The basic reason why man can speak with God arises from the fact that God himself is speech, word. His nature is to speak, to hear, to reply, as we see particularly in Johannine theology, where Son and Spirit are described in terms of pure hearing: they speak in response to what they have first heard. Only because there is already speech, ‘Logos’, in God can there be speech, ‘Logos’, to God. Philosophically we could put it like this: the Logos in God is the onto-logical foundation for prayer.
The Prologue of John’s Gospel speaks of the connection in its very first sentences: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was in communication with God.’ (Jn 1:1)—as a more precise translation of the Greek προϛ suggests, rather than the usual ‘with God.’ It expresses the act of turning to God, of relationship. Since there is relationship within God himself, there can also be a participation in this relationship. Thus we can relate to God in a way which does not contradict his nature.
Feast of Faith, 25
Reflection – It is just possible that many if not most readers of this blog have not lain awake at night agonizing over the ontological foundation of prayer and how it is possible for an infinite and transcendent God to hear the prayers of finite humans.
Most of us who pray just sort of take it for granted. You pray; God hears; that’s it. How God answers our prayers, or quite often doesn’t appear to—that’s more the issue that disturbs the peace of the average Christian
Whether or not we get it quite, though, the issue raised by Ratzinger in this passage is very real. God is wholly other than us, an entirely different Being… to the point that we can hardly speak of God correctly in human terms at all. To call God ‘a’ being is misleading, as it implies that God is one being among many. To call God a certain ‘kind of’ being is even worse; that puts God on some kind of continuum with rocks, plant, animals, us, angels. Even to call God Being Itself is not quite-quite—this makes God a sort of cosmic underwriter for the rest of us beings.
It is the strangeness of God that we can easily miss. God is not just a Really Big Guy. He (and even there, we choose the least-inadequate pronoun!) is Infinite Mystery, Infinite Unknown, the Absolute and Utterly Beyond of all beyonds... and even then our words fall badly short and go awry. We can heap superlatives upon superlatives upon capital letters (The Infinite of the Utter Absolute of the Beyond Transcendent Hugeness!!!) and it is all just as infinitely falling short of Who God Is.
And so this strange reality of dialogue with God is indeed a strange reality. May as well strike up a conversation with a super-nova, or the force of gravity, or the color red. Except… that God is a Trinity of persons. God is in conversation with God, and in the Logos who is Jesus, we are drawn into that conversation.
This, of course, has enormous significance for us. It means we are drawn, not just into a dialogue with God, but into the interior life of God. By the simple act of praying, we are drawn into the communion of the Trinity. The wee child kneeling at his bed side saying, “God bless mommy, God bless daddy, and God bless me,” is participating in the life of God.
And we are all that wee child. All of us are tiny mites of being, crawling on the surface of the cosmos… and all of us are immense, terrible creatures called into the very life of God the Supreme One.
Mystery upon mystery upon mystery. And that’s what you and I do every day when we lisp and stutter and blunder through our daily prayers, half our mind on something else (on a good day). We enter God’s life and become filled with that life for the world.