The Spiritual Attributes of God: notes on mind-bending chapter nine

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The attributes discussed last chapter — infinity, eternity, supraspatiality, omnipotence — were formal “structural” attributes that could be experienced “externally.” They could be observed in what is commonly called “general revelation.”

But the attributes discussed in this chapter (omniscience, justice and mercy, holiness and love) are experienced “internally,” through the spirit of man. They are the manifestations of what God is in His essence, in which the “self-sacrifice” of the Three Persons is absolutely complete, so that there is no movement to cover any interval, but there is, instead, a “stability.”

Frequently, Staniloae is not at all shy about saying that God “cannot” do something. When he says that God “cannot” do something — like “he cannot make them to be as he himself is, that is uncreated and sources of existence” (p216) — we misinterpret “cannot” as a limitation, and as a contradictory constraint upon God’s infinity. Actually, however, the “cannot” refers to the infinitely transcendent gulf between the created and the Creator, and so the “cannot” — far from being a contradiction of the infinite — is actually an enlarging indicator of the infinite.

The spiritual attributes which “bridge” this gulf between Creator and the immediacy of souls are rooted in this perfectly and infinitely complete stability (i.e., “perichoresis”) work “from within” the soul, in what Staniloae calls “interiority.” In each of these cases — omniscience, justice, holiness and love — God is essentially unknown, but He is experienced in these energies.

But He is experienced personally. This is true of all the energies of the Holy Trinity, but it is especially true of the “spiritual attributes.” The personal character of these energies are the main reason why the energies are called “Names.” To understand these attributes as impersonal forces is to utterly distort them, and to cause grave theological errors all the way down into practical understanding.

OMNISCIENCE AND WISDOM

Nowhere is the importance of the personal character of spiritual attributes so essential as it is with Omniscience. God knows everything — and for Him to be God as Absolute (as every theist must admit), He must be omniscient — extending to all space and time, past, present and future.

But some theists go so far as to say that His foreknowledge is the same as pre-destination — and to suggest this means that divine knowledge is understood as impersonal force or static field.

God does not think or know as we do, as these are names appropriate only for creatures and not the Creator. But He is the cause of these “activities of the creature” (p199). He is the transcendent source of all knowledge: that is, when something or, better, someone is truly known, then the energy of knowledge, based upon the spiritual attribute of omniscience, has been participated in.

Staniloae emphatically dismisses any attempt to separate knowledge into the Western dichotomies of “God’s knowledge of Himself,” and “God’s knowledge of created things.” He takes Karl Barth especially to task for maintaining that God’s knowledge of Himself is infinite, but His knowledge of creatures is finite.

Against this division, Dionysios the Areopagite prohibits any such separation: “Consequently, God does not possess a private knowledge of himself and a separate knowledge of all the creatures in common. The universal Cause, by knowing itself, can hardly be ignorant of the things which proceed from it and of which it is the source.” (The Divine Names 7.2, quoted in Staniloae, p200).

In His Omniscience, God knows all the logoi of all created things, and so because God knows Himself absolutely, He knows all things already, and always.

If there is any division between divine knowledge — or rather, from our standpoint , “knowledge of God” — and knowledge of things, it is certainly true in creaturely experience. This is a natural division that was intended at the outset to be traversed: but it became an unnatural alienation after the Fall.

But this division is meant to be surmounted as we unite these two knowledges in our spiritual growth. We God as Cause of things, and we begin to know things fully because we start to recognize not only their “creatureliness,” but also their present reality and their destiny in the eschatological transfiguration of all things.

Until that perfection, however, not only do we fail to know God, but we also fail to know created things in their reality. We will only know reality when “… we are completely united with him and he is wholly within the whole of us” (p201, citing St Maximos the Confessor, in The Ambigua).

This possibility of knowledge is not deferred until some moment that is separate from the present. Here is one of the many places that Staniloae highlights the difference between the Eastern patristic tradition (including Maximos) and the later Western philosophical schools. The possibility of God as Supreme Person (i.e., the Trinity as personal) communing wholly and completely with us is a present possibility, mainly because the single undivided Knowledge is a personal possibility.

Knowledge — that is, full knowledge — “is the full union between the one who knows and the one who is known, just as ignorance causes separation or is the effect of separation” (p201). For Staniloae, epistemology is an interpersonal event, not just an academic and therefore static field.

