I invite you to read an exceptional explanation by Father Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra of the next verse of the Holy Scripture:
“After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs…” (Acts 1:3)
The Evangelist presents us directly all the ways and testimonies of life that God gave to the human being. And what is it that He did not do? If I could express it at a human level, there is only one issue that occupies God’s thought: How to make man understand and believe and remember that He is alive, that He lives connected with the human being.
That a man lives for God and to suffer to be alive in God, is a thing I can understand. But God’s love makes God to see Himself connected with the lowest person and to arrange His plans before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-6) and to schedule, we could say, Himself and to organize everything, so that the Infinite God Himself to fit in the human being’s measures.
And we see God stooping down to create man, so that as soon as the first man would open his eyes to see God; the God Who stooped down and created him “from the dust of the ground” (Gen 2:7). Opening his eyes, the first man created of the ground, who was the entire human nature, at the first opening of his eyes, sees God, Who takes dust of the ground and makes it man and, in the Holy Spirit, comes and gives man breath, breathing upon him; breathing into his nostrils and in his dead sleeping soul, in his earthly body, and gives him life!
As the child that sleeps and awakes and looks at his father, who hugs and caresses him or kisses him with affection, with delight and feels this earthly affection, exactly so was the man created so that, from the first opening of his eyes, he would not see anything else but God! But he was in the middle of a wonderful world! This world had various gardens, all kinds of plants, all kind of animals, all kind of stars, all kind of angels. And yet, He did not create him to see anything else, so He would see the One that created this creation of His hands, the One that breathed in his nostrils that closely! That close is Christ! Because the Scripture says: “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7) “A living being” because He approached him. As your person comes next to me, so that you can kiss me, or blow into my face and my life would not get out, so close did God come to man.
See the effort of God to make Himself understood and received by man.
Next, God listens to man’s footsteps, but the man listens as well, at dusk and in the moments of sin, the footsteps of God (Gen. 3:8), to remember him, what else, but that God is alive and that, in that day of falling, he, the man, was dead. “Do you hear me walking? I am alive. What are you? You are dead, because you separated from Me.” So that you may understand what I have told you: “for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Gen 2:17).
What does this mean? “I walk, but you cannot walk no more, even if you would live a thousand years. You die, because you left Me. I, however, am alive, I walk next to you.” He listens to his footsteps and sees him, and asks him and tells him: “Adam, Adam, where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). The movement, the hearing, this hearing, this movement, this word are the testimony of divinity who wants to be received; of God being alive, and therefore, can be received by the human nature.
And yet, when he receives the first good news of salvation from God(Gen 3:15), when he was drove off as punishment and when God supports him again when he sins, helps him when he raises, man – who God raised yet even more – nevertheless, man hardens himself. And God searches once again thousands of ways to be able to show him His Life and that He is so close to him, so close that the man can hear and feel closely God’s breath. And God imagines tens of thousands of ways to do this.
One way of God’s descending we could see in the Psalms. You remember that beautiful image of Christ who bends towards the river that flows to drink water, as all the people bend (Ps. 110, 7). What does this thing mean? That “even if you forgave Me, I, the Heavenly God, bend Myself like you bend, I share your life, so that you can share Mine. I work as you work, to show you that I make Myself like you, so that you can make yourself like Me. So, do you get tired on your way? I am tired Myself. Do you thirsty? I thirsty. Do you bend, to drink water? I bend Myself. Like you bend, so do I bend Myself. I humble Myself, I empty Myself and drink Myself and refresh Myself as well. And what do you do and I don’t do? Therefore, if I am so close to you and bend to you, indeed you cannot grasp Me? Aren’t you able to seize Me? Aren’t you able to hold Me? Aren’t you able to make Me forever yours? Aren’t you able not to lose Me? Aren’t you able not to see Me in front of you? Since we bend together towards the same spring, towards the same water…We make ourselves both deprived. We make ourselves both poor. I, the wealthy One, I, the One Who lacks nothing, I, the tireless One, I, Who with a single view embrace the world, come and sneak in the tiny place where you sit and walk in your footsteps. What more do you want? This much I humbled Myself!”.
