The ABC’S of The Basic Theological Teachings: The Meaning of God and His Creatures
By Fr. Thomas R. Harding, Th.D.
This homily has been posted with the direct and generous permission of the late Fr. Thomas Harding, Th.D. (1918-2005).
As we celebrate the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Feasts of the Liturgical Year have taken on a deeper meaning now we are approaching some important ones, the Ascension of the Lord into Heaven, the Coming of the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Trinity. It is time to consider again the Meaning of God and His Creatures.
Before time began, there was a point when there was only one Being in existence, God the Father; God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, omnipotent, omniscient, uncaused, eternal, infinite. God was perfectly happy and did not need anything else, but good tends to diffuse itself and so God created Angels, meaning messengers, the universe, human beings and all the other animate and inanimate beings. Let us consider these beings briefly.
In the whole realm of being, there is, first and foremost, the Supreme Being, God. How is it that there is such a Being? St. Augustine says that theology is faith seeking understanding. In doing the theology of the Unity and Trinity of God, the theologians begin with the basic revealed truth that there is One God in Three Divine Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and they go on to consider the Divine Processions, Missions and Relations.
To put it simply, it goes something like this. From all eternity God the Father knows himself and thus God the Son proceeds from the Father by an intellectual act of generation for the Son is the Image of the Father or the Knowledge of God Personified or the Word of God. Again from all eternity, the Father and the Son are united in a bond of love and thus the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son by a Divine Act of spiration as the Love of God Personified. The Three Persons are all truly God and perfectly equal in all things. There are only three members by nature in the Family of God.
There are four Divine Relations in the Blessed Trinity, Paternity or Fatherhood, Sonship or Filiation, Active Spiration or the Love of the Father and the Son and Passive Spiration or the Holy Spirit who is the Love of God.
Let us consider briefly the attributes of God. There are two kinds of Divine attributes, entitative, pertaining to His Being and operative, pertaining to His operations.
The entitative attributes are necessity, transcendence, immanence, infinity, perfection, unity, goodness, truth, beauty, simplicity, omnipotence, omnipresence, eternity, immutability, pure act, and God alone is a pure and simple spirit. We know some of these by analogy, that is by way of excellence, by affirming created qualities in creatures to infinity, and we know others by way of negation, that is, by denying to God some created qualifies by using negative terms such as infinite which means not finite.
The Operative attributes of God are His Divine intelligence, that is, He knows everything in one idea and His divine volition, that is, His will is perfectly free.
We can know about the Existence of God, that He exists, by reason, by the things that He has made, as St. Paul says in Romans I :20. But we can know much more about God by Faith in Divine Revelation in Scripture and Tradition.
First, Almighty God alone is a pure and simple spirit, that is, He is uncaused and not complex in any way.
Second, the angels are pure spirits but not simple spirits because they are created and complex. However they are created in the state of maturity, with all their infused ideas. They do not have to grow up and go to school. Each angel is a different species which determines their degree of knowledge and love. In the hierarchy of spirits, God has only one idea with which He knows everything actual and possible. Then the highest angel needs many ideas with which to understand his more limited capacity. In a descending order, each angel needs more ideas than the one just above him. Even the lowest angel is far smarter than the most intelligent humans.
Angels have such a superior knowledge and will that they were only given one chance when they were tested. Apparently, they would not have repented and changed their minds. Thus Lucifer said “I will not serve” (Isaiah 14:12) and he and the other fallen angels were cast into hell by St. Michael the Archangel (Apoc. 12:7). They are allowed to roam through the world seeking the ruin of souls. But the name of Jesus is stronger than hell.
The good angels continue to serve before the throne of God and they also act as guardian angels. They also have other functions as messengers, defenders and directors of the two hundred billion galaxies in the universe. Sacred Scripture tells us there are nine choirs of angels: (Col. 1:16) Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Angels. Beings spirits, they can travel through the world and the universe instantaneously by a simple act of the will. St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor has a great tract on angels in his Summa Theologica.
Third, human beings, in comparison with God and Angels, are relatively imperfect spirits. Because of the relative dimness of their intellects they have to inform a body and they have infra-intellectual faculties, as well as spiritual faculties, an intellect and will; that is, they also have faculties of the vegetative and animal stages of life. Thus, man is a spirit informing a body. He needs a body in order to function or to get started in the process of knowing and willing. Therefore there would be no use giving humans infused ideas at the moment of creation. We would not understand them anyway: e.g. E=mc².
We have to learn laboriously by abstracting ideas from our sense knowledge, verifying ideas by judgments and using these ideas and judgments in syllogisms to reason and to move from the known to the unknown. There are five operations we go through in knowing and willing: experiencing, understanding, judging, reasoning and deciding. What a tough life! We have to grow up, go to school for years and spend the rest of our lives in continuing to learn. I was a slow learner. I went to school for twenty one years and I still know only the ABC’s.
Because we need bodies, God created a material universe. How extravagant He was to make a universe with 200 billion galaxies and it is expanding! We share the world with other animate and inanimate beings. Is there human life on other planets? We have not the time or the knowledge to answer that. We have not yet communicated with people on other planets. Some have seen UFO’s, they say.
I have always wanted to know what God looks like but was running into a brick wall trying to understand Him and describe Him until I discovered that a finite person cannot comprehend an Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Infinite Being. To visualize Him, to reduce him to our comprehension, to describe Him in our language is impossible in the present order.
But cheer up. St. John says in his first Epistle, Chapter 3, Verse 2: “Beloved now we are the children of God and it has not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when He appears we shall be like to Him for we shall see Him just as He is.” So we look forward to the Beatific Vision.
Oh pardon me, I forgot a few important things.
First, God has only three members in His family by nature, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but he has billions of children by adoption because He created angels and humans and raised them to the supernatural level so that they share His life by sanctifying grace, i.e., God living in us as a friend.
Second, God is immanent in that He is with us and within us. He is Transcendent in that He is infinitely beyond us as the God of all glory. Never separate His Immanence and Transcendence. Never forget that the Immanent God is also the Transcendent God.
Third, we are so earth bound that we cannot imagine anyone without a body but the pure spirits don’t need bodies. For our benefit they may sometimes appear as though they had bodies, e.g. angels with wings.
Fourth, Scripture says “God made men just a little less than the angels.” There are two exceptions: Jesus Christ is a Divine Person and infinitely superior to them. Our Lady is Queen of the Angels because she is the daughter of God the Father, the spouse of the Holy Spirit and the Mother of God the Son and She is superior to the Angels.
No Wonder the Fallen Angels were Mad.
Fifth, The hypostatic union means that Jesus is One Person (the Divine Person) and He has two natures, Human and Divine.
This homily is not to be copied, duplicated, modified nor distributed in any way.
- An Introduction to Enlightenment and the Trinity – Part 1/2 (the2012scenario.com)
- The Holy Spirit – Fr. Thomas R. Harding, Th.D. (epages.wordpress.com)
- Daily IN-spiration * * * May 12th (revsandy.wordpress.com)
- Quotations from St. Julian of Norwich. (interruptingthesilence.com)
- The Trinity explained in simple terms (thatfaith.wordpress.com)
- I Myself Am Also a Human Being (witshadows.wordpress.com)
- The Habit of Keeping a Clear Conscience (trinityspeaks.wordpress.com)