Word Magazine May 1959 Page 5-6
GOD IS PERSONAL
Rev. Fr. Michael J. Buben, Geneva, N. Y.
from lectures by the late Serbian BISHOP NICHOLAI VELIMIROVICH
The Holy Scripture, from the beginning to the end, reveals God as a personal God; for all the characteristics of a personal being have been clearly shown in the Scripture as God’s characteristics, yet in superlative and beyond comparison. God is absolute personality with the highest intelligence and self-consciousness, with a will and feelings of His own.
All the personal beings, such as angels and men, could have been created only by a Creator who is personal Himself.
A personal God has been revealed in the Old Testament to one nation — the Israelites. A personal God, even with a stronger emphasis, has been revealed in the New Testament to all the nations of the world.
The man-made theories which reduce a personal God to an impersonal principle or law, must be rejected as unintelligent and explaining nothing. Even so must be rejected every theory, which identifies a personal God with nature and natural forces (materialism, naturalism). Also the theory, which ties up God with matter and teaches that matter is an attribute of God, without which God never existed, must be rejected (Pantheism). All these and similar theories are contrary to the Revelation of God by God Himself. Only a personal God can explain everything. Just as the sun throws its light over everything in nature even so in the light of God, the Spiritual Sun, we are enabled to obtain the understanding of everything needed, — “In Thy light, shall we see light.” (Ps. 36, 9). On the other hand; if God were impersonal, it would be unreasonable to speak of man as a personal being. It has been revealed to us even on the first pages of the Bible, that God is a personal being, and that He created man in His own image —”in the image of God created He him.” (Genesis 1,26-27).
Inseparableness of God’s Attributes
All God’s attributes are one and inseparable. We speak of them as separate, for we can not otherwise. Speaking of God’s justice we forget His love, and talking of His power we forget His wisdom, etc… But God is always a just and loving and mighty and wise God. All His divine attributes are harmonious and simultaneous, though not merged. Essentially He is perfection in each and all of His attributes.
Liturgical and Moral Application
The absolute oneness of God’s being has been strongly stressed throughout the Old Testament in worship, prayers, supplications as well as in precepts of moral conduct. All this as against pagan polytheism and idol worship. In all the priestly acts the glory of the one and personal God is symbolically represented and pointed out. In the prayers, supplications and psalmodies of the patriarchs, prophets, and kings many names and attributes of God are mentioned. Men turn to God as to an invisible Spirit; Eternal, Almighty, All wise, All seeing, All hearing, Merciful, Terrible, Majestic and Glorious beyond words.
The right living is urged to respond to the right believing. The faith in one God and the moral conduct, according to God’s law are like twins, dangerous to be separated. Heathen peoples are immoral because of wrong faith, these two again being as twins of an inferior order.
Liturgical and moral application of the dogma of God’s attributes in the New Dispensation, i.e. in Christ’s Church, has been greatly elevated, refined and enriched. Otherwise all the names and attributes of God in the Old Testament have been fully respected and kept in the Church. None has been abrogated. God is a Spirit; eternal, holy righteous, merciful, powerful, beautiful, etc. The Church service books are full of these attributes of God, glorifying them. Portions of the Old Testament are read in Church, especially the Psalter, which is read and sung during every morning and evening service.
There is one living and personal God, who is watching us, guiding, inspiring, consoling, protecting, healing, warning, correcting, pardoning, saving. Thus we may with the Psalmist of old sing: “The Lord is my light, and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27, 1).
On The Holy Trinity
The dogma of the Holy Trinity — the root dogma of Christianity.
How do we express this dogma? Trinity in Unity?
a) One God in Three Persons
b) Three Persons —— the same Substance
c) Different personal properties
Who are the three persons? (Hypostases? (Father, Son, Holy Ghost).
Do they merge into one person?
Do they separate?
Do they have general attributes in common?
Do they have personal attributes in common?
What are the sources of this doctrine on the Holy Trinity?
a) In the Old Testament?
“Let us make man— Gen. 1,26” “
“At Mamre— Gen. 18, 1-3”
“Holy, Holy, Holy — Isa. 6, 3”.
b) In the New Testament?
At the baptism—— Mt. 3,16-17. 28, 19; baptizing in the name of…
Angel to Mary— Lk. 1, 35.
“Three bear record in heaven.” I John 5, 7
“Grace, love, and communion.” Cor. 13, 14.
c) In the Tradition?
Apostles, Councils, Fathers.
General Attributes belong equally to each divine person.
Is the Father (and the Son, and the Holy Spirit equally):
eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, all wise, all good, omnipresent, etc?
The Father — unborn, unbegotten — Begetter of the Son — Spirator of the Spirit.
The Son — born or begotten in eternity, sharing the Father’s nature.
The Holy Spirit — proceeding from the Father, sharing the Father’s nature.
Always – The Holy Trinity in Unity, One Triune God.
Are there some symbols in nature of the Triune? The human Soul? A tree? Water? Sun?
Liturgical Application of the Holy Trinity
Every service in the Orthodox Church begins with:
“Blessed is Our God, now and always”, or: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: now and ever.” etc. (Sacrament) or “Glory be to the Holy, Consubstantial, and Life creating Trinity, now and ever”. etc. (ALL Night Vigil).
The most expressive hymns to the One God in Three Persons, but of one substance are the troparions at Midnight Service, and the stichiri on Pentecost. These last stihiri describe clearly the personal attributes of each divine person.
The Divine and Human Nature of Christ, the Son of God, is most wonderfully sung by the so-called Dogmatics (8) in the Octoichos.
The Godhead of the Holy Spirit, His substantial equality with the Father and the Son, and His life-giving activity in all the creation, is strongly accentuated also in Antiphons (Stepeni). The introduction to the Holy Eucharist as well as some other minor services, begin with the invocation: O Thou King of Heaven, Comforter, “Spirit of ‘Truth”, etc.
In Vosglassi all the three divine persons are mentioned but accosted in singular “Thou”, as the instance: “For to Thee belong all Glory, Honor, and Worship, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever” or: “For Thou art the God of mercy and charity and man loving, and we are glorifying Thee, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” etc. . .
In the liturgical prayers equal supplications and equal honor are given to all Three.
The Holy Spirit plays the greatest part in the liturgy during the Consecration of the offering. The priest invokes the Lord Christ to send His Holy Spirit to us as He did send Him “at the third hour” to the apostles. After this he asks that the bread and wine should be changed into Christ’s Body and Blood. This is the most solemn moment in the whole Liturgy.