Abbot Tryphon is founder and abbot of All-Merciful Savior Monastery on Vashon Island near Seattle, Washington. He wrote the book The Morning Offering and blogs and podcasts regularly under that name.
The God of the Christian is the God that respects our freedom. If we think about it, any kind of relationship has to be based on freedom. If a woman lives with her husband and her husband doesn’t love her, but she stays with him out of fear, then there’s not a true relationship and it’s not a relationship built on freedom, it’s a relationship built on fear. If someone treats their children as sort of, “You will obey me!”, that’s not love. It would be like a father saying to his daughter, “See this fist? You’d better love me! Or I’m gonna bust you in the face.” Anything she’s going to give him back isn’t going to be love. It’s going to be submission and fear.
Part of the freedom that we have as Christians that God has given us is the freedom to choose or not to choose. If we choose to have a relationship with Christ, then we as free agents are saying, “Yes, enter into my heart, change me, transform me, illumine my heart.” That is a true entrance into a personal relationship based on love that comes out of that freedom of choosing or not choosing to have that relationship with God.
Abbot Tryphon I think that we, Americans, put so much emphasis on freedom of religion, freedom of thought, the freedom to bear arms and all of this stuff, that we oftentimes lose the true meaning of what it means to be free. When we were created in God’s image and likeness, the image had no choice. God created us, He didn’t consult with us, “Would you like to be created into flesh and blood?” He didn’t ask us, He did it. But where we do have freedom is the second part. We are created in His image and likeness; the likeness part is the part that requires our participation and our consent. We say, “Lord, I want to enter into this relationship and I want you to transform my heart and make me holy. That’s what I want. I want you to make me holy. I don’t only want to walk with you in submission to you as my God and my Creator, but I want to be Your adopted child. I want that intimate relationship with you that’s going to change me so that eternity in the river of fire, which is the fire of God, will not be a burning fire but will be the fire of illumination.”
That requires our free consent, we are consenting to have that relationship. And God in turn pours forth his grace upon us and transforms us, and we experience theosis, which will allow us to spend eternity with the fire of God, the river of fire, and enjoy it, and bask in it. Let it be to us illumination.