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Bulgakov. God. Creator Category: Theosis …between created and uncreated…

God. Creator
Kenosis of the Father's Love
In the works of Fr. Sergei Bulgakov

Kenosis of the Almighty Creator's Love

Hypostatically, the Holy Spirit is the Paternal Love, by which the Father loves the Son and His (the Father's) creation. The identity of the Loving One and Love, the unity of the Father and the Holy Spirit, is self-evident, but just as obvious is their hypostatic difference, their hetero-hypostatizedness. The Father is the God Who is in heaven, whereas the Spirit is sent into the world. The Spirit is God's Love for the world, the living hypostatic connection between heaven and earth, inasmuch as He, descending into the world, also abides in heaven. The Loving One, the Father, abides in heaven, although He loves the earth. Herein lies the mystery of heavenly fatherhood for us: "Our Father which art in heaven." This invocation appears to contain a contradiction: How can the Father be one who abides in heaven and who therefore is transcendent for us? But there is a mysterious "art" here, which indicates the path of the Father's love for the world: the Holy Spirit. Likewise, the Lord's mysterious words about the unity of the Heavenly Father and the Son Who is on earth, the words "I and my Father are one," tacitly indicate this hypostatic bridge of love, this Third thing, which unites heaven and earth, as does the further unfolding of these words: "that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee" (John 17:21). This "in" as well as this "one" in God the Father and the Son, and, further, the "in them" (John 17:23), i.e., in the world, this is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father's love, revealing the Father's heart, afire with love for the Son.

According to this relation, the Father, the transcendent God, becomes known to us through the hypostases sent by Him, for all that we know about God in Them and through Them refers to the Father as well: "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father. … Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me" (John 14:9, 11); and this "in" is the Holy Spirit, searching the depths of God. Through this mutual transparence of the trinitarian hypostases we know the Unknowable, see the Unseeable. The hypostases who are sent do not wish to veil and do not veil the hypostasis who sends. They themselves testify about Him that He is the Father and God. The Father is the Principle; the one who sends reveals Himself, as it were, in the ones who are sent. Such is the Father's love, Love-Humility, Self-renunciation. As the Father is, so is the Son, Who in Himself also shows not Himself but the Father: "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father." So also is the Holy Spirit, Who in His transparence does not exist for Himself, as it were, but shows the Son in the Father and the Father in the Son. The Holy Spirit closes the eternal ring of trihypostatic love, which, however, has an eternal Principle in the Father and God.

This concealment of the One Who is revealed behind Those Who reveal is the supramundane kenosis of the Father's love in humility; and this kenosis is accomplished also with reference to the world, which recognizes the Father not face to face but only in the Son and through the Son by the Holy Spirit. This general kenosis of the Father's love further includes the kenosis of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The creation of the world is already in a certain sense the kenosis of the Creator, Who establishes alongside Himself the relative, creaturely, autonomous being of the world. But this world, damaged at its very foundation, is restored and "saved" by the kenosis of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, by the Divine Incarnation of the Son and the descent into the world of the Spirit, through Whom the Father is revealed and acts in the world. This action of the Father is doubly kenotic, as it were. God patiently adapts Himself to the infirmity of the world and awaits its salvation, His own enthronement in it, which will be accomplished after a long and tragic process: "Then cometh the end, when he [the Son] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father… For he [Christ] must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet" (1 Cor. 15:24–25). "And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God [ho Theos = the Father] may be all in all" (15:28), that the revelation of the Father by the Son and the Holy Spirit may be fulfilled in all things. But until this happens, God is not all in all, however He may dominate His own creation. What does this mean?

God created the world by His omnipotence and by His wisdom; and the creation is therefore perfect and "good" (cf. Gen. 1), adequate to the thought of the Creator. But the plan for the creation includes its autonomous being and self-determination, and God's will as the interaction between the Creator and creation has therefore not been fully accomplished owing to this autonomy and freedom of the world, which was contaminated by nonbeing and evil in that metaphysical event which we call original sin. That is why we pray to God: "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." God interacts with the world by His Providence, but in so doing He restrains His omnipotence in order to allow the world its freedom of action. There is no adequacy between God's will and the ways of the world, although in the final analysis God's wisdom overcomes these ways, for the world is powerless, in the end, to resist God's plan for it, and God's will is being accomplished and will be accomplished in it (otherwise vain would be the Son's prayer, which He has taught us, His brothers, the sons of God: "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven"). And it is for this reason that the divinely inspired cry of amazement and prayer before the ways of God's wisdom issues from the lips of the Apostle, dumbfounded before one of the most unfathomable events, the fate of Israel, its election and rejection, its embitterment and final salvation: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out" (Rom. 11:33).

But until now the ways of Providence have been determined by the kenosis of God the Father, Who has restrained His omnipotence, which, of course, has lost none of its force; and that is why, for us, these ways are indicated by a series of antinomic oppositions. God provides for the world in such a way that nothing happens in it without the will of the Heavenly Father: He "knoweth what things ye have need of" (Matt. 6:8); "one of them [sparrows] shall not fall on the ground without [the will of] your Father, but the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (10:29-30); "your heavenly Father feedeth" the fowls of the air (6:26), as He does all creatures. There is in the world another will, however, another providence, an evil one, which opposes the Divine Providence actively or passively; and this is permitted by the Divine Providence. This idea is expressed with a divinely inspired clarity in the Book of Job.

God is love, but the world contains malice, struggle, and hatred. The world is full of the immeasurable suffering of creatures. Groans and wails are borne to heaven, but heaven remains mute and without answer. Such is the kenosis of the Father's Love.

God is goodness, but "the world lieth in wickedness"; and this wickedness is the law of the world, subjugated by the prince of this world. The world is suffocating in evil and malice; goodness appears to be impotent in the world — but heaven is silent. Such is the kenosis of the Father's love.

God is the source of Truth and Essential Truth itself; but the world does not desire truth. The children of the world are sons of their father, who is falsehood and the father of falsehood (John 8:44); but no limit for this falsehood is established from above, and heaven is silent. Such is the kenosis of the Father's love.

God is the source of Beauty and Essential Beauty itself; but grotesque ugliness is triumphant in the world. Even beauty itself is corrupted and corrupts. Devotion to fallen beauty poisons souls with the strongest of poisons, for heaven itself is silent. Such is the kenosis of the Father's love.

God is the King. But there is no place in the world for the Kingdom of God. It has crucified the King of kings and the Son of God; and it blasphemes against the Holy Spirit. But heaven is silent. Such is the kenosis of the Father's love.

God is Spirit and the source of inspiration, but the life of the world is foreign to spirit and inspiration. It is enmired in the service of the flesh, crawls in the lowlands of sensuality and spiritual sleep, exalts itself in frenzied atheism and blasphemous delirium, cursing all that is holy or remaining indifferent to it — and heaven is silent. Such is the kenosis of the Father's Love.

And this kenosis is so deep that the world has to pass through the gates of a kind of death to find the strength to cry out, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24), "Credo quia absurdum," in order to see — contrary to all empirical evidence or in virtue of another, higher evidence — God and the Father, Who has reconciled the world with Himself in Christ (2 Cor. 5:19).

Such is the kenosis of the Father. It consists not only in the sacrifice of love, where the Father sends into the world His Son that He redeem it with His Blood, as well as the Holy Spirit that He actualize this redemption in the struggle with the sinfulness of this world. It also consists in the sacrifice of patience: it consists in suffering the being of the fallen world before the face of the God of Truth, the Judge of the world, the Omnipotent God.

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