Paul writes – Today I want to highlight a series of poetic statements by James Finley that get to the heart – in a wonderfully descriptive way – of a contemplative understanding of the Christian theological understanding of God as one God revealed in three-distinct persons. Its worth reflecting on an coming back to a few times in order for what it expresses to sink in.
The source is a March 2011 interview / conversation between James Finley and Tami Simon on. You can find the interview here. I highly recommend that you have a listen if the contemplative is a growing edge or focus for you. Finley gets it, and does so from within the Christian tradition!
[Interviewer]: Now, you talked some earlier, when we were talking about what it might mean to enter the mind of Christ, about Christ and the father, and that relationship in terms of meditation. I'm curious how you see the Holy Trinity in terms of the practice of meditation.
[James Finley]: Well, my sense, really, is that when we read the classical texts of the Christian mystics, you see these constant innuendos and references to the Trinity. That is, I really don't think it's possible to get inside the language of the Christian mystics without this sense of Trinitarian intuitive awareness of what they're talking about. And realize we're now entering into deep water here. Not to take on the Trinity in a few minutes, but just too poetically give a sense of it…
… I'll say it poetically: How I say it to people is that, in the Christian tradition, this love poetry of the ineffable is that God is ineffable, hidden, [and] ungraspable, like nothing we can say about God is true. By the very fact that we're saying it, God is beyond that. God is beyond that, so God is endlessly abyssive hiddenness, a presence. This birthless, deathless, boundaryless hiddenness is eternally expressing itself, or revealing itself, as divine relations of knowledge and love.
So intimacy is the first manifestation of the unmanifested. That Father, Son, and Spirit are divine relations of unity in distinction and distinction in unity. In other words, the mystery of being a person is much deeper than being an individual, because the tradition doesn't at all say that there are three individuals, Father, Son, and Spirit. Rather, they are divine relations of knowledge and love as manifesting the mystery of the infinite…
… God the father-if it was matriarchal society, it would be God the mother, but here let's say that God is origin-is eternally speaking himself or expressing himself, and God, as spoken, is the Word, which is the second person in the Trinity. Or God the father eternally knows himself, and the second person in the Trinity, the Word, is then the wisdom of the father. It's God as knowing and God as known, that distinction between knowing and being known. Now the father and the son, in their infinite knowledge of each other, give rise to an infinite love, and the infinite love arising from the infinite knowledge is the Holy Spirit.
Now the thing is, if we were to try to find God the father in any way whatsoever other than the son, we'd never find God the father, because there is no God the father, because God in the [kenosis] is infinitely empty in the infinity of himself, and gives all that he is as the son. Likewise, if we would try to find Christ, the second person in the Trinity, in any way whatsoever other than the father, we would search and search and search. We'd never find Christ. There is no Christ, because Christ is in no way whatsoever other than the father. And so with the Holy Spirit. This is the triune, the unitive mystery of the ineffable.
Now, where we come in is the tradition teaches that, from all eternity, God the father speaks himself as the Word, and from all eternity, contemplates himself in the Word, so the life of God is a contemplative life. And God, in contemplating himself in the Word, eternally contemplates the eternal possibility of all things.
…What's unique about us is our capacity to realize it [the God-given nature of all things], and this is spiritual awakening. There are fleeting moments where it is given to us to taste this oneness, which is a fleeting moment of contemplation. And in tasting it, we can say "Yes!" to it, because love is never imposed. It's always offered. In the reciprocity of love, we can choose to give ourselves to the infinite love that infinitely gives itself to us.
So here, then, is our Trinitarian mysticism … [expressed as] a poetic metaphor [for] understanding the mystical contemplative experience…”