In our ancient, monolithic past, the heroes fought the gods or fulfilled olympic tasks to become divine, or to share divinity in some way. Remember the old epics of Hercules and Perseus, who wrested from the gods the apples of the Hesperides. If it couldn’t be given to them, they fought for it.
In the Garden of Eden, God forbade the doing of an explicit action. To disobey Him was to declare that a thing was greater than Him. In an act of cowardice and terror, our first parents – as Scott Hahn puts it in his Genesis exegesis – were terrified into sin and seized the ‘key’ to divinity. Unsatisfied with the demigods that they were, they tried to become gods on their own.
The Powers of a God
That’s the funny thing about God; He breathed life into dust, creating a version of His eternal essence inside a shell of perfected matter. He made Man in His own Image, a creature with a trinitarian sense of self, capable of intelligent choice and free will. These are the powers of a god.
He also hardwired disatisfaction into us, so that not even the universe could quench this thirst. The closest we can get to a temporary relief is another human being, but even then, making friends with another thirsty person doesn’t get you any closer to the spring.
And we know that. We have desired divinity with great desire, and projected our dreams into stories and myths, or lived it out with diabolic consequences in wars and eugenics and philosphical revolutions. In our modern day, the titans of our era are the Nietzches and Lenins, who sought their own salvation by making themselves god.
And yet, Nietzche himself wondered where he received the power to dethrone God, and sit himself on that high throne. He found it very lonely. And that very realization of solitude is the realization that we are not God, because God is a being perfectly sufficient in Himself.
The eastern tradition in the Church has retained in the popular understanding of ritual that we are to be ‘divinised’, that we are to continually share in the life of God. While we in the West also understand this, it isn’t as constant a concept. We often forget that Sacraments resume God’s life in us, plugging us back in to the electrical outlet that first fired us up.
So when God became Man, and then created a system of priests and popes to continue perpetuating and delegating His sacramental life among His and all peoples, He offered Himself to us. ‘Whoseoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood shall have eternal life’ (John 6:54). Only God has eternal life, therefore we will be like God – but on His terms, not ours.
But get this; He offers Himself on our altars for our sakes, every day in every Mass. We, the community of the faithful, participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass by uniting our intentions with those of the priest. As a community, Mankind holds God in his hands, divinity Itself, holds between our fingers the creative power that exploded something from nothingness.
This is the awful realization of the Christian; for the pagan, divinity is a thing to be acquired or achieved through transcendence. The Christian has learned that divinity isn’t a what, but a Who. And we’ve seen it too; He was a bright-eyed baby in Bethlehem, a young preacher and miracle worker, a fighter and a flayed victim who came back from the dead.
God in Our Hands
So now that we have divinity within our very grasp, what do we do with it? We give it back. We offer it up to God, asking Him to take it as a pleasing sacrifice for the remission of our sins, as an act of adoration, for universal thanksgiving and supplication for graces.
We actually give divinity back?
Who does this? To the ancient and modern mind, what kind of crazy loon spends his whole life waiting and wanting to be supremely powerful and happy, and then gives it away as soon as he gets his hands on it? That’s like Hercules finally completing an exhausing mission, and right as as he gets his fingers on it, he throws it away into the clouds. ‘Not my will, but thine be done’.
We don’t see any of this with the eyes of our bodies, but with the eyes of Faith. Our senses feel and see nothing, but our minds and hearts know it to be true, because Christ has told, he who cannot deceive nor be decieved. In the moment of consecration, a metaphysical maelstrom of angels and light and fire opens up over the altar, and the priest holds up the unbloody Sacrifice of the Eternal Lamb into the roiling eye of the Shekinah, where God the Father is pleased to receive Him.
We have looked at the divinity we cradle in our hands, and found that it looks back at us. And it, or rather He, doesn’t glare like Sauron, but smiles like Santa.
A Story of Kindness
This is the story of God and His plan; an eternal plan of giving. God gives us life and self, so that we can choose to give it back to Him. In reward, He gives us Himself, so that we can give Himself back to Him – an eternal sharing of goodness where giving and taking become a communion so immediate and interior that it seems to go still. But this is not the stillness of nothingness. This is the seeming stillness of the stars, burning so hard and fast that change is imperceptible.
We have done what is pleasing to the Almighty; not taken divinity as our First Parents did, in an act of fear and arrogance, nor battled for a ‘deserved’ seat at the right hand of the Allfather, through our own merits.
We have been humble enough to give Him back to Himself, the fiery cyclone of love at the heart of heaven, of which a tiny ember aches in our hearts.
And the reward for getting it right? Believe me… it’s out of this world.
Header image CC Fr Lawrence Lew | Flickr