On the Sunday after Ascension on which the Orthodox Church commemorates the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, Fr. Matthew Howell uses John 17:3 to discuss the difference between knowing about God and truly knowing God, leaning on a quote from St. Nikolai Velimirovic: “We should not, then, consider that a man knows God when he comes, through his mental processes, to the conclusion that God exists somehow and somewhere. The man knows God who feels the living breath of God in himself and all around him; who with heart and mind and soul senses the majestic and fearsome presence of the only true God, in nature and in his own personal life” (Homilies, Volume One, page 287).
Fr. Matthew then spends some time explaining the controversy that led to the calling of the First Council in Nicaea and how the Orthodox position of truth hinged on one iota (Christ is homoousios–of the same essence–with the Father; the Arian heretics claimed that He was homoiousios–of similar essence–with the Father). He claims that the saints who defended the truth of Orthodoxy all knew God and spoke theologically from positions of experiencing God rather than speculating about Him.
Fr. Matthew then spells out three ways (that all start with “s”) to put oneself in position to know God as a Saint and thus have eternal life: Silence, Scriptures, and Sacraments.
Acts of the Apostles 20:16-18, 28-36
IN THOSE DAYS, Paul had decided to sail past Ephesos, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. And from Miletos he sent to Ephesos and called to him the elders of the church. And when they came to him, he said to them: “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities, and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” And when he had spoken thus, he knelt down and prayed with them all.
At that time, Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work which you gave me to do; and now, Father, you glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made. I have manifested your name to the men whom you gave me out of the world; yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you; for I have given them the words which you gave me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you did send me. I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are mine; all mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.