The Simplicity of God in a Flame


Today I'm posting the first in a series of short reflections on the eight general attributes of God that can known by reason, as set forth by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica.  I've been learning about St. Thomas and the Summa from Dr. Taylor Marshall and the online classes he offers at the New Saint Thomas Institute.  These reflections are the result of my meditations on each individual attribute during prayer.  As such, they are not meant to be deep theological discussions, but simple spiritual thoughts on the majesty of our God .  I pray you find them beneficial in your walk with Christ.


St. Augustine tells us that "God is truly and absolutely simple."  It is  on this foundation that St. Thomas builds his discussion on the first of God's attributes: absolute simplicity.  This, at first, can seem counter-intuitive.  Theological concepts like the Trinity and the "hypostatic union," for example, can make it seem that God is too complex to be fully known and understood, especially for non-Christians.  Further, as St. Thomas points out, one can look at the created world and see complexities everywhere, from the composition of certain elemental formulations to the design and workings of the human eye.

But while certain concepts and created realities may be complex (i.e. made up of different parts), God is not.  Indeed, as St. Thomas says, God is "absolute being,"  in other words, pure existence in and of Himself.  As such, God cannot be made up of component parts because He is the first being; the first uncaused cause of every created thing.

As I meditated on this during prayer recently, I immediately was drawn to the flame of a candle I had lit nearby in the darkness.  The flame was simple, constant and consistent.  The flame, although small, danced around--silent yet speaking--illuminating the area all around me.  Even when I closed my eyes, the light from the flame still penetrated my senses, allowing me to remain aware of its presence and movements.  I quickly came to see the simplicity of God in that candle flame, and more importantly, the all-consuming simplicity of His love for us.

Is it any wonder that God revealed Himself to Moses for the first time in the flame of the burning bush?  (Exodus 3:1-6; Acts 7:30)  Indeed, the constancy and consistency of the flame drew Moses' attention.  Although it is often silent to our ears, "the voice of the Lord strikes with fiery flame."  (Psalms 29:7)  St. Paul tells us to "stir into flame the gift of God that you have [been given]."  (2 Timothy 1:6)  This simple flame, this gift, always illuminates us with God's love and never leaves us, even when we close our eyes or turn our back on Him.

We, in turn, must reflect God's simplicity in our lives.  Indeed, Jesus told the twelve apostles to be "simple as doves" as he sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God.  (Matthew 10;16)  Because when you get right down to it, nothing is simpler than the two greatest commandments Jesus gives us: (1) to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and (2) to love your neighbor as yourself.  (Mark 12:29-34).  It is putting these commandments into practice that often seems complex.  But as Jesus promises us, if we respond to these commandments "with understanding," we "are not far from the Kingdom of God" and that much closer to seeing Him in all of His majestic simplicity.

God love you.

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