Project Canterbury

The Being of God

Addresses at a Quiet Day by the Rev. Father Congreve, S.S.J.E.

Oxford: Society of S. John the Evangelist, no date.

'They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.'--Rev. iv. 8.


In coming away from home to spend a Quiet Day, our object is to detach ourselves from our surroundings. Our surroundings get such a hold upon us, we are in danger of living in them and for them--dissolving into our surroundings, till we each become, not an individual character looking up to God, but people who have put their work, their religious surroundings, between themselves and God. They are held up by their surroundings and drop to pieces when their surroundings drop away from them. So, our own church where we worship, our own work which seems to us so important; all these things are not what God means us to live for, and to live by. God means certainly some day to take our surroundings away from us, and us from them, and the whole process of life is just separating us from our surroundings. God gives them us to take them away again, gives them us for our training. God gives us these circumstances to enable us to do without them.

So we come away for a day to realize what it will be when we have no earthly home. How should I face life if I had no home, nothing to live on, no friends? I shall be one day as much of a stranger in the wide world, as I am in this street outside. 'Strangers and pilgrims,' we are called now, but what shall I do when that day comes when these words are really true? Am I prepared for it? Is my life getting me ready for it? How little I realize how much my work is to me, how I live for it. Yet my work might be taken away from me. How should I get on then? What would be left of me? So you come away to see what life would be like without work. Then there is home--how much we get to depend on that quiet corner which knows you and which you know. What are you in yourself alone? What will you be on your deathbed, passing away from all earthly things? The whole of our life is intended to be a discipline to teach us that we are not at home here. So let us meditate on the great vision of S. John in Patmos--'A door was opened in heaven.'

The reason why detachment is a virtue not for hermits and monks and nuns, but for everyone, is because this world was not made to be your home. If we abuse this world by making a home in it, burying ourselves, hiding ourselves in this earth which perishes, we miss that door opened in Heaven. This world is as the path by which you climb the heights. So we want to learn the way out of this decay, and we are shown this door open in Heaven, which is Jesus. We must have a home somewhere, and the door of that home is Jesus. Recall the vision of the four living creatures. They represent all creation worshipping God, every leaf and flower and bird glorifying God. 'They rest not day nor night.' Let us try to fix our thoughts on the three views of God expressed in their adoration--'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.'

Let us get away out of our fretting self-tormenting selves to God, Who is the answer to all our questions. There is our quietness, in reaching God in our thought, in our worship, in our love.


Think how this praise of creation casts us on our faces in worship before the eternal Father, the origin of all being. The scientific men of each age are always analyzing to find out one step further back in the endless steps of causation, but the man of faith takes but one step back, to the Creator of all, the Father Almighty, who thought out all that has been made. That one step is worship.

I come from God. That will give you the subject of this meditation. You will never come to the end of that subject. I come from God. Then you will know that this little tempest of circumstances in which you are cannot shake you or break you loose from your anchor. How this thought carries you back to the Father who made you and all the world. Your little personality is linked to the central light of the universe which is God.

You know how you have noticed in going into a room, quite dark except for one tiny ray of light coming from some crack in the window or shutter, how there was one spot of light on the opposite wall, and how as you passed between the crack and the spot of light it fell on you, and you saw it was not a solitary spot, but a ray joined to the infinite light of the sun, thousands of miles away. So there is a ray of God's purpose travelling straight to your personality, one little ray of thought and of love that joins the great Luminary of the universe to your personality in creating you, travelling from God's heart and mind to yours. That is the value of your life.

As God's thought and purpose travels to you and gives you life and personality and interest, so your consciousness can travel back by the same ray to its source continually. You can go back to God from whom you have come. The object of meditating on 'I come from God' is in order that you may realize that you have the power of travelling back to God. God is thinking of you this instant. God is loving you this instant, and as His thought is travelling to you, so yours can travel back to Him. He prepared you for the circumstances of your life, and now He is preparing you to leave them for something better, i.e. Himself. You came into the world in His image. As the artist expresses his ideal in the music or the picture, so God desires to express His goodness, His beauty in you. There is the possibility of the beauty of your life: it lies in the beauty of God. How foolish we are when we try to make our own plan of life and leave God's plan for us. You came into the world with God's greatness and capacity impressed upon you. You have not anyone else's purpose in life to carry out, but God's. Our nature is created to live for God only.

Think how this thought takes away vagueness from human life. You know the desultory feeling of a soul that feels itself at a loose end in life; but each one of us here has a law in our being--that which God made me for. I belong to God. I am linked to God; He cares for me, and He knows the purpose which He has for body, soul, and spirit. We do not attempt to unravel the tangled web of life, but we know God is on the other side, and He knows what is the meaning of it all. I belong to God, and am linked to Him by the purpose for which He created me. He never creates anything without a purpose, and He never loses His interest in it, and however small and contemptible my life may seem to be, I am cheered by remembering that to one Person my life is not contemptible.

He made me to express His love in some way in which no one else could express it. God's purpose is always great and true, and real greatness lies in the carrying out of that purpose in our lives. I am only useless and incapable if I fail to seek God's purpose, and in self will choose my own work and my own purpose.

