The word "person" may have its roots in a Latin word that referred to the character an actor portrayed in a drama, and quite possibly even to the mask ancient actors once wore (or held in front of their faces) to represent their characters. This etymology reminds us that the dichotomy between what we can perceive and what remains inevitably hidden behind every act of human perception appears to be an indefeasible aspect of human nature. But the very idea that human individuals, or any other particular things, each have their own particular and distinctive nature depends on the assumption that they have, amongst themselves, a way of being somewhat in common, that makes them recognizably alike.
In respect of the whole universe of our experience that somewhat common way of being is being itself as such. Some readers will be less ill at ease with this disturbingly abstract and plainly tautological statement if it is rephrased with reference to God, thusly: In respect of His Creation, the way of being all things have somewhat in common is that of the Creator, God. By His name we refer to the active substance that understands (substantiates) each and every thing, and indeed all things in relation to one another. This He does by way of informing and constituting their being, in and through His own, such that they are what, at any given moment, He stands for them to be.
This is how the Apostle Paul, "standing in the midst of the Areopagus," describes this activity of God when he addresses the men of Athens:
Advertisement - story continues below
Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription "To the unknown God." What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth … gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods, and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet he is actually not far from each of us, for "In Him we live and move and have our being"; as even some of your own poets have said, "for we are indeed His offspring."
In this sense, God is, as it were, the performer, and all things are the subjects of His performance. He is "Lord of the Dance," as lyricist Sydney Carter puts it in the English hymn. It is as if Creation and all created things are poses and figures whose His being He undertakes to represent in and through His own, according to the choreography of His will.
God is the marble from which we take form, and the air in which we take flight; He is the tool, the hand, the thought of the sculptor who foresees our shape in order to set it free. He is the keynote from which all our harmonies and discords ultimately derive their relationships and distinctions. Yet through it all, as the Apostle says, He remains somehow unknown, beyond our ken. Though known to us even as we know ourselves, yet and still He transcends our knowledge, being well and truly understood by Himself alone.
All in all, He is the truth we are that transcends the truth our knowledge lets us see; the being that, in making Himself known to us, confirms the Truth by which we know that we do not know. This knowledge therefore feeds the curious passion, God-endowed, that impels us to seek further. This curious impulse points to the essence of the nature we share as humans. To be true to itself, it must somehow always look beyond itself for the measure of truth; the substance of knowledge; the affirmation of being such as we are: at once here and there, similar by way of being never quite the same. "We look before and after" and are changed by the looking. We gain and lose thereby; are satisfied yet still discontent. We are happy to know, yet pained to forgo the being we are sure lies just beyond our way of knowing.
Advertisement - story continues below
We long to be wholly with God, yet seem to ourselves fated never to know Him as He knows Himself. Or so it was, until we met the promise of God in Christ. Christ, who "though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [seized and held onto], but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant [bondservant, slave], being born in the likeness of men [human beings]." (Philippians 2:6-7) Christ came to us representing God in the form we take to be our own, thus affirming the community that, by God, we form together, but can never fully realize without His help. To be like us He gave up His being, identical with God's, so that, recognizing our true selves in Him, we would remember the being, like His own, that God intends for us.
Thus in Christ we regain what, in the eyes of God, we were always meant to be. From the beginning, Christ reminded us of the Truth that still lay within us, waiting to reassert the communion of dust and the Spirit of God we never, in God's intention, have ceased to be. Despite the nature of our disregard, for that intention, which self-willed humanity must endure, in Christ's presence amongst us (as the Incarnate Word), we are offered the way to correspond with it again whenever, with tears that mingle sorrowed loss and joyful expectation, we consent to receive Him, who brings, with the Spirit of God, the renewal of our true life.
Media wishing to interview Alan Keyes, please contact [email protected].