All true morality, inward and outward, is comprehended in love, for love is the foundation of all the commandments. All outward morality must be built upon this basis, not on self-interest. As long as man loves something else than God, or outside God, he is not free, because he has not love. Therefore there is no inner freedom which does not manifest itself in works of love. True freedom is the government of nature in and outside man through God; freedom is essential existence unaffected by creatures. But love often begins with fear; fear is the approach to love: fear is like the awl which draws the shoemaker’s thread through the leather.
–Meister Eckhart, Sermon VII : “Outward and Inward Morality”; courtesy Wikiquote
Previously, we looked at some possible ways that the universe could have been brought into being (if, indeed, it needed to be brought into being–but that’s for another post). Here I want to look at the two ways that are commonest in Western religious thought, that is, creation and emanation.
As I said last time, we humans never actually “create” anything–we take already existing material and shape it into other things. For example, I might use wood to build a picnic table, or silver to fashion a ring, or stone to build a building. ”Creation”, in the strict theological and philosophical sense, always means making something ex nihilo (“out of nothingness”). In short, when God is said to create the world, He literally conjures it up from nothing. As the Qur’an puts it, “When [God] decrees a thing, He need only say, “Be,” and it is.” (2:116, Dawood translation). Or, as in Genesis, He merely says, “Let there be…” and light, the sky, and so forth instantly are. The term that philosopher Mortimer Adler, in his book How to Think About God, uses for this is a word of his coinage (but a very felicitous one, at that), exnihilation. According to him, this is formed on the analogy of “annihilation”, which literally means to put into (ad-) nothingness (nihil). Of course, nothing is truly annihilated–even if I drop an atomic bomb on something, it is merely blown into its constituent atoms, not into nothingness. However, exnihilation–taking something out of (ex-) nothingness is, indeed, exactly what God does in His act of creation. As Adler also points out, this can be conceived of whether or not the universe is thought of as being temporally infinite (i.e. in terms of infinite linear time) or not.
It is important at this juncture to point out that something created–exnihilated–by God is separate from Him. That is, the thing or being created by God literally comes into being out of nothingness. It is not formed from, fashioned from, or derived from anything else. It is called into existence by God, but it is not part of Him. It is ontologically distinct. There are some nuances in this that we’ll return to later, but for now we’ll leave it at that and move on.
Emanation is the other mode which has been postulated as the means by which God brought the cosmos into being. ”Emanate” comes from Latin roots meaning “to flow out from”, and this is a good description of the theological concept of emanation. Just as water flows out of the mountains into a river, or light “flows out” of a fire, the cosmos is thought of as “flowing out” of God. That is to say, that God does not create the world (including sapient beings such as us) from pre-existing material, nor does he call it out of nothing. Rather, he “draws” them from His own substance; or to put it another way, we all “flow” out of God.
Today is his feast day. Prayer courtesy of here.
NOVENA PRAYER TO ST GEORGE
ST GEORGE – FEAST DAY: APRIL 23rd
We all know St George as patron of England, and tamer of dragons. St George seems to have been a Roman soldier, probably of the late third century, who was martyred at Lydda in Palestine during the great persecution by the Emperor Diocletian, probably for refusing to renounce Christ and worship the Emperor as a god.
His cult was very widespread in the east from that time on; when English soldiers went to the Holy Land on Crusade, they were inspired by this warrior saint; Richard the Lionheart put himself and his army under St George’s protection. From then on his popularity in England only grew: Edward III founded the Order of the Garter, with St George as patron, in 1348; Henry V called on St George for aid before the great victory of Agincourt in 1415. Thereafter he was secure as patron of England (although the patronage of two Anglo-Saxon Saint-Kings, Edward the Confessor and Edmund of East Anglia, was not neglected), and his popularity survived the spoliation and wreckage of the Reformation.
This prayer to St George can be said for nine days as a novena:
“Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, St George, inflamed with a burning love of Christ, you fought against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit.
Neither pain nor torture, nor the sword nor death could part you from the love of Christ. Pray for us, glorious St George, that through your intercession and example, we may work with all our strength for God’s greater glory, and continue unto death in imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
(Our Father…, Hail Mary…, Glory be…)
Eternal rest grant them, O Lord. Also be mindful of the survivors.