Nearer To Me Than My I

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Men do not find God if they stay in world. They do not find Him if they leave the world. He who goes out the with his whole being to meet his Thou and carries to it all being that is in the world, finds Him who cannot be sought. Of course God is the ‘wholly Other’; but He is also the wholly Same, the Wholly Present. Of course He is the Mysterium Tremendum that appears and overthrows; but He is also the mystery of the self-evident, nearer to me than my I.” -Martin Buber

This quote really makes us wonder though doesn’t it? “Nearer to me than my I,” was a phrase we talked about in class recently, which brought to mind the full quote. It’s deeply ontological and existential. God is closer to us in His being than we are to our own being, which is human, but we fell from that. Hence why the Pascha (death, burial, and resurrection) is so ontologically-centered. Christ is the 2nd Adam, fulfilling what it truly means to be human.

My priest once said, “Christ didn’t come to make bad men good but to make dead men live,” meaning, to ontologically change us rather than reform us, to bring us nearer to Him by the Incarnation, the taking on of humanity’s flesh. It was to reorientate us back to His likeness and restore us.

“Nearer to me than my I,” I think can be found in Scripture where St. Paul says it is “in God we live, move, and have our being (ontology).” To further express the mystery of salvation even further, as well as our ontology, St. Paul nails it in Colossians 3, “Our lives are hidden with Christ in God.” That, my friends, is the “nearer to me than my I.”

I think part of salvation is knowing ourselves, the real us, the us that fell, but has been rescued. The journey of discovering ourselves, who we really are, is the journey knowing God and vice versa. For God made us “fearfully and wonderfully,” so that we may worship and revere Him.

The Hebrew word for fearfully means made to bask in God’s awe-rationality, revere, or devote one’s self.

Fearfully, used in Psalm 139:14,  means set apart for worshipping the Creator. I don’t think the verse is saying we must live in fear of god as we understand fear, but that God made us to be inspired by His awe, His Nous, the Numinous (the Mystery that terrifies i.e. inspires devotion, worship, and reverence) because He is a good God who loves mankind. He made us fearfully because we are set apart from the rest of creation in that we commune with Him and He created us for such communion.

It is in knowing ourselves, who we’re meant and made to be as children of God, that we come to know God. It is in knowing God We come to know more about ourselves because Christ took on our flesh and shows us the way to be human again for He is “nearer to me than my I!”

The nearness of there feels more near to here!” -David Crowder Band

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