Every Day Is A Gift, Allowing Us To Draw Closer To God

Every Day Is A Gift, Allowing Us To Draw Closer To God September 27, 2022

Henry Karlson: Sunrise At Mt. Sinai. Personal photo

Many of us have been told that we should treat every day as if it were a great gift given to us by God. We should try to discern and understand that gift, looking for the good which is being given to us each and every day of our lives. We should embrace that gift, treasure it, and indeed, be thankful for it, so that even with all the pains and sorrows we also have in our lives, we will have something before us which should inspire us, giving us reasons to have faith in God, hope in God’s plan for us, and love as a response for all the love which God has and continues to give to us.  Indeed, being open to the good which is before is, looking for it, seeing it at work, we should begin to see more and more of the work of God in our lives, and through it, come to know God better and better. Each day offers us not just some good for ourselves, but a glimpse of the glory of God, a glory which God wants us to partake of so that we can be lifted up by it and drawn closer and closer to God until we find ourselves participating in the divine life for ourselves, as Sergius Bulgakov reflected in his own personal spiritual contemplations:

Each day is a new mystery from God, it is the mystery of our life. God would not give us days if they were not an unfolding mystery. And we must seek for ourselves a place among these possibilities, we must walk before Him, making sure that our steps are as near to Him as possible. [1]

There is a purpose for our lives, a reason why we continue in temporal existence. That purpose comes to us from God, and as it comes from God, it is good. When we discern it and embrace it, it will naturally draw us closer to God, because God, as the source and foundation of every good, can be named as the Good. Every day, we should seek to cultivate the good we find in our lives, helping to make it grow the best we can; if we fail to do so, if we ignore it, fight against it, or outright reject it, we cause ourselves and those around us much pain and sorrow, because we cut ourselves off from the good which makes our lives meaningful. However, if we fail to do so, we are, of course, not without hope; we can cast aside that failure, admit our mistake, and so open ourselves up to God’s healing grace, grace which then can perfect what we have neglected, helping us then return to the journey which we had abandoned, the journey which has us receive more and more of the good in our lives, and through it, become more and more holy as we draw closer to God. Hopefully, though, we should find ourselves rejoicing in the good which we have received, thereby rendering us thankful for it, making us that much more open to receive more of the it. For, as Tsong-kha-pa realized, “Cultivating delight in the virtue that you have done – which is a part of rejoicing – will also increase your virtue.. “[2]

Coming to understand some of the mystery of God which lies before us should have us marvel in that mystery, and so open ourselves up more to God. Then, we should become, as it were, closer to God, allowing us then to experience more and more of the greatness of God, and the mystery which lies behind it, for ourselves. The more we do so, the more we will find ourselves seeking and embracing  more and more of that good; if we, however, become complacent, and lose sight of the good, then the pains and sorrows of life will threaten to take over, causing us such grief and despair, we will wonder why we continue to live; when we are confronted with such feelings, we must redouble our efforts, declare those thoughts for what they are, and seek to move beyond them, finding a way to take joy in every good which remains in our lives. Then, by embracing that good, however little of it we know and realize is there, we will find ourselves, perhaps slowly, perhaps not, drawn to the greater and greater good, with all the hope and joy it can bring, until, at last, we will truly get a glimpse of all the good which is being done and we shall truly understand the meaning – and value – of our lives.

Creation is a marvel, one which brings God into a relationship with a created other, a relationship which includes raising creation up so that it can participate in the divine life itself. “God, supremely and unchangeably good, knowing that His beatitude could be shared without being in the least lessened, made the rational creature in order to make him a sharer in His beatitude.” [3]  In creation, we are named by God, and so in our recreation, we are given a new name, signifying who we are in eternity (cf. Rev. 2:17); likewise, in creation, we are given a share in the divine life in such a way we can and do the unthinkable, and give the uncreated, unnamable God a name (or, indeed, many names):

What is amazing is that he who is Nameless has acquired a name because of his utmost love; for there was nobody with the One without beginning to call him by name. Yet his creatures call him Creator because of his benevolence and benevolent will. It is because of his care for creatures that he is called Creator and Benefactor and Light and Life. As to his name, he alone knows it. [4]

God allows us to engage the divine nature through a plurality of names, names which come to us from the way we discern God is at work, both in eternity, and in and with temporal creation (that is, through the uncreated energies of God). Those names serve as vessels of divine presence as well as ways by which we can and do apprehend the uncreated glory for ourselves. Moreover, by being able to give and use such names for God, we show our relation to God, indeed, show how we partake of the divine life for ourselves, because we invoke and use the name-designating nature of God and use it to apprehend God for ourselves.

Seeing, therefore, the love of God, which lies not only behind creation, but behind our daily lives, we should also understand how and why we can hope for our salvation, even if, in our lives, we are not always faithful to that love. For God’s love is not conditioned on our love. God loves us, and is always at work through that love, seeking to help us and bring us to perfection so that we can become proper participates in the divine life ourselves. This is why St. Gregory of Narek was right to say:

By the same token, if someone is in mourning over a sin which he has committed, he should not mourn excessively, lest he fall into despair and say, ‘There is no salvation for me,’ and because of that either not turn from his sin or suffer the suffering of Judas, who hanged himself because there was no possibility of repentance: that was excessive mourning. [5]

Let us, therefore, strive to discern the love which God uses to establish creation as well as the love which God uses to bring all creation together as one so that we can experience the blessings God intends for us. Every day is an enfolding of those blessings. We should not despair. God is at work. God is love. Just as God created us out of love, so God welcomes us with love. We can and should receive the blessing of love in our lives. Indeed, this can be said to be one of the reasons why we were granted life, so that we can begin the ever-lasting journey of love, a journey which began with our creation, which continues in our daily existence, and which will find its fulfillment in eternity in a mysterious union with God.


[1] Sergius Bulgakov. Spiritual Biography. Trans. Mark Roosien and Roberto J. De La Noval (Brooklyn, NY: Angelico Press, 2022), 69 [17/30.VIII.1924].

[2] Tsong-kha-pa, The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. Volume One. Trans. Lamrin Chenmo Translation Committee. Ed. Joshua W.C. Cutler and Guy Newland (Ithaca: NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2000), 98.

[3] Richard of St. Victor, “The Book of Notes” in Interpretation of Scripture: Theory. Trans. Hugh Feiss OSB. Ed. Franklin T. Harkins and Frans van Liere (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2013), 299.

[4] Moralia et Ascetica Armeniaca: The Oft-Repeated Discourses. Trans. Abraham Terian (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 2021), 73 [Discourse 2].

[5] Roberta Ervine, trans., The Blessing of Blessings: Gregory of Narek’s Commentary on the Song of Songs (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2007), 134.

 

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