Writing is what I do- have always done, to figure out what I think and believe. Consequently, I write frequently about God. This most mysterious, mystical Being who begs his creatures to love him.
Paradox has seemed to fit for one of His names, it is everywhere...if we look. Of late, however, I think symmetry is better - with it though, we need to qualify this concept of conformity with awful and awesome. I do so hesitatingly because our vernacular currently treats everything as awesome - a new book, movie or cup of coffee, right? And yet there is no other word to covey ‘an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime,’ (as Merriam Webster defines it) is there? Okay, awe is understood and easily, but symmetrical?
• Consider the Tree of Good and Evil in the Garden - the only thing expressly forbidden to Adam and Eve in paradise. And then the Cross Our Lord chose to die on...the cross was fashioned out of wood, metaphorically, a tree.
• And the woman: Eve, intended as the mother of all the living, instead was the author of death for each of her descendants. And then the woman, Mary, in truth, the mother of Life.
• And the man, Adam, created in the image and likeness of God, walking with Him in the ‘breezy time of the day’ each afternoon in the Garden. Until shame and blame entered paradise: Where are you? He asked...could all have been saved if either Adam or Eve had owned their sin rather than blaming the other?
• Finally, the son of Man, Jesus (he who saves) empties himself to become a slave - like us:
Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus... every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Can St. Paul’s Hymn be read with any other emotion than variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime?
Of course not. Likewise, can the symmetry of the tree, the woman and the man be missed?
But God does not end it there, does He? No, this author of some of the most profoundly mystical teachings in Christianity was born a Jew, not just any Jew but one who kept all 613 commandments so zealously that murdering Christians was not only acceptable, but righteous, to this most zealous of Pharisees. In the recent Acts of the Apostles reading, Luke writes that Saul,
...still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascas, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, al ight from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?
Saul, meaning great one, becomes Paul, meaning little one, as he lies in the dust, blind and yet seeing more truth than he could ever have envisoned in his view of his God.
Paradox and symmetry are just two of the countless attributes of this God of ours, this God whose thoughts are not our thoughts and whose ways are not our ways.