Well, I continue to learn (or at least have my point of view challenged) by reading from and about the saints.  I have always thought (or at least I have thought for as long as I can remember) that what we mean by “God” and what we mean by “human” are really mutually exclusive ideas (and that, frankly, Jesus being both at one and the same time was a real mystery — though I believe he was.  My best sense of how this could be true being that somehow in his openness/obedience to God, God lived in him in his humanity.)  And what I think most of us mean when we use these words would, I believe, exclude the other.

William Porcher DuBose (“probably the most original and creative thinker the American Episcopal Church has ever produced”) approaches the question differently.  What caught my attention (in an excerpt from “The Faith of a Christian Today” from DuBose found in Celebrating the Saints:  Devotional Readings for Saints’ Days, compiled by Robert Atwell and Christopher L. Webber) were the words “God and man are not mutually exclusive but mutually inclusive.”  I was prepared to take issue.

But he says God and man “are most each and both when they are one.  The Church … insisted upon seeing in [Jesus] primarily and causally God in man, and only secondarily and by consequence man in God.  … [in St. John, Saint Paul, and the Epistle to the Hebrews] not one of these refers to the physical features or incidents or explanations of his human genesis or generation.  They describe him as having been eternally God’s foreknowledge or thought, fore purpose or will of man; as having become in time God’s not only revelation or manifestation, but actual accomplishment and fulfillment of mans destiny through the sole process of self-realization in him.  We see ourselves now in the mind of God, in the act of God, and in the end or aim of God, and by entering into and uniting ourselves with the divine process as seen in Christ, we attain our own and our only self-realization in eternity.”

Not sure I agree.  Not sure I’ve processed his thought anything like completely.

But it seems to me that he is suggesting, for us, some kind of unity with God “by entering into and uniting ourselves with the divine process as seen in Christ.”  So we are talking a mystical union (not unlike the openness/obedience to God I posited for Jesus in his humanity, or for that matter, not unlike what I hear mystics of many religions saying about union with God) with the divine process as seen in Jesus.  We’re leaving the theological/philosophical question of the meaning of words behind.  We’re working on a different level.

It’s a shift in perspective, basically compatible with where I’ve been coming from, which may well work for me and deepen my own understanding and faith.  (Yes, faith is more foundational.  But for me, faith only works when it is accompanied with at least some sense of understanding.  Otherwise, for me, it would be make believe — not something to stake your life on.)

I have more baggage with Bernard (Abbot of Clairvaux) who really was in many ways very admirable.  He was an ardent critic of Peter Abelard, he preached the Crusade against the Albigensians and the Second Crusade to liberate Jerusalem.  I have problems with this (which probably says more about me than him) in spite of all the truly wonderful things he did (including founding the Cistercian branch of the Benedictines).

But (in an excerpt form “the treatise “On the Love of God,” by Bernard, again, in Celebrating the Saints) he wrote:  “God deserves all our love … because God was the first to love.  … our love … we render … in payment of a debt.  God … simply loves.”

Again, I have some problem with the idea of love as a debt — it seems to me that love must be freely given to be love.  Johanine writings precede him in talking about our being able to love because God first loved us.  But the idea that God simply loves (and that our love is somehow dependent upon first being loved) is wonderfully phrased.  And he goes on to say, recognizing the limitations of all human love, “I will love you … to the best of my ability.”  I like this.  He developed his thought:  “the reason, then, for our loving God is God.  He is the initiator of our love and its final goal.  He is himself the occasion of human love; he gives us the power to love.  … He desires that our love for him should bring us happiness, and not be arid and barren.  … He offers himself as refreshment to our souls.”

On the whole, I think he really got this right.