God’s Universal Love

God’s Universal Love January 26, 2024

No photographer listed: Love And The Cross / picpick

God’s all-deifying love is for all. God desires to share it with everyone, for God is love. If there were someone God did not love, then God’s love would be conditional, making it something which is not essential to God. There can be and will be nothing lacking in God’s love for creation, for there is nothing which is lacking in God. Where there is any deficiency in love, it is in us and our reception of God’s love.

God’s deifying grace is such that it seeks to take us where we are at and to help us transcend ourselves, so that we can transcend our own deficiency, such as our sin, and join in and participate in God’s perfection. It helps us transcend our own natural potential so that in and through it, we become more and more like God, not just in regards God’s immortality, but in regards love itself. Angels, are said, in some sense, to be closer to God than us, because they presently reflect more of God’s qualities than we do. But it will not always be that way, as St. Isaac of Nineveh explained: with grace, we will find acquiring those qualities or attributes:

All these things that the superior creation of the angels has received, whether in nature or in honor beyond our present nature, are more than what <is found> in our creation. In the world to come all the things that belong to them, he will give to us in full, without any diminution, or lacking in anything that they have received, making the second part of creation not inferior to the first part – that is, those who are spiritual beings now. Rather, that spiritual state and immortality, the state of not eating and not being subject to the passions, with the interiority of the mysteries, the lofty place of the abode, along with everything else, which now, in accordance with what has pleased him, he has given them in the first place, but finally will perfect us in all that belongs to them, without doing injustice to the one part of creation with respect to the other. Far from it! His love toward us and towards the angels is a single <love>, and <his love> that is towards sinners is just like that that is towards the righteous: the taking from us by our Lord <at the incarnation> is testimony <to this>. There is a great necessity for the things that are deficient with us, in that by their means all the dispensations of God are carried out, being beneficial to us and to the angels, <for> he is going to establish us in the beyond above those things. [1]

We currently understand all of this in a limited fashion, as it is very difficult for us to truly understand what unchangeable love is like in and of itself. We have difficulty loving those who slight us, so we find it difficult to understand how God’s love remains for those who challenge or reject that love. Intellectually, we might appreciate that God can and does love all things, and because of divine simplicity, that love must in a sense be said to be the same for all. But we still find it difficult to understand, in reality, how that love is shared with all, and how it is given equally to all, when it seems different people, indeed, different thing interact with it in ways which appear unique.

God is love.  God is one. That love is one. It is from that love God created the world, and it is with that same love God sustains the world in time, and it is also through that same love, God seeks to perfect creation, and finally, it is that love which opens up to creation, to give it deifying grace so that it can and will participate in the divine life itself. Likewise, it is God’s love which led to the incarnation. God’s all-embracing love had the divine Logos assume a created nature, so that what was “inferior” and “outside of God” could find themselves experiencing in and participating in what was “superior” to them.

Due to the way we understand being, and the wide range of potentiality in being, so that there is a “great chain of being” reflecting the various potentialities of being, we find it difficult to understand how all those different kinds of being can be and will be loved equally and made equal in eternity. We like to look at the cosmos and its variations in relation to potency, and the different levels of potency creating a hierarchy of being – that is, we do not look at it in the realm of grace which is able to lift all things up beyond their potency, and in doing so, we like to think of ourselves as superior to other beings, even as we find ourselves inferior to others.  This line of thought is troubling, because it can and does lead to sin, and with it, abandoning the grace we need to transcend our natural potency. This is what we learn through discussions of the fall of Satan: Satan rebelled against God, and became the enemy of mankind, when Satan understood the way God’s love extended to what Satan believed was inferior so that what was inferior could be made Satan’s equal. To avoid Satan’s pitfall, we should recognize God’s all-deifying grace, and not get angry when we hear sinners, or anyone we believe is our inferior, receives God’s love the same as us. We should not be jealous or envious of the way others experience God’s love, especially if they seem to possess more of it, because God’s love is universal and will work to help lift us up, to transform us from within, and level all things out. If we are jealous or envious of others, we risk becoming like Satan, rebelling against love, cutting ourselves off from its reward as long as we do so. Jealousy and envy and similar such passions cut us off from God’s love because we are too attached to ourselves to receive it. It is best we look to the example of God in the incarnation, where God shows love is self-emptying, willing to engage all, to save all, so that we learn how we are to be when we want to embrace and engage that love: “Adam, coveting the honor of angels, lost the dignity of his own nature; Jesus, taking on the condition of our infirmity, placed among the inhabitants of heaven those for whom he descended into hell.” [2]

God’s all-embracing love searches throughout creation for those who can and will receive that love. It offers them itself, so that in and with that love, those who accept it can be lifted up and share in the divine life, the life of love. In that life, there is no sense of superiors or inferiors, because no one looks to and holds themselves with self-attachment to judge others, and without such judgment, there will be no jealousy, no envy, but only universal love, with everyone sharing in God’s love, and rejoicing together in that love.

[1] St. Isaac of Nineveh, Headings on Spiritual Knowledge (The Second Part, Chapters 1-3). Trans. Sebastian Brock (Yonkers, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2022),216 [Chapter 3; Fourth Discourse].

[2] St Leo the Great, Sermons. Trans. Jane Patricia Freeland CSJB and Agnes Josephine Conway SSJ (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 1996), 103 [Sermon 25].

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