Moreover, it is just because knowledge is interpersonal that there is now the possibility of the approach of humanity toward God. The union of God with man is not and really cannot be one-sided: love requires mutuality of persons … and no matter how far man has descended into dissolution and dereliction, he remains potentially able to do the part required.

It might be said here that the analogy of being is neither eclipsed by God’s utter transcendence, nor is it vitiated. God’s transcendence does not mean an utter discontinuity: to say so is to suggest that there is no infinitely constant movement of God toward His creation, whether or not that movement is accepted and met with an analogical movement by the creature.

In this context, unsurprisingly, Staniloae refers to Hans Urs von Balthasar approvingly: the knowledge of God “cannot be equated with the conception that God is beyond all possibility of approach within a totally inaccessible transcendence” (p201). More to the point, he uses the term “analogy” in a later paragraph: “God can be known from all things through analogy with all things and through his presence in all things as the one who is their cause” (p206).

It is interesting, to say the least, that von Balthasar is approved just one page after Barth is rebutted.

Humans are called to assume the character of the Supreme Person’s self-sacrifice (i.e., kenosis) and are only then able to “re-interpret” time as a path toward eternity and union with God in love. They thus progress in the knowledge of God and creatures until “they are fully known within the full union and love that are identical with ‘eternal life’ (John 3.16)” (p202).

Staniloae lists three critical implications of knowledge defined as “union of transcendent Person to person-as-creature without confusion.”

First of all, knowledge presumes a “going out” from self toward the other, in which existence is held in common. This is the “oneness” that two persons share in love. I wonder, too, if there is some deep structural linkage between this interpersonal sense of knowledge and the old Hebrew meaning of the term for knowing: yade, which possesses an intimate, nuptial meaning. Is the true meaning of nuptial intercourse but a symbol that not only represents the deeper interpersonal knowledge, but also participates in it?

In this nuptial context, too, is indicated the indivisible linkage between the main Greek terms for “love”: eros, and agape. Staniloae strongly asserts that St Dionysios (cf p244), for one, knows no difference in meaning between these terms, as opposed to the clear Reformed distinction between creaturely eros and strictly divine agape (e.g., Anders Nygren). I mention this in particular, as I was very much a fan of C. S. Lewis’ Four Loves, which was itself an extended meditation upon Nygren’s differentiation between eros and agape.

(For what it’s worth, I am glad that Pope Benedict XVI corrected this modern separation of eros and agape in his letter, Deus caritas est.)

The second implication of knowledge-as-communion is that if it is true that personal distance and total solitude both preclude complete knowledge, then it must be that for God to have complete knowledge of Himself, then He must be a community of Three Persons.

In other words, divine knowledge, at base, must be trinitarian in essence and is trinitarian in form. All knowledge is “a loving reference of one subject to another subject” (p202), and thus, “Nothing is understood apart from the holy Trinity” (p203). This has to do with the fundamental motive for knowledge rooted in interpersonal love, which proceeds the Holy Trinity itself.

For humans, even self-knowledge is derived from reference to relationship with others. I cannot think of a more profound difference from modern epistemology than this affirmation: that ego is known only in terms of the other. “We are conscious of ourselves only in relationship with the other and, in the final analysis, before God” (p204).

The third implication is teleological. All creation is destined for glorification in the universal transfiguration on the Last Day, the Parousia. All knowledge is in tension in anticipation of the Last Day, when persons will be known, and will know, Supreme Person completely: “Though now we see through a glass darkly, then we shall see face to face.”

So crucial is this teleological sense of knowledge that it prompts Staniloae to make this arresting statement: “[God] does not know [all creatures] within the process of actualizing their potential image, nor does he see them in the end of this process” (p206).

Staniloae suggests that there are two ways in which Scripture describes God “knowing” His creatures. The first is the sense of omniscience, in which God knows all things. But the second is the deeper of sense of the perfect of this knowledge as full communion, in which persons “co-inhere” with each other. And in this second sense, it is clear that those who refuse to participate in deification will indeed be in a state where they do not know God, obviously, but it is also true that God will not know — in the deepest sense of the word — them.

