Flores for the Immaculate Conception (finite / infinite / analogy edition)

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In the backyard of the rectory it seems that there are tens of trillions of these flowers bursting through the daily frost, manufacturing zillions of seeds for even more – uncountable? infinitely so? – flowers. And hey, this is just the tiny backyard.

Whatever our concept of infinite is, it is a concept limited by our pea brains, my pea brain, your pea brain. We are finite. God is infinite. We cannot fully understand God, comprehend Him. But that doesn’t mean it’s all useless, that we should just give up.

We need a bit of humility before God, who is infinite even while we are finite. There is mystery, the Sacred Mysteries. These are not the mysteries of Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edward Stratemeyer, at the end of which we say, “Aha!” having figured it all out. No, this is about mysteriousness in the most enthralling way, where we never fully comprehend by way of our brains, our knowledge, the mere result of our weak epistemological processes just who God is. Here’s what Saint Paul does with this:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Note his reverence before the Sacred Mysteries: he is kneeling. This is personal. Not mere brain work. He speaks of love surpassing knowledge. I wish people would just take a breath and calm down and try to take that in. This is consonant with another exclamation of his:

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

“Face to face” is personal, involving love. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be right in speaking about God. But we do this according to our own means of doing so with our little pea brains, that is, by way of glorious analogy. Jesus used analogy all the time: What is the Kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it? And on He goes with the parables. It is like… And that’s O.K. That’s the way we are created. There is nothing wrong with that. That’s for now. It will be different in heaven. We will see God directly… no need for the analogy thing… beyond such “knowledge”… immersed in love. God is love. Wonderful. Infinite. Not limited to our pea brains, our mere reckoning, our calculation, our control. That’s great. God is who He is whatever we would otherwise have to say about it, and He draws us to Himself.

shepherd boyThis should leave us in humble thanksgiving, the finite before the infinite. And it’s fun to use analogies to remind us of God’s infinite love for us, like giving one of gazillion-illion flowers to the Immaculate Conception by way of Jesus as a sign of filial love. By the way, whenever I insist on our finiteness, you know, the ole pea brain thing, sharply emphasizing our lack of capacity to take in all that which is, who is infinite, I always include myself and use myself as an example. Always. But even a donkey priest can give a flower to the Immaculate Conception, through Jesus, of course.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Flores for the Immaculate Conception (finite / infinite / analogy edition)

  1. pelerin

    I so agree that kneeling is what one feels one needs to do in front of the Almighty. This weekend I attended Mass in a very new church which had no kneelers whatsoever. I noticed that several of the congregation felt the need to get down and kneel on the floor during the Consecration, which sadly is now beyond my capabilities. The rest remained standing.

    There was a good point though – the last hymn was my second favourite French Marian hymn ‘Chez nous soyez Reine’ the first being the Lourdes hymn! the Mass was part of a Novena of Masses leading up to the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes to whom the church is dedicated. And next Saturday in spite of the heightened tension in France they are having a candlelit procession in the street. Pity I’m now back home!

  2. elizdelphi

    I will kneel during the consecration even if situated behind standing people. I never use a kneeler anyway but kneel on the floor (I am blessed to be physically able), a young priest who had been my spiritual director always did that and I imitated him and have ever since. At one of the 2 churches I attend, which is for university students, they are rebuilding their building on the same site and in the mean time Mass is at a Lutheran church that does not have kneelers. All the Catholics kneel on the hardwood floor, no doubt by anyone that that is the thing to do. But, again, these are all young people!

    This is an excellent article, about which I did not have particular thoughts to add. What can you say about what surpasses knowledge? Although, I am well aware a lot can be said; one of the lines from St Augustine’s Confessions that most stuck in my head was something like “My God, what is this that I say? What can any man say when he speaks of Thee? Yet let no one keep silent, since even those who say the most are like the dumb.”

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