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the Trinity and us

With the discussion of the Trinity, Part One of the Summa, which Aquinas devotes to an exploration of God, begins to wind down. Parts Two and Three are about "the journey to God of reasoning creatures" and about "Christ, our road to God." So in Parts Two and Three, we move from talking about God to talking about humans, making it of course much more interesting, not only because we finally get to talk about ourselves, but because of the way in which Aquinas links us to God.

On the one hand, we have that mysterious cause of existence we call God, essential form, the permeating stuff and structure of the universe, fully actualized, perfectly present, untroubled by space or time, fully aware, and quite divinely happy.

And on the other hand we have, well, us: existing as individual blobs of matter, alive in bodies locked in space-time, looking out via our senses onto a world we did not create, subject to messy beginnings, middles, and endings, required to learn through experience, and only fitfully happy.

Putting ourselves next to God, we don't look so hot.

God

Us

free of space-time

locked in space-time

perfectly actualized

struggling to flourish

perfectly present

marginally in the moment

fully aware

usually clueless

thinks reality

usually blocks it

powers providence

struggles to survive

in love; divinely happy

often lonely

As Aquinas has pointed out, talking of God usually tells us more about us than about God. Yet as described, the whole God thing sounds rather appealing, especially that last part about being in love and divinely happy.

The question is, how do we get to be like that? The answer to this question goes right to the heart of Aquinas and is what he spends the Second and Third parts of the Summa Theologica explaining.

And guess what, it really is about being happy. That loving relationship between God's self-awareness and God that we call the Trinity is what we are supposed to model, by seeing, understanding and loving the known world and through it, God. This ongoing act of mind and heart gets us as close as we can to being one with the mystery of life. The wonder and delight we then experience helps break the hold of ego on our perception and opens us to bliss, the human version of divine happiness.

The whole purpose of Christ, the Incarnation, Church, Eucharist, and all the rest is simply to get us into this graced state, and how this all works is what Aquinas labors to explain in the rest of the Summa Theologica. So buckle up; we're about to plow through it, starting with a further discussion of the whole concept of happiness.

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"To know something with the mind is to understand what it is; so the mind is fulfilled to the degree to which it knows what things are. ... We call it wonder and it drives us to investigate until we are satisfied with our understanding of what that cause is. For complete happiness then the mind wants to know the nature of the first cause of everything."
(IaIIa.3.8)

 

 
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