Jesus said, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Anyone who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him. Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Father and Son. Not Prime Mover, not Emanation, not Life Force…. Christians use the language of human relationships to speak about God. We do this because Jesus did so. He spoke of God as his Father. And the Father called him his Son: “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son’” (Mt 3:17; 17:5). In Jesus, our God is translated into human reality. In the history of the world’s religions the supreme deities tended to evaporate into thin air because they were perceived as too remote, and were replaced by more proximate deities. In the Christian faith, God does not evaporate into total generality but becomes, in Christ, one of ourselves. You could think of Jesus as the ‘concrete universal’.
This mystery really touches us in every sense. It is “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands” (1 Jn 1:1). It also plucks at the heart-strings. But it is hard, if not impossible, to keep possession of our full spiritual inheritance. We are forever going lopsided. Christian devotion can sometimes focus so exclusively on Jesus that it makes him a substitute for the Father rather than a revelation of the Father.
The ‘Glory’ used to read: “Glory to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.” It was in reaction to the Arian heresy (which denied the divinity of Christ) that it was changed to “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.” This underlined the equality of the divine Persons, but it tended over time to obscure the ‘working’ of the Trinity. It seemed to put the divine Persons there statically in front of us. It is hardly surprising that some people then just took their pick. We often hear that our spirituality should be Christ-centred. The Liturgy however – which is our primary spiritual teacher – is Father-centred; and Christ is the centre from which we pray. “I am the ground of your beseeching [your prayer]” Jesus said to Julian of Norwich.
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