The Lord of History|
In God's master plan He has fashioned the blueprint of perfection. While in His Infinite Wisdom that we will know only in Heaven, He has allowed man - imperfect man - to tinker with perfection. The Lord of History has a method to his divine "madness" for with His infinitely-timed brush, men are the fine bristles and through His master stroke, the palette of causes and effect create a colorful and yet stark, smooth and yet rough, cohesive and yet scrambled portrayal of man's struggle on earth and quest for eternity. God creates and allows the paradox, and His masterpiece develops according to how the bristles touch the canvas of linear time in recording for all time the magnificent tableau of salvation history on the Scroll of Life, a perpetual parchment kept by the Lord of History.
Father James F. Wathen
"In the history of the Redemption, beginning with Adam and Eve, each of the dominant figures played a part in the providential drama. All the personages acted according to their character. Here the simile of the novel ends, because unlike the characters in a work of fiction, those in the divine drama were free to do or not to do. In all circumstances, the Holy Spirit breathed within the souls of those who had been designated as personae in His great production. The mystery we speak of here, and the darkness into which we cannot see, is how our most holy and loving God achieved and is achieving His ends with respect to the salvation of His beloved Elect, and the realization of His sublime purposes for the praise of His glory."
Father James Wathen
Before considering the subject at hand, it is always good to situate ourselves in the presence of God. We do not think of Him as a bewhiskered old man, but as a pure Spirit, the all-present Being. We know that we possess souls, and our soul is a spirit and the animating and rational principle of our being. It is our soul that gives us our life, our self-awareness, and our identity. It resides throughout our body, causes all its organs to function, and gives life to the billions of cells of which we are composed. Yet, the soul is not more in one member than in all the others. We think of the soul as being totally present throughout the body, because it has no parts, no extension.
As the soul inhabits the body, God fills the universe. We call this the divine Immensity. He is everywhere and, being a pure Spirit, He is not more present in one place than He is another; He is fully present everywhere.
The difference between the presence of our souls and that of God is that the soul is united to the body, and the two form the intelligent composite recognized as a human being or person. The soul depends on the body, because it can express itself only through the body, and it is through the body that the soul knows itself, and the world in which we live.
God is not part of material creation. Contrary to what pantheists say, He transcends that which He inhabits; further, He is in Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell,[ed. note: for God created the fallen angels and sustains them in the everlasting misery which they chose] which are outside the material universe.
When we reflect on the presence of God, we acknowledge His infinite power, whereby He sustains and rules all things, while He is immediately accessible to us by prayer. He is present to us in His Triune glory and goodness, and attends to us with perfect loving-kindness. He is deserving of our obedience, love and adoration. Constantly should we acknowledge to Him that we recognize His infinite supremacy, His perfect goodness, and highest wisdom. No matter how things seem, no matter what the state of the world, the Church, our country, no matter how great the suffering of others or ourselves, no matter how aloof and indifferent, even harsh and unbending He seems to be, we adore Him as our Lord Who is knows all things, judges most wisely, governs most lovingly, and turns all evil to good. He owes us no explanations other than those which He has already given us through our Faith. Our limited understanding is part of our fallen condition, part of our penance for sin, and part of our creaturely condition. Always He deserves from us nothing but humble subservience, unstinting love, and most boundless praise.
There is a saying: "The novelist is omnipotent." He can create any person he chooses. He can make him or her be the kind of person his story calls for. He can place his protagonist anywhere he wishes and surround him with any kind of individuals the story needs, good or bad, as many of such individuals as his story calls for. He creates the place of the story, provides the weather, fair or foul; the clock and the calendar are at his disposal. There is no danger his hero cannot escape, no crisis he cannot meet, no injury he cannot survive.
The difference between the novelist and the omnipotent God, if I need to say it, is that the novelist deals with figments. All his characters and all their actions are nothing but unreal, imaginary scribbles. Everyone in God's scheme of things is real, beloved by Him, worth His earthly life and sacrificial death, and called to everlasting beatitude. Although God owns the individual completely, and He may give or deprive him according to His good pleasure, He is governed by His own goodness, and, despite any appearances to the contrary, all that He does pertaining to every individual is good and loving; moreover, all that He does with regard to any individual is a part of the grand scheme of creation, which is for the good of all men, and for His eternal glory.
The mystery we speak of here is the fact that the infinite God influences His children to the extent that they let Him. The one limitation He places upon Himself with respect to each of us is never to force us against our wills. The mystery deepens when we consider how He was and is able to influence certain of His children in such a way that they do what He requires they do, in order that all His purposes, holy and inscrutable be realized, yet without coercion.
Another simile: In 1893, Leo XIII defined the inspiration of Scripture in this way: The Inspiration of the Scriptures "included the arousing of the human author to write by the action of the Holy Spirit and the assistance given by the Spirit in the work of composition, so that those things only and wholly which he wished should be written down." Four things are designated here: (1) The Holy Ghost moved the sacred author to write, (2) aided him in his labor, (3) influenced him to write only those things which He wanted written, and (4) all that He wanted written. Commentators emphasize that this inspiration in no way hindered or impaired the independence of the author with respect to his own style of writing and choice of words. It was not necessary for the author to know that this divine supervision over his work, because he wrote freely and made his decisions concerning his composition like any other author.
Now, with the arrival of Advent, we attend to the Christmas story. In preparation for the Feast, we recall the history of St. John the Baptist, our Lord's Precursor. We read of St. Joseph's quandary at having discovered that his revered and beloved Spouse was with Child, he knew not how. We ponder again the awe-inspiring happening of the Annunciation, and the "Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us." We read of the decree of Caesar Augustus, of the shepherds, of Herod, and the Wise Men.
