The appearance of Elder Ephraim and the Anger of God
Orthodox Ethos has recently posted an account of a woman in northern Greece who had a vision of Elder Ephraim. This has drawn much attention. He warns us of evils to come and the need of repentance. At one point He says, “Christ is very angry”. How do we understand this?
Among the writings of St. John Cassian his Book VIII within the Institutes of the Cenobia is called “Of the Spirit of Anger”. The heading in the second chapter reads: “Of those who say that anger is not injurious, if we are angry with those who do wrong, since God Himself is said to be angry”. So he explains:
We have heard some people trying to excuse this most pernicious disease of the soul, in such a way as to endeavour to extenuate it by a rather shocking way of interpreting Scripture: as they say that it is not injurious if we are angry with the brethren who do wrong, since, say they, God Himself is said to rage and to be angry with those who either will not know Him, or, knowing Him, spurn Him, as here “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against His people;”(Psa. 105:38) or where the prophet prays and says, “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy displeasure;”(Psa.6:1) not understanding that, while they want to open to men an excuse for a most pestilent sin, they are ascribing to the Divine Infinity and Fountain of all purity a taint of human passion….For if when these things are said of God they are to be understood literally in a material gross signification, then also He sleeps, as it is said, “Arise, wherefore sleepest thou, O Lord?” (Psa. 33.23) though it is elsewhere said of Him: “Behold he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psa. 120:4) And He stands and sits, since He says, “Heaven is my seat, and earth the footstool for my feet” (Isa. 66:1). (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Volumes 11, p.258)
And so as without horrible profanity these things cannot be understood literally of Him who is declared by the authority of Holy Scripture to be invisible, ineffable, incomprehensible, inestimable, simple, and uncompounded, so neither can the passion of anger and wrath be attributed to that unchangeable nature without fearful blasphemy…. when we read of the anger or fury of the Lord, we should take it not anthropopathos; i.e., according to an unworthy meaning of human passion, but in a sense worthy of God, who is free from all passion; so that by this we should understand that He is the judge and avenger of all the unjust things which are done in this world; and by reason of these terms and their meaning we should dread Him as the terrible rewarder of our deeds, and fear to do anything against His will. (ibid. pp. 258-9)
In a concluding remark St. John affirms that such expressions should be seen as metaphors:
It would be tedious and outside the scope of the present work were we to explain all the things which are spoken metaphorically of God in the Holy Scripture, with human figures. (ibid. 259)…to be continued