The best way to understand God is using the qualities of personhood.
We get God’s creation or God as a distant possibility but as for the person and the personhood of God, that goes over our head!
But in our deepest and truest personhood we are most like God.
We begin every Mass by apologizing to the Almighty for any offense we’ve caused.
Offense and apology – and ultimately forgiveness – belong properly to personhood and they don’t need an explanation because they’re such an important part of our lived experience.
But why are we like this?
Because we’re made in the image and likeness of God.
God then is the original person or personhood, the template of all personhood, and in our human experience of offense and apology we’re simply reflecting eternity and our eternal origins.
Justice and the human desire for justice are other such qualities… as are love and mercy. Indeed, all the important personhood stuff is reflecting eternity.
You’ll often hear people express the view that they’re more spiritual than religious and at the heart of this dichotomy – which I consider to be a false dichotomy – lies the personhood of God.
At any moment we can have a deeply spiritual experience… more often than not it’ll happen while we’re in the midst of creation.
These are undoubtedly moments of spiritual awareness, even of oneness, but they’re not an experience of the very person of God.
I’ve had many such moments… standing on the bridge at Edermine – always looking downstream by the way! – and while walking the N11 from Oylgate towards Enniscorthy and experiencing the breathtaking view of the distant mountains.
Granted, in so far as the water and the mountains are God’s creation they are experiences of God but they’re experiences of God in much the same way as a piece of art is an experience of the artist… meeting the artist in person is quiet a different matter altogether.
God is like that too. It’s one thing to experience God’s creation and to be drawn into an awareness of the Creator-God, it’s quite another to actually encounter the person of God!
One belongs to spirituality, the other belongs to spirituality given direction by the Christmas and Easter events and religion.
We rarely pass into this realm, into an encounter with the very personhood of God, yet this is the very purpose of Christian religion. This – the very person of God – is what distinguishes the Christian religion from spirituality.
Religion, true religion, moves the practitioner through spirituality to an encounter with the very person and personhood of God.
So, make no mistake, lots of us have experience of God through oneness with his creation but there are few people who know what it is to encounter God in his very person.
This encounter requires both spirituality and the committed practice of religion.