Summa – You don’t know what “God exists” means

FOURTH ARTICLE [I, Q. 3, Art. 4] Whether Essence and Existence Are the Same in God?

Obj. 2: Further, we can know whether God exists as said above (Q. 2, A. 2); but we cannot know what He is. Therefore God’s existence is not the same as His essence–that is, as His quiddity or nature.

Reply Obj. 2: “To be” can mean either of two things. It may mean the act of essence, or it may mean the composition of a proposition effected by the mind in joining a predicate to a subject. Taking “to be” in the first sense, we cannot understand God’s existence nor His essence; but only in the second sense. We know that this proposition which we form about God when we say “God is,” is true; and this we know from His effects (Q. 2, A. 2).

I love this. How can God’s existence be the same as His essence, when we know He exists, but can’t know what He is? St Thomas doesn’t hold back, and tells us that we don’t know what it means that God exists, even if we know it to be true.

God’s existence is not the same as the existence of you or me or the angels or numbers or anything else in existence. He doesn’t exist as a thing that could conceivably exist or not. Existence as we know it is something subsequent to God; He created it. He is so far beyond all, that He is even, as Dionysius puts it, “beyond being”.

We know that He exists in an unknowable way. Our every attempt to grasp His existence is doomed to fail. We could even say, taking existence as just the existence we know, that God does not exist. But we’d also have to say that He doesn’t not exist. He is above existence and non-existence.

For things, all existence occurs within a space, and makes that space occupied rather than unoccupied, like adding a drawing to blank paper. Their existence realises some possibility. But God’s existence is logically prior to everything, or else He isn’t God, and so there is no space that He occupies, no possibility for God’s existence that is realised. He just is.

Why does this delight me so much? I think it’s because it means that, since we can’t know God in Himself through our minds, we must rely entirely on another, more intimate, way. We must love Him. We must be one with Him.

God bless!

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Mary’s teaching

Question: Why didn’t Mary teach in the early Church? She knew Jesus longer and more intimately than anyone else, including the apostles. She was His first and best disciple from the moment of His conception, and prepared for this from the moment of her own conception. So why do we not see her taking the central teaching role in the early Church?

Answer: Mary was the most important teacher in the early Church, but she taught in silence. In the silence of her “fiat” the Word of God was heard. The silence of her womb nurtured and brought forth that same Word made flesh. She preached the Word by practising silence. Her soul magnifies the Lord, and she communicates God through all she is and in all she does.

We naturally tend to forget the importance of the contemplative life, but the Church teaches that this is even greater than the active life. Mary has chosen the greater part, and it won’t be taken from her.

Mary continues to teach us today, particularly through the rosary. She draws us into her silence, into God’s Word, and into God’s will. She magnifies the Lord, so that whenever we are closer to her, we are always closer to Him.

God gave Himself to us by giving Himself to Mary. We are saved through God giving Himself to Mary in Jesus Christ, and through Mary’s “yes”, her giving herself up to God in Jesus Christ. God gave Himself through Mary, and we must receive God, be given up to God, through Mary’s “yes”.

This is Mary’s teaching.


God bless you

Christianity & Buddhism

I’ve been learning a bit about Buddhism for a while now, mainly through Thich Nhat Hanh’s biography of the Buddha, Old Path, White Clouds (which, full disclosure, I have not yet finished). I see a lot of truth in it, but seeing that I’m a Catholic Christian and not a Buddhist, I feel the need to set the two side by side, to prevent any confusion. Of course, I’m no expert on Catholicism, let alone Buddhism, so please correct me where needed in the comments.

The aim of Buddhism is to attain and share awakening (Buddha means “the awakened one”), realising that there is no such thing as a separate self, thereby liberating the person from suffering as well as the cycle of death and rebirth. Realising that all is one, that all things exist in all other things, the selfish thoughts and desires that cause suffering disappear, as does death and rebirth (as the you that dies and is reborn, was an illusion you are now without). [I’m a bit less clear on liberation from death and rebirth, so if anyone could help me, I’d really appreciate it]

The aim of Christianity is God’s aim to draw all of creation into union with Himself in love, through the cross of Jesus Christ, setting us free from all sin, division, and death. In Jesus of Nazareth, God’s love in which He made the whole cosmos is made manifest, shared with us, and offered back to God in thanksgiving. Jesus loves us to the point of letting us kill Him, and still loving us. He offers up our ultimate crime – His own death – as a thanksgiving to God, His Father. Even in our rejecting Him, He is uniting Himself to us. It is the Christian’s aim to let Him.

The Buddhist concept of Annata, or “non-self”, is met by the Christian Kenosis, or “self-emptying”, which are so close and yet so far apart. Annata refers to how all things lack a separate self, while Kenosis reveals a self that exists precisely in its gift, its self-annihilation. The image of Buddhism is Buddha sitting in meditation, and the image of Christianity is Christ crucified.

