A Christian should humbly recognise that God is a mystery beyond anything which might be attributed to him. A person who attempts to comprehend God’s essence is, according to Gregory [the Theologian], like someone who runs after his own shadow: the faster he runs, the faster the shadow moves. The way towards God can never end with the comprehension of God’s essence: its end is silent amazement before the mystery. In this state all discursive knowledge falls silent.

The heroine of the Song of Songs seeks her lover but cannot find him, pursues him and cannot reach him. The image of the pursuit has been interpreted in the Christian tradition, for example by Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, to mean the soul’s pursuit of God, who eternally flees from her. The soul seeks God, but no sooner does she find him than she loses him again. She attempts to comprehend him, but fails to do so, endeavours to embrace him, but cannot. He moves with great speed and always transcends the soul’s capabilities. To find God and to catch up with him would mean that we had become divine ourselves. The laws of physics dictate that if the material body were to travel at the speed of light it would turn into light. So it is with the soul: the closer she is to God, the more she is filled with light and becomes a bearer of light.

Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church. (London, DLT, 2002) 24.

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