Monday, 29 October 2012

Divergent rays

Nasa sun

The Gospel verse “In the beginning was the Word” has been going around in my head, ever since it dawned on me last weekend that it clearly points to something having preceded it. Thinking more about it made me revisit a text (actually, various fragments of it, since it has, as yet, not been published in full) where Chiara Lubich recounts her “intellectual visions” of Paradise that started in 1949. In particular, I wanted to re-read how she described Jesus, the Word:
“I found myself […], as in a vision seen with the eyes of the soul, having come into the Bosom of the Father, who showed me, as it were, the inside of a sun that was all gold or flames of gold, infinite, but not frightening.”

“[F]rom the walls inside the Sun, the Father pronounced the word: Love, and this Word, concentrated in the heart of the Father, was his Son.”
The picture here is very vivid and in many ways like those of St. Hildegard of Bingen’s visions. It transmits a very clear sense of what it may have seemed like to be there “in the beginning.” Reading on, Chiara also shares the following vision of creation:
“When God created, He created all things from nothing because He created them from Himself: from nothing signifies that they did not pre-exist because He alone pre-existed (but this way of speaking is inexact as in God there is no before and after). He drew them out from Himself because in creating them He died (of love), He died in love, He loved and therefore He created.

As the Word, who is the Idea of the Father, is God, analogously the ideas of things, that “ab aeterno” are in the word, are not abstract, but they are real: word within the Word.

The Father projects them — as with divergent rays — “outside Himself,” that is, in a different and new, created dimension, in which he gives to them “the Order that is Life and Love and Truth.” Therefore, in them there is the stamp of the Uncreated, of the Trinity.”
I find the above paragraphs particularly important since they indicate several key ways of thinking about how God and the universe are related:
  1. That God (the Trinity, the Uncreated) can be found in nature since it bears His “stamp,”

  2. that Jesus - the Word - is not only God who made himself present in the world as a human being 2000 years ago, but is the very means by which the Father goes “outside Himself” in His Creation,

  3. that creation is an act of self-noughting love, and

  4. that creation can be thought of as a new dimension of God.
This relationship is clearly not that of a “God of gaps,” cobbled-on caricature, but a tightly-interwoven, integral, first-person communion. Creation is to God as the rays of the sun are to the sun.

In fact, the picture of the sun and its divergent rays (and the use of “picture” is very deliberate, given what follows), is also very much consonant with Wittgenstein’s thoughts on how a system (the world) and its meaning relate:
“The sense of the world must lie outside the world. In the world everything is as it is and happens as it does happen. In it there is no value—and if there were, it would be of no value.

If there is a value which is of value, it must lie outside all happening and being-so. For all happening and being-so is accidental.

What makes it non-accidental cannot lie in the world, for otherwise this would again be accidental.

It must lie outside the world.” (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.41)
Where does this leave a Christian in terms of how science and revelation make sense of the world? I believe, James Clerk Maxwell put it very well: “I think Christians whose minds are scientific are bound to study science that their view of the glory of God may be as extensive as their being is capable.” It is with this mindset that Prof. John Lennox commented on the Higgs Boson discovery by saying “God created it, Higgs predicted it and Cern found it.” Instead of a conflict, the advances of science are as much a source of wonder and joy to a Christian as are the visions of those who seek God and to whom he makes himself known in entirely unscientific ways.