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God

… One God, the Father Almighty…

The fun­da­men­tal faith of the Chris­t­ian Church is in the one true and liv­ing God.

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one God; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. And these words which I com­mand you this day shall be placed upon your heart, and you shall teach them to your chil­dren, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise…” (Deut 6:4–8).

These words from the Law of Moses are quot­ed by Christ as the first and great­est com­mand­ment (Mk 12:29). They fol­low upon the list­ing of the Ten Com­mand­ments which begin, “I am the Lord your God… you shall have no oth­er gods besides me” (Deut 5:6–7).

The one Lord and God of Israel revealed to man the mys­tery of his name.

And Moses said… “…if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say to the peo­ple of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the peo­ple of Israel, ‘Yah­weh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abra­ham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob has sent me to you: this is my name for­ev­er, and thus I am to be remem­bered through­out all gen­er­a­tions.’” (Ex 3:13–15)

God’s name is Yah­weh which means I AM WHO I AM; or I AM WHAT I AM; or I AM WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE; or sim­ply I AM. He is the true and liv­ing God, the only God. He is faith­ful and true to his peo­ple. He reveals to them His divine and holy Word. He gives to them his divine and holy Spir­it. He is called Adon­ai: the Lord; and his holy name of Yah­weh is nev­er men­tioned by the peo­ple because of its awe­some sacred­ness. Only the high priest, and only once a year, and only in the holy of holies of the Jerusalem Tem­ple dared to utter the divine name of Yah­weh. On all oth­er occa­sions Yah­weh is addressed as the Almighty Lord, as the Most High God, as the Lord God of Hosts.

Accord­ing to the Scrip­tures and the expe­ri­ence of the saints of both the old and new tes­ta­ments, Yah­weh is absolute­ly holy. This means lit­er­al­ly that He is absolute­ly dif­fer­ent and unlike any­thing or any­one else that exists (Holy lit­er­al­ly means total­ly sep­a­rat­ed, dif­fer­ent, oth­er).

Accord­ing to the Bib­li­cal-Ortho­dox tra­di­tion, even to say that “God exists” must be qual­i­fied by the affir­ma­tion that He is so unique and so per­fect that His exis­tence can­not be com­pared to any oth­er. In this sense God is “above exis­tence” or “above being.” Thus, there would be great reluc­tance accord­ing to Ortho­dox doc­trine to say that God “is” as every­thing else “is” or that God is sim­ply the “supreme being” in the same chain of “being” as every­thing else that is.

In this same sense the Ortho­dox doc­trine holds that God’s uni­ty or one­ness is also not mere­ly equiv­a­lent to the math­e­mat­i­cal or philo­soph­i­cal con­cept of “one”; nor is his life, good­ness, wis­dom, and all pow­ers and virtues ascribed to Him mere­ly equiv­a­lent to any idea, even the great­est idea, which man can have about such real­i­ty.

How­ev­er, hav­ing warned about an over­ly-clear or over­ly-pos­i­tivis­tic con­cept or idea of God, the Ortho­dox Church—on the basis of the liv­ing expe­ri­ence of God in the saints—still makes the fol­low­ing affir­ma­tions: God may cer­tain­ly be said to exist per­fect­ly and absolute­ly as the one who is per­fect and absolute life, good­ness, truth, love, wis­dom, knowl­edge, uni­ty, puri­ty, joy, sim­plic­i­ty; the per­fec­tion and super­per­fec­tion of every­thing that man knows as holy, true, and good. It is this very God who is con­fessed for­mal­ly in the Litur­gy of St. John Chrysos­tom as “…God, inef­fa­ble, incon­ceiv­able, invis­i­ble, incom­pre­hen­si­ble, ever-exist­ing and eter­nal­ly the same.”

It is this God—the Yah­weh of Israel—whom Jesus Christ has claimed to be His Father. God Almighty is known as “Father” through His son Jesus Christ. Jesus taught man to call the Almighty Lord God of Hosts by the title of Father. Before Jesus no one dared to pray to God with the inti­mate name of Father. It was Jesus who said, “Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heav­en …”

Jesus could call God Father because He is God’s only-begot­ten Son. Chris­tians can call God Father because through Christ they receive the Holy Spir­it and become them­selves sons of God.

For when the time had ful­ly come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adop­tion as sons (or, so that we all might be made sons). And because you are sons, God has sent the Spir­it of His Son into our hearts, cry­ing “Abba! Father!” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir [of the King­dom of God].

(Gal 4:4–7, The Christ­mas Epis­tle Read­ing in the Ortho­dox Church)

Thus no man is nat­u­ral­ly a son of God and no man can eas­i­ly call God Father. We can only do so because of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spir­it. And so we say in the Ortho­dox Divine Litur­gy:

And make us wor­thy, O Mas­ter, that with bold­ness and with­out con­dem­na­tion, we may dare to call upon Thee, the Heav­en­ly God as Father and to say : Our Father, who art in heav­en…

In con­tem­plat­ing the rev­e­la­tion of God our Father in the life of His peo­ple in the Old Tes­ta­ment and in the life of the Church in the New Tes­ta­ment, cer­tain attrib­ut­es and prop­er­ties of God can be grasped by men. First of all, it can be clear­ly seen that God is Love, and that in all of His actions in and toward the world, God the Father express­es His nature as Love through Christ and the Holy Spir­it.

Beloved, let us love one anoth­er; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.

In this the love of God was made man­i­fest among us, that God sent His only-begot­ten Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the expi­a­tion for our sins.

So we know and believe that love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 Jn 4:7–16)

… God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spir­it which has been giv­en to us (Rom 5:5).

Being the God who is Love, our Father in heav­en does all that He can for the life and sal­va­tion of man and the world. He does this because He is mer­ci­ful and kind, long­suf­fer­ing and com­pas­sion­ate, will­ing to for­give and to par­don man’s sins so that man might share in the life and love of God. These gra­cious attrib­ut­es of God are recalled in the scrip­tur­al psalmody nor­mal­ly chant­ed at the begin­ning of the divine litur­gy in the Church.

Bless the Lord, O my soul! And for­get not all His ben­e­fits! Who for­gives all your iniq­ui­ty, who heals all your dis­eases! The Lord is com­pas­sion­ate and mer­ci­ful, long suf­fer­ing and of great good­ness! (Ps 103).