You see, He does all these to show us His descent, his alikeness, His life alike ours, so that we can understand it and rejoice at it.
And still, the man hardens! God comes as a breath and gives grace to the prophets (1Kings 19:12). And he forgot about God. God kills the false prophets (1Kings 18:40; 2Kings 1:10). And he forgot about God. God comes and gives him wonderful triumphs (Exod. 17: 9-13; Josh. 6:12). And he forgot about the Victorious One, forgot about God, Who gave him the triumph. God forgives – Israel – their sins and they rejoice at forgiving, but then go on and sin again (Judg. 2:11; 4:1-3) and forget the One that forgave them. He drives them through the desert (Exod. 13:18); in the desert He gives them on one day bread (Exod. 16:14), on another water out of the dry rock (Exod. 17:3), He gives them quails (Exod. 16:13), He gives them anything, bearing witness by all these to His life that wants to be shared; finally, they remain again without God and again forget Him and again cannot do anything.
They reach the foot of a high mountain, hear thunders, see lightning, hear the words that God speaks to Moses (Exod. 19: 16-19), know that Moses climbed up there because he was called after he fastened for forty days and forty nights (Exod. 24:18) and, after so many things, he told them: “I am going to bring you the Law, I am going to bring you the Lord”; and they were afraid, they trembled, they saw the mountain smoking – all symbols of the presence of God – and they left God, forgot God and, without having God, they made God a calf (Exod. 32:1)! They made another false God! Why? Because they cannot live without God. Because man, as I was saying, was made only to live. And he does not live but by deifying; only by forging a God or having a God, only deified, only by living in God.
Why does man build a calf? Because this sin of his, this delusion of his, this departing of him from God bears witness to the fact that man cannot live without God. Therefore, he has nothing. Even by making a calf, the man expresses this longing after Divinity, that he can only live as a god. And yet, he builds a calf and leaves the True God. And Gods bends once more! He forgives him again. Is struggling to find the way for the human to finally become eternally His, the Visible One, the eternally Touched One. And He finds this ways:
“During the day the desert burns you and you want cooling. Very well! I make Myself a cloud (Exod. 13: 21-22), that will cool you and light you so that you know that I am your coolness and that which interposes between you and the burning sun.
During the night you want light! By night I make Myself light for you. I make Myself your pillar of fire (Exod. 13: 21-22). And consequently, seeing light at night to know that I am this light. It is the reflection of My Glory.
At day you have the cloud, at night the pillar of fire. God is endlessly present. You move forward, I rise up and stay in front of you so that you can see Me. You stop, I descend and sit in front of you so that you can see Me. You come in front of the tent of meeting, there I am, there you hear Me. You come to your high priest, there are the symbols of my presence. No matter where you go.”
God humbles Himself, emptied – all these are ‘emptyings’ [Translator’s Note: kenosis (from the Greek word for emptiness κένωσις, kénōsis)] of God – He comes to resemble even the cloud, even the pillar of fire, or any other thing that exists.
Think about God’s struggle, at God’s fight, but also about God’s longsuffering, at God’s wisdom and almightiness to become eventually everything, to sneak into everything, to blend into everything: the cloud, the pillar, our sins, our mountains, our yells, into everything, so that He can be everywhere. And since I know that I cannot live without Him, then to endlessly live with Him.
A convincing proof of His life is the pillar. A convincing proof is the cloud. A convincing proof is the high priest. A convincing proof is the tent of meeting. “By many convincing proofs.” An entire eternity, God did not do anything else but present Himself alive “by many convincing proofs”. Alive in connection with man, alive so that I can grasp Him, so much alive that my life would never separate from Him.
You do now understand what “by many convincing proofs” means. You do understand God’s struggle but, at the same time, our own hardening as well, our weakness, our denial. Like someone would come and put food into your mouth but you close it, like someone would come to open your eyes, so that you can see, but you close them so that you would never learn to see, this is the man and that is God. A fight. Instead of fighting to know Him, to love Him and to get God, I fight with God that hunts me. He makes me a relentlessly chased game so that I can understand sometime this thing, and to return and see Him and to make my Hunter rejoice, the One that is so much mine.
(Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra)
Translated by Radu Iacob