To the Holy Trinity: Trinity Created Image of the Uncreated and How It is Incomprehensible

Once again in Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, 2,6:

Let us now return to ourselves.  We are, we understand, we want.  At first, to understand and to want, if it is something, it is not absolutely the same thing: if it is not something, it would not be anything, and there will be neither understanding nor wanting.  But if it is absolutely the same thing, one does not distinguish them, but one does distinguish; because one understands what one does not want, which one does not love, besides what one cannot love or want something which one does not understand.  God himself understands and knows what he does not love, like sin: and we, how many things do we understand that we hate and that we do not want to either do or allow, because we have understood that they will harm us?  We understand about throwing oneself from the height of a tower, and this movement is not less understood than the others: but we do not want to do this, because it is harmful to us.

We are thus something intelligent, something that understands oneself and loves oneself: who does not love what he understands, but who can know and understand that which he does not love: all the while in not loving it, he knows and understands that he does not love it, and that itself, he wants to know: and he does not want to love it, because he knows or he believes that it is harmful to him.  Thus to understand and love are distinct things, but as such inseparable that there is no knowledge without some will.   And if man like the Angel knows all that is, his knowledge would be equal to his being; and , loving himself in proportion to his knowledge, his love would be equal one to another.  And if all this be well ruled, all of this would only act together as the same happiness of the same soul and truly the same happy soul: in that one which by the rectitude of his will conforms to the truth of his knowledge, she would be just.  Thus these three things, to be, to know and to want make one particular soul happy and just, which either cannot either be without being known, or distract from oneself with losing his happiness entirely.  Because what would be a soul which is without knowing, and what would it be without loving itself in the way which it must love itself to be truly happy, that is without loving by relationship with God, which is entirely the foundation of our happiness?

Thus, in our imperfect and defective way, we set forth an incomprehensible mystery.  A Trinity created which God made in our souls, sets forth to us the uncreated Trinity which he alone can show us: and, to set it forth in a better way, he has mixed in our souls which set it forth, something incomprehensible.

We have seen that to understand and want, know and love are acts distinguished from each other: but are they so much so that they are entirely and substantially different things? This cannot be.  Knowledge is nothing else than the substance of the soul affected in a certain fashion, and the will is nothing else than the substance of the soul affected by another.  When I change either thought or will, do I have this want and this thought without my substance being there? Without doubt it is there: and, all of this is basically nothing else than my substance affected, diversified, modified in different ways, but basically always the same.  For in changing thought, I do not change my substance; and my substance remains one, while my thoughts come and go: and while my will distinguishes itself from my soul from where it never leaves, likewise my knowledge goes distinguishing itself from my being from where it equally comes and that both, that is my knowledge and my will, distinguish themselves from each other in such ways and end up successively in diverse objects, my substance is always basically the same, although entering wholly into all different types of being.

See already in me an inconceivable prodigy: but this prodigy extends in all nature.  Movement and rest, things so distinct, are nothing at their root but substance which moves and rests; which changes in truth but not at its root, when it passes from movement to rest and from rest to movement.  For that which moves now, it’s the same thing which will rest soon; and that which rests now, is the same thing which soon will be set in motion.  And straight, zig-zag and circular movement are all different from each other, but they are only of the same substance: and a hundred successive arc motions of the same body are only the same body moved in a circle.  All of this is distinct and one: one in substance, distinct in ways; and these very different ways only have the same subject, the same root, the same and only substance.  I do not know who can claim to understand this perfectly: neither who can explain to oneself how these manners of being adjust to being; neither from whence their distinction in unity and identity comes when they have the same being; neither how they are things, neither how they are not things.  They are things, otherwise if they were a pure nothing, one could truly neither affirm nor deny them; that which is not, in themselves, they cannot stand.  All of this is hard to understand and nevertheless a true thing; and, all of this is a proof that as happens with natural things, unity is a principle of multiplicity in itself, and that unity and multiplicity are not as incompatible as one might think.

O God, before whom I consider myself and am myself a great enigma!  I have seen in me these three things, to be, to understand, to want.  You want me to always exist, thus you have given me an immortal soul, whose happiness or misery will be eternal; and, if you want, I would always understand or want the same thing; for it is such that you want me to always be, when you make me happy by your presence.  If I only want and understand eternally the same thing, that I am a single being, I will only have a single knowledge and a single will, where if one wants it a single understanding and a single will.  Nevertheless my knowledge and my love or my will will be no less distinguished among themselves, neither less identified, that is to say will not be basically less in my being, with my substance.  And my love or my will will be unable to not come from my knowledge; and, my love will always be something which comes from myself, and my knowledge will be no less from me; and always there will be in me three things, knowledge coming from being, knowledge coming forth, and love also coming from both.  And if I be a nature incapable of all accident occurring to its substance, and in which it be necessary that all be substantial, my knowledge and my love would be something substantial and sustain; and I would be three subsistent persons in one substance; that is to say, I would be God.  But because it is not so, I am only made in the image and likeness of God, and an imperfect sketch of this unique substance which is all together Father, Son and Holy Spirit: incomprehensible substance in its triune divinity which is basically only one thing, sovereign, immense, eternal, perfectly one in three persons distinctly subsistent, equal, consubstantial, to whom is due only one worship, one adoration, one love: since one cannot neither love the Father without loving his Son, nor love the Son without loving his Father, nor love them both without loving their eternal, subsistent union and their mutual love.  And to help the faith which bonds me to this incomprehensible mystery, I see in myself a resemblance, imperfect though it is, does not allow something that I cannot understand; and, I am to myself an impenetrable mystery.  And to take away all the pain of losing all my comprehension in God , I begin by losing it first, not only in all the works of nature, but also in myself more than the rest.

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