Trouble and Wonder

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Saint Clement of Alexandria quotes a saying of Jesus from the Gospel of the Hebrews that reflects the threefold unfolding of the ascetic life, purification, illumination and deification, which his contemporary, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, also taught.  ‘He that seeks will not rest until he finds, and he that has found shall marvel, and he that has marvelled shall reign, and he that shall reign shall rest.’  Synoptic sayings speak of seeking and finding but in the Gospel of the Hebrews, finding what was sought leads to awe-struck wonder at the mystery that wisdom finds, wonder that leads to sovereign empowerment, which rests in Great Peace.  In the Gospel of Thomas (Logion 2), Jesus says: ‘If you are searching, you must not stop searching until you find.  When you find, however, you will become troubled.  Your troubled state will give way to wonder.  In wonder, you will reign over all things.  Your sovereignty will be your rest’ (Lynn Bauman, ‘Trouble and Wonder’ p 5: Luminous Gospels p9).  Searching and finding are modes of purification, troubled disturbance and astonished wonder are modes of illumination and empowered sovereignty and rest in Great Peace are modes of deification.  The version of this saying in the Gospel of the Hebrews does not mention the state of troubled disturbance that precedes wonder and ends with rest not sovereignty, whereas in Logion 2 in the Gospel of Thomas, a state of troubled disturbance leads to wonder and rest in peace completes fully empowered sovereignty.  Synoptic seeking and finding is filled out in two different ways in the Gospel of the Hebrews and the Gospel of Thomas.  Although both Gospels were eventually lost, their teachings were implicitly remembered in the Orthodox Patristic tradition of purification, illumination and deification.

Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas is imparting wisdom to the Twin, Didymos Judas, so he makes explicit the troubled disturbance which inevitably arises when illumination shifts awareness from self-centred separation to God-centred enlightenment.  Moreover,  he also reduces the two modes of deification, active sovereign empowerment and receptive Sabbath rest, found in the Gospel of the Hebrews version of the saying and the Greek version of Thomas found at Oxyrynchus, to just one in translations from the Coptic, empowered sovereignty that rules over all.  Implicit in this reduction of sovereignty and rest to one overall sovereignty, in versions of this saying in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, is wisdom’s awareness that Great Peace is itself sovereign over all.  As to the troubled states that eventually give birth to wonder, it is well known that illumination may be followed by experiences of excruciating abandonment, which Saint Sophrony the Hesychast emphatically confirms.  Indeed, his writings offer careful guidance as to how the soul may be steered through these states of excruciating disturbance and perceived abandonment.  These are troubled states in which awareness has been dislodged from self-centred certainty but is not yet consciously centred in God.  Saint John of the Cross calls these states dark nights, turning us inside out and outside in.  Wisdom sees that the sun of divine presence is still shining when obscured by clouds, but the soul feels God has abandoned it when it does not feel the light of his presence.  Thus, illumination initially passes through these troubled states of darkness before emerging into wonder and the light.

It perhaps remains open to question whether the goal of deification is rest, as in the Greek version of Thomas, or sovereignty, as in the Coptic version, although the difference is not a mutually exclusive division.  Great Peace is not false peace that reacts to what opposes it by opposing it.  It is peace that arises when sovereignty empowers Great Peace beyond every power that opposes it.  So sovereignty includes peace and abides in the rest that actively and receptively embraces it.  If ultimate completeness is Great Peace, it is not a passivity but an active receptivity.  If completeness is sovereign empowerment, it is not a frenzied activism but a receptive activity, a receptive movement and an active rest.  When the desert listens once again to long lost sayings of Jesus from the Gospel of Thomas or from the Gospel of the Hebrews, it is able to rejoin Saint Clement of Alexandria and the early Patristic tradition prior to the traumas of the era of loss as well as of Imperial Conciliar definition.  It is gently reminded that definition entails exclusion and that exclusion falls short of mysteries of glorification which transcend and include.  All who undergo seeking that finds, find that it disturbs with a disturbance that releases into wonder, wonder that generates sovereignty or rest, or sovereignty that includes rest.  Seers know that wisdom includes as it transcends.  It is not defined by its exclusions because it is not confused by its unions or divided by its differences.  Desert elders listen with Saint Clement to the Gospel of the Hebrews, but they also listen to the Gospel of Thomas, opening the ear of the heart to the wisdom voice of Jesus as he imparts purification, illumination and deification to the saints.  Seeking is finding, finding disturbs self-centred perception as it turns into God-centred wonder, and glorification empowers sovereign wisdom abiding receptively in the active glory of Great Peace.