In Buddhism, it is recognised that all things are interdependent, all things are one, and this reality must be recognised. In Christianity, all things are already one also, being held together in Christ, the Divine Logos, but are also being taken up in Christ into unity in God the Father Almighty. We are created in God’s love, and receive God’s love in Christ upon the Cross, and are united to His crucified love offering us back, up to the Father and out to mankind. We are in the middle of the dynamic, creative, expansive Oneness of the Trinity, in whom we live and move and have our being.

This has helped clear my mind, and I hope it has helped you too. I think thanks to learning about Buddhism, I understand Christianity better, and I’m deeply grateful. And I don’t mean that just in terms of “what not to believe”.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this.

God bless you :)

“My little method consists in this”

‘On a similar occasion she told me, “It fills me with joy to have been imperfect; today God has granted me great graces; it has been a profitable day indeed…”

‘When I asked how anyone could entertain such noble sentiments, she answered, “My little method consists in this–rejoicing always and continually smiling–in times of defeat as well as victory.”‘

-from My Sister, Saint Thérèse, by Sister Geneviève of the Holy Face (Celine Martin)

Happy Feast Day!

St Therese, pray for us

Art and Religion

Art is man joining in with God’s beautiful and pointless act of creation. It is sheer gratuity. It is utterly free and frivolous. And in this frivolity, the artist rejoices and glorifies the Creator present within, whether or not the artist knows this. He joins with God in creating the universe out of himself. Therefore art is always essentially religious, even when not explicitly so, and even without the artist’s knowledge.

And to receive a work of art, is to be drawn into this new revelation/manifestation/apocalypse of the artist and of God Himself. We see something truly new, something that cannot be seen and cannot be unseen. If we allow it, we will be drawn into the artwork and so into God.

Art has no function, and if it is for the sake of function, it is not art. It is not there to do a job, to make a point, or to communicate a message. It is pure, frivolous, creation and expression. It is inside, waiting, desiring to come out and be born. It is a child, not a robot. It is the child born of the promise and of grace, not the child of slavery and the law.

When art falls away from this calling, it is no longer art, and will become something boring and all too often ugly. And our souls will be smaller, less bright, and less open as a result.

I feel this has happened within our culture and in the Church too, in our architecture, our music, our artworks, and even our liturgies. There is far too much that reeks of our own ideas and aims, rather than the inspiration and pointless beauty of true art/worship.

What is the solution? Adore God. And if He inspires you to some art, however amateur or fine, do it, and do it for its own sake.

God bless you!

The worst thing about being Catholic is…

division amongst Catholics. I hate it. And the worst of the worst is when those who are fostering this division are priests or religious or even bishops.

Not that we have to agree on everything. Or even to tolerate everything – heresy and sin are very real. But when we see uncharitable speech and interpretations between Catholics, we should immediately recognise that the devil is at work.

If someone says or does something that might be interpreted badly, try to find the most charitable interpretation, until you can clarify with them. If you can’t find a good interpretation, assume good intentions, and try to correct your brother or sister. If you can’t do this, pray for their conversion.

If someone is accused of a sin or crime, consider them innocent until proven guilty (unless you are a prosecutor, in which case you must play devil’s advocate). Do not pass rash judgment.

The Catholic media is terrible for this. Whenever they do this, they are just following the pattern of the world’s journalism. I have largely abandoned Catholic news media as a result. It is bad for the soul.

The fact is, these people are attacking the Church – attacking Christ Himself. It is a grave sin.

Catholics & Orthodox fighting at the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

I have probably done this more than I am aware. It is very easy to judge and accuse and divide. Thinking about it, I have probably done this more to non-Catholics, and it is wrong no matter who is the target. Especially when talking politics, I often use very harsh words. I think I’ll have to mention this in my next confession…

I expect most people don’t fully realise what they are doing when they foster divisions in this way. It isn’t natural, being a Christian. I recommend we follow the rule, to always pray for a person twice as much as we criticise them, in time and in effort.

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all…
Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds.

-Ephesians 4:1-6, 17

God bless you!

The Foolishness of the Cross

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void. [1 Cor 1:17]

I’ve been meditating on this passage lately (and the rest of the chapter too). I consider myself a bit of a philosopher, so I have found this a little challenging. The cross cannot be made sense of by our philosophies. But in that case, how can we make sense of the cross?

We can’t. The cross cannot be made sense of, because it is pure revelation. It will make sense of everything else, but nothing will ever make sense of the cross. It is a new light, the Lumen Fidei, and nothing else can possibly illuminate this light brighter than light. It must be accepted or rejected in and of itself.

We know the great truth, that Jesus Christ died for love of us, and love of the Father, and for the Father’s love for us. And we could not possibly arrive at this if it were not given to us. That God would die for sinners is insanity, and nothing less. Divine love follows a logic that is illogical to the world.

Every attempt to explain the cross within a reasonable system will be a denial of the cross. All we can do allow the cross, the revelation of Love, to reveal itself to us, and everything else with it.

For this reason, Christians will always be aliens in the world. We will use a different logic. We will speak a foreign language – the language of the cross. Our lives will be upside down. If not, we are not Christians. We must be mad, just as our crucified God is madness itself, and the world will be astounded.

(drawing by St John of the Cross)

And time after time, we will see the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ revealed in our flesh.

God bless you!