Sailing season is over and I am steeped in end of semester projects. Most of the academic work I do requires a lot of involvement with the background reading and conversations. However, this work is supposed to be personal. Personal revelations are often difficult for others to read through who don’t have a vested interest in the author’s well-being so I usually avoid them. This work is different. This work may spark some thinking and/or conversation. The assignment required an explanation of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and Grace and to limit the length to between six and eight pages.
The only other thought I want to share out front is that our words, in any language, cannot adequately every describe the Creator God, from any faith base to any who are protagonist or antagonists. Strict Islamists will even consider this heresy. That being said, this work is, at its inception, a failure to describe and meant only for those who wish to imbibe.
‘Z’ Nov 2013
A Personal Model of God
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came through him, and without him nothing came to be.” (Catholic Study Bible, John 1:1-3) How to make any human sense of this first Christian theology is a challenge parents have had to work with since the Apostles began telling their world about Jesus. It is the challenge to be taken up in this essay in three parts. What is my own concept of God and how does my concept and my model creates a hypostasis of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the gift of sharing in Divine life with something called grace?
My intention is to build a summary of how the Church has defined the three fundamental ideas of Trinity, Incarnation, and Grace. Following each summary, I will suggest how my model works to help me comprehend what God has worked to reveal to me through my Life about these ideas. I will close each section with an attempt to reconcile discrepancies that will naturally arise, for as soon as we attempt to use our words to describe God, we have failed.
My comprehension of God is influenced by the physical science of the twentieth century. This requires some explanation if only to define certain terms for clarifying understanding and metaphors used later in this work.
Our physical world consists of ninety-two naturally occurring elements. Humans had identified most of these elements throughout our ancestors’ growing awakening to the world around them. The elements are chemically and electromagnetically arranged, combined, and held together through the characteristics of smaller particles recently discovered. Over the past century science discovered atomic particles called electrons, protons, and neutrons. Each of these held individual characteristics of charge, size, and spin and the combinations allowed them to form the ninety-two elements. Human curiosity kept us looking and we discovered smaller particles called quarks. Quarks likewise have certain physical, electromagnetic, and probability characteristics about them; up, down, right, left, are four of seven. Considering quarks, we still can look at smaller bodies. Mr. Einstein used mathematics to demonstrate that physical particles can become energy packages that can move at the speed of light. Scientists continue at present to look for smaller and smaller answers to how the visually identified elements’ atomic structures first began.
Energy level is measured in vibration at every level of known elements. I have described the infinitesimal. The elements stretch into the infinite, scientists describing the solar system and universe in the same contexts by determining what the planets and stars are made of by knowing what color light those elements reflect on earth and extrapolating the reflection of that light from space. Light is one of many ranges of electromagnetic energy. Light is what the human eye was developed to see. It becomes one of our primary means of learning and existing in our world. While we state that God is Light, we none-the-less are unable to see God. Light also has electromagnetic properties.
We cannot see electromagnetism any more than we can see God. We can see the effects of it. Most of us would recognize the effect of electromagnetism in the way we decorate refrigerators. Some of us might realize the electricity we use to turn on our lights comes from electromagnets generating the power. Opening a car door with a remote operator sends an electromagnetic wave across the space between the auto and us, and the electricity in the car creates a magnetic field in something called a solenoid. That solenoid opens the locking mechanism and we can open the car door. We do not see it physically until we see and hear the lock open, and we believe it is, and then prove it is by opening the door.
Resonance is “a natural frequency of vibration determined by the physical parameters of the vibrating object” (Arizona State University). Atoms have to resonate with each other at specific energy levels to combine into the elements. Quarks have to resonate at specific energy levels to allow the atomic particles to hold together and not explode like the sun. The planets spin on their own axes and in turn rotate around the sun, which itself rotates around and axis and orbits the center of our Galaxy. We cannot see all of this. We can see some of it. The rest is seen in mathematical calculations that are accurate enough to have allowed us to create the energy of the sun in nuclear energy and at the same time sent manufactured objects to the edge of our solar system.
God is not resonant energy, at least not entirely. God exists apart from our universe and yet within it entirely. Moses observed a Burning Bush and became resonant with God, enough so to be able to part the Red Sea. Elijah heard the Wind at the mouth of the cave and came to the entrance, fell on his face, and became resonant with God. We too become resonant with God when we practice the Sacraments and participate in mass. We become a resonant body, the Body of Christ. We become resonant with our church and our Church when we sing, more visible to us probably than anything else does. We too become resonant when we profess our private prayers. In addition, when we listen and look, we can see the invitation and the signs of God inviting us and God responding to us.
To know my model of God 1 may consider the simplicity of a tuning fork, the purest of tones from the voice of Pavarotti, or the chorus singing Handle’s Messiah. I move through the day in an ebb and flow of thoughts and emotions, rising and falling with proactive and reactive movement. I move better through my day when I begin it with an attempt to become resonant with God through prayer. I see better the hand of God at work when I do begin this way. I rise and fall through life through my actions, moving in and out of resonance with God. Like the nature of a symphony, I may find resonance in the harmonics of God’s movement, knowing the presence of God in the high notes as well as the low. All I need to be open my senses and seek God out.
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit” (Catholic Study Bible, Matt 26:19). “The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity.” The Divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire” (CCC, 253). St. Athanasius defended this during the Arian heresy using the word ‘homoousious’ to describe how Jesus was one in being with the Father. In addition, he further argued that the Spirit must be God, as only God can do the work of redemption (Marthaler, p. 244).
