But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? (Galatians 4:8-9)
Jesus tells us that eternal life is to ‘know God’ (John 17: 3). The spiritual life for the Christian is to come to know God, or rather as St Paul says, to be known by God. Below are two thoughts about knowing God, the first from St Symeon the New Theologian (d. 1022AD):
I know that the Immovable comes down; I know that the Invisible appears to me; I know that he who is far outside the whole creation takes me within himself and hides me in his arms, and then I find myself outside the whole world. I, a frail, small mortal in the world, behold the Creator of the world, all of him, within myself; And I know that I shall not die, for I am within the Life, I have the whole of Life springing up as a fountain within me. He is in my heart, He is in heaven; Both there and here he shows himself to me with equal glory. (THE ORTHODOX WAY, p 32)
The second thought is from St Gregory of Sinai (d. 1346AD):
Orthodoxy may be defined as the clear perception and grasp of the two dogmas of the faith, namely, the Trinity, and the Duality. It is to know and contemplate the three Persons of the Trinity as distinctively and indivisibly constituting the one God, and the divine and human natures of Christ as united in His single person—that is to say, to know and profess that the single Son, both prior and subsequent to the Incarnation, is to be glorified in two natures, divine and human, and in two wills, divine and human, the one distinct from the other. (THE PHILOKALIA Vol 4, p 217)
We can know about God through nature, reading Scripture, listening to hymnology, or studying theological texts. The Prophet Job acknowledges this: “Surely, you have spoken in my hearing, and I have heard the sound of your words” (Job 33:8). However, the goal is not to know about God, but to know God and be known by God. This means having an intimate relationship with God, being united to God. As Job says a little later: “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5). Knowing God leads to our repentance as we come to know God is holy and that we are not even worthy to be in His presence. Nevertheless, God invites us into His presence (despite our being sinners) and embraces us with His love sharing the divine life and love with us – allowing us to know God.
He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. (1 John 4:8)