Sunday 3 December 2023

A bit of theology

Over the years, I have reflected on my work in the context of my Catholic Faith. The work has always seemed a good thing to be doing, but, beyond feeding the family ( a good in itself, and at the service of my primary vocation), I wanted to understand why (and indeed if...)

As usual, I use blogging as a way of thinking out loud, so this may not be the finished articulation of my thinking, but it is where I am up to at present.

My initial thinking was simply that my work helped people to do their work better, and sometimes eased the pain. And both of those seem good things to do (assuming their work to have some intrinsic value, or at least not be harmful). 

But I have gone a bit deeper in recent years, not least as I have had more time to read and reflect. And now I see my work as having its foundation in my understanding of what it is to be human, and ultimately in the Holy Trinity.

To be human, it seems to me, is firstly to be. That is, being is better than not-being. We have an intuitive (at least) sense of that which is why murder and suicide are typically outlawed by almost all civilisations of which we have any detailed knowledge. (Yes, I know there are exceptions, but nonetheless, I think the point stands).

Secondly, to be human is to know. One of the things that distinguishes us even from the most intelligent of the higher animals is the ability to gain, store, transmit, and use knowledge.

Thirdly, to be human is to love; that is, to be able to choose the good from the bad, and to will the good of others as well as our own good.

Reflecting on this, I noticed, of course, that it has three elements; and as I was reading Sheed's wonderful Theology and Sanity at the time, I noticed how closely they related to the qualities appropriated to the three Persons of the Trinity. (To understand appropriation in this context, read Sheed!)

Thus the primary characteristic of the Father is to be. He identifies himself in that way: 'I am who I am.' And when Christ teaches his disciples to pray, the very first words are: Our Father, who art...'

The Son is the Logos: the eternal Word of the Father, made flesh. God's knowledge through whom all things were made, as St John says in the wonderful prologue to his Gospel.

The Holy Spirit is the Love Divine, who proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son by way of love (notwithstanding the filioque controversy...).

All of which leads me to conclude that insofar as my work helps my clients to be more truly themselves, to deepen their knowledge (of self, of others, of their work) and to choose the good, as an exercise of love, then it is worthwhile; indeed it is one of the ways in which I can fulfil my own vocation to be, to know, to love and to serve. 

That last, service, is not, of course inherent in the Trinity. But in the Incarnation, Christ was very clear that it is at the heart of the Christian vocation: The Son of Man came to serve... and he explicitly says that we are to follow that example. 

And now my attention has turned to that wonderful phrase in Nancy Kline's Thinking Environment approach, Generative Attention, and I am considering the theological resonances of that concept, But that can wait for another blog post.

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