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Confessions: Curiosity of the Unfathomable

So then do the sky and the earth hold you, since you fill them? Or do you fill them, with some left over, since they don’t hold you? And where do you pour back what remains of you after you’ve filled earth and sky? Or do you not need to be held within anything—you who contain everything, since the things you fill, you fill by containing them? The vessels that are full of you don’t make you stationary, because you don’t spill out even though they break. And when you spill out over us, you don’t lie inert on the ground but instead lift us up. You don’t scatter in all directions but instead gather us together. But the everything that you fill, you fill with all your being. Or, because everything that exists can’t hold the whole of you, does everything contain a part of you, with everything containing the same part at the same time? Do single things hold single parts of you, and larger things larger parts, and smaller things smaller parts? Then is some part of you larger, and some part smaller? Or are you everywhere whole, and can no thing hold the whole of you? —Saint Augustine, Confessions 1.3

Do any of Augustine’s questions really have answers without theological presuppositions about God’s simplicity[1] and incorporeality[2]? Augustine’s questions may even seem ridiculous to many of us, “who cares about how God fills the universe?” some may protest.

But these questions are not interrogative, they are searching. He is not asking to interrogate God’s mystery, but rather, he is asking because he is curious about God’s mystery. He is curious about something that is impossible to understand. God pours himself into us, and we, being weak vessels, break! Yet he does not spill. Then He gathers all our pieces and puts us back together (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17-18, 2 Corinthians 4:7). The impossibility to understand is what gives power to his questions. It is because the questions are unanswerable that he asks them; the questions create wonder. And here lies wisdom: When we become curious about God’s mystery, we finally see how ineffable and unfathomable God truly is. Our curiosity creates in us wonder.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;

to search out a matter is the glory of kings. —Proverbs 25:2

Lord, make us curious, that we may have wonder.

[1] Divine simplicity teaches that God is without parts. God's essence and existence are the same. [2] Incorporeality means “not composed of matter.” Simply put, it means bodiless. Note: These are my daily reflections as I go through Saint Agustine's Confessions. Unless otherwise noted, I am using Sarah Ruden's translation of the original text, and the NIV.


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