Seeing God-Theophilus

Seeing God

St. Theophilus of Antioch
Bishop and Early Church Father

This passage from St. Theophilus of Antioch’s apology to Autolycus (Lib 1,2 7: PG 6, 1026-1035) deals with the qualities of soul necessary to be able to see God. It is used in the Roman Office for Readings for Wednesday of the 3rd week in Lent with the accompanying biblical reading that narrates Moses experience of the vision of God in Exodus 33:7-35.

If you say, “Show me your God”, I will say to you, “Show me what kind of person you are, and I will show you my God”. Show me then whether the eyes of your mind can see, and the ears of your heart hear.
It is like this. Those who can see with the eyes of their bodies are aware of what is happening in this life on earth. They get to know things that are different from each other. They distinguish light and darkness, black and white, ugliness and beauty, elegance and inelegance, proportion and lack of proportion, excess and defect. The same is true of the sounds we hear: high or low or pleasant. So it is with the ears of our heart and the eyes of our mind in their capacity to hear or see God.

God is seen by those who have the capacity to see him, provided that they keep the eyes of their mind open. All have eyes, but some have eyes that are shrouded in darkness, unable to see the light of the sun. Because the blind cannot see it, it does not follow that the sun does not shine. The blind must trace the cause back to themselves and their eyes. In the same way, you have eyes in your mind that are shrouded in darkness because of your sins and evil deeds.

lent 16

A person’s soul should be clean, like a mirror reflecting light. If there is rust on the mirror his face cannot be seen in it. In the same way, no one who has sin within him can see God.

But if you will you can be healed. Hand yourself over to the doctor, and he will open the eyes of your mind and heart. Who is to be the doctor? It is God, who heals and gives life through his Word and wisdom. Through his Word and wisdom he created the universe, for by his Word the heavens were established, and by his Spirit all their array. His wisdom is supreme. God by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding he arranged the heavens, by his knowledge the depths broke forth and the clouds poured out the dew.

If you understand this, and live in purity and holiness and justice, you may see God. But, before all, faith and the fear of God must take the first place in your heart, and then you will understand all this. When you have laid aside mortality and been clothed in immortality, then you will see God according to your merits. God raises up your flesh to immortality along with your soul, and then, once made immortal, you will see the immortal One, if you believe in him now.

Theophilus of Antioch, St.

St. Theophilus, bishop of Antioch in the late second century, lived during the age when it was a capital crime in the Roman Empire to be a Christian. Of his many reported writings, only his three-book “Apology” or Defense of Christianity, addressed to Autolycus, has survived. The general purpose of his work was to explain to the pagan world the Christian understanding of God and make clear the superiority of the biblical doctrine of creation over the absurd religious myths of the Greco-Roman world. Probably the most notable distinction of St. Theophilus is that his book is the earliest writing to contain the Greek term “triados” which is the equivalent of the English word Trinity. It was a decade or two afterwards that we find in the North African writer Tertullian the Latin equivalent “Trinitas” for the first time. The date of St. Theolophilus’ death is not known, but his birth into eternal life presumably occurred before the end of the second century.