Creation

Foxes and Goodness and God

I follow a fantastic twitter account, @hourlyFox, which posts one photo of a fox each hour. If you’re on twitter, follow it.

These foxes have taught me a profound truth: goodness is something solid and real. Sometimes I forget this. I start thinking of goodness as being something subjective, existing only in our minds, or as being just relational, existing only between things. But these foxes disprove this.

These foxes are good. God sees foxes, and sees that they are good. And they are not merely good-to-me or good-according-to-me; they are good-in-and-of-themselves. Foxes were good for millions of years before we humans even showed up.

As St Thomas said, “Goodness and being are really the same, and differ only in idea” (ST I, Q.5, Art.1). Foxes remind me of this truth. When we forget this, we can become stupidly small minded, obsessed with ourselves and with other people’s thoughts. When we are the measure and centre of the universe, the source of its meaning, our universe becomes as small as we are, and will suffocate us with its pressure.

It’s not all about me! It’s not even all about us! The universe would still be genuinely good if human beings never existed. Of course, we are good too, but not merely by our own judgments.

All of this does raise the question: who is it good to? Because as much as foxes are good in themselves, I’m not sure if the idea of “good” makes sense in a non-personal context. St Thomas links goodness with desire, which is surely tied to personhood. So can anything really be good in itself?

Yes, by being good in God. I believe that foxes being good in themselves is the same as foxes being good in God’s eyes. In fact, I believe their existence is the same as God’s knowledge/experience of them. God is not separated from reality for there to be a subjective-objective distinction. He is the non-other.

What’s more, the goodness of each fox is a participation-in and revelation-of the goodness of God, that is, God Himself.

Now we must ask: have we just shifted the existential burden onto this “God” character? Is the world small and in itself meaningless to Him, if not to us?

No. We must remember that God is perfectly humble (and this humility is Himself). Like fox cubs at play, He doesn’t act for any end beyond rejoicing in the act itself. It has no greater meaning and it needs no greater meaning. He has no greater meaning and He needs no greater meaning. He is love.

God bless you!

Newborn

Each Christmas, we celebrate the newly born Jesus, much as we celebrate any child’s birth. We gaze at the child, with that sacred awe, wonder and love. There is a new soul, seeing the world for the first time. A new person, with the potential to become anyone. A new human, free from the scars of life’s suffering and sin. A new beginning for humanity, with endless possibilities.

So what makes Jesus special then? How come we celebrate Him as a newborn, when we know He is something far greater than any other?

Firstly, Jesus is perfectly free from original sin. Jesus’s and Mary’s births are without any stain of sin, whereas every other birth, has that seed of corruption, waiting to destroy the young soul and the whole world with it. Even after baptism, we retain the stain of sin, and our nature’s inclination towards it. Jesus and Mary are perfectly free of humanity’s corruption.

Secondly, and more importantly, Jesus is God’s own newborn son, from all eternity. He is the definitive newborn child.

He is born of God from all eternity, and all things are born of God in Him. He is the firstborn of creation, and the unity of all things. The newness in the child Jesus is all the newness, all the freshness, all the life, of the entire universe. This child contains everything, everyone, every height and depth, past, present and future.

We are in a way reborn in the eyes of every new born child. But in Jesus’s birth, we are truly recreated, because His new gaze contains us perfectly.

At His birth we see the entire Cosmos bending over the manger to gaze upon him: a star of heaven moves in order to watch over Him; the wise come from afar to honour Him; the simple leave their flocks to adore Him; the ox and lamb share His presence; and by the cave He was born in, the very earth itself leans over to get a look.

We don’t celebrate Jesus’s birthday at Christmas, we celebrate His birth. We don’t put 2,018 candles on a cake for Him, or get Him a birthday card, because this day doesn’t mark Him getting older. We celebrate His birth, His being given to the world, and our being reborn in Him. He is the eternal Newborn Child, and has never and will never grow old.