Orthodox Holy Tradition has always separated the complete foreknowledge of God from predestination. The conflation of these two terms is due to a denial of freedom given to spiritual creatures on one hand, and on the other, a failure to recognize knowledge as a personal (as well as infinite) spiritual attribute. All creatures are destined to participate in the universal transfiguration at the end: and this is true especially of spiritual creatures (i.e., humans and angels), who are predestined to enter into theosis where, in the eschaton, God will be known completely in His condescension, and God will know human persons in their ascension through Christ.

This “pre-destination knowledge” of God is from His knowledge of all creatures as their Cause. But the fact remains that deification in love requires free will, and there are some who refuse the gift of deification. Staniloae states here, about God’s foreknowledge of those who refuse: “The foreknowledge of God in regard to those who will go to eternal punishment consists only in the fact that he does not see them in their final unity with himself, a unity which for him is present even before it comes about in reality” (p208).

Obviously, this perfected and complete knowledge of God by man, and knowledge of man by God, occurs in Christ. The infinity of the divine nature “shines” through the finitude of human nature, as Christ’s humanity is utterly transparent to “the abyss of divine existence” (p210). Humans, then, can grow in the infinite knowledge of God through their solidarity with Christ, whose “hypostasis is open to all,” and thus “all can love and know each other as themselves” (p210).

What of wisdom? Is there a separation between the term “wisdom” and “knowledge”? In a word: no. Staniloae contends that the Fathers do not make a distinction between the terms, clearly using the term “wisdom” when applied to God far more often than “knowledge.” It is interesting that “wisdom” is used as a noun, and “knowledge” — for God — is used to describe an act.

Neither is there any separation between God’s “theoretical” and “practical” knowledge. We can know nothing of God’s knowledge of Himself as distinct from His relationship to the world: this would be knowledge of His essence, about which it is impossible for creatures to know. Thus, in Orthodoxy, there is no scholastic distinction between God’s “knowledge” as a theoretical occupation and His “wisdom” as pertaining to a practical occupation. All of knowledge and wisdom that pertains to God is “economic,” and “practical.”

Staniloae reserves a special sense of the word “wisdom” to describe the “plan of God regarding the world” for its salvation. This, it seems to me, is Staniloae’s meditation upon the corpus of wisdom literature in Scripture, and, by extension, to the tradition of dogmatic theology in the Christian Church that stems from the Gospel kerygma of the apostles.

It may also be — and here, I only speculate — Staniloae’s implicit response to the sophia trend within Russian theology (i.e., Solovyov, Bulgakov, Florensky et al) that may have isolated wisdom from its real context of salvation.

True wisdom is meaningful only in terms of salvation, the economy of the Trinity with regard to the world. Wisdom perceives the goodness of God in creating and sustaining a harmony of creation:

“God’s wisdom is not only his coming down to the world, to everyone and everything within it; it is also a totality of actions adequate to raise the world up continuously to a common and harmonious participation in the divine life and happiness” (p213)

God’s wisdom will often seem “at odds” with the wisdom of the world — a sharp distinction that St Paul draws in 1 Corinthians. God’s wisdom hardly contradicts the order of the world, because it not only founds it, but restores and completes the world’s wisdom. But because it corrects the fallen state (and the wisdom that is based upon that fallenness), God’s wisdom will often seem opposed to worldly wisdom.

Against the atomistic, reductionistic and materialistic wisdom of the world, God’s wisdom “reestablishes the human being with the higher and complex order of normal interpersonal relations sustained by the dialogue with God, a dialogue of endless exactingness, subtlety, and complexity, a dialogue that can shape even the order of nature in a higher direction” (p213).

I conclude this section with this long rhapsodic quote from Staniloae about God’s wisdom:

“What an abyss of wisdom is hidden in the incarnation of the Son of God as man, the one who opens up the prospect of an eternally deified life, an eternal and unutterable glory for the human being! Saint Paul the Apostle prays that the spirit of this wisdom may be given to the Christians of Ephesus so they might understand “what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ep 1.18). What an abyss of wisdom is hidden in the fact that through the incarnation, one and the same person is both God and man at the same time, bearing in himself, as in all of us as well, the spiritual life of the human being and deepening it to the very measure of the divine infinity! What an abyss of wisdom is hidden in the cross and in the suffering that the very Son of God takes on himself for us, to make of it in our case too — through the renunciation of himself and the patience implied in it — the condition of our higher life, that is, of the relations between ourselves and God! What an abyss of wisdom is found in the prospect of eternal life, the prospect of resurrection thrown open and bestowed on us in Christ’s resurrection! What endless depths of blessed meaning does the wisdom shown in the economy of Christ give to the order of the world, a world that by itself would remain fragmented in meaning and lead us nowhere! Within what limitless growth of meaning is God revealed to us as Person or Trinity of persons and as one who enters through the warmth of the endless communion of which he is capable into a relationship of love with us as persons, especially when compared with the simplistic, monotonous and life ‘god’ conceived according to the type of nature!

