–– Sito di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA –– Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa A missionary look on the life of the world and the church –– VIDA y MISIÓN – VIE et MISSION – VIDA e MISSÃO ––
When I first began teaching theology, I fantasized about writing a book about the hiddenness of God. Why does God remain hidden and invisible? Why doesn’t God just show himself plainly in a way that nobody can dispute?
One of the standard answers to that question was this: If God did manifest himself plainly there wouldn’t be any need for faith. But that begged the question: Who wants faith? Wouldn’t it be better to just plainly see God?
There were other answers to that question of course, except I didn’t know them or didn’t grasp them with enough depth for them to be meaningful. For example, one such answer taught that God is pure Spirit and that spirit cannot be perceived through our normal human senses, but that seemed too abstract to me. And so, I began to search for different answers, and it led me to the mystics, particularly to John of the Cross, and to spiritual writers such as Carlo Carretto.
They offer no simple answers but offer various perspectives that throw light on the ineffability of God, the mystery of faith, and the mystery of human knowing in general.
In essence, how we know as human beings and how we know God is deeply paradoxical, that is, the more deeply we know anything, the more that person or object begins to become less conceptually clear. One of the most famous mystics in history suggests that as we enter into deeper intimacy we concomitantly enter into a “cloud of unknowing”, namely, into a knowing so deep that it can no longer be conceptualized.
John of the Cross submits that the deeper we journey into intimacy, the more we will begin to understand by not understanding than by understanding. Our relationship to God works in the same way. Initially, when our intimacy is not so deep, we feel that we understand things and we have firm feelings and ideas about God. But the deeper we journey, the more those feelings and ideas will begin to feel false and empty because our growing intimacy is opening us to the fuller mystery of God. Paradoxically this feels like God is disappearing and becoming non-existent.
Faith, by definition, implies a paradoxical darkness, the closer we get to God in this life, the more God seems to disappear because overpowering light can seem like darkness.
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