The confidence that is from God… p3

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As was discussed in the previous posting on this subject, the transliterated word, parrhesia, took on a precise meaning in regards to the faithful’s relationship with the Father.

In reading the letter of Abdisho Hazzaya, a Church of the East mystic whose dating is uncertain but could well have been in the 7th century, or as late as the 9th, one sees in his instructions to the monks a clear demonstration of the word.  He writes:

When a man reaches this sphere of serenity, as he is then delivered from the appellation of either slave or hireling; is inscribed in the adoption of children; becomes the heir of God and joint heir of Jesus Christ, and consequently ceases to work with God like a slave and a hireling, but works like a son with his father; is stamped with the seal of the Spirit; is set over the treasures of his Father; all fears and dread are taken away from him; and he acquires the confidence of children, whereby he calls God “Father.”   Indeed, the Apostle wrote to the Romans who had believed in our Lord: “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry “Abba. Father!”  The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children then heirs; heirs of God and joint airs with Jesus Christ.”

Some time, therefore, after (a man) has risen to the sphere of serenity, and been inscribed in the adoption of sons, he will participate with God in the revelations [ܒܓܠܝܢܐ] of His mysteries, and will in consequence see and hear everything there in a spiritual way, and his service and glorification of his song  [ܙܘܡܪܗ] will always be joined with those of the spiritual beings.  Blessed is the man who has been found worthy of this gift and of this confidence…

— Abdisho Hazzaya, p153a-153b.  The English translation has been taken out of the “Early Christian Mystics”, Woodbrooke Studies…

The sphere of serenity is a mystical form that Abdisho is talking about, and it may well remind one of similar phrases in other mystics, including Isaac of Nineveh, and the hesychasts of the Byzantine churches.  But one sees here that we have an explicit reference to Romans 8:15-17.  The acquisition of “the confidence [ܦܪܗ݇ܣܝܐ] of children” is a result of the “Spirit of adoption” by which the faithful are “stamped with the seal” of.  Thus being stamped and becoming adopted sons, the faithful then participates with God in the revelation of His mysteries.

This mystical treatise by Abdisho reflects directly in the church in its sacramental and liturgical life.  It is Christ who redeems us and, in our unity with Christ, we are made adopted sons.  As adopted sons, we no longer have fear, but are confident and have been made worthy of lifting up praise to the Father: “[our] service and glorification of [our] song will always be joined with those of the spiritual beings.”  This concept of worthiness underlies the priest’s statement when he states while indicating the Holy Offering: “The Holy is fit for the holy ones living in accord.” This moment before Holy Communion is worth of looking into more deeply, so we will not talk more of it here, but continue on our topic.

Note that the principal cause of our confidence is not our own doing or value.  Abdisho says: “Blessed is the man who has been found worthy of this gift and of this confidence.”  In looking at the prayers of the Church of the East, one sees it insists that this confidence is a gift bestowed upon us.  It is bestowed by the Holy Spirit, but it is a result of Christ salvific works.  And specifically, it is tied to His suffering and passion among us.

In looking back at the quote from Romans, one finds that Abdisho Hazzaya stops short of finishing Paul’s clarification: “if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”  Although that verse does not fit into the topic that Abdisho is talking about, it helps clarify the Church of the East’s understanding of our confidence tied to suffering of Christ.  For example, in the petitions during Lent, we call upon Christ “who by his holy fast gave us confidence to call him so that he will answer us.”

We in ourselves are not worthy of standing before God and supplicating Him as a morning prayer of the priest clarifies:

There, our Lord and our God, on the holy altar upon which we spiritually minister [as priest], accept the voices of our praises [ܕܗܘܠܠܝ̈ܢ] and music of our songs [ܙܘܡܪ̈ܐ] because we do not know how to pray before you as it is fit, or we cannot find how to supplicate you as is right.  Because there is not among us one who is just, nor one who is righteous, nor a prophet nor a mystic*, nor a priest, nor a head of priests, who has confidence [ܦܪܗ݇ܣܝܐ] and unveiled face before you so that he can raise his hands to heaven and bring down to us salvation!  Not Moses and not Elijah who stood before you at a pass [ܒܬܼܘܪ݈ܥܬܼܐ] and turned from us the rage of your anger! But we are all defiled, all sinners, all debtors…

* The word is hazzaya. Abdisho Hazzaya means Abdish the Seer/Mystic.

But in Christ, the God-man, we have the Son of God that, knowing our weaknesses and failures, took on our nature and bore suffering, so that we may have confidence.  In another prayer of our Hudhra, the priest asks of God:

And who is it whom we have that knows our suffering, and that was grieved by our ruin, if not him that gave us confidence that with unveiled faces we can call upon him* in times of hardship?  If then, we are cast away from your face, who will accept us, the children and sons that your grace gave birth to and dedicated them with the heavenly firstborn.

* Syriac: ܗܘ ܕܝܗ݇ܒܼܠܢ ܦܪܗ݇ܣܝܐ ܕܒܼܓܠܝܘܬܼ ܐܦ̈ܐ ܢܩܪܝܘܗܝ

No O Lord! No O Lord! Do not despise them that you called and brought and wrote in your book of life! Do not rebuke us lest we may not know you!

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4 Responses to “The confidence that is from God… p3”

  1. antgaria Says:

    I do have one final thing to post on this subject… so almost at the end of it, but I wanted to have a separate post for that final thing so as not to get it lost in the text here. Stay tuned…

  2. Ian Climacus Says:

    I will stay tuned…

    Very beautiful prayers; thank you for sharing. The words ending the second prayer you quoted, “Do not rebuke us lest we may not know you!”, particularly struck me — what a wonderfully moving way to conclude and of express our desire to know God, and our cry for mercy. My shameful lack of OT knowledge sent me off scurrying to recall the references to Moses & Elijah — so much beauty and depth of hymnody/prayer is missed by those like me who do not know it as well as I should.

    Abdisho Hazzaya’s quote, and the reference to a “sphere of serenity” was an encouragement — and challenge; he expanded St Paul’s [interesting so many Eastern writers, perhaps Western too (I am not sure…), refer to him simply as “the Apostle”] words in a way I had not considered. Thank you for sharing; would you recommend “Early Christian Mystics”, or another work to get more understanding of his work (if much of it remains…)? Perhaps you can convince Fr Andrew to write a thesis on his and replicate his fine work on Mar Theodore. 😀

  3. antgaria Says:

    Indeed!

    Re: “Early Christian Mystics”, I think it’s pretty much the only collection of Abdisho Hazzaya’s writings that I know of. The book is a collection of several monks’ writings that were in the collections made by Mingana. Unfortunately, as with a lot of our church’s fathers and their writings, we have to take them as we can get them… so much having been lost through the ages due to pillaging/etc… and of what’s left, a lot is not in readily available English translations.

    That being said… I think there’s quite a bit of stuff available from Isaac of Nineveh, who is pretty universally revered as a saint… including the SVS “St Isaac of Nineveh on Ascetical Life”. Isaac’s writings as made available from Western sources are pretty much scrubbed clean of references to fathers considered by Western churches as “Nestorian”, but the essence of his instructions or treatises is intact. There’s a volume that was found in Tehran which according to sources still has a lot of the names that were expunged, as well as a previously unknown third volume. I haven’t read it, and last I checked it was not available generally. 🙂

  4. The confidence that is from God… p4 | Ab Oriente Weblog Says:

    […] Just another WordPress.com weblog « The confidence that is from God… p3 […]

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