Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Contemplating Eternity

Today liturgically is the celebration of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church. In his work, Moralia in Iob he reflects on the very deep wounds caused by the fall of man from grace which resulted in banishment "from the joys of paradise," the loss of "the light of the invisible" as the human soul "poured itself out entirely in the love of the visible, and was darkened to interior contemplation." These wounds, as Saint Gregory tells us are a "deformity" of the soul. 

The human body continuously beholds the things it can detect with the natural senses; and the Great Doctor writes that the body "is now no longer able to erect itself to things on High; it willingly lies prostrate in its weakness in things below." But with "marvelous efforts" the soul can "rise up from material things" and "prepare a pathway to contemplate the substance of Eternity." 

When entering into this area of "unaccustomed ground" that is the "Essence of the Divine" which is intimated in Sacred Scripture: "There stood one whose countenance I knew not" (Job 4:16). Saint Gregory continues: "Every created thing, in that it is made out of nothing, and of itself tends to nothing, has not the property to stand, but to run to an end. But a creature endowed with reason, by this very circumstance, that it is created after the image of its Creator, is fixed that it should not pass into nothing. No irrational creature is ever fixed, but only, so long as, by the service of its appearing, is completing the form and fashion of the universe, it is delayed in passing away. For though heaven and earth abide now and forever, still they are at this present time of themselves hastening on to nothing, yet for the use of those, whom they serve, until they are renewed and recreated in a better state."

Why did Jesus come to us? Saint Gregory explains: "Our Savior, because of the fixed state of His Divine Nature could not be comprehended by the human mind, He showed this to us as it were in passing, by coming to us, by being created, born, died, buried, by rising again, and returning to the heavenly realms. This is well-expressed in the Gospel by the enlightening of the blind man. The Lord heard him screaming as He was passing, but he recovered when He stopped. Jesus passes as a man, but stops according to His Divine Nature which is everywhere. The Gospel states that Jesus, in passing, heard the cries of our blindness, because as a man He has compassion on our misery. But when He stops, He gives sight to the blind, because through His unchanging divinity, He illuminates the darkness of our infirmities. It is well then that, after it has been said: 'Then a spirit passed before my face but I could not discern the form thereof'" (Job 4:15-16).