God Excludes Nothing

St. Bonaventure has got me thinking in circles.

Quoting Alain de Lille, Bonaventure wrote that God

is an intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere (The Soul's Journey into God, V.8.)

If God's center is everywhere, we can find God in all things. And if God's circumference is nowhere, then nothing is excluded from God. God is not a being. God is Being.

Beautiful theology, but who really cares? What difference does it make?

The problem with thinking about God--that is to say, the problem with theology--is that it tells almost nothing about how we might encounter God, and even less about how we might experience God. My journey toward God will be a short and frustrating one if if I substitute theology for spirituality--the train will never leave the station. Yet without theology, my journey toward God will be little more than aimless wandering--it's as if I get on a train but never get off.

So how can I make sense of this of God as characterized by St. Bonaventure, and what difference does it make in my lived life? Here are a few ways:

  • God's center is everywhere. God is immanent. God dwells in everything; therefore, everything has an inherent sanctity. This will impact the way I treat others and myself. Do I act in a that affirms or denies the Divine indwelling of another? Ways of affirming the Divine indwelling includes being present, offering mercy and compassion, and treating the world the gentleness. Ways of denying the Divine indwelling includes dismissing, ridiculing, judging, and condemning. 

  • God's circumference is nowhere. God excludes nothing. I take this meaning in two different ways: if something exists, then it is part of God--it contains God's center; the only thing that God excludes is nothingness itself! Thus, I am able to recognize the unity of all Creation. There is no longer "sacred" versus "secular," "Christian" versus "non-Christian," "us" versus "them"; there is only togetherness in God. Recognizing this unity means making sure that everyone has a place to share their stories, to share their pain, and to offer and receive compassion. But whenever I exclude someone by seeing only some label I attach to them and then shame them for not having the right label, making them feel unwelcome, I only exclude myself.

Perhaps this might explain why Mary Magdalene and the other Mary found Jesus' tomb empty:

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. . . . But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. (Matthew 28:1-2,5) 

 The tomb represents nothingness; no wonder the risen Christ could not be found there.

And perhaps that is the lesson God is trying to teach me when I reflect on the empty tomb: if something exists, it can only exist in God, for God excludes nothing. Knowing that everything exists in God, I can understand that everything belongs. Knowing that everything belongs, I can see the inherent sanctity--the inherent goodness--of all things.

Then and only them am I made whole.