Sunday Thoughts: Love and Unique Creation

In the beginning, God made all things and made them good. He made each thing to be itself and not another, to occupy its own particular place in creation and to reflect its own small portion of His infinity.

God loves everything that is because it is what it is. I believe it was Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand who said that to love something is to see it through God’s eyes: to perceive the particular individual nature that God has given it. Chesterton expressed this same insight in his comic novel The Napoleon of Notting Hill:

“What could have happened to the world if Notting Hill had never been?”

The other voice replied: “The same that would have happened to the world and all the starry systems if an apple-tree grew six apples instead of seven; something would have been eternally lost. There has never been anything in the world absolutely like Notting Hill. There will never be anything quite like it to the crack of doom. I cannot believe anything but that God loved it as He must surely love anything that is itself and unreplaceable. But even for that I do not care. If God, with all His thunders, hated it, I loved it.”

Incidentally, I think one of the reasons God permits evil is that a being that has rebelled and been reconciled is a different thing than one that has never rebelled. A creature that knows it is possible to fall, and yet stands is different from one that has no idea that it is possible to do wrong at all. That particular kind of existence requires that there be those who will not be reconciled, rebels who remain rebels to the end. It requires, at least, that there be such a thing as rebellion, if only that there may also be such a thing as reconciliation.

Now, in the Summa Contra Gentiles, St. Thomas says something almost in passing that I think is extraordinarily profound:

“For the more completely we see how a thing differs from others, the more perfectly we know it, since each thing has in itself its own being distinct from all other things.”

Each thing is itself, unique, and irreplaceable, and the more we understand how it is different, the more we see it as other, the more perfectly we understand it.

This is, I think, is the core of the Catholic view of creation: not just that creation is good, but that each created thing is good in its own nature, because it is what it is. The more perfectly it embodies that ‘being’, that idea of it in the mind of God, the better that thing is. A good thing (whatever it is) is good to the extent that it is most peculiarly itself, most perfectly the reflection of that particular idea of God’s. That is why (for instance) patriotism is a Christian virtue and one reason why love is so important: to love something, as Dr. Von Hildebrand says, is to see it as God does and to have an inclination of the idea of that thing in its uniqueness. To love something, properly loving it for its own sake, is to enter in part into the life of God.

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