O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
-- BCP, page 225
Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98;
1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17
1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17
The Collect of the Day asks for God to give us the kind of love towards God that we may love God "in all things and above all things." Loving God in all things and above all things -- that is the objective.
Charles Williams, a lay theologian and novelist who was close friends with C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Dorothy Sayers, looked at all creation as embodying something of God's nature. Our human understanding also, however dimly, partook of the divine light. He was not one to discard any thing or notion out of hand but rather took time to look for truth and beauty within them. This collect reminds me of Williams because he had a wonderful saying that can be a guiding post for us in our search for God and all things godly: This also is Thou; neither is this Thou.
This also is Thou: Creation itself is the first Scripture we meet. "The heavens declare the glory of God..." (Ps. 19:1). Nature is our first teacher -- our first awareness of a gorgeous full moon or the sound of the sea or the majesty of mountains -- in these and more the world gives us glimpses of God's glory. Everything created partakes of the heavenly DNA. We experience it when we behold beauty and are awed into silence. The material world discloses the spiritual reality of which it participates.
This also is Thou: Mother and Father's first embrace and kiss when we are born; being loved and affirmed, being provided for and kept safe. Experiencing goodness and compassion from anyone, perhaps even in unexpected places and from unknown persons; meeting people whose morals and ethics lift us up; hearing or reading poetry or experiencing all the arts-so many ways in which through other people we experience something of the One whose self-revelation is Love.
At the end of his letter to the Church in Philippi, St. Paul says: "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Phil. 4:8) Because This also is Thou.
Neither is this Thou: We do not worship creation but the Creator who is in all things but is never limited to all things. (If you care for the fancy words, our theism is of the panentheistic kind; we are not pantheists). We seek to love God in all things and above all things. Nothing -- not creation itself; not our noblest ideals; not our truest theology; not even our purest beliefs -- can contain God. Flee any religious community or persons who suffer from unassailable certainty in their convictions about what they claim to know. God cannot be put in a box. Any god who could be so contained is not worthy of our worship, allegiance, and obedience. Giving our ultimate commitment to anything other God as God -- who is beyond all our knowing and understanding -- is to fall into idolatry. Neither is this Thou.
This also is Thou; neither is this Thou. May we rejoice in the sacramental quality imbuing all things and all people. May we never mistake anything or anyone for the Divine reality to which they point and in which they participate.
Under the Mercy,