Friday, July 23, 2010

The Hunger and Thirst in the Human Heart for Union with God: Part II

(This is a continuation of Hunger and Thirst for Union with God. If you have not read the first article, I recommend that you read it and then continue with Part II,)

The great spiritual leaders of the past have always taught that God in fact nurtures our growth in capacity and potential for a passionate intimate relationship with God. My own experience of spiritual development finds its closest description in the understanding of spiritual growth in the writings of the Greek father, Gregory of Nyssa. Gregory describes beautifully the step by step nature of spiritual growth. He says that God always waits on our freedom. Our first serious Yes! to God enables divine love to begin to act within us. Our most basic way of saying Yes! to God is by placing an action of gratitude and love into the universe. Our inner space - as a result of that yes - is ready to receive something of God, As John put it so succinctly in his first epistle: God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God abides in him...There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1 John 3: 16-18).

God fills that space created by our action of love as fully as we are able to accept. At the same time, this filling enlarges the space, and we long for more. Thus the lover of God is always filled to her or his capacity, and always longs for more of God. Yet the longing does not bring frustration because there is a fullness.

According to Gregory, this process goes on beyond our transition through death into eternity because God is infinite and we are always a finite capacity open to further growth in our identity with an infinite God. For all eternity, by our actions of love, we continue to grow in union with God who is infinite and, therefore, can never be exhausted. This is why God did not promise us a "visio beatificans", a static gazing on the divine essence but a "vita beatificans", a dynamic growing process through actions of love into an ever deeper and fuller union with divine life.

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