"God: Conferences delivered at Notre Dame in Paris"
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MY LORD, - GENTLEMAN,
THE INNER LIFE OF GOD
GOD exists, but what does he? What is his action? What is his life? This question at once rises in our thoughts. As soon as the mind has recognized the existence of a being, it asks how that being lives; and still more so in regard to God, who, as the principle of beings, excites within us a thirst for knowledge of him, so much the more ardent and just as his action is the model of all action, and his life the pattern of all life. What then is the life of God? How does he employ his eternity? This is doubtless a bold question. Nevertheless, it is a question which men ask, and which they desire to solve. But how is it to be solved? How are we to penetrate the divine essence in order to catch a glimpse of the incomprehensible movement of an eternal, infinite, absolute, and immutable spirit?
Three doctrines come before us. One of these affirms that God is condemned by the sovereign majesty of his nature to isolation dreadful to imagine; that, alone in himself, he contemplates himself seeing only himself, and love himself with a love which has no other object than himself; and in this contemplation of this love, eternally solitary, the nature and perfection of his life consist.
According to the second doctrine, the universe shows us the life of God, or rather it is in itself the life of God. We behold in it his permanent action, the scene upon which his power is exercised, and in which all his attributes are reflected. God is not out of the universe any more than the universe is out of God. God is the principle, the universe is the consequence, but a necessary consequence, without which the principle would be inert, unfruitful, impossible to conceive.
Catholic doctrine condemns these two systems. It does not admit that God is a solitary being eternally employed in a sterile contemplation of himself; nor does it admit that the universe, although it is the work of God, is his proper and personal life. It soars above those feeble ideas, and, bearing us with the word of God beyond all the conceptions of the human mind, it teaches us that the divine life consists in the co-eternal union of three equal persons, in whom plurality destroys solitude, and unity division; whose thought corresponds, whose love is mutual, and who, in that marvelous communion, identical in substance, distinct in personality, form together an ineffable association of light and love. Such is the essence of God, and such is his life, both powerfully expressed in those words of the Apostle St. John: - TRES SUNT QUI TESTIMONIUM DARET IN CŒLO: PATER, VERBUM , ET SPIRITUS SANCTUS – There are three who give testimony in heaven; the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one (Jn 5:7).
Here, and very soon after having promised you light, it would seem that I am leading you into a maze of darkness; for, can anything be conceived more formidable to the mind than the terms by which I have just expressed, according to the Scriptures and the Church, the relations that constitute the inner life of God? Do not, however, yield to this first impression; trust rather to my promises, since they are those of the Gospel, wherein it is written: EGO SUM LUX MUNDI – I am the light of the world. And again: - QUI SEQUITUR ME NON AMBULAT IN TENEBRIS, SED HABEBIT LUMEN VITÆ – He that followeth me walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life (Jn 8:12). Yes, be confident, count upon God, who has proposed nothing to you unnecessary to be believed, and who has hidden marvelous treasures in the most obscure mysteries, as he has hidden the fires of the diamond in the depths of the earth. Follow me, let us pass the pillars of Hercules, and, leaving truth to fill our sails, let us fearlessly advance even to the transatlantic regions of light.
God: Conferences - Notre-Dame in Paris (1871)
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