On Wanting To Eat Your Baby

It is a tangible reality of human experience, that in the presence of a Beauty we let slip groans that sound an awful lot like dissatisfaction. In the light of some masterpiece of nature, we screw up our faces like we’ve stubbed a toe. In the quiet dark of of an old stone room, observing an icon or painting lit by candlelight, we may even cry. Tears and moans and groans are the songs Beauty sings. Beauty hurts.

But if Beauty, by its very nature, creates this experience of dissatisfaction in the human person, then it is reasonable to conclude that beauty is infinite in quality.

For dissatisfaction is the term given for “not-having”. We want to eat, but we don’t have food, and so we are dissatisfied. But at some point we will be full. At some point — after dinner, most likely — we will say, “no more food!” The experience of hunger, then, is finite. It can be sated, as can the experience of immaterial things, like anger.

But Beauty is never sated. No man in recorded history has ever said “no more Beauty, please.” No man, gazing on Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel or watching the sun sink below the Blue Ridge Mountains, has ever said, “This is far too much Beauty. Take it away, for I am full.” If a thing can never be conceived of reaching an end point, then as far as we are concerned, that thing is infinite. We can never think of too many numbers — it is an infinite progression. We can never think of too much Beauty. We can never have too much Beauty. This implies that it too, is infinite.

Now this infinity makes us long for consummation. To put it poetically, Beauty makes us want to be fully taken into a Thing, to become One with it. To put it crudely, it makes us want to be eaten. This is a fact so obvious that it is taken for granted, a thing so close to our noses that we rarely ever see it.

What is the innate feeling of a mother gazing on the Beauty of her infant child? It is often phrased thus: “Ooh, I just wanna eat you all up.” This should be a horrifying statement, but somehow we all understand. We understand that sweetly frustrating desire for consummation. (At least I assume we do, or else we should be seriously concerned for the wellbeing of our babies. (Alternatively, this desire for consummation may manifest itself by way of sticking your infant’s foot in your mouth. (Don’t pretend you haven’t.)))

When we experience Beauty in nature, we genuinely wish to be “one with nature.” It’s a cliche, but only because it’s a thing often repeated and rarely experienced in our housing-development world. When we listen to beautiful music, what is our desire? To be immersed in it, contained by it. And of course, the experience of our lover’s Beauty imbues us with a desire to consummate and be consummated — ultimately in the sexual act — but also in the fascinating habit lovers have of “consuming” each other by way of chewing on earlobes, kissing, nibbling on various digits and appendages…yes, I understand it’s awkward out of context, but lovers, don’t pretend it’s otherwise, lest Venus smite you.

Herein lies the rub: This desire for total consummation cannot be satisfied, and we know it. The mother will never actually proceed to consume her child. The nature lover will always remain distinct from Nature, if only for the reason that he must eventually leave the woods. The music lover is never actually consumed by the music — thanks to a few obvious metaphysical difficulties — and the lovers’ marvelous communion of flesh will come to an end (though I would argue that it is an infinite act by virtue of being procreative).

It seems logical to conclude that it is not merely the beautiful things we want to consume and be consumed by, but Beauty itself. The mother wants to consume her beautiful baby, but will not, because it is her baby, and babies are not meant to be consumed. It is the Beauty then, that she longs to “eat all up”, Beauty that in this case manifests itself in the startling eyes of her newborn. Or take the case of being one with Nature. We sit on the moss, we hear the waterfall against the rocks, we watch the deer lick clean her young, and we wish to be “one with Nature”. But this is not a feeling associated with sitting on a cactus, near a donkey-corpse being devoured by maggots, suffering the purely natural herpes we caught last week, though one could equally claim the experience as Oneness with Nature. No, it is not merely The Great Outdoors we want to be consumed by, but the Beauty present there.

To prove it another way: We cannot be one with nature, our newborn, our spouse, and Mozart’s Requiem. Being one with something excludes being one with something else. It would be a fool who said I am indistinguishably one with the woods, and I am simultaneously indistinguishably one with my lover, for a lover is distinguishable from a woods. Yet we often desire total consummation with both the Requiem and nature. Thus it would seem that we desire to be one with some unifying factor in all these things, a thing we call Beauty.

