The Divine Essence
Presence of God – O my God, purify and enlighten my mind so that I shall be able to contemplate You.
To the question: “Who is God?” the catechism answers: “God is the Supreme Being, infinitely perfect, the Creator of heaven and earth.” In the first place it says that God is the Supreme Being; this is His foremost perfection, the one which distinguishes Him radically from creatures. “I am who am,” God said to Moses, and added: “This is My name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (Ex 3:14-15). This name by which God called Himself expresses His very essence, and tells us that He is Being itself, the eternally subsistent Being, who had no beginning and will have no end, the self-existing Being, who finds the cause of His Being in Himself. St. John Damascene says: “God possesses Being itself as a kind of sea of substance, infinite and shoreless.” God revealed Himself to St. Catherine of Siena under this aspect, when He said to her: “I am He who is, and you are she who is not.” All creatures are nothing! “My substance is as nothing before Thee,” says the Psalmist, “I am withered like grass. But Thou, O Lord, endurest forever” (Ps 38:6; 101:12-13). The creature receives his being from God, while God is the cause of His own Being. A creature exists only so long as God maintains it in existence; God, however, is His own existence, because He possesses Being by His very nature, and does not receive it from anyone. A creature is always a limited being in every respect—vitality, strength, ability; God, on the contrary, is the infinite Being, who knows no limits, who has all power and virtue. A creature bears within himself the seeds of death and destruction; in God all is life; He is Life: “I am … the life” (Jn 14:6), said Jesus.
Only God, the infinite Being, eternal Life, can communicate life, can give existence. Would it be too much, then, for us to consecrate our whole life and being to His service and glory? If we are living for God, we are living for life; if we live for ourselves, we are living for nothing, for death.
“O eternal God, I rejoice that You are He who is, and that nothing can exist without You. I beg You, illumine the eye of my soul, that it may know the Being which You possess by Your essence, and the non-being, which I have by my nature, so that my whole life may gravitate around the axis of these two firm and immutable truths. O eternal God, who said, “I am who am,” I rejoice at the eminence of that Name, so much Your own that it cannot be applied to anyone but You. O venerable, ineffable Name, hidden from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and made known to Moses as a testimony of love! O my God, reveal the inestimable riches of that Name to me, so that I will revere You, adore, love and serve You as You deserve. O my soul, if God alone is He who is, containing all the perfections of Being, why do you not join yourself to Him, so that your being will find nobility and strength in His? Why do you give yourself to creatures, which lack substance and being, since they cannot give you what you want, not having it in themselves? Henceforth, O my God, I will regard everything as worthless, waste and harm, nothing and vanity, that I may unite myself to You, to love and serve You for all eternity” (Ven. Louis Du Pont).
“O Lord, my days are vanished like smoke … and I am smitten as grass…. But Thou, O Lord, endurest forever: and Thy memorial to all generations…. In the beginning, O Lord, Thou foundedst the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou remainest; and all of them shall grow old like a garment. And as a vesture Thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed. But Thou art always the selfsame and Thy years shall not fail…. All creatures have received life from Thee, all expect of Thee that Thou give them food in season…. But if Thou turnest away Thy face, they shall be troubled; Thou shalt take away their breath, and they shall fail, and shall return to their dust, but Thou remainest forever.
“I will extol Thee, O God, my King, and I will bless Thy Name forever!… Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and of His greatness there is no end” (Ps 101; 103-104).
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Art: St. Catherine of Siena, 1746, Giovanni Batista Tiepolo, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.; Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.