In recounting the Christmas story, the Evangelists remind us with emphasis that everything happened in fulfillment of prophecy, that in all the events pertaining to the Incarnation the Scriptures were being fulfilled. In so speaking, the Evangelists refer to what God had taught the Jews to take for granted, that, not only did He know all future things, but He had the power to cause human beings and human history to conform to His eternal decrees, despite human blindness, perverseness, and infidelity. Exactly contrary to what deists in their childish egoism imagine, not only is the divine Mind at work, but the divine Will also in all human affairs, but especially in all matters that concern our salvation.
In the history of the Redemption, beginning with Adam and Eve, each of the dominant figures played a part in the providential drama. All the personages acted according to their character. Here the simile of the novel ends, because unlike the characters in a work of fiction, those in the divine drama were free to do or not to do. In all circumstances, the Holy Spirit breathed within the souls of those who had been designated as personae in His great production. The mystery we speak of here, and the darkness into which we cannot see, is how our most holy and loving God achieved and is achieving His ends with respect to the salvation of His beloved Elect, and the realization of His sublime purposes for the praise of His glory.
We are inquiring about the divine will with respect to the decisions of Godís servants. How was it certain that they would do those things and make those decisions, which it was essential to His eternal plans they do? How could the Lord God bring it about that the Virgin Mary accept the call to divine maternity, that she would say yes to the Angel, when it would not have been sinful (less good, but not sinful) for her to say no? We may ask similar questions regarding all those who played key roles in the Redemption, not only in the New Testament, but also in the Old. These included John the Baptist, Joseph of Nazareth, the Twelve Apostles, St. Paul and many others. It was necessary that each of these do what he did that the divine plan be fulfilled. St. Joseph might have chosen not to take Mary as his wife. St. John the Baptist might have decided not to go into the desert to await the divine prompting to preach penance and announce the imminent coming of the Lamb of God. At any point, one or another or several of the Apostles might have decided to leave Jesus and abandon all thought of following Him. Judas might have accepted the grace of repentance at the Last Supper. Pilate might acted like a man, and instead of condemning Him, protected and delivered the King of the Jews. St. Paul might have refused the grace offered him, and continued a firebreathing Pharisee.
The question is: how could the infinite God be certain that His servants would do what He required without forcing their wills? What He required was an act or acts upon which depended the whole great scheme of Redemption. How could He be certain that Mary would say yes, without compelling her to do so? Was it possible for Him to proffer her graces that she could not refuse?
Adam and Eve would sin; it was not Godís will that they sin; but it was His will to become a Man in order to demonstrate His love, which He would not have needed to do had our First Parents done as they were commanded. If it were possible for the good God to make one of Adam and Eveís children, Enoch, sinless, why could He not have made either Adam or Eve sinless? (Had either of them remained innocent, the sin would not have occurred, for Adam sinned at the insistence of his wife. Genesis 3:17).
We often say that God so endowed Adam and Eve with grace whereby it was easy for them to be good and less easy to be bad. Could God have made Adam like Enoch, or Elias, or Jeremias, or Joseph the Carpenter of Nazareth, none of whom, as far as we can imagine would have sinned in the Garden, because they were sinless in this vale of tears, constantly assaulted by demons like the rest of us.
Abraham was a pivotal figure in the great scheme of salvation. He was to be the father of the Israelite people, from whom would come the main players in the Old Testament drama, not excluding John the Baptist and Mary, our Mother. It was essential that Abraham depart from Ur of the Chaldees and go west into the land Caanan, which was to become Israel (Genesis 12:1). The grace which He gave Abraham was accepted and Abraham became Yahwehís faithful servant. The history of the Israelite nation witnessed loyal service and brazen disobedience. Despite their constant infidelity and ingratitude, God saved a remnant of this people, of whom and among whom the God Man was born. All this could not have come about unless certain individuals responded to Godís grace. The story as we have it, is the story of Godís achieving His purposes among the Jews, even though they were a sinful and "stiff-necked" people. The Law that He gave them through Moses commanded them to be a religious people, a theocracy, but they were unwilling to live according to His precepts; they preferred to live like their pagan neighbors. The history of Israel is one of waywardness and defiance on the part of the Jewish kings and priests. Yet, no matter how wicked the majority became, there was always a minority among the people who remained faithful, fervent, and expectant of the Messias. From them came the writers of the Scriptures, from them came the prophets, from them came the Old Testaments martyrs, from them came the families of Mary, Joseph, the Apostles, and Jesusí followers.
Godís mastery over sacred history is different from biblical inspiration in that it pertains not to the choice of written material, but to choices of action. The servant of God was unaware that almighty God was exercising a holy influence upon him, so that he would unfailingly do what was necessary to further the divine plan of salvation.
The answer, therefore, to the question raised above as to whether God could give or has ever given such grace to men that they were unable to reject it is no. We do not say that such would be a contradiction in terms, but it would be for God to act contrary to His nature, and for Him to act contrary to the nature of His servants, who must be free to act, so as to deserve reward for acting according to His will.
I wish to thank again everyone who has shown concern for me. I can only make a return to him by prayer. I get cards and letter of encouragement, and contributions of money, for which I am very grateful. Looking toward the Coming of Christ to take us to Himself, I ask for everyone a blessed Advent.
For those who want to help Father or write him, you can do so at:
Father James F. Wathen
P.O. Box 15152
Evansville, IN 47716
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