Repost from 2013
I must share this ridiculously marvelous reflection Pope Francis gave Wednesday on the topic of the “communion of saints.” Then I will add a few thoughts of my own.
John’s Gospel states that, before his Passion, Jesus prayed to the Father for communion among his disciples, with these words: “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (17:21). The Church, in her most profound truth, is communion with God, intimacy with God, a communion of love with Christ and with the Father in the Holy Spirit, which extends to brotherly communion. This relationship between Jesus and the Father is the “matrix” of the bond between us Christians: if we are intimately part of this “matrix”, this fiery furnace of love, then we can truly become of one single heart and one single soul among us. For God’s love burns away our selfishness, our prejudices, our interior and exterior divisions. The love of God even burns away our sins. If we are rooted in the source of Love, which is God, then a reciprocal movement also occurs: from brothers to God.
What an image. Wow.
He’s saying: Real, authentic, lasting Christian unity can only be had if Christians become saints who freely abide in the relational “matrix” of “fiery love” that burns between the Father and the Son. Saints, by definition, are caught up in the mysterious structure of God’s inner life which includes — as we say in the Nicene Creed — the divine acts of eternally begetting, being begotten, born and proceeding. These inconceivably energetic verbs, taken from the Scriptures (see here), describe the interrelationship of each divine Person to the other Persons. All three Persons, though eternally distinct, are consubstantial, which means that each is wholly whatever-it-means-to-be-God. The essence of divine substance is charity, which is wholly other-centered and self-giving.
Being made in the image of God, we are stamped with that substance in our inmost depths. How awesome is that?
This language about who God is in his deepest essence is not simply invented by human speculation or ingenuity, but was revealed to us by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. As my dogmatics professor used to say it, “Only God can speak of God.” It’s mystery-laden language, which means that, though true, the Reality signified by the words always super-exceeds the capacity of faith’s language. In this sense, our Trinitarian creed is like the Niagara River that incessantly exceeds three rocky precipices: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
Kindly step back and prayerfully consider with me for a moment this: God became man so that man, re-created in Baptism, might possess fully the joy of immortal entry into God’s volcanic dynamism. When you profess the Creed and say “I believe” from the heart, you find yourself plunged into a God who is not a static and immobile noun, but an over-boiling verb, infinitely dynamic and powerfully alive. Maybe it would be more fitting to say, “I believe into one God…” Just imagine what is going on in God at this very moment:
I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
with the Father
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son…
Let’s allow music to give us wings to soar into this Mystery a bit through this sung version of the Creed in its Eastern form. Feel the dynamism alive:
Mind blowing. I dare not speak so intimately and familairly of this Mystery far from the celebration of the Liturgy, as there alone do finite words dare command God to be thus for us and for our salvation.
It’s really not about us at all. Rather, it’s about God-for-us, God-with-us. St. Catherine comes to our aid:
O eternal and infinite Good, O extravagance of love! You need your creature? Yes, it seems to me; because you behave as if you could not live without it, although you are life and all things receive life from you, and without you nothing lives. You fell in love with your own workmanship and delighted in it as if enraptured with its well-being; it flees you and you go searching for it; it goes away from you and you draw near; you could not have come any nearer than in assuming its very humanity.
In the end, ecclesial unity is not build on 5 year strategic plans, elaborate dialogues or problem-solving ingenuity. It’s something we freely receive and enter into. We didn’t invent unity, it pre-exists creation in God. Ecclesial unity means consenting to be a God-drenched saint, saturated by the matrix of charity which beats in the Heart of God.
Well, what are you waiting for?