"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Sunday, March 11, 2007

"This is my name forever..."

Moses said to God, “But when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?” God replied, “I am who am.” Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” (Exodus 3: 13-15)

Amid the torrent of human words in which we are ever immersed, it is easy to forget that God is the only true theologian. We are but thick-headed students; and our learning will go on forever even when, if our choices have permitted it, we behold his face in patria and are thus divinized by partaking of the Trinity's life. Our knowledge is and always will be relative and limited; his is absolute and infinite. The Son of God who saved us is the Word of God spoken eternally by the Father, and thus is divine in virtue of being the perfect expression of the primordial, unoriginate divine. The Name of God revealed to Moses in the burning bush, known as the Tetragrammaton (Hebrew: אהיה אשר אהיה, pronounced Ehyeh asher ehyeh), is an explosively economical expression of both who God is in himself and his grace toward his people. It means that God is Being Itself, the source of all beings, and that his presence to us abides eternally. Hearing that Name, Moses was luckier than those of us who have studied academic theology. Fortunately, he was also humbler than most who teach it.

Even so, he and his people were not spared tuition. They complained bitterly in the desert despite all that had been revealed to them and done for them. I do that too. I am in the desert and, when I neglect prayer and love, complain bitterly to God. Sometimes, I am sorry to say, it can reach the point of blasphemy. In my better moments I pray, among other things, that such an attitude will not raise my tuition even further. It helps to contemplate the Name that good Jews will not utter, inclining instead to refer to God as Hashem, "the Name". Contemplating that name, I realize that my goal awaits eternally and patiently, drawing me ever to himself despite myself. My prayer this Lent is to be in the right frame of mind when I see him face to face. I'm not holy enough to shine now with the Fire that does not consume; but there's still time to get out of my own way long enough to receive that gift eternally.

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