Orthodox America

 The Awareness of God 

by Archpriest Nicholas Deputatov

Christ our Saviour has told us that in the last times, because lawlessness shall be multiplied, the love of many shall grow cold; but, He added, he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Matt. 24:12-13). In our time we see with all clarity that man kind, having lost love, has lost also the awareness of the Source of love, which is God. There is indeed almost no awareness today that God exists and that He manifests Himself in all things; and mankind runs to and fro as if in actual fact there is no God Who has created man and the whole universe. The whole of today's 'modern' life, possessed by corrupt vanity, has as its aim to suck even the elect into the whirlpool of passions, trivialities, and 'events' which eclipse the consciousness of God's Providence acting in all things. Therefore, the most important thing in our time, in order to be one who endures to the end and is saved, is to work out within oneself an authentic and creative awareness of God which can serve as one 5 spiritual anchor in the stormy sea of contemporary life."

With these words the late Fr. Seraphim (Rose) gave a key to the English-speaking Orthodox world to a treasury whose riches have yet to be fully appreciated. This treasure is contained in the book entitled The Awareness of God, published a few years ago (in Russian) by the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. Written by newly-reposed Archpriest Nicholas Deputatov of Brisbane, Australia, the book is a collection of essays which form a string of multicolored gems, each reflecting a different facet of spiritual life. Although only a few portions have as yet appeared in English, the book deserves to be translated in its entirety, for it follows in the best tradition of Orthodox spiritual writings which can inspire and enlighten the hearts and minds of those who are thirsting for true theology.

In recommending the book to contemporary Orthodox believers, Fr. Seraphim continued: 'Fr. Nicholas' writings deal chiefly with the inward spiritual life and the means to it: humility, self-reproach, repentance, purification, endurance of sickness and trials, the necessity of spiritual reading, the Prayer of Jesus, living by the heart and not the head."

The central theme which runs through all his writings is the awareness of God." This theme "has nothing abstract about it; it is precisely and simply that 1iving awareness and knowledge of God, virtually unknown to present-day 'theologians,' which characterize the true Orthodox believer. And despite Fr. Nicholas' own simplicity and utter un concern for theological 'problems,' what he has to say about this living knowledge of God is in a way an answer to those who have be come confused by a theological 'knowledge' which is abstract, filled with self-esteem, and does not at all bring the deliverance and freedom which our Saviour has promised to true knowledge (John 8:32). For Fr. Nicholas only transmits, as a living disciple of> living Fathers, the Patristic teaching which is directed to all men in all times..."

Below are two excerpts from Fr. Nicholas' book which have appeared earlier in "The Orthodox Word" (July-August, 1976). May they inspire someone to whom God has given the ability, to translate the remaining  portion and thereby help to bring thirsting souls in the vast English-speaking world to a true "awareness of God.'1

From the pages of the Gospel the Lord calls out, "Go ye, go ye. There are few workers: Preach My Word."

There is a picture: Christ is on a mountain peak. His face, filled with suffering, is illumined by a marvelous light. His large and beautiful eyes look into the distance with love; with their glance they embrace those both near and far. His outstretched hand, with the wound of the nails, points into the distance. Christ says, "Go ye." His whole image, His movements, the wounds, the eyes, the outstretched hand, all express one and the same thing: "Go ye".... And it seems that from everywhere, not from the distance only, but also from nearby, people are stretching out their hand toward us. From all regions; from the slums, from the streets, everywhere there are those who have lost Christ and are seeking Him. They are languishing, they are gasping without fresh air. As it is not possible to live without water, without food, so also is it impossible to live without Christ.

We have heard this parable: For more than thirty years, Christ wandered on the earth. And in Heaven they became lonesome for Him and could hardly wait for His return. And behold, the hour came, and everyone was crowding around Heaven and could not get their fill of the desired Face. And the Father! How He greets His beloved Son, how He kisses His wounds endured for men-wounds on the forehead, on the hands, on the feet! All the choirs of Heaven surround the Divine Bearer of the Cross, and the Angels and Archangels bow down before Him.

Suddenly a voice is heard. The Arch angel Gabriel opens his mouth and asks:

"Lord, did You die on the earth for the whole world?"

"Yes, for the whole world," replies Christ.

"Did You suffer much?" asks the Archangel further, looking into the Face which bore the traces of suffering.

"I suffered much," the reply is heard.

"And does everyone know about this?"

"Oh, no, only a few in Palestine and thereabouts."

“And what will happen further, O Lord? How will the world find out that You died for them? How will You inform men?”

“I have entrusted this to Peter, James, John, Andrew, and a few others, “ replied the Teacher. “I gave as My testament to them to lay down their lives so as to tell others, even farther and farther away, until every man in the farthest region of the earth will hear the Good News and test its power.”

But Gabriel knew what people were like. He did not trust them. He did not hope for success, and again he asked a question: “And what if Peter does not fulfill the assignment? What if John wavers and does not tell others? What if their descendants are so drawn away by various secondary matters that they will not tell anyone about this? What then?”

The firm, Divine voice of Christ replies: “My disciples cannot help but continue My work. They will not keep My treasure a secret for themselves. They will pass it on to all”…

Yes, the Apostles did not hide the treasure of Christ. They spread it about, through the whole world. In torments, in sufferings, before the face of death, they told the good news of Truth, of Life, of Light, of the fount of salvation and the only way into the Kingdom of God. Without fearing death, bold, brave, they sowed everywhere the Diving seed. By means of miracles they strengthened its might and power. With what a fire their faith was burning. How great, how limitless was their love for the Saviour! In truth, they abandoned everything; more than father or mother, more than son or daughter they loved Christ and the glory of God. Therefore they received an incorruptible crown. The Kingdom of God is taken by violence. Without us, the Lord will not save us. Weapons do not help a soldier unless he takes them in his hands and knows how to use them. Thus also it is with the sacrifice of the Son of God, thus also is it with the Holy Spirit sent down upon us – without us, and without our striving, they will not save us.

We are like a man who, seeing pearls scattered about, is too lazy to get up, bend down, and become the possessor of a priceless treasure. We are like that senseless guest who, being invited to a luxurious exclusive feast, considered it a great labor for himself to stretch out his hand to the food, and he departed hungry.

What hardness of heart and what a profound lack of understanding of our great calling! There is a language of heaven and a language of earth. Our only purpose in this world is the firm walking, full of hope, in the will of God. This unfailingly will bring us to the desired final, blessed aim…The Apostles knew that he who does not himself confess and preach the Lord by his deeds and words – is his betrayer. And the Son of Man will not acknowledge him at His judgment…

Flaming souls pass along the earth without fanfare, but, like splendid blossoms, everywhere they leave after themselves a fragrance. O my God! If even flowers when fading leave after themselves a kernel of fruit, then will not these striving souls produce imitators of themselves who will desire to continue their grace-giving labor of rejoicing? Increase, O Lord, the workers in Thy vineyard! Weeds and bushes harm Thy Diving vineyard, planted by Thy loving hand. Preserve it O Lord, and lead into it yet more workers who are full of care, who will unmurmeringly and sincerely desire its flourishing! Firm is the hand of the Lord which guards and guides the path of our life into His Kingdom. Help us! To Thee we go, O Son of God, our Saviour. For this Thou didst found Thine unvanquishable Church. And happy are we that we belong to it and love it with our whole heart.