Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Growing Eyes 

                          That Thou are nowhere to be found, agree 
                          Wise men, whose eyes are but for surfaces… 

—George MacDonald

Theologians tell us that God is transcendent: existing beyond the range of human perception. But, as they also say, he is immanent: in all things and existing everywhere at the same time. (A remote analogy would be the world’s oceans existing “in” a sunken ship and yet surrounding it.)

That’s cold comfort to me, however, unless I understand God’s immanence to mean that he is everywhere present in and around me, with me wherever I go and involved in all that I do. He is present in the quiet place in which I now write, or in the next difficult and dangerous occasion I face, be it a fractious board meeting, or a firing squad.

Read the story of Elisha at Dothan, how the Syrian army gathered at night to kill him. His servant, awakening, looked over the wall and cried out in panic, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?”

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet replied calmly—then prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes that he may see.”

The Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw God, and a gazillion angels,[1] guarding the city and protecting Elisha and his servant from harm. Then Elisha said, “See? There are more of us than there are of them.”  
As Yogi Berra said: “You can observe a lot by seeing.”


[1] Aquinas comments on this verse: “God fills (heaven and earth), not like a body fills a place... When God is in a place, others are not excluded from it” (Summa I, 8.3). Aquinas’ point is that while two material bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time, spirits can be co–present with matter. This may be the origin of the famous question, “How many angels (spiritual beings) can dance on the head of a pin (a small space)?” It’s actually a very good question though often used to mock medieval philosophers. The answer? An infinite number of angels inhabit your small place.

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