Friday, October 5, 2012

Beyond Salvation: Becoming One with the Lord

I know we have spoken at length about this (although John Paul II took over 100 general audience talks and multiple documents to fully set out the teaching, which George Weigel famously called "a kind of theological time bomb set to go off with dramatic consequences, sometime in the third millennium of the Church," that is, as part of the New Evangelization (Witness to Hope, p. 343)), but before concluding our consideration of the kinds of relationship we ought to have with Jesus, certain questions arise with respect to this notion of a "spousal relationship" with the Lord:

Why? What's the purpose in that? And isn't the idea more than a bit disrespectful and arrogant, if not blasphemous, seeking to drag the Almighty God down to our low level rather than our getting on our knees and bowing down in worship as we should, not even daring to raise our eyes to look upon His majesty?

Let me answer these questions with another question: Why did God become man?

To save us, of course, to reconcile us to God following the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. The name Jesus (Joshua or Yeshua in Hebrew) means "God saves." Jesus is our Savior, but redemption and salvation are not the only reasons for God becoming man.

The Lord is also Emmanuel, God with us. It seems that He became man also because He loves us and wanted to join us to Him more fully for its own sake. In other words, we are all called to a spousal-type of relationship with the Lord. Each of us is called to be joined with the Bridegroom Emmanuel. This is not to drag God down into the gutter with us, but to raise us up out of the muck to the sanctity which He always intended for us.

Pope Benedict speaks of the Annunciation as a marriage proposal --
This scene is perhaps the pivotal moment in the history of God’s relationship with His people. During the Old Testament, God revealed Himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. It took time for the chosen people to develop their relationship with God. The Covenant with Israel was like a period of courtship, a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel’s message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said, Yes. (Angelus, World Youth Day 2008, 20 July 2008)
There is much to consider in the Pope's words here -- that Jesus wanted to "marry" humanity. God wanted to establish, not merely a parental relationship with us, but a spousal relationship as well, the fullness of love in a communion of persons that is by its nature both unitive and fruitful. In love, He wanted to join fully with humanity, not merely spiritually, which is only partially, but in the fullness of our being, spirit and body, two become one, wholly apart from the issue of salvation. (See also CCC 456 et seq.)

We have need of a savior, of course, because of mankind rejecting God. Early on, Adam and Eve, not satisfied with being mere creatures, ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge because they wanted to be like gods themselves. It was this Original Sin that ushered in death -- real death, not merely death of the physical body, but eternal death -- because the very nature of sin is to separate us from God, who is Life itself. Consequently, because He loves us, God sent us His only Son, Jesus Christ, who is the salvation of the world.

The irony of Adam and Eve sinning by wanting to be like gods (which ultimately is the root of every sin that we commit) is that it didn't have to be that way. It did not have to be a sin. The irony is that God Himself wants us to be like gods! (CCC 460)

As St. Athanasius wrote, "The Son of God became man so that we might become God." (De Incarnatione Verbi Dei 54, 3: PG 25, 192B) Likewise, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that He, made man, might make men gods." (Opusc. 57, 1-4)

The problem is that we (mankind) wanted and want to be gods on our own terms. We want to be gods by our own will, by our own doing. We want our divinity to be self-actualized, without the involvement of He who is already God.

God does want us to be "gods," but He wants us to be gods on His terms, He wants us to be gods by His doing. Not because He is a "jealous God" who can't bear to have competition, but because He is Truth. He is the One and only God, thus, only He can make us like "gods."

For us to be gods on our own, by our own doing (or for us to be our own saviors, to attain salvation all by our own merits) would not be consistent with truth, it would be a lie, it would be contrary to the very idea of God. No, to be true, man can become gods only by the action of the God who is Truth.

We can become gods only by God joining us to Himself, by Him taking us unto Himself in the entirety of our being -- our soul joined to His Spirit, our body joined to His Body -- so that we are in Him and He is in us to such a degree that we truly are a loving communion of persons, no longer separate and apart, but two become one, not merely in a symbolic or poetic sense, but in a very real, authentic and true sense. In other words, since the word "marry" means to combine or join two things together so as to become one, we can become gods only by being so in and through Him, by God "marrying" us to Himself, by our having a "spousal" relationship with the Lord.

This is the eschatological destiny of the faithful. (Rev 19:7-9, 21; Eph 5:31-32) "Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ." (CCC 1026) Beyond salvation is sanctification, being made pure and holy so that we might be perfectly incorporated into the Lord, joined as one with He who is pure and holy Love and Truth and Life.

"Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect," Jesus said. Only God is perfect, but by joining fully in communion with Him, in allowing ourselves to be truly sanctified by the Spirit of Sanctification, one with Him, we can be made perfect as commanded by Jesus. The Lord does not demand the impossible of us, He makes the "impossible" possible. He makes us imperfect humans perfect -- the Bridegroom and only the Bridegroom, by joining us to Him, makes us like gods.

This is the ultimate eternal relationship with the Lord that we are called to, a relationship whereby
"totality embraces us and we embrace totality . . . It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time — the before and after — no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy." (Spe Salvi 12)

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