The third section of The Compassion of the Fatherby Father Boris Bobrinskoy is entitled “Toward the knowledge of God” and begins with an essay on “Theology and Spirituality.” I first came across it in French and found it important enough to want to translate, but was pleased to discover that somebody better qualified than myself had already done so!

After noting the danger involved in separating and opposing theology and spirituality, Father Boris proceeds to consider the relationship between silence and the word. Theos and logos refer to the first to persons of the Trinitarian mystery, of the mystery of God who speaks, for, in the words of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, “The Word of God wells up from the silence of the Father.”

Two basic and inseparable concepts, silence and the word, must be compared in speaking of theology. The word, as solely word, becomes chatter; it remains an externalization without depth. Silence, when not expressed, remains inaccessible, as St Paul says, “[He] lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen” (1 Tim 6:16). This inaccessible light is the same as silence. The Word of God is the foundation not only of trinitarian theology but also of the universe. God creates through His Word: “God said, ‘Let there be light!’” (Gen 1:3). (122)

Father Boris proposes a threefold approach in which we can speak of God in the first person, the second person and the third person.

To speak of God in the first person is to speak of God’s own speech.

To say that God speaks is extremely important, even if we cannot hear the words. God creates by speech and the Word of God is the essential, ontological act through which the human being and the world came into existence. God carries the world through His Word … In the presence of God who speaks, first there is listening, second obedience – the “yes,” the amen, of the human being to God. (122)

To speak of God in the second person is to address God as “You” as grow in a filial relationship, a relationship of friendship, unity and communion, that leads to deification.

A dialogue of prayer, of worship – not only ecclesial but also inner – structures and defines the true existence of the human person. (123)

Only as a consequence of this dialogue can we speak of God in the third person.

If one isolates God in the third person, one makes an object of Him, one reifies (chosifie) Him: this is the great danger of theology. Theology is then severed from its roots, from its foundation, its framework, from this living dialogue where God speaks and humanity responds. Only within a living relationship may one speak of God. (123)

Speech about God is furthermore rooted in confession, whether that be the preaching of the apostles, or the confession of faith of those about to be baptised.

Preaching was the first manifestation of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, whom He had led “to remember” and who made the words of Christ come out of their hearts where they had been engraved. (123)

To be continued…