So come, see the incredible position the human being is in: There is a thing called Beauty. This thing is experienced as Infinite. As an infinite experience, it cannot bring satisfaction, but can only make the human being long for more, more, more. Yet, mysteries of mysteries, the human being wants this longing. He wants the aching, groaning, dissatisfaction, and he will thus put Palestrina in his CD player, knowing full well that the experience of Beauty will not sate him, but make him long for a consummation he can approach but never achieve. He will subject himself to the terror of stargazing. He will undertake the impossible task of being satisfied by a sunset. Human life teeters on the brink of metaphorical orgasm, never crossing the edge, always sweetly dissatisfied, always groaning. Thus the very existence of a human being demands an answer to this question: Will our desires ever be met? Will we ever consume and be consumed by Beauty?

If the answer is no, it comes with a whole slough of difficulties. This is saying that the human being is at utter odds with reality. A “no” makes the claim that the human contains within himself a completely absurd desire. He has sexual desires, nutritional desires, psychological desires, and these can all be met, but his desire to be consumed by Beauty? No, that one’s a mistake. It’s quite clear that there is no Ultimate Beauty in the universe, and thus the human desire to be One with such a thing is a foolish desire.

The issue with this dismissal is that it defeats itself. Everything we think and know we gain from the experience of the human person. Thus, to say that human experience is foolish and absurd calls into question everything we think and know. It is because we believe our desire for Truth can be met that we have the ability to declare that something is true. If our innate desire for consummation with Beauty cannot be met, who could firmly say that our innate desire to know the Truth can? And if our innate desire to know Truth cannot be met, how could we utter the statement, “the human desire to be One with Beauty is a foolish desire” and believe it to be true?

If we say “yes,” there is no innate human desire that does not have a corresponding satisfaction, and thus this desire to consume and be consumed by Beauty must at some point be fulfilled, well, then we have come to believe in God. Or rather, God is the name human beings have historically given to an Infinity outside of ourselves that we desire to be in communion with. God is Beauty, and Beauty is God. Our seemingly insane desires to be consumed by our lovers, by nature, and to consume our loved ones — they all make sense if God is Beauty. For then in all these experiences, we are truly desiring communion with God.

But to the Christian, this is old news. God has always been the reality behind that which make us groan: “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26). It the influence of God that provokes us to unutterable groanings, that makes us moan at the sight of Beauty. Every gasp is a prayer, and every tear shed for the sake of Beauty is an act of Worship, inspired by the God who is Beauty itself.

Give thanks then, Catholic, for the gift of Eucharist. For if what the Church claims is true, that the bread and wine offered at Mass truly become the body and blood of God, then Beauty itself is placed on our tongues. That infinite desire to consume Beauty is met on the altar, tangibly and sacramentally. And if we consume Beauty, we can only be consumed by it in turn, for it is Infinite. We eat Beauty, and are made beautiful. If only we recognized our Beauty, how we would change the world.

Happy Penetecost!

 

  • Cal-J

    Two in a row? You’re back. You’re back and it’s wonderful.

  • http://www.recoveredcatholic.com/ The Recovered Catholic

    I never really made the connection about wanting to “eat you all up.” As the mother of two tots, I do say that frequently. :)

    And it always seems that whenever I’m learning about something of profound beauty, it can somehow be connected to the Eucharist. So cool.

  • Patricia

    Amazing and wonderful article. Thank you! And I love that last picture.

  • Christina

    Absolutely beautiful. Which explains my strange desire to eat my computer screen whenever I’m reading your blog… Ah, how we discover the answers to the mysteries of life. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501021941 Hannah Russell

    I just want to eat this *post* up! It’s great! I love it!

  • Amber

    Sir Barnes, have you every considered the priesthood? You’re heart is so so beautiful. Thank you for this Beautiful post.

    • Elaine

      oh no, he’s my boyfriend! he better not consider the priesthood! haha :)

      • Ohstupidgalatians

        Actually, you really ought to encourage him to explore his vocational call, whether it be married life, single life or the clergy. It took a serious discernment of the priesthood before I felt ready to marry my beautiful wife! We will always be happiest pursuing God’s Will.

        • Elaine

          pssssshhhh vocations voshmations!

        • Amber

          Ohstupidgalatians, I think that is absolutely beautiful. Did your wife(-to-be) struggle at all with the thought of you maybe being called to something else? If so, how did you handle that? I’m sure that would have been difficult.

