Regarding nature/essence

Those times when Jesus prayed all night to the Father, did he bring a list of things to be addressed? Or did he pray from the Scriptures? Was it a combination? Was he talking to himself, as some insist (with tongue in cheek)? Or was he speaking as God to God, as others insist? Or is there a way at all to explain what Jesus did when he prayed?

Was the experience one of rest? Ordinary? Or was he in particular turmoil? Well, we know of one time he was in agony. In Gethsemane, he requested release from the burden of his task while remaining committed to doing the Father’s will rather than his own of the moment.

How could someone who may perfectly represent a Person who is the only Person perfectly, at every moment, ask to be released and do his own will?

The answer, in the Christian group I’m from that I’m calling ultra-Protestant, is that Jesus was scripted to do so, to give us the perfect example of laying down one’s own desires before God, even the desire for saving one’s own life.

The answer, for Orthodox Christians, is… Similar, I think, in that Jesus gave us the perfect example of humility before God — he practiced a process of laying down the desire even for life before God. Organically, genuinely, Jesus expressed the reality of his situation to his Father. His free will and choices as a Person have ever been free. Was he demonstrating perfect freedom, yet perfect unity and concert with the Father with whom he is one? I and my Father are one.

In Orthodox theology, Jesus is a Person of the single essence of God, one of Three Who have been revealed to us. Personhood is sovereign to nature. We of the single nature or essence of humanity are individuals first, on the road to becoming persons in the light of God’s single essence and reality. This concept, to me, has become more than a narrative, more than a good book.

I love a good book, don’t get me wrong. But I rise from the sofa where I’ve been fully engaged with reading — observing the world of the mind who created the story — and I go and do and exist and move and have my being. The book travels with me, as elements of the story remain. There are many, many wonderful stories. But I can’t live a story. I must live all dimensions of reality that are given to me.

I am more than:

    A character in a book

    A Gentile dog

    A creature who is my own worst enemy

I do, perhaps, fit all of the above descriptions, but I am more than those things.

God does more than:

    Compose a narrative

    Create good and evil characters

    Choose for every moment of time what will happen

He does, perhaps, do all of the above, but he has revealed himself doing more than we can begin to imagine. His ways are completely beyond our ways. We may find helpful analogies for his activities, but we are charged to learn from him, from Himself.

I have been charged to learn from God’s essence. The Father is who I’m referring to when I say God; if I get this, the  Eastern Orthodox are understanding that throughout Old Testament times the title God referred to the Father. But “He” and “God” can also refer to the Trinity of Persons, the nature of the triune Creator/Deity, whose actions are always one and never separated. Therefore, the Trinity came to earth; in fact, the Trinity has always been interacting with the creation.

Still, as Jesus said, no one has seen the Father. The Father is the Source of everything, including the the Son and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this implies the Father’s complete “otherness” and dominion over all else, as well as, or alternatively, describing us as unable to “see” what the Father is, because he is so other, so beyond. We would die, we are just not and can’t be in the realm of the Father. And this can lend possibility to the thought that the Father/Source could produce/has always produced other Persons to share his same essence (perhaps the “otherness”). And maybe this “production” was different from our “creation”, our creation having started at a point in the beginning (of time; of whatever began; this that began we experience in part and someday will fully know; we won’t ever know God’s own, non-beginning, Personal doings unless he desires to and can reveal them to us without our being exterminated).

In John’s gospel Jesus says, “I and my Father are one,” and, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Regarding this relationship, there is a choice between two compelling teachings I have received, between two realities:

1. hearing this as Jesus saying “I, a created being, represent the Father perfectly, while being a man like any man (except for God’s choice and determination) and replaceable by any other man” (this is one ultra-Protestant understanding as I have received it); and

2. hearing this as Jesus saying “I represent the Father perfectly — you can begin to recognize this, in part because I’m telling you no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son reveals the Father. As the Son I am, as well, completely unique from any other — you can begin to recognize this, in part because I’m telling you that no one knows who the Son is except the Father” (see Matt. 11:27 and Luke 10:22).

The choice between these two options remains critical, a very live one for me.