The Second reading at yesterday’s Mass contains many challenges.
How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything? All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.
The most basic truths about God are surely two.
- That God in God’s self is beyond our comprehension. We cannot know God like we know things, for we are things, and God is no thing, but source of all being.
- That God is love and that love extends to us, and so seeks to draw us into relationship with God.
That these two things are sort of incompatible points both to the wonder and utterness of God and to the challenge we have in expressing and living that relationship that God invites us to.
Creatures as we are, we use language that is unavoidably derived from our experience of the worldy, and is stretched and fractured when ever we try to use it to speak of God. Yet, in this relationship with God, we cannot but try to speak of him.
And immediately the problem is evident.
- God is not a ‘him’, but not an ‘it’ or a ‘her’ either.
- And though Christians, like Jews and Muslims, believe in the unity of God – ‘I believe in one God…’ – Christians also believe in the Trinity of Persons in the one God, Father, Son and Spirit. The Threeness is in faith understood, has to be understood as not compromising the Oneness, and the Oneness as not excluding the Threeness. So if the singularity of ‘he’, as applied to God is not wrong, it is, even so, inadequate as it does not even gesture towards the Threeness of God that is of God’s essence.
Visual artists have similar problems. The prevailing Christian tradition, East and West, is figurative, firmly rooted in the experience of God in the incarnation of God, that is Jesus Christ. And yet once we get beyond depiction of Jesus (which contains problems enough of its own!) figurative expression necessarily becomes more and more abstract (stretching and fracturing the relationship between the conventional and what the art seeks to express).
The image at the top of the page, shows God as three and one, in the community of heaven, and does so in relationship with us, for the illustration is painted on a window opening in the roof of a baptistery.
- What images of God ‘work’ for you? Why? How?
- What images of God are present in your church?
- What images of the Church are present in your church?
- Are important aspects of God and Church not imaged in your church?