Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"God became man so that man might become God"


The title there is a title of a sermon by St. Augustine (at least, acording to my breviary), and it's pretty appropriate. Late in May, Maria at Catholic Conversations put up a post that asked if we were divine. Her exact question was

Does God exist outside us? Can there be a God without every part of creation? [...]When we look at our kids, we see God alive. When we see the beauties of nature, we feel the breath of God. God is within these wonders of creation. God is living in this crazy conversation that we're having on this blog! As we used to memorize in the Baltimore catechism, "God is everywhere."So are we not divine? Or is that word so frightening because it conjures up all kinds of responsibilities that we are not ready to take on[?]
Speaking as someone who hopes to make a living as a philosopher/theologian, its an interesting question, not necessarily because I agree with what I think is her answer (allow me to assure people reading this that I don't, and that this smacks of pantheism to me) but because it allows (gives me an excuse) for a further exploration into that wonderful mystery of the Church's role as the mystical body of Christ. I like her question in the same way I like the Gnostics. Yes, it was a heresy, no, I don't even come close to accepting it as true, but the Church did give us an official list of Scriptures because of Gnosticism, and I like the Bible, so there we go.

Speaking as a very-soon-to-be Jesuit, I can almost sympathize with this question. Almost. After all, part of Jesuit spirituality is to "find God in all things." But what does that mean, exactly? The most basic explanation is that we strive to find the Creator in the handiwork of His creation, so gaining a better knowledge of and coming closer to God. As the source of all goodness and perfection, when we see that which is good, our thoughts should be led to God. When I see the beauty in nature, I am reminded of the beauty in God. When I rejoice in watching my younger cousins and my friends' younger siblings, I am reminded of the joy I will experience in heaven, and know that the joy of heaven is a thousandfold greater than the joy I have here, and the beauty of God is infinitely greater than any beauty found on Earth. God is the source of all these things, but He still remains distinct from these things. To say that "God is everywhere" and to say that "God is everything" are two distinct statements. The first concerns location, the second modes of being.

That God exists necessarily without any of the rest of creation is made obvious by the simple fact that the Universe has a finite existance, whereas God is without beginning or end. Even after the beginning, it would be inappropriate to say that God is now a part of creation, since that would imply that He was created, which is incorrect.

Genesis tells us that we are made in God's image. St. Thomas is quick to note, however, that the Psalms and Isaiah also tell us that God is not like us. (Sum. Con. Gen. I:29) Statues and portraits are made of people, but it is not usual for people to be said to resemble statures or portraits, even though the reverse is not uncommon. After the Fall, this likeness still existed, since our nature had not changed, but given its fallen state was less apparent (for lack of better words). Christ came to restore mankind to the exalted perfection and dignity of nature once had. When the word "gods" is used to describe us, then, it is emphasizing not that we ourselves are divine, but refers to the great diginty that our restored nature has.

I anticipate the next part of the question, on the body of Christ and our relationship to it requiring a lengthy answer, so I will give it its own post.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."


At 8:26 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

Thank you for what you are doing! It seems noble; we can't do without the Jesuits, you are right. I hope your idealism will not be too richly rewarded with suffering!

St. Ignatius, pray for him.


Post a Comment

<< Home