Monday, 4 September 2017
The Father and the Son
A theological reflection written on the occasion of Father's Day (Australia).
The Gospel’s present a simple and pervasive truth. Jesus profoundly loved His Father. In fact, the verbal accounts of Jesus are really nothing other than Him speaking about His Father. It’s all He talks about, for the Father is the subject-matter of His message and the Father’s will is the food of Jesus’ earthly existence. It’s the reason Jesus became man—to lead all humanity in its exodus from estrangement from the Father in heaven, into the Promised Land of His Father’s beatific embrace. The Father sends the Son into the world, and the Son returns with His disciples who He has made His friends. In short, everything about Jesus points to the Father.
Then there’s the Father. The few times the Father speaks in the Gospels, every single instance is in referral to His Son, Jesus. At the baptism and transfiguration: “This is my Beloved Son, listen to Him!” Even in referral to glorifying His own name (Jn 12:28) it’s in the context of occurring through the Son’s death and resurrection—for the Son’s glorification is the Father’s. Never mind the Old Testament, in which the Father is traditionally understood to be the principal divine person in-the-fore. As a result, what is the Old Testament about above all else? The Son. It is a collection of works foreshadowing and foretelling Jesus the Son of God as the Messiah.
It’s a mysterious thing. God is Father. God is Son. God is Holy Spirit. One God in three distinct divine persons. Among the closest analogy to which analogies can get, though falling severely short, is water, steam, ice: three forms (liquid, gas, solid) of the one substance, water.
But God isn’t simply a father, but the Father. Nor is God simply a son, but the Son. The definite article “the” speaks volumes about God.
For as Father, God is the highest, most supreme, most gentle, most fatherly of all fathers. The ideal father, at once encompassing every ideal conception of father and infinitely beyond every such conception. All other forms of fatherhood, temporal and spiritual, fall short as mere silhouettes of the Father.
As Son, God is Son above all other sons. For there have been many sons beget by many fathers throughout the ages, who in their father’s eyes were estimated with innocence, hope, “a chip off the old block,” and in the sense of the idealisations of children in general: purity, sincerity, vulnerability and laughter. Childhood is deemed a sacred thing, and even the most perfect child and the most idealic childhood that can be imagined, simply point beyond to He who is Son beyond all sons, child beyond all childes. No son is innocent like the Son, who is Innocence Itself. No son is “a chip off the old block”, formed in the image of his father like the Son, who is the Image of His Father.
The Father loves the Son. The Son loves the Father. Their mutual-love is so great, it is divine, and eternally proceeds from a shared and single Will: from the Father as Unbegotten-Generator, and Son as the Begotten. The Third-Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is indeed the mutual-love between the Father and the Son. For the Holy Spirit is the Father’s love for the Son; and the Holy Spirit is the Son’s love for the Father.
The most noble and exalted love that can exist between a human father and his human son can arrive at being no more than a separate and distinctly held, though mutually shared, habitually established act of the will for the good of the other. Yet the love between the Father and the Son is not held separate, but in Their One Single Substance, mutually possessed as not an act apart from Their Will, but as the distinct Third Person of Their Community, Their Heavenly Family, in Their very one-same Will common to all Three.
All created reality finds its origins in the mystery of the Trinity. The quintessential mystery underpinning all things, pervading all things, pulsating in all things, calling and beckoning all things: back to the Father the Maker of all things; through the Son, through whom all things were made; and by the Holy Spirit, by whom all things were made.
The human soul, unfettered of sin and given flight by prayer, cannot help but propel itself, be totally and utterly seduced by the loving movement of the Holy Spirit at work within the depths of the heart. That Loving Vortex who draws her to Jesus Christ, the Son of sons, all towards the Father, our Father in heaven, to know and love this Father as fellow sons, as fellow children, in the Son. Sharing in knowing and loving this Father, with the very knowing and loving of the Son. The very knowing and loving who is the Holy Spirit.
Words alone fail miserably, but the mystery is brought alive through faith and desire. To the one who asks, it is given. To the one who knocks, it is opened. To the one who seeks, it is found.
Human love is beautiful, and its natural scene in the family, with the institution of marriage as its foundation, is vital and must not be dismissed as trivial, nor cheapened by a novel sentimentalism divorced from anthropological continuity. Yet what is temporal and finite is nothing compared to the eternal and infinite, which does not denigrate the former, but builds gracefully atop and transcends it: the very reason why the Church as the custodian of the Trinitarian Mystery is the champion of the family. For nothing can compare to sharing in the communion of love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The heart is restless until it rests therein. The soul is thirsty until it drinks thereof. And the depths of a man are haunted with an aching emptiness until he comes to eat and be sated therefrom.