Imagining the Divine

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

Meister Eckhart, the great medieval Dominican mystic and theologian, once said “God, please save me from God.” The first time I read that, I had the same reaction most people probably would at first. However, as is usually the case, as I made it more personal, I started to understand what exactly the point was and it’s something that every Christian and, indeed, every person of faith, needs to look at very carefully from time to time: Meister Eckhart’s prayer is asking that he be freed from his own frail human conceptions of who and what God is.

We must all, from time to time, sit before the tabernacle and confront the tension we consciously or unconsciously carry around with us between our conventional, media-induced images of God on the one hand and what our experiences, intuitions and the Church tell us on the other. What images do we conjure up in our limited human intellect when we think about God and to what extent does this comport with who and what He truly reveals Himself to be to us in our day to day lives?

I think in this respect art can be a double-edged sword because there is only a very limited degree to which it can give us this kind of access to such an awesome, unimaginably good and creative being as God; this is why, in previous posts, I’ve written of the dangers of looking for and pretending to find God in places where He is not. We don’t realize just how much our conception of God informs our everyday lives. The attacks of September 11, 2001 were a direct result of this. Thousands lost their lives that day because of what a group of people saw as the will of their god. Likewise, St. Thomas Aquinas’ faith in a loving God accessible by reason informed every article on every page of his great Summa Theologiae.

The Sienese painter, Il Sassetta portrayed this masterfully in his painting St. Thomas Before the Cross.

Let’s consistently pray for the wisdom to check our imaginations at the church door so we are not tempted to impose our human minds onto God, as that very truly does set the tone for our entire life of faith.

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