Joel Sumner Smith

Product Manager @Gatsby focused on developer experience.
Analogical thinker in an analytical world.

Letters

New wine in old wineskins

No two created beings are exactly alike. And their individuality is no imperfection. On the contrary, the perfection of each created thing is not merely in its conformity to an abstract type but in its own individual identity within itself. This particular tree will give glory to God by spreading out its roots in the earth and raising its branches into the air and the light in a way that no other tree before or after it ever did or will do.

Thomas Merton New Seeds of Contemplation p. 29

The love of God is intangible. I have never touched it. I don’t suppose that anyone has ever touched or ostensibly pointed to a thing called love, for it is no thing at all. If it is, if we for whatever reason must call it a thing, it is a special kind of thing. The truth is, we cannot quite say what the love of God is even though we talk of it and sing of it quite regularly. It is something like God himself, I suppose. I turn to St. John for a particular example of this nexus (and thus provide a theme rather than an argument for this small essay.)  From the proem to his gospel:

θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἐώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκενεῖνος  ἐξηγήσατο.

  

No one has ever seen God; the unique God, the one who is in the fold of his father’s cloak, that one revealed himself.

And I find this same pattern of thought in his epistle, though strangely altered:

θεὸν οὐδεὶς πώποτε τεθέαται. ἐὰν ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν μένει καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ ἐν ἠμῖν τετελειωμένη ἐστιν.

No one has ever seen God for himself. If we love each other, God remains (dwells?) among us and his love is having been brought to completion in us.

The love for each other which we cultivate to action is the very presence of God, a grand likeness of the Incarnation. Yet, though this love has a likeness or form, it is always particular, always a tree rooted in the ground, branches pointed to the sky, praising and thanking God in its particular nature and existence. Our natures are an aggregation of particular instances, as Peter Kreeft wrote:

I am not a little ego imprisoned in a bag of skin; I am as big as my love. By my love I construct a self that is stronger than death.

Love is Stronger than Death p. 42

© 2020, Joel Sumner Smith