29 June 2007

Living in God

From the English translation of M.-D. Chenu’s Aquinas and His Role in Theology we find this absolutely beautiful description of our relationship to God:

“When God’s mercy and friendship are revealed to us as the real abundance of sheer generosity that they are, we are overwhelmed: our religious feeling reaches a high point, and we can only respond with the gift of our heart. The more God is revealed to us in a communion of life, the more this feeling of God’s being “totally other” grows. We become vividly conscious of the disproportion between Creator and creature in the very midst of an experience of unity. Even the most childlike trust carries with it a rush of emotion at being so greatly loved. But the point is this, that religion in it exterior worship and its interior oblation is dilated and as it were straightway transported onto another plane (without putting our indebtedness to God out of the picture). It becomes no longer a question of living for God, but of living in God—or better, living a divine life. No more is the issue how properly to relate to God (which always remains a fact of life, of course), but how to commune with God”(38).

I read this book for a class in seminary some five years ago. At the time, I remember thinking that it was extremely mushy theologically and probably dangerous spiritually. Chenu’s take on Aquinas’ teachings on grace made a bit queasy b/c Chenu seemed to want to downplay the efficacious nature of the sacraments in imparting divine favor. Reading this book again, I can see how wrong I was AND—most astonishing for me—how much Chenu (in this book anyway) has deeply influenced my own preaching about grace, faith, and our final end in God, divinization.

I highly recommend the book for those who know enough about Thomism not to get lost in the terminology but who still want something challenging, something to make them reach a little beyond the ordinary in Aquinas studies.

The English text is translated from the French by my Dominican brother, Fr. Paul Philibert, OP

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