The God-shaped Abyss

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler

An image of light shining out of a black hole in space.

Do you remember the opening lines of “Star Trek?” One version went like this:

"Space... the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before."

The quest to understand the concept of God’s infinity involves undertaking a spiritual mission, the motto of which could be “to boldly go where few have gone before.” The quest stretches us because it is impossible to fathom a Being who operates without the constraints of time or space.

Unlike the crew of the starship Enterprise, we can rely on the help of guides who have undertaken this mission before us. One of these is Augustine, the great theologian and bishop who once famously expressed his longing for God by saying, "You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you."

“What place is there in me,” he asked, “to which my God can come, what place that can receive the God who made heaven and earth? Does this mean, O Lord my God, that there is in me something fit to contain you?”

Centuries later, Pascal took the question a step further, asking, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?” He goes on to speak of an “infinite abyss” that can only be filled with something that is itself infinite—with God himself.

To put it plainly, there exists in each of us an insatiable space, an infinite abyss, that we try without success to fill, stuffing it with pleasure, power, money, or sex. But nothing works. The hole remains.

It has been said, falsely, that Alexander the Great wept because there were no more worlds to conquer. Despite its falsehood the story endures because it captures our sense that we have been created with insatiable desires.

What if the abyss Pascal speaks of, this “empty print and trace” was left there by God, not because he wants us to remain forever unsatisfied but because he intends to satisfy us with his presence? What if the happiness we seek can only be found when God is resident within us?

Today, as you pray, thank God for his infinite humility in deciding to dwell in the unlikeliest of places, within the confines of the human heart.

 
Originally published March 22, 2018.

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