      • Amber

        Oops!! haha My mistake, Elaine. You certainly have a young man with a heart for the Lord. I don’t think he knows how instrumental he’s been in the lives of so many people. May God continue to bless your relationship. (P.S. If and when you guys get married, I think society will have gained the new Chesterton and Frances. lol) God bless! :)

        • Amber

          Also, I’m not usually this terrible at grammar. *ever and *Your

  • Joshua Gonnerman

    Great stuff!

  • Rachel Bostwick

    Read The Weight of Glory lately?

  • alishadefreitas

    Very, very, very nice!

  • Johnbob

    Wow, I was just reading today a section in the book New Proofs for the Existence of God by Fr. Spitzer which talks about exactly this! Our longing for transcendentals is made clear by our yearning yet dissatisfaction with the things that point to them, and can only be sated by God.

    “You move us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.”

  • musiciangirl591

    :) beautiful, absolutely beautiful :)

  • Mary MacArthur

    If we truly, fully realized What is happening when we receive the Eucharist, we would die, like Blessed Imelda Lambertini and Sir Galahad.

    But if we realized it less than this but still more than we do, yes indeed, we would set the world ablaze. Wonderful post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maryliziz Mary Liz Bartell

    Beauty is infinite = God is infinite = God is Beauty. Explains why some people go to such lengths to make themselves beautiful because they wish to be god or at least god-like.

    • Logalmier

      Penguins are black and white = Old TV shows are black and white = penguins are old TV shows.

      :I

      • Pearty

        Fallacy of equivocation.

      • Dbcoopercatcher

        true, but because the fallacy is available does not make it not so.

    • http://bareatheism.blogspot.com/ Deven Kale

      Beauty is infinite = God is infinite = God is Beauty

      There’s a fallacy for that.

      • Dbcoopercatcher

        true, but because the fallacy is available does not make it not so.

        • http://bareatheism.blogspot.com/ Deven Kale

          You wouldn’t be the first to indirectly accuse me of an argumentum ad logicam, and you won’t be the last. You are also not the first to be wrong, nor again will you be the last.

          • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com/ Dan F.

            and just because the logic of the statement is fallacious does not also imply that the truth value is false. That would be a different fallacy.

            but quickly but because Deven is right about the logic:

            A=B
            C=B
            A may or may not = C – it is unknowable from the first two premises.

      • Aaron Lopez

        The idea that God substantially is Beauty is definitely a logical fallacy. Even the Bible says just as much. When Moses asked who was speaking to him from the burning bush, God told him to say it was “I Am”.

        Bad fallacy is bad.

        But,

        Mary Liz Bartell wasn’t making a logical statement. God is Beauty, just as much as God is Love, just as much as God is Justice, just as much as God is Infinite Mercy. God cannot be substantially all of those things (especially when he revealed himself as “I Am”), and yet, he is described as the model of every single one of them. The answer to the dilemma?

        It’s poetry at work here, not logic.

        There is a logical fallacy for stepping into a discussion, creating your own argument, and shooting it down without really discussing the initial idea at hand, but I’m getting sick of the internet shooting down everyone’s exercise of logic to contribute to the habit. It’s as if everyone has just stepped out of a first year Philosophy course (do they only teach the Principle of Charity in the second year?).

        Instead, I’m going to promote poetic language. It’s the oldest form of truthtelling known to man, and is still yet to be surpassed in transmitting wisdom (the application of knowledge).

        Poetic language is what I find a lot of the naysayers on this forum have trouble with, from the articulate atheist to the troublesome troll. It’s of my opinion that if they were to understand (and even apply themselves to) poetic language, in conjunction with logical processing they excitedly implore, then the quality of discussions in this comment section will dramatically improve.

        Anyway, good article Marc!

        • Matthew Roth

          Maybe I’m wrong, but from my knowledge of theology, God by his very essence is Love.

    • Korou

      Is beauty infinite? In the same sense that God is infinite?

  • Catherine

    This post was wonderful, thank you so much for it. I can relate to this so much! And it ties completely with what I was meditating on after Mass today.

  • OrthodoxbutwithaPontif

    icwutudidthar, Throwing in a picture of Ethiopian Orthodox, you know how to hit it home my friend.

