Friday, July 11, 2014

Encounter, Problem, and Mystery

In late May, Marc at the Bad Catholic blog (the only one I voraciously read at Patheos...) had a fascinating post on encountering God and why we use "encounter" instead of any old verb to describe our coming to know the Lord.

It relates to the concept of mystery. Marc says, "Encounter is that type of knowledge which meets, but does not cognitively exhaust the thing known." This is similar to how philosopher Gabriel Marcel would describe something to be solved as a problem. It has a definite and concrete solution and once found, one can move on to the next problem. A mathematics problem is a good example. Perhaps other technical examples can be substituted. But mystery has no solution. There is never a defining answer. We delve deeper and deeper into the mystery, quite like plunging ourselves headfirst into the ocean towards its depths. But we on our own ability anyways can never quite reach them. Another way I describe it is perpetually unfolding a piece of patterned cloth or unrolling a carpet. One always learns something new about the textile, about the fabric, but one never knows it in its entirety.

God reveals His inner life through divine revelation in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. In the Scriptures we come to know God in the person of the Father, then in the New Testament in the person of the Son. In the Tradition we come to know God in the person of the Spirit. Of course the other two are always acting with the third person, or perhaps it is better to say, for example, that not only one acts at any one period. That would mean the Incarnation by the Holy Spirit by the Virgin is impossible...

But certainly it is true that the inner life of the Trinity, an eternal exchange of love between the three divine persons, is inexhaustible. It is as Marc says, "so wonderfully beyond the capacities of our senses and intellect." 

He makes a good point: God is not reducible to an idea. If that were true, then I would cease to be a Christian. I mean that not in the sense of being a heretic but quite literally, if God were only an idea, then Christianity would have no purpose. 

But rather He is One God in three Divine Persons. By revealing Himself, by grace God has redirected us to a supernatural end so that we might not only know with certainty of His existence, confirming our natural reason, but that we might be with Him forever in Heaven. "God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him."

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