March 31, 2013

PSALM 19:1

By Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston (Holy Orthodox Church in North America) When our Saviour addressed the Holy Apostles with the words: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit,” He did not mean that they should receive the Essence or the Hypostasis of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because no creature can receive or partake of God’s Essence. If he were able to receive or partake of our God’s Essence, he would then be God Himself! But this is impossible for man, a creature. God is uncreated, whereas man is created. God is eternal by nature, whereas man is very much temporal. God is holy by nature, whereas man is obviously fallen and sinful.
But, by God’s Grace, all things are possible. By God’s Grace, man too can become eternal. By Grace, man, a fallen creature, can and does become holy. By God’s Grace, men can become deified.

Moses the Ethiopian, the thief and murderer, could and did, by God’s Grace, become the meek Saint Moses the Ethiopian.
Mary the dissolute prostitute of Egypt, could and did, by God’s Grace, become Saint Mary of Egypt, the clairvoyant, the supremely-wise, the pure bride of Christ.
So, when the first verse of Psalm 19 blesses us with the words:
The Lord hear thee in the day of affliction;
the Name of the God of Jacob defend thee
it is similar to the words, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” As we mentioned above, we do not—indeed, we cannot—receive the Essence or the Hypostasis of the Holy Spirit, but we can and do receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit. So that is what our Saviour is actually saying here: “Receive ye the Grace of the Holy Spirit.”
Likewise, when the Psalmist says, “The Name of the God of Jacob defend thee,” he means “the Power, the uncreated Grace, of the God of Jacob defend thee.”
As we have pointed out elsewhere, “the Name of God (its inner significance and meaning and not its outward letters and sounds) is the divinely-revealed Truth about God Himself; like all revelation of God about Himself, it is His Power, His Energy, His Grace. According to the teaching of the Church, the Grace of God is God Himself (not His Essence, but His Energy). Hence, it is in this sense that St. John of Kronstadt’s famous saying ‘The Name of God is God Himself’ should be understood.” St. Clement of Rome’s statement that “the Name of God gave existence to all creation” must likewise be understood in this sense.
This, too, is precisely what the Prophet David says when he makes the following parallel:
And the heathen shall fear Thy Name, O Lord,
And all the kings of the earth Thy Glory.
(Psalm 101:15)
This, exactly, is what St. Cyril of Alexandria also says:
[John 17:11: “Keep them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me.”] He says that His disciples ought to be kept in the Name of the Father, that is to say, in the Glory and Power of His Godhead, so that they should be out of the power of the enemy.
(Commentary on the Gospel of St. John 11.9 [John 17:16–17])
Therefore, when we pronounce the Name of God, when we write or read it, when we imprint it in our minds, that is the created aspect, which belongs to our human speech. It is a word, a verbal icon, a created symbol. But the Truth that these created names contain and express, the Truth that shines and flows from them, this Truth is both eternal and uncreated, and it exists whether we articulate it or not. This Truth of God, this Truth about God, as revealed by God Himself, is the uncreated Name of God; it is His Glory, Power, Majesty, Grace, etc. This is the Name of God that the Church has been glorifying and praising from the very foundation of the world, and which she will continue to magnify unto endless ages. As St. John of Tobolsk (+1715) puts it so concisely:
The chosen ones of God greatly desire that the Name of God, His Wisdom, Power, Mercy, and Truth be venerated in holiness by all the nations and tribes, that all the peoples (as creatures of one God) should live in peace and concord.

In Accordance with the Divine Will, Chapter 4
The Name of God is not just a created symbol, as some say (although it is that too); it is, more importantly, God’s uncreated Power and Grace.
“Receive ye the Holy Spirit.”
“The Name of the God of Jacob defend thee.”