“In the kenosis of love which only God as person can assume there is revealed to us, if we let ourselves be conquered by this love, what Saint Paul says: ‘that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fulness of God’ (Ep 3.17-19).

“Wisdom in this sense can have no other basis than the perfection of the Trinitarian communion. Through wisdom God wants to lead all things toward the perfection that radiates from that communion. Among us wisdom itself radiates from the intertrinitarian communion. The ‘One,’ in the abstract sense proper to some philosophies [e.g., Plotinus], cannot be wise. Where there is no interpersonal relationship, there is no balance and measure but exaggerating tendencies on one side and exclusivism. It is only life together that implies or demands the efforts made to achieve wisdom.

“What we come to know in the course of our earthly life on the basis of the order of nature, and what we come to understand from the order of human spiritual life and even from the divine saving acts in our regard are only obscure rays from the knowledge and wisdom we can have here, a knowledge and a wisdom that guide us towards their full appropriation in our future union with God” (pp213-214).

JUSTICE AND MERCY

It is just like Staniloae to combine two seemingly opposite qualities — justice and mercy — into an inseparable bond.

Justice, on one hand, is founded upon “the equality of the Trinitarian persons” (p215). It is from this essential equality that God expects that “all men might be equal among themselves” (p215). Mercy, on the other hand, cannot not be separated from divine justice — and thus it cannot be “forced” upon someone who does not want it. At that same time, however, God’s justice is never divorced from His mercy: divine love is at the base of justice, and thus any image of God as “impartial judge” in a juridical setting is a rhetorical image and may not be extrapolated into actual doctrine.

Justice is not an abstract idea, or a “standard” separate from or abstracted away from God Himself — to the point, one might presume, toward which God might have to work so perfectly that Hs is God because He is perfectly just. Quite the contrary, Staniloae states that “God does not begin from an idea of justice but from the reality of justice in himself” (p215).

Justice is an energy of God, and as such, it is experienced by man. It is for this simple reason that man not only feels — despite the distortions and occlusions of the Fall — justice as a “deep conviction” in his relationship to God and to his fellow man. Justice is also a reality in which man must participate. Man is not passive in the meting out of God’s justice and mercy: because justice is a “personal energy” — and because of this, it is properly called a “Name” — then all interchange is really relationship, which itself denies the possibility of complete passivity in either role of the relationship, even when one is infinitesimally less than the Other.

In other words, there is no discontinuous, abjectly “alien” presence of the energy of God. God’s justice, based upon and sustained by the equality of the Three Persons, is extended universally and omnipotently to all Creation, and works personally through the spirituality of each person. Thus there is no possibility for concepts like “irresistible grace” or “predetermined history.”

Staniloae is clear that justice is fundamentally based upon equality of God, and thus, as an energy, equality of man. The spiritual aspect of equality remains always essential, as the “most precious goods are spiritual goods and it is on these that his salvation depends, not on the material ones” (p217). But repeatedly, he emphasizes that “Man can demand justice, especially from his neighbors, for himself and for others … and in doing this he can take his stand on the fact that God created all men with the right to enjoy equally the goods that he gave them through creation, goods which can be increased through their own efforts” (pp216-217).

Here, especially, Staniloae establishes human ethics and politics as firmly inseparable from theology — even to the point of the perichoretic relations within the Trinity!

Justice is crucially and climactically centered on Christ — as true God become true Man (i.e., the “Son of Man,” a term, I think, which means exactly that). So Christ as Man has succeeded in experiencing and appropriating the perfection of this divine energy within the contours of human nature. As this human perfection, which is transparent of the divine nature in beautiful glory, human communicants can participate in this perfect justice in their existence through inclusion and voluntary (via their own kenosis) in the Body of Christ.

