V is for Very
“Very God of very God,” we say in the Nicene Creed, a formulation that struck me at the age of 18 as like saying Jesus was not just God in a vague way, he was very much so God. If a bishop were “right reverend” (another title that was new to me), Jesus was “right God.” And that’s a right strong way to say it.
Although we don’t often consider it, “very” is from the Latin word for truth and the motto of Harvard University, “veritas.” This doesn’t make Jesus a Harvard man. But it shows the fittingness of the contemporary version, “true God of true God.”
The triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is altogether and in every sense “very.” He’s not only truly God, he is Truth. He’s not only good, he is Goodness itself. He’s not only wise, he is Wisdom. Indeed, for every positive thing, God is that to the highest degree. He’s very true, very good, very wise, true and good and wise beyond all our imagining.
We cannot know what it means for God to be True. For people, to be true is to be honest, to have integrity. A true woman is someone whose whole being fits together rightly—and so forth. But God has no parts that could be out of harmony with each other.
Why then do we call God True? Because it would be false to call him False! We know that, whatever God is, he will be true to his own being and true to us. Whenever we are true, we are so only because of God. God is the source of all truth, and beyond it all also.
Put it simply: God is Very. Full stop.
Out & About. This Sunday, October 10, I will be in Paris! The Church of the Holy Cross in Paris (Texas) celebrates the Eucharist at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.; I will preach and also, at 9:30, teach a class on friendship as a key to interpreting the Bible.
If you can, please join me at the Fall Theology Lecture on Sunday, October 17: “Borders: The necessary yet tragic matter of drawing lines.” In it I make several “daring” exegetical moves in interpreting Genesis chapters 1 and 18. “Daring” is the word Ephraim Radner used of my exegesis in “Friendship,” which I take to mean he disagrees but still finds it interesting. You may do likewise! I hope to provide food for Christian thought on contemporary border issues, but they will not be the focus. Rather, for us as for God, it seems we must draw lines and yet at the same time reality stubbornly resists our drawing them. The lecture will be at the Ascension Chapel of Church of the Incarnation at 5 p.m. Bishop Sumner is set to respond, and we will have time for Q & A.
The following week, Sunday, October 24, also at 5 p.m., the “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar returns to discuss Our Town by Thornton Wilder. If you read the book, you are welcome to come and join in the conversation.
I recently wrote on an implicit pro-life catechesis in the Prayers of the People as offered at an Episcopal church I visited. My column was published on the website of the Human Life Review.