God cannot be approached as a problem to be solved, but only as a Mystery to be lived, as a Person to be loved. Any other approach to God is destined to remain far from him—at best perceiving his existence but not understanding his nature or the true breathtaking beauty of his own inner life, and at worst rejecting him altogether as incomprehensible and unable to “proven.” And yet this isn’t only true of our relation to God, but in fact of our relation to so much of life, to all the things that are deepest, most important, and most beautiful. For problems lie beneath us, to be solved by human ingenuity, to be worked out with effort and comprehension and skill. But mysteries surpass us, even as they enfold us, even as we find ourselves caught up into them and inextricable involved, from the very first moment. I cannot prove that my mother loves me, not with rational dialectic or the scientific method. But I have been involved with my mother from the first moment of my existence, and this begets a deeper certainty. She is a mystery in whom and from whom I have come. I cannot prove that the world is beautiful, that the interplay of sky and earth and sun and trees is beautiful, but I am immersed in it, and it speaks to me in a way that I cannot doubt or call into question without calling my very self into question.
If this is true for the mystery and meaning of creation, and above all of the human person, then this must be true of God himself. It must be true of the Gospel. Yes, we can have the same kind of certainty towards God—not only in his existence, but in his love—as I expressed above in the foundational experiences of our life. Indeed, we can have certainty in all the truth revealed to us in the Gospel, in the Person of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Spirit. There is, in fact, no greater certainty in the entire universe, for this is the revelation and experience of the foundational Reality that holds, permeates, and gives meaning to all things. This is what I hope to help communicate, to make tangible, as the most amazing gift for which our hearts long, in this book.
Yes, we cannot approach the realities of Christianity as problems to be solved, but only as a mystery in which to participate, a voice of Love speaking to us and inviting us into the vulnerability of loving relationship. For Christianity is a relationship: God’s relationship with us, in which it is no longer so much we who seek him out, but he who seeks us out, even to the point of taking our flesh as his own, and suffering and dying in it to be with us in our places of greatest darkness. Christianity is the mystery of a Person—of Christ, the incarnate Son of God—and indeed of three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who seek to incorporate all human persons into the everlasting joy of their own inner life of love.
Thus I invite you to approach this book as the expression of a mystery, and not as a dialectical exposition of a problem. It may read quite differently than most other books you have read, as it speaks more from the heart’s silent contemplation of the multitudinous rays of light that fill our world, and above all of the light that shone into our world in Jesus Christ. But this does not mean that this book is dishonest, or that it seeks to manipulate your mind or emotions. No, I have spoken in simplicity and vulnerability of my own heart’s deepest certainty, my own deepest joy and gladness, and I ask that you receive me in a similar way. Read with your mind and heart; ask questions; criticize and correct if you need to. Be honest, with yourself, with me, with God. Wherever you are, be there. All that is necessary is to ask, and to ask with desire. It is to ask the question of truth with an authentic desire to find it. Is what is contained in the pages of this book true, or not? And if it is true, what does this mean for my life, for the meaning of the universe and of human history itself?
Perhaps you will realize (or realize more deeply) that the truth you seek is not a concept to be known, but rather the mystery of a Person who deeply desires to find you.
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The simplest things are often times the very things that are most under attack, most easily lost under the surging currents of lies and depersonalization that are present and at work in our world, and in the Church itself, due to sin. And the Gospel is the simplest thing of all—the Gospel which is nothing but the revelation of God’s tender love for each one of his children, and the gift of his very self, in Christ and in the Spirit, to draw us back from our loneliness and sin into the joy of his own embrace. “God is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” (CCC, 221).
This book is meant to be a journey back to the heart of reality, the heart of the whole of human existence and of the universe itself. Isn’t that too much to attempt, too grand and magnificent a project to even begin? That would be the case if meaning and beauty and life were far away from us, in an inaccessible heaven divorced from the earth, or if we were so totally corrupt as to be utterly incapable of distinguishing good from evil, beauty from ugliness, truth from error. It would be the case if the gift of redemption was only for the chosen few, the elite, or if it was so complicated that only the most intelligent or educated could understand it. But Christ himself said the opposite. He came to open our eyes, to remove the scales of our blindness, to reveal the true and innate goodness of our being, to liberate it, and to make it new again with the touch of his own redeeming tenderness. Yes, and he rejoiced with a childlike happiness in the truth that this gift is for the little and the weak: “Though you, Father, have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to little children” (Mt 11:25).
Yes, life is indeed fraught with difficulties, with inexplicable sufferings and experiences of mysterious evil; it is beyond our ability to even begin to comprehend entirely. Yet God has not left us in the darkness, but has come as Light among us, to bring clarity and peace and simplicity to our hurting hearts, and to draw us back together again, from the multiplicity of fragmentation, into the harmony and simplicity of unity. He has come to us as a living human being, a man, in the Person of Jesus Christ—the only-begotten Son of the Father made present at the heart of the world and history—in order to make a marriage of God and humanity, of the divine and the whole created order, and to make the latter new within the tender embrace of the former. The incarnate Christ is, as the felicitous expression puts it, the “Verbum abbreviatum,” the abbreviated Word. He is God “made short” for us, God made simple and humble and little. He is God meeting us in our littleness.
And yet this littleness and humility of God is in fact not some magic trick, some temporary taking on of our vulnerability, some encounter with us in our nakedness, so that then he can transform this into greatness and majesty and power. Rather, the true greatness of God is the littleness and humility of love. His true power is the vulnerability of his gift of self and his tender acceptance of us into the depth of his own compassionate heart. His majesty is nothing, nothing but the radiant beauty of his own Being as Love: a Being that is lived, for all eternity, in the form of the sheer and gratuitous Intimacy of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The words of this book will seek, however imperfectly, to open up the path for us to draw nearer to the unspeakable beauty of our amazing God, to come to know, love, and experience the beauty and goodness of the Trinity, and to embrace our call to participate in his inner life of love. For this is the source and fulfillment of human existence, and its true blessedness: to be loved totally in the whole of my being by eternal Love, and to fall in love with him in response. This experience of mutual love heals and renews my being, and draws me into the ceaseless circulation of self-giving that passes eternally between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In this circulation of love, I am caught up right into the heart of the Trinity’s embrace, and there, also, find myself most deeply united with all of my brothers and sisters, and with the beauty and goodness of the whole creation.