From the earliest days of Christianity, it was believed that we become like who we worship. So for example, if we worship an authoritarian god then we ourselves became authoritarian. If we worship a controlling god then we became controlling ourselves and so on. All the more reason then why the Bible places great importance on right worship and praise. The more we worship the true and living God, the more we become conformed to his image and likeness in which we were made. Here I briefly develop four aspects of the divine nature as revealed in Scripture and explore how worship of the God who is family, who is love, who is beauty and truth, leads us to become people of family, people of love, people of beauty and people of truth.
First, the God who is family. God is not solitude. He is a communion of persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit whose life is an eternal exchange of love between them. It is into this circle of divinity that we have been absorbed and embraced by the Spirit through faith and baptism. And it is within this life of the Trinity that we exist and live – not on our own but with other believers with whom we share the same divine life. So we become members of God’s family of the Church who are gathered into the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
To put flesh on this profound mystery, consider the next time we sit down for a meal with family and friends. We sit down at table and take the time to encounter each other, to talk and listen. It might seem like another meal or enjoyable evening. But think again. Sharing food and conversation is a prayerful expression of our faith where we are united to each other and share the Spirit of God who is family. Or think of the next time we gather for Eucharist. With everyone gathered around the tables of Word and Sacrament, our share of the divine life is expressed and deepened. With our brothers and sisters we receive the Body of Christ for we are the Body of Christ. So the more we adore the God of family, we more we become family and strengthen the bonds that unite us. As God opened wide the circle of his family to include the whole world, so our faith in Him expands our horizons to welcome, include and connect with everyone and all things. God’s family is rich and diverse. In the words of the Irish writer James Joyce’s description of the Catholic Church: ‘Here comes everybody’ (Finnegan’s Wake).
Second, the God who is love. Since ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8), there is within his life a lover, a beloved and the love between them. God is a great lover who never stops seeking us out and uniting us to Himself. This was the saving work of Jesus and the God he revealed to us. Everything he said and did was motivated by love. From the Gospels, we see that Jesus knew he was loved by his Father and he loved the Father in return. This was the love they shared before the world was made. This love between them is the Holy Spirit that is poured out on to us and the world. For St John, love was the interpretative key to why God sent his Son into the World: ‘For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son’ (John 3:16).
If this is true then contemplating the God of love stirs that same love in us. As St Paul says ‘the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit’ (Rom. 5:5). This gift of his love moves us to explore new and meaningful ways to practise our faith. As St Therese would say with her ‘Little Way’, even the most menial tasks done with love can become opportunities to grow in holiness. If love is ‘willing the good of the other as other’ then every day can be filled with opportunities to go out beyond ourselves in love. Making a phone call, offering encouragement, supporting and nurturing friendship, making a visit, sharing kind words – through these ways we reveal to the world the face of the God whose deepest nature is self-giving love.
Thirdly, God is beautiful. Love makes beautiful everything and everyone it touches. St Basil wrote about the creative love of God by describing creation as a work of art that expresses his divine beauty (Hexameron, Homily 1). So too with Jesus of Nazareth whose love made beautiful the world he came to re-create and save. There was a beauty in his humanity, a light that attracted people and changed lives. He revealed a God who is beautiful and he leads us to the beauty of God. St Augustine was one of the first to see this and to write about the magnetism of divine beauty: ‘Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new’ (Confessions, 10, 27).
In our daily prayer and contemplation, the created world of nature and the life of Christ are inexhaustible sources of beauty that absorb us into the beauty of God. Indeed, the beauty of nature and the beauty of Christ are related for all things were created through him. Nature’s beauty is branded with his beauty and so the beauty we find in created things leads us to the source of beauty who is God Himself. In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis says of his wife’s beauty: ‘Of her, and of every created thing I praise, I should say, “In some way, in its unique way, it is like him who made it”’. God is beautiful by nature and everything he made participates in his beauty. Therefore, we reflect beauty to the extent that we conform to it and delight in it. So seek out the beauty of nature, in people, in a night sky or a sunset. Read the lives of the saints that radiate with beauty. Listen to beautiful music, read beautiful stories and contemplate beautiful art. The more we are exposed to beauty’s light the more radiant we ourselves become with it.
Finally, God is truth. Jesus revealed himself to be ‘the truth’ (John 14:6) of God. To be his disciples is to love the truth and to live by it for ‘everyone of false speech and false life’ will be excluded from his kingdom (cf. Rev. 22:15). The more we contemplate the truth of God and his Word, the more we are grounded in reality and avoid entanglement in relativism and self-deception. In Jesus Christ, God revealed the truth of who he is and the truth of who we are. In the light of his truth we remain in the real. C.S. Lewis dismantles a modern tendency to practise a religion that I find helpful, irrespective of whether it’s true or not. For Lewis, such a person ‘is deliberately trying not to know whether Christianity is true of false because he sees endless trouble if it should turn out to be true’ (‘Man or Rabbit’ in God in the Dock). The more we contemplate the truth of God we more we live in reality and retain our liberty for ‘the truth will make you free’ (John 8:32). So the next time you have a good conversation with others about religion or faith or values, don’t be afraid or intimidated. The real issue is not who is right but what is right and what is true.
Fulton Sheen once said that if man did not believe in God he would create himself one. We all worship before some altar and bow to something or someone. What we worship defines us and makes us more like itself. If we worship the God of family, of love, of beauty and truth then we become people of family, of love, of beauty and truth. Let us embrace the mission of showing the world the God of family, of love, of beauty, of truth – the God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.