At the Origin of Every Man is God
A friend of mine recently conducted a search into her ancestry, the results of which she ardently reported to me. I listened intently as she went down the list of who begot who and where and when each of them lived. She even had some stories to tell about the type of work they did and their accomplishments in life. Our origin brings meaning to our identity and sheds light on how we ought to live. Each one of us can search our ancestry in order to glean insights about our identity, but our research will be incomplete if we do not also consider the origin of our humanity.
At the origin of every man is the creative act of God. We have all heard at one time or another that God is love, which leads us to conclude that creation is an act of love. But people describe love in many ways. What exactly is love? This question can be answered by considering how God, who is love, is a Trinitarian communion of persons.
A Trinitarian What?!?
The first time I heard the phrase “Trinitarian communion of persons,” I reacted with a deer-in-the-headlights sort of look. I paused for a moment and asked, “God is a Trinitarian what?!?” Oh, was I in need of some serious explaining! As Christians, we believe that our creator is one God in three persons. Theologians have tackled some tough questions regarding the personhood of God. Rather than tackling these questions here, I will simply highlight how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit form the one divine family that is the origin of our existence and the model of all human families.
St. Thomas Aquinas reasons that God is the only being for whom essence and existence are one; God is existence. God is also pure act, and as such, God is the only being that is not caused by something else but rather is the cause of everything else. We must remember, though, that God is not the cause of everything else in a detached, sterile sort of way. God is a personal God, a communion of persons.
From all eternity, the Father gives all that he has to the Son. From all eternity, the Son receives all that the Father gives (remember that God is existence, so that means that God’s very existence is a giving and receiving). In receiving, the Son gives back to the Father, and the Father receives. This giving and receiving that is shared between the Father and Son—the gift—actually is a third person: the Holy Spirit.
The funny thing about love, or self-gift as we have called it here, is that it is the gift that just wants to keep on giving. And this really is the reason why our existence is a gift. God, the ultimate giver of gifts, wants to give himself to us! The question is, “How do we accept this gift?”
Accepting the Gift with Gratitude
I worked with people with disabilities for a few years throughout high school and college. One of the greatest lessons I learned was that every single one of us is a unique gift that can be given just by being ourselves. The most enthralling gift of all is self-sacrifice. As Christians, we are familiar with the crucifixion of our Lord. This was Christ’s self-sacrifice for us. We can make a gift of ourselves through self-sacrifice, too, in all of our engagements with people in this world, whether they be brief encounters or lasting friendships and commitments.
We did not create ourselves or choose to exist but received our existence as a gift from God. We respond to this gift with gratitude when we possess ourselves and give ourselves away as a gift to others. We also respond to the gift of our existence with gratitude when we worship God. Prayer and liturgy offer us an intimate form of communication with God. We instinctively know that love and gratitude—all things, in fact—come first and foremost from God, the one whom St. Thomas identified as the first cause of all things. This first cause is the first family, a divine family.
Finding Our Identity in the Family
I have had the great pleasure of accompanying my friends through their journeys of marriage and family life. Every time they receive a new child into their family, we rejoice at the sight of this new person. My most recent joy was over the birth of my friend’s son who was given a name I have long adored. I have since pondered the meaning of this little boy’s name and wondered what sort of person he will become. He has been given a great name indeed. His identity is being formed.
Each of us awoke to the reality of our identity when we were born. As we grew, we were full of wonder about ourselves and about the world. We had an inner sense that we did not create ourselves but were given by a power greater than us. Our existence comes by way of the family. The meaning of life, therefore, our identity, is found in the family. This is why some people go to great lengths to research their ancestry. My only hope is that their research will take them all the way back to the divine family. We were created by God, born into a human family, and invited to return to the divine family in which our participation in love will never end.
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