  • Brenda Becker

    Bard nails it:

    And yet I wish but for the thing I have.
    My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
    My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
    The more I have, for both are infinite.
    –R&J, Act II, Scene 2

    • Guest

      Bard always nails it. :)

  • kYlE

    You have such incredible insight Marc… I think this article expresses most of the reason why I want to be a priest. : ) You must be a philosophy major. haha (I am at least, though only a Freshman.)

    • Blogs

      please don’t be a priest….do something useful with your life

      • Tally Marx

        What’s that supposed to mean? I hope it is sarcasm I am (or actually, am not) hearing because the priesthood is Beautiful.

      • http://www.facebook.com/thomjwillis Thom Willis

        “please don’t devote your life to helping a community, rejecting modern materialism, and spending time in meditation and prayer …. do something useful with your life.”

        Somehow, I think that what may qualify as “useful” here may be the actual WORST way to spend your life …

      • Jake E

        A sound point with a well developed argument. Thank you.

      • Dbcoopercatcher

        sounds like somebody’s a mister grumpy pants. at least he wants us all to join him there.

      • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

        Yeah, yeah. Forgiving sins and making God present to his people is a complete waste of time. And Lord knows it’s not like priests have ever served the poor, saved marriages, guided struggling parents, or organized communities. And spreading the gospel of God’s Love? Complete waste. Def.

        Dope.

    • http://jabstaboops.andthesethygifts.com/ Paco

      Bah, don’t listen to Blogs. I am glad you want to be a priest =D.

      • dan

        YOU may want to be a priest but just God want you to be a priest?

        • dan

          sorry that was for kYIE

  • Jay E.

    You’ve been reading more Lewis, I love it! :D Great post for Pentecost!

    Yeah, this pretty much sums up my whole look on life. And to carry off your point on the end… the Christian’s experience of beauty is informed by theological hope. It is not mere frustrated desire, but a desire that has been expanded by hope and made even deeper. We experience great beauty, and the pain and frustration it elicits, but it becomes “sweet”; we’re immersed in the Song of Songs, as the Holy Spirit acts on our souls. We want union, we want IN! It is the “sehnsucht”. I think Pentecost is very much the feast of this reality, this great longing partially satisfied, but all the more stoked by the presence of God within our very bodies.

    Happy Birthday Catholic Church!!

  • Kaitlin @ More Like Mary

    Could you also use the word “Goodness” in place of Beauty? I want to eat my little baby girl up because she is Beauty and she is Good. Everything about her is Good. And the beautiful examples in nature, music, sex-all inherently Good. And of course, God is Goodness itself.

    Great post.

    • Matthew Roth

      I think so. Beauty, Goodness, and Truth are all inextricably linked. We as humans are oriented towards them as part of God’s creation, with the faculties provided to us (reason, processing of emotion, verbal capacity etc).

    • Marc Barnes

      I would argue that Goodness, Truth in Beauty, in their ultimate state, are all One. There is no difference between them, they are God revealed in different ways.

  • White Arrow

    Marc, Mary is the beauty that you long for. She is the beauty you crave. The beauty of a mother whose womb nourished the Christ and nourishes us when we are hungry for love. Your hunger for beauty points to the satisfaction God can fill–to Jesus, through Mary.

  • Korou

    Very happy to come to the end of that post and find it was not about abortion!

  • Pat

    I wish you would cite the authors on whose shoulders you stand instead giving no credit to them. It makes it appear as if you want praise for ideas that are not originally yours. It is unbecoming.

    • mayhaps

      He has praised various authors through out his history of blogging. However, he is also synthesizing various ideas in new ways and making them more easily accessible, which is an art in its own right.

    • Marc Barnes

      Like who? I didn’t have a specific author in mind when I wrote this, though I do remember reading “metaphorical orgasm” in reference to the Catholic life on a blog somewhere.

      • Pat

        “If we had not all experienced this, if we were mere logicians, we might boggle at the conception of desiring a human being, as distinct from desiring any pleasure, comfort, or service that human beings can give. And it is certainly hard to explain. Lovers themselves are trying to express part of it (not much) when they say they would like to ‘eat’ one another.” (Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 96)

        “We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words–to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it…[the poets] talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us the ‘beauty born of murmuring sound’ will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet…But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.” (Lewis, The Weight of Glory, 17)

        These are from two books that I happened to have on hand.

        • Marc Barnes

          Yeah Pat, I’m gonna be honest, I haven’t read the Four Loves, and I don’t remember that part of the Weight of Glory. Thanks though!