So we may trace our being every instant back to God. He did not send us forth and then cast us away, God does not deal so with us. He creates us and then He holds us in His Hand, as the sun holds the spot of light by that ray which joins it to the sun. Think of the virtue which that thought teaches us, the virtue of memory, which is grateful love. Have you been cultivating that virtue? Think of all the discontent and restlessness and forgetfulness of your life. Has it not been that you have thought of yourself as a solitary unit, not linked to Him who gave you your being--'Him who was'? If you had you would not have given way to gloom, but would have given yourself to thanksgiving and love.

So consider how you will try to improve in this virtue and acquire a habit of looking back, not at yourself or at your doings, but in grateful love go back to God Himself. Ask yourself often: What did God put me here for? What thought has He for me? Did He really know all about me, my sorrows, and my disciplines? Yes, God knew all that. We have sorrows and trials because of the Cross. They have the same meaning for us that they had for the Crucified.

So think of the quietness that grows in a life that is always linked with God, and that is ever looking back to God to rind out the true meaning of its life.


We were thinking of that attribute of God: 'Which was,' His eternal Being. Every human soul has a joy of memory which it may go back to, past all the sorrows of life, back to the fountain of being. If we are giving way to gloomy depressed thoughts, it is because we have not gone far enough back. We can never despair of a life that springs from such a fountain, ff we break that link which knits us to God, there is nothing left us but despair. There is the true liberty of man. He can never be made, against his will, the slave of any other man, because he is the son of God--our being only exists as coming straight from God. How God's dealings tend to break our wills, and how long it takes us to recognise that His Will is the greatest and noblest thing in life!

Now let us go on to the Being of God, 'which was and is,' and in the contemplation of God let us support ourselves. Our hope is. We cannot despair even if all the future were cut off, if we were shut up, oppressed, shut in; still I can grasp the thought of the Being of God, who is the source of my life at this moment under all circumstances. How God reveals this thought to us in the very beginning of the Bible, to Moses, when He calls Himself 'I am.' So our Lord--'Before Abraham was, I am.'

Being in any creature means something which reflects the only true being there is, which is God. There is a patch of sunshine lying across your path, because it comes from the sun, so everything which has being has it, because that being came from God. If it is only a plant growing in the crevice of the wall, it is because God put it there. Whatever the beauty of any created thing is, it is the beauty of God's touch, saying that it is from Him. The beauty of all nature tells you how God lives, whose present interest in the thing you are looking at is the cause and the secret of its beauty and its being. If you knew all that that little plant was, you would know something of what God is.

People break off their life from God and then they despise it. Try and think of your bare existence as a blessing, a blessing because it is given you this instant from God who gives a reflection of His own personal Being to every created thing. It is true of plant and beast and bird, they reflect a true being, which is God's. Yes, this is true even of bad men and devils, even if it is a blessing abused it is something in a bad man to appeal to. Is he enjoying his life of sin? He is using the very power of enjoyment against the giver, who is God. God not only launches us into being, but also He upholds us. It is a great help to remember that the powers of mind and body by which you go about your daily work are being supplied moment by moment from God.

You wake up in the morning and find that you can think, reason, plan. That is something worth rejoicing over, because it is the gift of God. The love of God in His gifts will make us rejoice and give thanks for that which others grumble over. This brings also a responsibility; we have to give account of His gifts. For instance if I awake in the morning with all my faculties I must get up in time for my prayers.

Then think of the turning of May into June, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. Being is not stinted in God. Is not that what May and June say to us? Think how this wealth of the Being of God is symbolized by all the splendour you sec in your gardens and hedgerows in May and June. But quickly the being of all creation fails. It is given them, and the Creator sustains all these things, and then their being is withdrawn and they die. But you recollect that they are only created things that have died, you still have God Himself who is the source of everything. Think how all belongs to you in Christ. God has no power kept for Himself which He does not share with His children. Give your powers of will and affection a choice for God while you can use them to-day, for, weak as they may be, God is supplying them and He will make them strong. Exert them and you will find them growing.

There is such a thing as beauty because God is altogether lovely. Beauty reveals to man God's deepest and loveliest thought. The beauty of nature is to reveal the beauty of God to you, and to call out your love in response to God. Be sorry for all the indifference you have allowed to come into your life when you complained that it was dull and weary. It was dull because you took it out of God. The sad heart finds work mechanical because it is dead, but when we go through it all to God, it will live with a new life. Nothing is really mechanical, and even a machine has had a living maker. Everything is sacramental to sacramental people. If I am spiritual I shall find God's spirit in all His works. We have the highest kind of being, spiritual being, which is that which is based in the very highest life of the Godhead. 'Made partakers of the Divine Nature.' So realize the strength of your life in having God Himself, realize the beauty in every leaf in the hedge, as being the beauty and love of God sent to meet you, to welcome you, to give you a message from God. Exercise confidence in God. Look not at your own life with confidence but at God Himself, and exercise a real love of God, which is your response to His gift of being. It doesn't matter in the least what miserable, hopeless surroundings we may have, we can love God with all our heart and mind and soul. I know that I can do that, because God is Love, and He has given Himself to me, and so I can make my response to that Love of His. My existence is to return God's Love to Him.


