Ephesians 3:14-19 (my translation):
For this reason I bow my knee before the father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, in order that he might give to you according to the riches of his glory/divinity (doxes), empowering you to be strong through his spirit in the inside person (eso anthropon), Christ living in you (katoikeo) through faith in your hearts, being firmly rooted and firmly established in love (agape), in order that you might be able to fully understand with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, to know the surpassing knowledge (gnosis) of the love (agape) of Christ, in order that you might be filled to all the fullness of God.
In the previous post, I wrote down a few, brief exegetical notes on the above passage. In this post, I have a few summary observations.
The idea here in this passage of participating with God and sharing of the divinity is fascinating to me. I believe that God is essentially and most fundamentally mystery, because God "dwells in unapproachable light.” God transcends in mystery. However, the New Testament does not hesitate to open the possibility of humanity sharing in the divine nature. And, in fact, this is the heart of the Gospel. As Athanasius famously said, "God became man so that man might become God.” (On the Incarnation, 54:3) In the Gospel, the greatest gift that God gives is God's self.
This union with the divine is connected here with love. Through contemplation of love, one can begin to contemplate being “filled with all the fullness of God.”
I am also intrigued by Paul’s language of the “inside person.” Early in the prayer, Paul speaks of the existential awareness of ourselves. Divine union and divine love penetrate to the “inside person,” to the self. It is this self that can realize the “surpassing” knowledge of love (v. 19).
What does it mean to discover this divine union and love?
Personally I have no answer to this question. And perhaps there is no answer, per se. Perhaps the question of divine union and divine love is a question that takes a lifetime to unpackage and reflect on.....to contemplate and to live. The point of divine union and love, I think, is the direction in which it points us. It is interesting that when it comes to mystical issues of experiencing the fullness of divine union and divine love, it seems as though we are given the direction but not the map. We are pointed in way but not shown how to walk. The process of walking seems to be our gift: to discover for ourselves how to discover union with God and the surpassing knowledge of love.
I think, though, that grace must be most basic. Often we cannot embrace the divine or understand love because something in us does not believe we deserve the "fullness" of the divine. Or we build up internal defense mechanisms to cope in the grace-less-ness of the day-to-day world, and we reach a point where we close our hearts to grace, failing to open to the gift that God gives us of God's own self and of the vast dimensions of Her love.
Grace is that openness to receive the love and the divine, the openness to be "filled to all the fullness of God."
I also appreciate in these verses how Paul opens with a deep sense of inclusivism: the whole family of the cosmic universe derives its name from God. God's desire, as expressed in chapter 1 verse 10 of this same book of Ephesians, is to bring all together under Christ. Whether Paul truly believes in an eschatological universalism is certainly not clear, but what is clear is that universalism is the goal and ideal: that the Gospel is fundamentally about reconciliation and restoration.
A LOVE SUPREME
If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.
Monday, June 01, 2009
Ephesians 3:14-19 (my translation):