By Callie Stiewig
God is good all the time, all the time God is good. You know the chorus. I have always believed this for as long as I have had conscious memories to serve me. Some people are believers, others aren’t. Some see the sun rise over the horizon and think “beauty”, others think “God”. I’ve always been in the both/and camp. I’m a believer. I can’t help it. God has always been an assumption to me.
I grew up in a conservative Roman Catholic parish. I am fully connected with “smells and bells” in my heart and mind. I know the Liturgy to be transcendent and a vital component of my spiritual “restedness.” I have been blessed to know God without (significant) confrontation and oppression, unlike some of our less fortunate brothers and sisters across the world. I believe that my desire to know God points to something vitally different from other things in nature. My desire to know truth, beauty, and goodness has become my “proof.” My desire to know what is good proves to me that I am made in God’s image. I will explain further.
I find the presence of our human consciousness and inquisitive nature to not only differentiate us from animals, but to also make the case for God. Through our human consciousness we desire transcendental experiences, none of which are necessary for survival. I desire perfection on Earth in everything I seek. In knowledge, love, goodness, beauty, and being. I know that perfect transcendental experiences do not and cannot exist on Earth. Satan has made sure of this. Earth is not Heaven, nor should I desire it to be. But, since perfect knowledge, perfect love, perfect goodness, perfect beauty, and perfect being don’t exist here on Earth, why do I seek them? It makes no sense for me to seek that which is unattainable.
What we seek is something transcendental, something beyond our world and beyond our earthly experience. What we seek is God. To quote St. Augustine – “Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.”
But back to my own journey. As I grew older, my religion evolved. I was partly Catholic and partly an assortment of other things; mostly to do with the effects of nature and relationships, and being a woman in a weird world. The church’s positions on various topics were not for me, but for a long time, I felt I was able to ignore them. Still among this partiality, I found goodness to be constant. No matter where I was, or what I was, I always knew Him to be good. I strived too for perfection; to be like Christ. To be good no matter what I labeled myself.
The transcendentals, according to Christian doctrine, can be described as the ultimate desires of man. Man ultimately strives for perfection, which takes form in the desire for perfect attainment of the transcendentals. The Catholic Church teaches that God Himself is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, as indicated in the Catechism. The transcendentals are intertwined. Where there is truth, there is also beauty and goodness.
Jesus promised in Matthew 28:20 that “He is with us always.” Romans 8:28 says that God works all things to good for those who love Him. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that He has a good plan for us to give us a hope and a future. Through His goodness, God reveals Himself to be on our side. His power is greater than all of the darkness that tries to battle us. If we are to consider the Gospels through a lens of transcendentalism, we then must desire their perfect attainment, or rather the perfection of which they speak. We must desire to be like Christ.
In the Christian faith, God’s creation is good. We Christians believe ourselves to be surrounded by truth, goodness, and beauty. “The good is the true presented to us in the form of an invitation. The good is the summons to a decision.” Through the Gospels, Christians recognize this invitation as a transcendental, given to us by God Himself through His only son. The invitation is true, beautiful, and good. The invitation is transcendent.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This is our invitation.
What is the Liturgy? In a few words, the real presence of God among His people. Who is God? The True; the Good; the Beautiful.
“A thing is good only in so far as it refers in some way to existence; possible things, as such, are not good.”
The Liturgies are the most Holy good we have as Episcopalians, that is if for something to be good it must be referential. The liturgy exists on Earth. It is not possible, it is. We are reminded of our standing invitation every time we approach the altar to take the real presence of God. If there were ever a time for a Christian to experience the “transcendental interferer” (as C.S. Lewis puts it), it would be during the Liturgy.
“A great man knows he is not God and the greater he is, the better he knows it. The gospels declare that this mysterious maker of the world has visited his world in person. The most that any religious prophet has said was that he was the true servant of such a being. But if the creator was present in the daily life of the Roman Empire, that is something unlike anything else in nature. It is the one great startling statement that man has made since he spoke his first articulate word. It makes dust and nonsense of comparative religion. “
C.S Lewis wrote his autobiography and when he came to the chapter that recounted the story of his conversion, he put an inscription at the head of the chapter. It simply read: “The one principle of Hell is — ‘I am my own.'” The truth of the Gospels, the truth of our liturgies is this; Christ came so that everyone may know He is God and no man is God, and so every man must desire the good, that is being with God and not himself. That is, being with Christ and not his own.
I often find myself delving into self-serving ideologies. I commit the sin of repeatedly “being my own person.” I tell God he should “mind His own business.” The truth is He is minding His own business. By God’s grace I am His business. And so are you. The Father sent the son to interfere with the certainty of death and He overcame it. We meet the son every Sunday during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We witness His transcendental good in our traditions and practices. He interferes, in a good way, every moment we recognize Him.
Thanks to the Transcendental Interferer, I no longer have to fear my sinful nature. I have been forgiven of all sins and all sins I will commit. I have been given the highest good. I belong to Christ. Body and Soul.
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