- The Abbey of the Genesee - http://www.geneseeabbey.org -

May 24, 2017

Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO [1]

6th Wednesday in Easter Time

St Paul in the first reading touches on the deepest desire of every human being, whether we know it or not, and that is the desire for God. Something in us wants to know God as he really is, beyond the limits of our senses or thought or imagination. The Athenians expressed this desire by setting up an altar “To an Unknown God”, and Paul saw that as one expression of an aspiration common to all humanity: “that people might seek God,” in the hope that they might feel their way toward him “and find him”.

This desire to know God as he is is not surprising, since the Spirit of God dwells in us, as Paul would later write, and “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth”, says Jesus in the Gospel. “All the truth” does not stop at knowing God; it goes on to love him.

St Seraphim of Sarov had a paradoxical way of speaking about the relation between knowing God and loving him. He said,  “If you do not know God, it is impossible for you to love him; and you will only be able to love him if you see him; but you can only see him if you know him!”

What I think St Seraphim means is that there is a typical pattern as the Spirit of truth guides us in feeling our way toward God. God first loves us by getting us to know more about him; then this relationship grows into knowing him better and transforms itself into love; and finally love takes up all our attention – “all the truth”- and there’s no room for anything else. It’s something like the way David Brooks describes George Eliot in his chapter on love in our refectory book, The Road to Character.

Within this common pattern, there are of course as many variations as there are human beings. St Macarius in one of his Spiritual Homilies writes that “To each of the saints, God appeared as he wished so as to refresh them, to save and lead them into a knowledge of God….He transforms himself to become present to the eyes of those who love him”.

It’s just like him to do that, because he transforms our bread and wine into himself, to become present in the Eucharist to the eyes of faith. May our desire for God at this Eucharist lead us to pray as we often do at Benediction: “Lord our God, may we always give due honor to the sacramental presence of the Lamb who was slain for us. May our faith be rewarded by the vision of his glory, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. “ Amen.