Metropolitan Nicholas on Authenticity

Fr. Jeffrey’s notes.

Authenticity is Indirectly perceived: Hidden and suspected rather than evident because:

1) It is so intensely personal.The life of faith for each person is his life of faith alone. While there is somewhat of a commonality and a communion with all others in experience, still each person remains forever distinct from all others, forever particular. There are many like Abraham in the degree of their faith, or like David in the degree of their repentance, but they are ultimately like and unlike at the same time.

2) Authenticity is continually revealed, rather than described and adapted to. What is that like? Consider that just as an artist knows principles of design (principles that he can describe), nevertheless, the way that he brings those principles to life on a canvas is a process of continual personal revelation, and discovery. If it’s not, if he works too much in a formulaic, and overly-systematic fashion, he quickly becomes restless. The person provides the color and tone to the principles. One can see this in Orthodox Iconography. There are unique local expressions. It is not that the person dominates, or seeks to destroy principles and received order, rather he shines through the principles, or archetypes, but always with a great degree of subtlety.

“When an experience is spiritually authentic, it reveals man’s resemblance to God, whereas when it is not spiritually authentic, it hinders the grace of God from acting in one’s life.” – Metropolitan Nicholas 

1) Our experience bears a resemblance to God when it is experience in love, and in freedom. Authenticity is like a masterpiece from the hand of Van Gogh, everything about it feels right, and at the same time feels like a gift, gratuitous. One wouldn’t want to take anything away or add anything to the work. It is right, true, full, whole. It may be that a masterpiece is even better for its history of imperfections, or suffering of wounds. Consider the history of famous icons that have been “wounded.” Or consider Peter and Paul, the “first enthroned of the Apostles” who both have histories full of faults and imperfections, making their end even sweeter, and more sublime.

  • Let us make this time, these thoughts about authenticity very personal, not standing aloof in our thoughts like an architect examining the plans of a distant city to which he has never been. But rather – “Focus on the relationship we have with the truth…Let us not look at the age in which we live, but at how we live; what place Christ has in our hearts and how the distance from His grace in our lives may be determined.”

The truth of God is filling, but also leaves us with the sense that it is beyond us, and cannot be fully conceived, and we are not asked to go beyond our limits in comprehending, but we are asked to be authentic in our assent, sincere in intention, and consistent in our decision.

  • We cannot be those who say ‘yes, I will go working in the field today,’ and not go. We ought not to say things that we don’t mean.
  • Sincere in our intention – Our intention to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We often manifest the insincerity of our intention, every time we are tempted to troll others. The nasty person that one meets in low places, under a bridge somewhere, in the comments beneath an article. What does a troll do? He stirs up other people’s passions and finds fault with everything. He seeks only to bring out the worst in others but thinks of himself as a loving person. If our intention as Christians is primarily, indeed, only to love, we are manifestly insincere in our fundamental intention when we seek to provoke others to anger, or to falling into any kind of sin on our account.
  • Consistency – No matter how many times we fall, we keep coming back.
  • Authentic = Genuine. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. “The authenticity of experience constitutes the most persuasive argument for the truth of our words.”
  • Consider Peter, the Rock upon whom the Church is built: “He falls and rises. He sins and repents. He does not pretend; he is genuine. He is free, even when he is human. He errs and is corrected; he is not infallible. He is true.” Can we see the difference between infallibility and authenticity? Not to never fall, but to be aware that we have fallen and immediately confess and repent. Spontaneous – Acting immediately, of one’s own accord, without instruction, all in a moment. Like Zacchaeus when he climbed the tree to see the Lord.