Above Every Name
Day 1 of 5
“The simplicity of true faith assumes God to be that which God is, namely, incapable of being grasped by any term, or any idea, or any other device of our apprehension…. Having but one name that can represent God’s proper nature, the single name being ‘Above Every Name.’”
-St. Gregory of Nyssa
God is Mystery. The moment we speak a word about God we are already reducing God to our level of understanding. For this reason, it’s always been common for Christians to speak of God as the ineffable one. Augustine once said that “God transcends even the mind.” Aquinas made a similar claim when he said that “by its immensity, the divine substance surpasses every form that our intellect reaches.” Only those who have been humbled by this transcendent Mystery can truly begin to see the divine in the lives of those who do not share the same faith they do.
If God cannot be captured by words, then all religious language is necessarily symbolic and limited in its scope. Knowing the inherent limitation of language allows us to expand our notion of truth and who we believe is in possession of it. If God is Ultimate Truth, then Ultimate Truth is beyond anyone’s ability to fully capture and box-in.
That is not to say that there is no Absolute Truth, but that no one can ever possess this truth absolutely. All of us are just hinting at that which is far beyond our ability to fully comprehend. A God we can understand is just an idol we’ve created in our image. A God who is comprehensible is no God at all.
So, if our own particular language about God is limited, would it not be fair to say that the religious language of others can possibly complement and even enhance our own? If this is true, it makes much more sense for us to hold our beliefs with an open-hand instead of a closed-fist. The former way enables dialogue, the latter shuts it down. It should be obvious at this point that no one religion can ever claim to dominate the plan of God for the world, including our own. God has never been a Christian, and though we love our tradition, we must never confine God to it.
Entryway into silence:
“God, rid me of God.” - Meister Eckhart