We were meditating on the Being of God. God was when He gave us our being, but He could not be left behind. He not only was our being, but He is our being every moment. God is busy about you now, dealing with you. Your being is much more than you feel. Besides all you feel, your existence means God Himself touching your souls and giving you that existence. So we were thinking of our exercise of faith and confidence in God. My whole life must be a life of confidence in God. Now let us go on to the third of these phrases: 'Which is to come.'

This is a title of the Messiah, of the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He took our nature that He might fill it with God. Human nature as God made it was not complete. When He made man and woman He saw, and 'behold it was very good ', yet incomplete; its very goodness meant that it was incomplete without God. That is the glory of human nature, it is capable of God Himself. Human nature means a capacity for receiving God. God has come into our nature and now our nature begins to attain completeness by the sacraments. We are new-born in the sacraments of grace, not to stay infants, but to develop to perfection. So life is progress. Every day is given us that there may be a real and eternal development in growing like God and in loving God. If we are doing that there can be no bad day for a Christian.

Christ is sown in our hearts, and has to grow by our moral discipline, by the faithfulness with which we get up in the morning in time to say our prayers, and go on with our religious duties when we don't find any comfort in them. Man's very constitution implies constant improvement. The aged saint is not so perfect that he has nothing to do but to sit down and wait till God comes to call him to Paradise; rather he knows much more of the power and glory within him, and of his own weakness and sinfulness, than he did in his youth. A Christian's death is his last act of supernatural faith, his last dash at the city gates. 'The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence.'

So consider how God Incarnate sums up all God's purposes in creation. He has in Himself all human perfection. All human possibility of improvement is in Jesus Christ on the Throne of His glory, and all this possibility of improvement is put into us and it is infinite. In the sacraments He gives us His very life, all that we can receive of God; so He is said to be sown in us, formed in us, to dwell in us. 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.' Till we 'come to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ', not unto the measure of fallen or even of unfallen man, but the measure of Jesus Christ. Think how He is waiting for this development in His members. He willeth to be glorified in His saints. His glory is dependent on that growth in you and me. Something is wanting in that blessedness as long as we are holding back from this development some part of ourselves. This is what we are waiting for. 'Which is to come.'

'The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.' It comes as we surrender ourselves morally to that life which is put into us by the sacraments, giving up our will to the Will of God. We live not only in the past or in the present, but in the future in the exercise of supernatural hope. God was, and sent us into the world years ago. He is and we are in Him, and sit together with Him in heavenly places. But in order that everything He is to us may be exercised and developed, there is need of the exercise of Christian hope. He is to come. How untruly and unworthily we think of Christian hope! We think of it as a bodily gift, but it is a supernatural gift put into us by the sacraments, yet waiting to be developed. You have received all holiness, yet you say 'I don't find any life, any goodness, any holiness in myself.' It is because that which is in you can only be found by you, as you use it. Put forth the power of the Spirit in the exercise of duty, and you will find that you have it, and that as you use it, it grows.

The saints did not become spiritual by a sudden ecstacy seizing them for a short time, and then leaving them. The Holy Spirit does not so work in us who are in Christ, breathing with His Life. The saints became saints by Baptism, Confirmation, the Blessed Sacrament, for they exercised the power in these gifts, they began to test it in their acts of perseverance, giving Him thanks for those gifts of which they felt nothing, knowing nothing but what was told them, accepting them blindly, looking up to God and going on with the dull duties of every day, stirring up the gift which was in them. See! When you are depressed and complain that you find nothing spiritual in your life you come perhaps for advice, and sometimes the very opening of your difficulty brings you to Christ, and He is the answer. Make a spiritual act of faith in spite of that numbness. Look up to God in it in the power of Holy Ghost, or say the name of Jesus, or make a little act of praise. Try next time you are under any cloud, to make a little act of praise, or faith, or prayer, That will call into energy the life that is in you, and by it the life will grow in you.

See how great the power in you is, dear friends. It is all the forces of the Kingdom of Heaven put into you. There is no excuse for leading a mean kind of Christian life. This infinite power is put into you to come out in all the glory of the continual service of the sanctuary of God. There is a continual sacrifice being offered up in you, who are the shrine of the Blessed Trinity. Think of the imagination, the affections, of our dear Lord communicated to you to sanctify your imagination and your affections. If you are really trying you cannot always realize that, but it is true. It is there, the life is about all you are doing, and you are doing your work in the power of that life, and God is accepting it as done in the Body of Christ. The mystery of Christ's life will flash out in your life, though you know it not, and sometimes it will flash out in your feeling too, and life will seem a greater thing than it ever did before. There is always something like genius in the life of a true Christian, something wonderful in the most common-place life that raises it up out of the common way, in a way that otherwise is quite inexplicable. It is the development of an infinite life, the life of the Humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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