Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Theology of Liquid

This is something I've been pondering for a while, and I admit up front that it is something that is NOT fully developed. But I wanted to at least begin getting my thoughts about it "out there."

So, with that disclaimer out of the way,  here goes.

It's no secret that liquid is absolutely essential to life on Earth. Water, blood, milk, and even sweat and saliva are all forms of liquids required for daily living. Without even one of these, life as we know it would be radically different.

Liquids even take on more extreme and wondrous forms, in different sweeteners (honey, maple syrup), poisons (rattlesnake venom, harvest mite saliva), oils (olive, coconut), acids (hydrochloric, vinegar), body fluids (rennet, cerebralspino fluid), and so on, each one taking on a more incredible and specific form than the last.

We also know that "The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands." -Psalm 19:1

So what do fluids reveal about God?

(For now, I am leaving out the obvious discussion of liquids as the forms of the Sacraments. of course, water in Baptism, wine for consecration in the Eucharist, and oils in initiation are the outward signs by which these graces are manifest. But we're taking a different approach here.)

First, we turn to the Scriptures. They are loaded with images of pouring out and filling up. Mentions and examples of seas, rivers, rain, water, blood, oil, milk, honey, wine, and more can be found all over. For now, I want to focus on the nature of liquid; and the Bible does not disappoint.

Liquids are heavier than air, obey the law of gravity, and conform themselves to their containers. The do not hold shape on their own, and also do not escape of their own accord. They can transform into other states when forces act upon them (think ice and steam).

God himself created the visible world in all its richness, diversity and order. -CCC 337

The order and harmony of the created world results from the diversity of beings and from the relationships which exist among them. Man discovers them progressively as the laws of nature. They call forth the admiration of scholars. The beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man's intellect and will. -CCC 341.

Ultimately, as we know through the application of Right Reason, liquids are capable being poured out and filling. And the Bible bears this imagery nicely.

And it shall come to pass after this, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy: your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. -Joel 2:28

Trust in him, all ye congregation of people: pour out your hearts before him. God is our helper for ever.  -Psalm 62:8

He shall come down like rain upon the fleece; and as showers falling gently upon the earth. -Psalm 72:6

To know also the charity of Christ, which surpasseth all knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fulness of God. -Ephesians 3:19

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing; that you may abound in hope, and in the power of the Holy Ghost. -Romans 15:13

God pours his grace upon us.
It is up to us to conform ourselves to receive it.

In terms of theological analogies, I tend to see grace as a liquid.

I think this view fits in very well with some other, more established Biblical imagery. The waters of baptism signify the grace of God being poured over our souls as they are washed clean. The image of Christ's blood washing our sins signifies the grace of redemption being poured upon humanity. Humans are symbolized then as vessels - containers, if you will, that can hold our pour out liquids.

The Book of Job recalls that man was made as from clay:

Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as clay, and wilt bring me into dust again. -Job 10:9

After Pentecost, we see this imagery return in the form of a commission:

And the Lord said to him: Go thy way; for this man is to me a vessel of election, to carry my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. -Acts 9:15

We can also see this imagery at work at the Wedding at Cana:

AND the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come. His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. Jesus saith to them: Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And Jesus saith to them: Draw out now, and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they carried it. And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine, and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water; the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, And saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now. -John 2:1-10

The Wedding at Cana.
I am so glad this mystery is part of the Rosary. Such depth.

What we see here is a repeated motif of God shaping, pouring, and transforming liquids and vessels. The vessels are the means by which God works, and the liquid is the work of God himself. Just like the clay pots at the wedding, so we, too, have the capacity to be filled. And just as Christ transformed the contents of the jars, so we, too, can be transformed by Christ.

Even in the marital imagery of Christ and the Church (building upon the theology of the body), the theology of liquid fits in very nicely.

Christ, the bridegroom, "pours himself out," so to speak, and we, as the Church, "receive" His gift. Whether or not the gift produces spiritual fruit depends on the mode of the receiver. Nevertheless, the spiritual gift of Christ still develops and nurtures the relationship we have with Him.

The fertility cycle of human beings, revealed through NFP, mirrors this perfectly.

Of course, on the flip side, there are liquids that can be very harmful to us. Curiously, these liquids come from forms that are traditionally associated with evil and the occult. Things like snake venom (from the serpent in the garden of Eden), various harmful acids associated with occult ritual, and other harmful substances can enter our "vessel" and corrupt the purity of our "liquid." This is an analogy of sin, of that which corrupts.

"Of course, when I think about it, it isn't curious at all...."

To sum it up (at least as much as I have up to now):

We, as human beings, are vessels created by God.
God pours His grace upon us like a liquid.
Our choice to either accept His gifts or reject them amount to us allowing ourselves to be filled, or rejecting them by pouring it back out.
We can also corrupt the gift (liquid) received by infusing a harmful "liquid" into ourselves through sin.

I will continue to work on developing this, as I haven't even touched on wet and dry seasons yet, which is also on my mind.

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