One of the books I’m reading, actually re-reading, this Advent, is a book of a nondescript name with an unattractive cover: The Roots of Christian Mysticism, by Olivier Clement, one of the foremost Orthodox theologians of our day. What I love about the book is the way Clement brings together quote after quote from ancient authors with his brilliant commentary interspersed. This past week I have been re-reading the first three chapters. The second is entitled “God, Hidden and Universal”. Clement is trying to communicate how utterly inaccessible God in His essence is to us. Of course, this concept–which, of course, we cannot fully grasp–is essential to understanding the inexpressible love of God for us in becoming man. However, instead of quoting from his book :-), I am going to quote the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus (from First Things) from another book, God With Us, an Advent-Christmas book put out by Paraclete Press.
We are all searching, and ultimately–whether we know it or not–we are searching for God. Ultimately, we are searching for the Ultimate, and the Ultimate is God. It is not easy, searching for God . . . The fact is that we do not really know what we’re looking for or who we’re looking for. Almost a thousand years ago, St. Anselm of Canterbury said, “God is that greater than which cannot be thought.”
Think about it. We can stretch our minds as high and deep and far as our minds can stretch, and at the point of the highest, deepest, farthest stretch of our minds, we have not “thought” God. There is always a thought beyond which we cannot think. “God is that greater than which cannot be thought.
God is, literally, inconceivable. And that is why God was conceived as a human being in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Because we cannot, even in thought, rise up to God, God stooped down to us in Jesus, who is “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.”
I will continue with this tomorrow.