One of the initial facts we learn about our ninety-two natural elements initially is the number of physical phases these elements have. The phases are known as solid, liquid, and gas. It is a simple concept, demonstrated by taking ice cubes out of a freezer, placing them in a saucepan on a stove, then turning on the heat. The heat is absorbed by the ice and melts it into water. The water continues to absorb heat and is turned into steam. All throughout the transition the elements of hydrogen and oxygen remain in resonance with each other in a two-to-one ratio that makes up the compound called water. Remove the heat or just cover the pan with a glass lid and the steam will be seen to condense on the underside of the lid as it gives off heat through the lid. Remove the heat from the stove and return the water to the freezer removes more heat and returns the liquid to solid ice. The volume of water is least when liquid, larger as ice, and greatest as steam/gas.
I cannot fully comprehend the mystery of the Trinity. If I could, my model would be a proof and my proof would lie beside the documents of Aquinas. The transition of the physical elements helps me comprehend how God can be homoousius and yet be recognized as redemptive in three differing presences. I am made of water, nearly ninety-eight percent. There is water in the air around me, in the ground, in the lake out my front window, in the sky in the form of clouds. My wife is similarly physically made, as are all my family and friends. Water is in all of us. God is in all of us. Water around the world is at any one present in all of its phases. Consider the poles of the earth, equatorial Congo, and of course the ocean basins created in Genesis. Ice, steam, water; Son, Spirit, Father.
I find resonance with water. Sometimes I like ice in my water, sometimes a cup of tea, listening for the whistle of steam from the kettle. Often I find myself swimming in water. Sometimes I have experienced the desert, where water still exists, it is just more difficult to find. Water is constantly changing, and I do have to look for it or go to where I can find it. It is the same with my search for God. I have to go to fill my cup before moving through the next event in my life.
“Hence under the light of Christ, the image of the unseen God, the firstborn of every creature, the council wishes to speak to all men…”(Gaudium et Spes). “The Church calls “Incarnation” the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it”(CCC461). “Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith”(CCC 463).
And should God choose to become human, to appear to us in the form of a man who would feel and hurt and think and eat as I do, that would not diminish God as Father and Creator nor diminish the presence of the Creator or the Spirit. It would only change the form of a portion of God’s Being, God’s resonance. Jesus was a sold, physical presence of God among us. Jesus changed his levels of energy, of resonance even while among us. He lived and grew in the Nazarene hills, was baptized and baptized in the water of the Jordan, and survived a time of reflection in the desert where he wrestled with Satan. He transfigured to speak with Moses and Elijah. His body died, was raised, and eventually ascended. And all that time he was a fully God and united with the Creator and the Spirit even as water is present continuously around the world.
The Gift of Grace
“’Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit’”(The Catholic Study Bible, John 20:21, 22). “Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life” (CCC 1996). And as we have stated and discussed in class, “Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life :…”(CCC 1997).
Can we state that Grace is synonymous with the Spirit? I think we can and should. Since it is “the free and undeserved help” then Grace must be always with and available to us to access. Is not our God always there with an invitation? All that is required is that we ask for God’s help and we will receive it. We must still take the appropriate actions in response to the reception of the gift and make choices according to the laws, natural and supernatural as God has established them.
Water is present and available to us in the same manner. We may have to ask for it. We may have to reach out for it or go and find that which is suitable for us to take into our bodies to refresh them. This is the same for our souls. We must say yes to God and seek out Grace in order to refresh our souls.
The physical world will not permit items, things, entities to remain together if they are not in resonance with each other. Damage to our bodies is evidence of this. Consider the person burned the embers of a fire or even too much warmth from the sun. Resonance of various entities remains constant. Middle ‘C’ in music is always a given frequency. One is off pitch if one does not resonate when trying to sing Middle ‘C’ or play it on a piano, trumpet, harp, or any other instrument. Yet one may resonate at a different level above or below Middle ‘C’ in what are called octaves.
Likewise, humans cannot take in water that is not at or near resonance with our body temperatures. Try to swallow ice? It sticks until the surface melts to near our body temperature. Try to breathe steam our nasal passages cause it to condense before it allows the water to be absorbed. Force either into the body before a near resonant temperature is reached and the body will be burned.
God is at a constant resonance of creativity and love. The Creator God at one with the Word through which our world was created as told in our scriptures breathed the grace of life into our ancestors. From the beginning the I AM has been known as the same yet from the beginning the I AM has presented to us multiple phases or entities. Throughout salvation history some have recognized the power of this entity and they have worked through their lived to become resonant with the Creator God. I know this God, naturally and supernaturally. I have been gifted with moments of resonance with God throughout my life. I have been absent from the resonance and sought it again fervently. Times when I have been out of resonance, and still having faith I could find it again is the quest of my life. Through Grace freely given and accepted, through works emulating the Incarnate God and carrying out His commission, I hope one day to come to a permanent resonance with God and like Elijah, kneel before God and hide my face in awesome wonder.
Resonance. Arizona State University. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/sound/reson.html downloaded 11-15-13. No copyright. No date. Tempe.
Catechism of the Catholic Church. William Sadlier. (No date). New York
Gonzalez, J.L. Ed. The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II. Gaudium et Spes. Daughters of St. Paul. (No date). Boston.
Marthaler, Bernard. The Creed. Twenty-Third Publications. 2007. New London
Senior, Donald. General Editor. The Catholic Study Bible. Oxford University Press. 1990. New York.