          • Rachel Bostwick

            You should re-read The Weight of Glory, then. The essay changed me forever, and it has the same ideas you have expressed here. I really enjoyed reading them from your perspective, always fresh and insightful.

          • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com/ Dan F.

            Also, definitely read the Four Loves.

            Speaking of Lewis, also read Till We Have Faces – my favorite Lewis

  • Mary

    Simply beautiful! This post brought me back to the births of my 3 children…the 3 most beautiful moments of my life so far (& my wedding) As a woman full with child, some days (most for me, as I had uncomplicated pregnancies, Thank God) you feel so very beautiful, knowing you are co-creating with your maker. Hence, that beautiful “glow” pregnant women often have!
    I have never felt more full of complete wonder, awe, love, joy, peace, & faith than when I bore my children & held them in my arms for the first time. Partaking in the miracle of life is the greatest gift….& how very blessed & fortunate are we that we get to consume that miracle of new life in Jesus in the Holy Eucharist each Sunday. His infinite grace opens us up to receive more fully the fruits of the Spirit in our lives.
    Come Holy Spirit Come! Let us be consumed by Your infinite beauty always!

  • Elliott Pearce

    Marc, I’d just like to say that you are a genius. I thought I could write a mean blog post, and then I read this. And your post on paganism. And the one on the gay marriage debate. I am not ashamed to admit that I am furiously envious of your ability to clearly perceive and articulate the truth. Don’t get a big head over it, though. Like everything else, it’s God’s gift to you, not something you cooked up for yourself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thomjwillis Thom Willis

    From the title, I thought this post was going to be about Moloch …

  • Jane Hartman

    I was an atheist for a while. It was the beauty of a Chopin Nocturne that stunned me into believing there was a good God that loved me through this beauty. Through continual conversion, I was received into the Catholic church. These mysterious ways of our God….You write about them so beautifully!

  • Kevin O’Boyle

    Your blog entry reminds me of two of my own thoughts that I had, until now, thought of as disconnected:

    1)  I’ve told a few people that I believe I could redeem René Descartes if I could have convinced him to take his reductionism 1 step further:  Yes, it is through thought that we apprehend, but why do we apprehend at all except that we yearn. It is not because you think that you are, it is that you yearn, desire & long (to know, to be consumed, to love): caritas ergo sum.

    2) My most common tack when discussing God with atheists is to focus on the concept of “purpose”.  I cannot prove there is purpose but there are implications to assuming there is no purpose:  atheists may like to pretend otherwise, but there can be no such thing as ascendant purpose.  The notion is much like seeing faces or bunny rabbits in the clouds — the structures are transient and illusory (it would be a fun digression to discuss why we are so quick to see illusory patterns in chaotic systems like clouds but, while supporting my point, it also defuses it) .  Meaning is a function of purpose (without purpose there can be no meaning).  However, once you introduce purpose and meaning into your worldview you have introduced the concept of God (the originator of purpose).  If you reject the existence of a God then you reject any meaningful concept of purpose.  So an atheist can argue that purpose is illusory and there is no meaning, no God but, in doing so, they admit that their own thoughts have no meaning or purpose thus vacating any claim that their world view has any merit at all.  Tough situation: recognize purpose and concede that Christianity is more logical and cohesive than atheism or deny purpose and reject any notion of logic or cohesion from any school of thought — including your own.

  • JAGreene86

    Everything physical has some sort of “math” principle to it. My laptop has a certain dimension, my house has a certain dimension, the world, the universe…everything…

    However, how can math explain color?

    To those who are blind, how do you describe what color is?

    This is the same argument I have for God: It is nearly impossible to describe God to those who are “blind” to Him. Being “blind” to God is failing to realize the Beauty that surrounds us. However, it also goes one step further:

    What about those who are color-blind?

    These are people who have an “incomplete” idea about God. It is also very hard to describe them something that they just don’t see, even if they see other colors. There is one more step, however:

    The human eye can only see so much “color”. There is a broad spectrum of “color” that we cannot perceive, but it still exists. This is where faith comes in. There is much about God that we do not know…and that is where faith needs to take over. There is “evidence” that there is something that we cannot see, cannot even imagine, and because of that, the “idea” of God now becomes something “beyond our imagination”, rather than a manifestation of our own limited ideals. It encompasses not just what we know to be “Goodness”, but everything else that is “Good” that we have not yet discovered.

