By Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi,Mt.Athos(+2009)
Divine super-perfection knows about everything before it even happens, up to its very infinite end. To us everything seems unknown, unpredictable and incomprehensible because of the various changes which man’s fall has caused, along with his careless and guilty conduct. Even though everything submits to the divine providence and stewardship, it varies in different situations, times, places, people and because of the multiple satanic cruelties. No factor is able to prevent or annul God’s comprehensive providence for His creation. By our own wrong doing we are only able to alter the performance of various elements.
The divine wish or divine will, appears in four ways if we refer to it progressively. First, is the divine delight, the so called “in accordance with his pleasure and will”( kat eydokian thelima): that which God takes delight in most. Second is His providence, the so called “Will by the dispensation of His providence”( kat oikonomian thelima) : He succumbs to this will as a Father, because of our weakness. Third is His concession, the so called “Will by concession” (kata parahorisi thelima): Whereby He intervenes and disciplines man. And fourth is the most regrettable of all: the divine abandonment (egkatalipsis). When man continues living with consistent cruelty and insensitivity, he provokes his abandonment from God.
It is through His God-like wish, which God’s all- saving providence reigns, even though our fall has perverted the ‘very good’ terms and conditions of nature’s equilibrium. “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord” (Psalm 107, 43)
Because God knew about everything beforehand, He could have prevented the whole adventure which befell on man, but this would have constituted an obliteration of his personal freedom. Just because He respected his freedom, he left it up to man to chose and show his preference. Therefore, man is responsible for his most turbulent and laborious life, either because of the confusion of his intellect or because of his impassioned perversion and his rejection of his rational discretion.
Satan’s most wicked stimulation and effect is not absent from this most lamentable state to which man has been rendered, after he had of course severed himself from God. Satan has authority to act in this valley of tears which is our abode, because we have given him this right when we had defected from paradise and followed him. As “a god of this world” (B Corinthians 4, 4) according to Paul, this abysmal dragon never stops plotting against and deceiving man with unspeakable pretexts. Especially nowadays when the bad example has become the law and is instantly transmitted by the available means, man needs to be extra vigilant and resort to more prayer.
Therefore, the divine providence is the all-saving and cohesive authority and governance of God towards His material and spiritual creatures, present and future, now and in eternity.
The implementation of the divine justice, as part of the divine providence, intervenes when irrationality governs human life. Thus the divine justice, as an absolute, prevents irrationality for the general benefit of human destination. Everything that exists has originally been created to accomplish a purpose. This divine design cannot be altered since God “created everything with wisdom”.
If, however, human naivety and the devil’s wickedness violate this original purpose, God’s philanthropic providence is altered, if man repents, according to the degree of his repentance and the amount of restitution for his transgression. In this case, the divine providence takes the place of divine delight.
Because God wishes “all men to be saved and recognize the truth” (Titus 2, 4) predetermines everything according to His pleasure and will. This is none other than the road to complete and unmistaken success. He may also grant us “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3, 20). When man is being deceived or abandons his obligation, God, instead of changing His decision for the mercy He has shown him and rejects him as an offender, He intervenes in a disciplinary way in order to guide man to correct himself. This constitutes, according to our Fathers, the so called “disciplinary or conventional attacks”. Without God altering His fatherly attribute, He tolerates the offender on the one hand, but presses him to amend his ways. This is when the saying “the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3, 12) is applied. God’s philanthropic providence heals the ailment of rebellion with the appropriate temptations instead of rejecting the offender. Most of God’s deep judgments, by which He governs nature, belong to this kind of conventions. “Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law” (Psalm 94, 12). And again: “Before I was afflicted I went astray” (Psalm 119, 67) and “the Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death” (Psalm 118, 18).
The main reasons for the disorder which exists in human life are human volatility and “the intention of man’s heart which is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8, 21). Since, therefore, we are not convinced to remain consistent with our obligations and continue to violate the designs of divine providence, we compel God to impose the conventional attacks, which are painful in order to restore the equilibrium. This constitutes the cross which we must all carry.
Translated from the Greek: