The Love That Upholds the Universe

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Seven hundred years ago, Dante Alighieri would end his Divine Comedy with the claim that it is “Love that moves the sun and the other stars.”[1]  Our modern age would dismissively quip, “That sounds lovely, but since the time of Newton, we’ve been enlightened to the fact that it’s just gravity that governs the motions of objects in space.”  Indeed, we would knowingly remark that even love has been ‘discovered’ to be an evolutionarily derived biological survival mechanism.  Dante’s statement is rendered meaningless; it’s merely the nonsensical babble of a pre-scientific era.  We are so clever today, aren’t we?

Such reductions fail to detect that perhaps Dante was not merely waxing eloquent.  While the scientific laws may describe some aspects of the motions of planets or the feelings we experience, do they explain these realities completely?  Perhaps the scientific laws themselves are merely a dim reflection of some greater principle at work in our universe – a principle that holds together the universe by some unseen activity; a principle that is profoundly relational.

In the Trinitarian conception of God, the Creator Himself is a society.  C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity that Christians “believe that the living, dynamic activity of love has been going on in God forever and has created everything else.”[2]

He notes “The words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love.”[3]

When we talk of God in Christianity, we are not referring to an inert, impersonal idea, or even a single remotely divine Person.  Lewis notes that Christianity’s God is more like “a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama” and even “a kind of dance.”[4] Lewis writes:

“The union between the Father and the Son is such a live concrete thing that this union itself is also a Person … What grows out of the joint life of the Father and Son is a real Person, is, in fact, the Third of the three Persons who are God.”[5]

G.K. Chesterton noted that “… God Himself is a society. It is indeed a fathomless mystery of theology, and even if I were theologian enough to deal with it directly, it would not be relevant to do so here. Suffice it to say here that this triple enigma is as comforting as wine and open as an English fireside; that this thing that bewilders the intellect utterly quiets the heart.”[6]

Eternal Love brought the universe into being, sustaining and governing its motions at every scale of existence, from the movements of gigantesque galaxies to attractions between atoms.  The images from deep space humble us with their magnificent grandeur and beauty.  The sheer magnitude reveals God’s vastness and how different He is from us.  Even for us Christians, this brings on a sort of existential angst, doesn’t it?  We are crushed by the weight of such glory.

We cower before such magnificence, yet the riddle of our faith is that Christians can be comforted, too.  As Dante intuited, there is more to the universe’s Creator than the awful and “lonely god … who is a mere awful unity.”[7] The love we feel pounding in our chests, challenging our autonomy, quieting our solitude, pulling us out of ourselves is also reflected in those otherworldly images from light years away.

The “principle of concretion and cohesion”[8] that upholds the universe, through whom and for whom it was created is not a cosmic loneliness, but Love itself.

The super-relational Love between the Persons of the Trinity grounds and guides the heavenlies and, indeed, our own experience of love.  There is meaning in the motions of stars and movements of hearts.

It was this Love that, despite our reductions and refusals, volunteered to come and die in order to restore us to this Society.  It is not good for man to be alone.

 

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[1] Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy 3 Paradise, translated by Dorothy Sayers and Barbara Reynolds (London: Penguin Classics, 1962), 347.

[2] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York:  Touchstone, 1996), 152.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, (Peabody, MA:  Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 132.

[7] Ibid.

[8] C.S. Lewis, Miracles

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