Awe and Richard Rohr

August, 2010

Last night I was listening to Richard Rohr address a group at Soularize 2007.   He was talking about Aquinas and the idea of co-natural knowledge and like seeking like in human experience.  Good people see good in people.  Kind people see kindness. Hateful people see only through the prism of their hate.  So it is with our experience of God: “The divine image in us,” Rohr said, “sees the divine image over there. God in us sees God, God in us loves God.  There’s a part of you that’s always said ‘yes’ to God.”

Karl Barth said that the Holy Spirit is the recipient in us of God’s own self-revelation.  For Barth, God is the author (Father) of God’s self-communication to humanity, and because God only communicates God’s full and true self to us, this communication is also God’s full self (Son/Logos): the content of God’s self-revelation is God.  In Barth’s understanding, the Holy Spirit then is God receiving God’s self-communication (which is also God) in us.

I like both of these related ways of thinking, but there is, of course, something more self-consciously contemplative about Rohr’s application.  For Barth, God’s self-communication seems basically initiated by God the Author, and though I doubt Rohr would disagree, he seems naturally more interested in the ways God encounters God’s own creative works in us.  For Barth, we are receivers, and for Rohr, I think, we are detectors, maybe Geiger counters.

This morning, as I walked my dog in the first cool August morning teasing Pennsylvania with the rituals of fall, I considered what it is about nature that is so awe-inspiring. What is it about any beautiful thing? Perhaps awe is God in us encountering and recognizing God’s own creation in the world?  If so, we are sorts of conduits, not just the hands and feet of God, but in a very real sense also God’s eyes and ears, God’s experiential interface.  You might say we are blessed in this way to be a part of God’s own communication with God’s self.  We are part of God’s ongoing internal conversation.  What else could communion with God mean?  Why seek anything less?

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