    God created the Earth and said it was Good. We discovered the Earth and discovered it to be Good. God creates what is Good, and it is so Good, when we discover it, we realize it goes beyond all human comprehension, invention, and even imagination, therefore, it becomes physical and metaphysical “evidence” of “God”.

    Faith is a beautiful thing, and appreciation of natural Beauty is an subconscious desire to have faith in an “all-Good God”.

    I just recently took a trip to Alaska, and it was the first time I saw snow-capped mountains before in my life. I said to my friend “how can something this beautiful be so randomly put together?”

    I rest my case.

    Good blog, Marc…definitely something that needs to be talked about more.

    (PS) I don’t mean anything negative towards people who are blind or color-blind…I was just using that as a metaphor to those who might be spiritually “blind” or spiritually “color-blind”. I pray that they will choose to have their eyes fully open, and that God will enable their eyes to be fully opened to His Great Beauty.

  • David J Morgan

    Where are all the atheists today? The ones who hacked up the previous few previous posts??

    Good to see you responded with some good posts Marc and kept up the good work. Don’t let them discourage you, the Lord just allowed them in to make you better.

    de colores

    • Korou

      Well, this actually seems a fairly nice post by Marc, so I wasn’t going to spoil it by pointing out that just because you’d really, really like something to be true that doesn’t mean that it is.
      Or that if God is Love then by definition anything God does is loving, which makes the concept of love meaningless.

      • Kyle Anderson

        If you had a machine that always told the truth and everything that it did was true, would truth then be meaningless?

        • Korou

          No, but if you said “this is a machine that can only tell the truth,” and then the machine said, “2 + 2 = 5″ *and you refused to say that this was untrue* then truth would have become meaningless.

          Which reminds me of a Star Trek episode in which Captain Kirk made a robot’s head explode.

          • Kyle Anderson

            So if a truth-telling thing doesn’t make the truth meaningless, then I would also assert that a love-giving thing doesn’t make love meaningless.

            As you know, we believe God fits both bills.

            The problem that I think you have with that, is that you are positive that some of the things we believe God did were not loving. If that were the case, then you would be right about love being meaningless. That would mean that God did something contrary to his nature which would mean that the God who is all loving does not really exist…and basically all of Christianity would be a hoax.

            Many people throughout history have been and are convinced that the God we Catholics believe in is not loving, truthful, or rational. Many people throughout history have been and are convinced that the God we Catholics believe in is loving, truthful, and rational.

            Best of luck to you :)

          • Korou

            Hi Kyle,
            That’s quite an interesting admission you made there – in a different discussion I would be happy to debate whether God has done or is doing anything unloving, and I wonder if you would be willing to follow through into believing that all of Christianity was a hoax if I could show that God had done or was doing even one unloving thing. Would it be fair to say that you implied that?

            However, we don’t need to go there, because I’m not actually saying that saying “God is love” is meaningless because God does evil things. I am saying that it is meaningless to say “God is love,” because then, by definition, whatever God did would be loving. Wouldn’t it?
            And that means that if God did decide to do something we would consider evil – never mind whether or not he ever would – if he did, you would be unable to condemn it. You would have to say it was a loving thing to do. Right? God is Love. Therefore, whatever he does is loving. Therefore, the meaning of love has become, “the things that God does” – whatever those might be.

            It sounds really like this is the same argument as “God is goodness.”

          • Korou

            By the way, sorry I was late answering. I got a bit busy on the abortion abortion thread.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674332165 Mark Toffler

            Korou, you and many other atheists read scripture, and see contradictions, but I wonder if you’ve ever sought out answers?

            You, I presume, struggle with that because you assume the God we believe in is a like a human, and has a human-like personality. However, taking into account the vast scale of the universe, and especially of spacetime, doesn’t it seem odd that Catholics would believe in such primeval kind of Sky King, as if it were pulled out of antiquity? People are foolish, but such foolishness is not the norm these days. Of course it would not make sense.

            You, like so many of your fellow unbelievers, do not understand that for Catholics, God is not a being, God IS Being.

            He is the basis for all existence, and did not merely create the universe many billions of years ago, He created it billions of years from now as well, and is creating it at this very instant. God perpetuates creations because he transcends all orders of temporality, and it’s nigh time that atheists stopped trying to force everything they claim that we believe into conforming to the conditions of time and space.