HOLINESS AND PURITY

Holiness is an energy that, more than all the other “names,” manifests in creation the utter transcendence of the Creator. This manifestation is experienced as an almost empirical “proof” of the existence of a transcendent order. In Staniloae’s discussion of this experience of transcendence, we hear echoes of Mircea Eliade’s “wholly Other” and Rudolf Otto’s “numinous,” or mysterium tremendum). The numinous, Staniloae says, “is to be experienced nowhere more directly than in the holiness which envelops God’s revealing of himself … In [holiness] there is concentrated all that distinguishes God from the world” (pp222-223).

But after this often-terrifying experience, which constitutes the “fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom,” there follows upon that experience of happiness, freedom, and a greater desire for purity and a deeper communion with God.

Again, such a desire after terror (e.g., think of the Prophet Isaiah’s experience in the Temple in Isaiah 6) that is so powerful is possible only if holiness were the presence of Person, Supreme though the Trinity is. Only Person could attract such powerful desire.

Accordingly, this line is particularly appealing: “Man is captivated by the charm of his true being” (p223). Nowhere have I read such a bon mot with regard to holiness. Usually, holiness is denatured into a tiresome discussion of legalistic (and privatistic) social mores. Or, it is reframed into an analysis within the rubrics of a philosophy of religion.

But to hear about holiness as not only numinous but also personal energy, in terms of an I-Thou relationship as realized in the agency of a hypostasized Third — that is to hear something new in contemporary dogmatics. No less a figure than Bishop Kallistos Ware, writing in the foreword, noted that most dogmatic texts (Pomozansky, for one) gloss over the Palamite emphasis upon the distinction of God’s essence from His energies. I would add, too, that Romanides and, perhaps, Vlachos treat Palamas with much more priority, but do not extend this dogma to its logical and enormous existential implications. Staniloae does, and does so in particular in this discussion of holiness.

After the Cross and Resurrection (and really, the Incarnation as a whole), the experience of holiness is no longer confined to a location or a particular fragment of human history. It is now thrown open wide as a real possibility for all humanity. Harvey Cox (Harvard theologian, in The Secular City) asserted that the “sacred” had been abolished at the Cross, and Christians were now to enter the secular realm (imaged as the modern city) as the only existential possibility.

Contrary to this notion, Staniloae says that instead of “universal secularization,” it is the possibility of holiness that is open to all. All Christians are described by St Paul as “saints,” especially “… if they preserve their consciousness of the fact that, at baptism, Christ too up his dwelling with them and if, with the help of the grace of baptism and of the other sacraments, they struggle for purification” (p225).

Insofar as Christians participate in the Holy Spirit’s energy of holiness can they recover their natural state as “subject” in their own existence. Man is restored through God’s holiness by entering into a great likeness of man with God. The passions are purified, and are displaced by the adoption of virtues — all of which (i.e., the virtues) culminate in love (p226). This “likeness” (which is recognized, ultimately, as “theosis”) “… means a radiation of the presence of God from within man.”

Staniloae continues this theme of theosis as interpersonal communion between man-as-creature and the God transcendent, but also God as analogically-experienced Creator: “In those who love one another and are found with a reciprocal interiority, the face of the one is stamped with the fatures of the other and these features shine forth actively from within him. Now inasmuch as these divine features are growing and foreshadowing the full degree in which they will overwhelm the human features, the faces of the saints even on earth have something of the eschatological plane of eternity in their appearance, that plane through which God’s features will be fully reflected and his energies will radiate” (p226).

In that age to come, all creation will become utterly transparent to the beauty that is the glory of the Holy Trinity. The saints — and sacraments — are bearing that eschatological glory even now. Why are some people saints, and thus bearing that glory, and other people are not? It is strictly because they respond to the holiness of God, accepting it and working with it freely in purification and in the free acts of loving self-donation.

And, in the final analysis, a saint is a saint because she or he is willing to make their existence entirely consonant with their essence: in other words, they become fully human, and therefore free.

But all this comes at a price of self-donation, or — as Staniloae puts it — transcendence of ego. This is the true meaning of sacrifice. It is not the sacrifice of pagans, which was always a violent exchange of capital for the benefit of stemming, temporarily, the tide of dark chaos outside the city.

