one who is the knower.

To quote Dionysius:

Knowledge unites those who know and things known.
–Divine Names VII.5

God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah these words, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” He does not speak through a knowledge that is based on intellectual grasping, but instead the foundation of knowledge and all of reality is the Love of God.

To quote Dionysius again:

The Divine Wisdom, then, by knowing Itself, will know all things.
–Divine Names VII.2

Wisdom, in knowing itself, will know all things.

Love gives us a glimpse of God. Things that are loved naturally become a part of US. This is an unending process, like love itself.

Going back to the triangle/hierarchy of Existence, at the top we have:

God/Cause/non-Existence——–>A Descent into non-existence by “causing” concepts–expression, science, contact, sensible expression.

Mystery is, then, the idea that existence can be known, that this existence discloses to us a world of meaning, and that all of it (yes, all of it) it ascends to the source of meaning.

There are different hierarchies of knowing, therefore.

1) Circular knowing – this is contemplation, the highest form of thinking
2) Spiral knowing – this is scientific thinking that is deeper and higher than our normal thinking.
3) Linear knowing – this is how we generally know the world.

In terms of this knowing, we should realize that what we see in the world is not a world with traces/vestiges of God.

Instead, the world itself, to the Christian (who is a mystic), is God with vestiges of us. We are the traces, not God.

The world is God with vestiges of Us.

As St. Augustine wrote, Our “hearts are restless until they find rest” in Him.

Father Stephen Freeman has written well about this idea, as he has depicted the “two-storey universe”.

We need to see the world as God sees it, which we must understand that the world is heaven.

Everything matters in this world, because this world is not a second-class existence.

The Christian’s/mystic’s vocation, therefore, is to ascend higher. It is to view the world and understand why the God man exists in a mandorla.

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