            Quantum mechanics has already demonstrated that cause and effect are far more flexible principles that we have assumed for the entirety of our existence, and yet, for us Catholics, Jews, and other “sister-churches” of the Roman Church, our definition of God has always acknowledged that–even before Max Planck was but a glimmer in his mother’s eye

            Remember if you will, the name of God that given to Moses–I AM THAT WILL.

            God exists in and through and of himself. He is subsistent, pure Being, if He is God at all. Because to be God at all, He must Be the source of His own Being.

            Now…the Bible is a book containing many kinds of things. It posits things concerning science, history, literature, and social discipline. However, we do not take the overt rendering of these things to be the explicit or complete nature of salvific truth–ie the divinely inspired. However, understand that there is a value assessment present in all scriptural writings, and that the notion contained in all of them is that love of God is the highest good. Salvific truth, which is not found overtly in the commandment to abstain from pork, is still explicitly found in God’s desire that we maintain good health by abstaining from foods that carry the risk of disease.

            What’s more, when the OT authors write of God destroying cities, you must realize two things:

            1. God does not simply send down an angel and smite people. That’s simply the historical interpretation–even modern historians get it wrong (a lot of the time in fact). He simply allows them to suffer the consequences of what they have already chosen to do. ie, when a nation turns their back on God, God turns his back on that nation, and allows evil, or privation (absence), to take its effects. Think of it like a vacuum opening near a sand castle. The sand castle crumbles as it succumbs to the laws of physics, specifically pressure.

            2. You might then ask: “well, that’s dick move, why does he let people get hurt?” The answer is simple:
            First, God is Pure Being, and Pure Being is Pure Order, or Pure Truth: meaning that if we choose to conform to an UNnature, ie that which does not conform to nature and thus does conform to Divine Law–the will of God (which is the Will that has manifested and created nature), it is not within God’s Will (as his will is the will that wills) to intervene and save them, and could not be within his will because it fundamentally compromise the essence of his Being, which is existence.

            This answer may still not suffice, I understand that is difficult. Our love for our fellow man calls us to compassion, but understand that God is simply the most powerful and awesome (in the true sense of the world) thing we can conceive of. He is Eternal, He exists beyond Time, therefore, Time is literally NOTHING TO HIM. I could live for Eighty years and suffer gruesome torture and abuse for every second of them, and that suffering would still be NOTHING–LITERALLY NOTHING, compared to the reward of Eternal Life–Eternal Happiness. Therefore, yes, lament sinners that commit themselves to their own destruction, respond to your own compassion for your fellow man, but do so by working for his salvation, because the wages of his sin while will almost always lead to suffering in this life, his destruction is only complete in this life insofar as he abandons God, and what’s worse, whatever suffering that is manifest in this sense is equally nothing compared to an eternity spent isolated from the only thing that we truly desire–which is God.
            Second, you’ve heard God made us free haven’t you? Oh, you think we’re all just synapsis and electrodes? Hormones, instinct and clockwork manifestions of determinism? Where is the soul, you ask? How can I prove that consciousness is not contingent on material substance thus not bound to the machinations of the laws of physics? I don’t have to. Someone already has:

            http://www.salon.com/2012/04/21/near_death_explained/singleton/

            Religion’s might seem like an old nag, but she’s fast, and she’s smart, and she’s run this race ever since there were humans for her to carry around the course, lap after lap throughout the centuries.

          • Korou

            Mark, perhaps you could summarise your points to make it easier to respond to them – I’m not quite sure which ones you’d like me to address.

            I will say this, though. First, the ineffable God that you are describing there is not much different in many respects from the “Big Beard in the Sky” version of God in that atheists do not see much reason to believe in Him either..

            Second, there are plenty of people who do believe in God as represented through antiquity; you may represent a more enlightened, tolerant or educated strain of religious belief, but you do not represent all Christians or Catholics.

            Third, I find NDE’s to be a rather weak reed to lean on. I was a bit disappointed when I clicked on the link and found what it was!

            Finally, I was simply addressing the logical problems with proclaiming, as some Christians do, that God is Love, and I still see those problems as existing.

            Thank you for your comments.

          • Korou

            “”So if a truth-telling thing doesn’t make the truth meaningless, then I would also assert that a love-giving thing doesn’t make love meaningless.”

