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God is God and We are Not

by Msgr. Roger J. Scheckel

Adoration is based on the most fundamental truth about angels and men in their relationship to God, that God is God and they and we are not. This statement may seem facile, nevertheless it should be reflected upon in a most serious manner in that its denial was at the source of the Original Sin of our first parents, the effects of which remain with each of us.

While Eucharistic adoration can begin only at the moment of and after the Incarnation, the human disposition for adoration begins with God’s revelation through His creation as revealed to the Hebrews in the Old Testament.

It was first revealed to the Hebrews that God was not a part nor was He the whole of the created world. With the assistance of divine grace, they understood that creation was not necessary and that God’s existence is not dependant on His creation. In other words, God would not be any less God if He had left His creation uncreated. This distinction between God and creation is what separates a Judeo-Christian worldview from a pagan worldview. Unfortunately today we are witnessing the blurring and even denial of this distinction and a corresponding advance of pagan thinking and practices. It is not uncommon to hear people say that God is in the trees, the hills, the flowers, etc., their belief is that these wonders of nature are God rather than God’s creatures.

It is important for Marian Catechists to be aware of the paganism that is creeping in to the thinking of many Catholics. Marian Catechists would be well served to study the recent document, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Reflection on the New Age,* in order to be able to recognize this pagan thinking and practice and be able to better defend the Church’s teaching.

Throughout the Sacred Scriptures there are numerous scenes where adoration of God is expressed. The classic depiction is the three Magi, who come from the east following a star to Bethlehem where after finding the Christ child, “prostrated themselves and did Him homage” (Matt 2:1-11). Another scene from our Lord’s earthly ministry depicting adoration involves Saint Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where after witnessing the miraculous catch, he falls to his knees before Jesus and exclaims: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). These scenes contain the essence of adoration: men bowing down before God acknowledging that God is God and they are not.

By far the most eminent scene depicting adoration is found in the Angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary. Saint Luke records that at the very moment of Mary’s fiat the Second Person of the most Blessed Trinity became incarnate within her womb and “the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38). Prior to our Lord’s Incarnation in His Mother’s womb, the archangel is talkative in carrying out his work as a messenger from God. After the incarnation, the angel is silent and leaves the room. When I meditate on this scene I “see” the archangel silently backing out of the room bowed down in a posture of adoration aware that God is substantially present on earth for the first time.

The Church has traditionally identified four kinds of prayer: petition, repentance, thanksgiving and adoration. Adoration is described as the “highest” of these four kinds of prayer. One reason for this status may be that adoration places nothing “in between” God and the person who is praying. The prayer of petition includes what it is that we need, the prayer of repentance includes that for which we seek forgiveness and the prayer of thanksgiving includes the favor received. Adoration involves only God and us. As we come before God substantially present under the appearance of a creature, i.e., bread and wine, our faith directs us to adopt a posture and a “language” that follows the posture and language of our first Pope and the archangel Gabriel, kneeling and silence. Our posture of kneeling indicates complete dependence upon God for our existence. Our “language” is void of words (silence) because our words are necessarily bound to categories that correspond to things of this world. However, God is not simply another “thing” in the world. (It is true to say that in His incarnation God humbled Himself to become part of our world and therefore words can be used to address and describe God. However as has been pointed out by Christian philosophers, our words which attempt to describe God are more accurate in saying what God is not than what He is.)

Our kneeling and silence before our Eucharistic Lord is not something we should view as being imposed from the outside but rather a kind of interior demand as one comprehends the relationship of Creator to creature. It is a disposition that needs to be explained to others, especially children through a thorough catechesis on the nature of God, with particular emphasis on the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. Marian Catechists in particular should be ready and willing to provide this catechesis.

*Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 2003, Available from the Marian Catechist Bookstore.

Originally published in The Tilma, Spring 2006.