So it is perfectly correct for us to gaze on Jesus as being a newly born baby. He is true God and true man, but you will not find His divinity except in His humanity.

God bless, and merry Christmas!

Each thing is destined for its own fulfillment

Each thing is destined for its own fulfillment.

This occurred to me recently, for some reason. Seeds are destined to become plants. Children are destined to become adults. Food is destined to be eaten.

But my statement is self-evident. Of course everything tends towards its end, that’s why it is its end. The two parts of the statement are defined by each other.

Yet this only deepens its meaning, I feel. Everything contains within itself, exists according to, and tends towards its own essential principle. It is what it is. It reminds me of the meaning of the divine name, ‘I Am That I Am’ or, ‘I Will Be Who I Will Be’.

The river flows towards the ocean. The child grows into an adult. The seed becomes a tree. That is what it is, what it does, and what it will be.

In each case we can also note that the end is also the origin. It is from its origin, and so to be according to itself is to be according to its origin, and to tend to itself is to tend to its origin. It is contained by its origin, and its origin is contained within it.

And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.‘ – T. S. Elliot

Ultimately, God is the first origin and final end of all things. And in each thing being and becoming itself, it tends towards God Himself. The whole cosmos is heading towards its fulfillment in God. As St Paul wrote,

‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.’ [Colossians 1:15-20]

And,

‘For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now’ [Romans 8:19-22]

And again,

‘When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.’ [Corinthians 15:28]

God bless!

Everything is theology

Our whole universe was spoken into existence by God. We live on the tip of His tongue. Creation is a song that God freely sings into being 1 .

Everything that is, is a revelation of God, because every creation speaks of its creator. Therefore creation is theology. God-words. And in fact, it is God’s own theology.

This includes you and me. We are each of us a God-uttered theology. But if we’re so special already what is left for us to do? To become what we already are 2 .

Each and every one of us is a theology by existing at all, and a theologian because we must engage with the world. We must listen to the theology all around us, and by our lives speak theology also (and when necessary, use words3).

The below song made me think all of this, mainly because I love it and wanted to share it, and needed some justification. Hope you enjoy!

God bless!


1. St. Bonaventure

2. St. Augustine

3. St. Francis

Trinity Time!

Yesterday, I had two thoughts about the Holy Trinity. The first concerns the three words that characterise Mary’s life in the Bible: Ecce- Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; Fiat- Let it be done to me, according to the word of the Lord; Magnificat- My soul magnifies the Lord.

What I noted is, that Ecce relates to the Father, who we all belong to by our very existence. Fiat relates to he Son, the Word of the Lord, who acts in all creation and is to act in fullness in us. And Magnificat relates to the Holy Spirit, in who we go out, bringing Christ to the world and bring Him glory!

We have received all from the Father. We live and must live fully, in the Son. We must live out, and so be united to, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.

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This is pretty…

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Not how I imagined the Trinity…

The second thought follows on from this: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, also correspond to the past, present and future. The Father is the firm foundation of all existence, from whom we receive all things. The Son is the revelation and presence of God in the world, through whom we have all things. The Spirit is the revealing of God, Father and Son, by whose power God is being conceived and brought forth in creation, in whom all things are.

The past, the present, and the future are intimate united and interwoven (and I’d argue, not as linear as we might suppose). Each is fully present within the others two. The past is revealed not in itself, by in the future, as time passes and the past bears its fruit. It is by the present that we know time (or anything in it) at all. The future is the power of motion within the past and the present, it is the motion and life of them, and the world of possibilities.

To be united with God the Father, who is the source and origin of all Being, all life, all everything, we must be united His Son, the Word of God, the Divine Wisdom, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the ever present expression of God the Father throughout creation. And to be united to the Son and the Father, we must be subject to the Holy Spirit, the divine breath of life, the one moving all creation forwards in God, bringing forth God, forming matter into the Body of Christ, the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

Well, what do you think?

Thanks for reading, and God bless you!