In a poignant meditation upon St Cyril of Alexandria’s relatively overlooked treatise, Adoration and Worship in Spirit and in Truth, Staniloae insists that holiness assumes sacrifice: whoever passes through sacrifice pass into the state of holiness. “By the very fact that Christians,” he writes, “give themselves to God or sacrifice themselves to him — meaning their complete self-offering as subjects to the divine subject — they become saints, are enveloped in the holiness or self-giving purity of God and open themselves to it.” But Staniloae emphasizes the centrality of Christ in holiness: “But they are able to sacrifice themselves in a manner that is pure or entire only if they partake of the pure or entire sacrifice of Christ who, by sacrificing or offering himself as man to the Father in total purity, has consecrated himself so that we too may be consecrated through our union with him in a state of sacrifice” (p229).

There is, then, no Christianity without holiness, since all Christians are called to sainthood. And there is no holiness without sacrifice and self-transcendence. But holiness as desire — which is a radically Christian thought — is possible only in terms of “surrender to absolute Person.”

This “surrender to absolute Person is a sanctifying self-sacrifice, for it is a transcending of self which goes beyond all that is relative. Any human being who is lifted up beyond himself towards supreme Person and offers himself to him, thereby renounces himself and tramples under foot all that is selfish or mean, all that is merely narrow interest or appetite directed passionately towards finite things, and thus he is consecrated and enters through that Person into a fully unlimited condition and complete freedom. He is consecrated because he forgets himself and is raised beyond himself in his own genuinely free communication with absolute Person and on the basis of the power of this absolute Person which comes from his side to meet him in the encounter. But since in this way the person realizes his own self in the most authentic manner, holiness — from our point of view — can be said to the the most fitting realization of the human, the discovery and valuing of its most intimate sanctuary” (p231).

And because he is lifted up above the narrow confines of fallen ego-centricity, the saint now radiates holiness into his own world:

“God wants the whole world to be filled with saints; he wants the whole world to be sanctified so that his holiness may be seen and glorified everywhere in the world and the world become a new heaven and a new earth where justice — that is, fidelity, openness, holiness — abides because it has been extended into the world from the Holy Trinity” (p238).

GOODNESS AND LOVE

It may be obvious, by now, that all the energies are inseparable, and are not known except with reference to the others. This note is truest with love, which is the culmination of all energies, and is the highest “name.” Holiness, justice, omniscience are known most immediately as love, and then too, the super-essential formal attributes comprise the lineaments or contours of love.

So love as an attribute — remembering that for Staniloae (following Dionysios and Maximus especially), “love” and “goodness” are synonymous — is the summary of all the energies.

Love is always most personal.

And perhaps, it could be said that God is most personal in love.

This might become clear when Staniloae suggests that goodness is best understood in the context of eros, or desire. He reminds us that Dionysios knew no difference between eros, agape and goodness: for him, it was all one: “The sacred writers lift up a hymn of praise to this Good. They call it beautiful, beauty, love and beloved” (The Divine Names, 4.7, cited in Staniloae, p239).

“What is signified,” Dionysios continues, “is a capacity to effect a unity, an alliance, and a particular commingling in the Beautiful and the Good” (The Divine Names, 4.7).

Breath-taking, that.

Staniloae explains: “The unifying force of good, or of love, or of eros lies in the fact that the divine yearning (eros) ‘brings ecstasy so that the lover belongs not to self but to the beloved’ (The Divine Names, 4.13). This tendency, whether it is called good or agape or eros, does not merely urge the creature toward God, but also God towards the creature” (p239).

Again, this is a re-narration of Dionysios, and also Maximos, in a new modern elaboration. Love has not been so described in modernity: this is a dogmatic rhetoric of love, in the rubrics of the “neo-patristic synthesis”:

“In [the] reciprocal, total, and hence stable going out of the divine persons the possibility is given of their common movement towards persons creatures, while love is realized as the going out of each towards the other. God desires to reach the created person, or his union with him, not only through his ecstasy towards the person, but also through the person’s ecstasy towards him. Although the creature by its nature exists in God, because of its inadequate love it remains at a distance form him, and for this reason he empties himself by coming down to the creature and by accepting that the creature has its place at a certain distance from himself, and that to the overcoming of this distance the person should also make a willing contribution [i.e., of his own totality of his experience, his own world]. For in order to bring about a love with created being too, God brought into existence not only a world of objects, but also a world of subjects who exist before his face at a distance which they can make either smaller or larger.

“God’s wish is that the interval (diastasis) between himself and these persons be overcome not only through his movement, but also through their own free movement towards him” (p241).

Colligite quae superaverunt fragmenta ne perean.

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