            I think you’ve missed my point.I wasn’t arguing that sayin that God was loving makes love meaningless, but that saying God is Love personified – which I have heard Chrisians say – makes love meaningless.

            Many people throughout history have been and are convinced that the God we Catholics believe in is not loving, truthful, or rational. Many people throughout history have been and are convinced that the God we Catholics believe in is loving, truthful, and rational.”

            That’s interesting. Wouldn’t you say this means that we can’t both be right?

  • Biteofpunkinpie

    Reminds me of a line from a Keats poem…

    Beauty is truth; truth beauty.
    That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.

    =) Beautiful!

  • Alex

    Maybe I’m just ignorant, but is the last picture in the post of a priest giving Communion to a small child? I’ve never seen it done using a spoon, but that is what it looks like. Are there some groups of Catholics who do First Communion at an earlier age?

    • Matthew Roth

      Eastern Catholics give First Communion at Baptism, along with Chrismation (Confirmation). And yes, the spoon is often a method of distributing Holy Communion.

    • Teresa

      I’m Coptic Orthodox and we receive communion with a spoon. Also, we have our First Communion the day we are baptized and confirmed, which is traditionally 40 days after birth.

      I didn’t know Easter Catholics had the same tradition. Thanks for sharing Matthew!

  • Brian

    Cardinal Ratzinger gave a beautiful discourse in 2002, making substantially the same point: http://www.npm.org/Articles/Colloquium06.pdf

  • Emangia

    Wow. This article resonates with me so much. You have pinpointed the reason for my dissatisfaction whenever I am taking in the beauty of nature… I admire the beauty but am frustrated that I am unable to “consume” it! And that we desire the infinite and this leads us to communion with God… these insights are so profound and beautiful and super important!! Thank you for this!! I do have a thought, though, and please (anyone) add to this if you may– it does seem to me that some people have more of a desire for beauty/perfection and I suppose a desire for consummation with this beauty than others, or it may be that they just haven’t gotten “in touch” with it… the insights and argument in this article are so clear to me because I have a very strong desire for beauty/perfection but I know it may not resonate so much with others. Does this mean they are simply meant to be led to God through other means, or that they should cultivate an appreciation of beauty/goodness/perfection in order to be led to God and appreciate Him? I would love to hear someone’s (especially you Marc) thoughts on this!

  • Bg4190

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts in such an eloquent way! Your posts bring me joy and I look forward to them. God bless you, Marc!

  • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

    Very insightful.

  • Rose

    “Human life teeters on the brink of metaphorical orgasm, never crossing the edge, always sweetly dissatisfied, always groaning.”
    “Metaphorical orgasm” as used in this sentence is a phrase I’ve been seeking for a long time. Thanks. And thanks for giving the credit to someone else in the comments section. (Anyone know where he originally read this?)

  • Mdasalser

    Bless you Mr. Barnes.

    Would it be inappropriate to say I desire to eat up your writing?

    I was baptized and confirmed into the Church this Easter, and I have to admit to feeling filled to the breaking point at points since then by the beauty that God reveals for us in the Mass, but no matter how full my heart gets, how overwhelmed my mind, I still want more.

    It isn’t the same, but in some of your writings, I hear an echo of that same Beauty, that same Truth… and I get hungry.

    Peace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=569235898 Nicole Resweber

    In case no one else says it, THANK YOU so much for your musical links. Whenever you post a video, I know I’m about to shed a tear… and then download a new song!

  • Rose

    This is a beautiful post! I wish I could consume it.

  • GuestMW

    Gotta lend some credit to Fulton Sheen here… right out of Three to Get Married.

  • Countcj

    Even from a scientific point of view, all of creation exhibits this beautiful “signature” of the creator – and yet we stereotype her students as most susceptible to its denial, and our culture revels in ridiculing those scientists who DO get it. (For instance, intelligent design is an almost trivial concept to a scientist, yet even the mainstream churches have shied from it.) God has given you an amazing gift of prophesy – to reveal His will and truth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-J-Loveless/100000216363826 Patrick J Loveless

    I never really thought before beauty could be used to show a way to God.

    But this article is entirely right, and shows us in fact not only does God know about it, but He gives us a way to do it in the Eucharist.

    I have been floored by this article. Literally.


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