Earth Day Thoughts

The Earth is my home and my favourite place in the universe. I can’t imagine a better place to live. Astronomy has found some wonders, but nothing to rival the Earth. The Earth has allowed us to live for billions of years, to get to our modern human life today. She deserves our love and gratitude.

Maybe you roll your eyes at me personifying a planet. But when science considers people/life as material, spirituality must consider all matter as personal/living.

For too long, we’ve viewed the earth as a dead object to be exploited for private profit. For too long, some (our rich and powerful) have thought they have a right to damage our common home.

‘You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.’
-St. Ambrose of Milan (4th Century Bishop and Doctor of the Church)

God bless you

 

Life, choice, and freedom

Here are some thoughts, looking at two ways of understanding freedom, and so viewing the world. The two ways are life and choice (do you see where I’m going here?).

The freedom of life, is when the thing in question, be it a seed, a goat, a mother or an unborn child, is given the space and opportunity to go out of itself, growing, giving itself away, revealing the secret of its nature. To be free, is to be youwith all that that entails; to live out your gifts, talents, hopes, dreams, strengths, and weakness too. To not be free, is to have not-you imposed upon you, whether by violence or deception.

Freedom of choice on the other hand, considers matters as external to an individual you which is an abstract notion of an arbitrary will. It looks at all things as essentially separate from you, and with no inherently correct choice. Freedom, then, is to have as many options as possible, or equivalently, to have as much subject to your own arbitrary dominion as possible. To not be free is to have fewer choices. (Note that freedom here is always finite, with the constraints of nature an obstacle to your freedom.)

Freedom of life views the world around us as wonderful and bursting with life, each part valuable and dignified in and of itself, in intimate relationship with ourselves, and deserving of our care and respect. It sees it as our freedom to coexist joyfully with all others, sharing freedom as we ourselves are free. My freedom complements yours and yours complements mine.

Freedom of choice views the world around me, including my own body and being, as an obstacle to be conquered by my will, with no value besides what I myself assign to it at each moment. Everything and everyone is fundamentally cut off from me, and their freedom of choice naturally competes with my own. Everything is objectified.

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Where eyes of life see a great jungle, with a cacophony that’s a symphony that’s a theophany, eyes of choice see a menu, with various prices and deals for various products for consumption.

Paradoxically, this “freedom of life” makes demands on us. But each of these demands, is not coming from outside of us, but from the truth itself, the truth of our reality within each situation. The demand comes from our deepest depths, and not from outside. In each situation, the demand is always to live as fully as possible, to be what and who you truly are within that situation. From time to time, this means heroism and sacrifice: that is life.

And as a far greater contradiction, the “freedom of choice” that tries to demand so much from the world, always ultimately enslaves me, because it makes my desires of the world, and so I am made subject to the world. In considering a matter as a mere choice, I am putting its options up for sale. Perhaps not to people, but at least to circumstances. And in the end, what am I selling but myself?

 

We have a real and inherent obligation to every creature, from algae to giant redwoods, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope, from the beggar to the prisoner, from the newly conceived zygote to the terminally ill, and to ourselves too. And we are asked to fulfil this obligation insofar as each one is our neighbour, that is, as each is within our reach. It is the obligation to live and to give life, or equivalently, to love.

God bless you

Me and the ladybug

Yesterday, as I walked to campus, a ladybug flew straight towards me, and landed gently on my finger. I wouldn’t have even felt it if I hadn’t seen it. I decided to let it stay, and move my hands to give it more places to go. Sometimes it took up my offer, and sometimes it stayed still or turned around. Eventually, it took out its wings, geared up and left me to continue my walk in peace.

In that brief moment, we were not competitors, colleagues, or obstacles to each other. We were not threats or opportunities for gain. We were just two living things together, two simple creatures on a short journey, enjoying each other’s existence. We were playmates. We were equals. We served no greater good, but existed for our own sake. The goodness that we were was more than enough.

By our existence, by our play, we were giving glory to our common creator. Because we served nothing, not even ourselves, we served God.

God bless you!