Jesus said, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’ For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
Father and Son. Not Prime Mover, not Emanation, not Life Force, not Energy…. Christians use the language of human relationships to speak about God. We do this because Jesus did so. He spoke of God as his Father. And the Father called him his Son: “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son’” (Mt 3:17; 17:5). In Jesus, our God is translated into human reality. In the history of the world’s religions the supreme deities tended to evaporate into thin air because they were perceived as too remote, and were replaced by more proximate deities. In the Christian faith, God does not evaporate into total generality but becomes, in Christ, one of ourselves.
This mystery really touches us in every sense. It is “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands” (1 Jn 1:1). It also plucks at the heart-strings. But it is hard, if not impossible, to keep possession of our full spiritual inheritance. We are forever going lopsided. Christian devotion can sometimes focus so exclusively on Jesus that it makes him a substitute for the Father rather than a revelation of the Father. At times it goes even further, practically substituting Mary and the saints for Jesus.
The ‘Glory’ used to read: “Glory to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.” It was in reaction to the Arian heresy (which denied the divinity of Christ) that it was changed to “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.” This underlined the equality of the divine Persons, but it tended over time to obscure the ‘working’ of the Trinity. It seemed to put the divine Persons there statically in front of us. It is hardly surprising then that some people just took their pick. We often hear that our spirituality should be Christ-centred. However, the Liturgy – which is our primary spiritual teacher – is Father-centred, in the sense that the prayers, with extremely few exceptions, are addressed to the Father, through Christ our Lord.
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