Part 2 – God the Father – Week 4

Part 2 – God the Father – Week 4

We have seen that there are two sides to the fact that God has a name and that He reveals this name to Moses. The first is what Ratzinger calls the idea “of proximity, of invocability, of self-bestowal,” or in other words the reality that Yahweh is “the God of men, the God with a face, the personal God”. But this closeness and accessibility can only be understood when it is seen together with the fact that the God who reveals Himself is at the same time “the One who stands above space and time, bound to nothing and binding everything to himself,” Ratzinger immediately adds. The “conjunction and unity” of these two aspects of God – that He is both the personal God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,’ and hence the God and ‘Father’ of a concrete people (Israel and then the Church), and that He is at the same time the eternal and unchanging ‘I am,’ the source of all Being who is Being itself, and hence also the Pantokrator, the Ruler of all peoples – together constitute the great “paradox” Biblical faith, Ratzinger tells us, and establish the backdrop to the passage to what is specific about Christianity: belief in the Incarnation and the unsurpassed revelation of the God of Israel in the person of Jesus Christ.


“In the Apostles’ Creed, the point of departure of our reflections, the paradoxical unity of the God of faith and the God of the philosophers, on which the Christian image of God rests, is expressed in the juxtaposition of the two attributes “Father” and “Almighty” (“Lord of All”). The second title – “pantokrator” in Greek – points back to the Old Testament “Yahweh Zebaoth” Sabaoth, the meaning of which can no longer be fully elucidated. Literally translated, it means something like “God of hosts”, “God of powers”; it is sometimes rendered in the Greek Bible by “Lord of powers”. For all the uncertainties about its origin we can at any rate see that this word is intended to describe God as the Lord of heaven and earth; it was probably intended above all to define him, in opposition to the Babylonian religion of the stars, as the Lord to whom the stars, too, belong, alongside whom the stars cannot exist as independent divine powers: the stars are not gods, but his tools, at his disposal like a warlord’s armies. Thus the word “pantokrator” has at first a cosmic significance; later it also has a political sense, describing God as the Lord of all Lords.’

By calling God simultaneously “Father” and “Almighty” the Creed has joined together a family concept and the concept of cosmic power in the description of the one God. It thereby expresses accurately the whole point of the Christian image of God: the tension between absolute power and absolute love, absolute distance and absolute proximity, between absolute Being and a direct affinity with the most human side of humanity […].

The word “Father”, which in its reference-point here still remains quite open, at the same time links the first article of the Creed to the second; it points forward to Christology and thus harnesses the two sections together in such a way that what is said of God only becomes fully comprehensible when one at the same time looks over at the Son. For example, what “almightiness” and “lordship of all” mean only becomes clear from a Christian point of view in the crib and the cross. It is only here, where the God who is recognized as Lord of all has voluntarily chosen the final degree of powerlessness by delivering himself up to his weakest creature, that the Christian concept of the almightiness of God can be truly formulated. At this point simultaneously a new concept of power and a new concept of lordship and dominion is born. The highest power is demonstrated as the calm willingness completely to renounce all power; and we are shown that it is powerful not through force but only through the freedom of love, which, even when it is rejected, is stronger than the exultant powers of earthly violence. […]

The significance of this process becomes fully visible when one also realizes that John takes up again, in a much more striking way than any New Testament author before him, the heart of the burning bush story: the idea of the name of God. The notion that God names himself, that it becomes possible to call on him by name, moves, together with “I am”, into the centre of his testimony. In John, Christ is compared with Moses in this respect too; John depicts him as him in whom the story of the burning bush first attains its true meaning. All Chapter 17 – the so-called “high priestly prayer”, perhaps the heart of the whole gospel – centers round the idea of “Jesus as the revealer of the name of God” and thus assumes the position of New Testament counterpart to the story of the burning bush. The theme of God’s name recurs like a leitmotiv in verses 6, 11, 12 and 26. Let us take only the two main verses: “I have manifested your name to the men whom you gave me out of the world” (v. 6 [emphasis added]). “I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (v. 26 [emphasis added]). Christ himself, so to speak, appears as the burning bush from which the name of God issues to mankind. But since in the view of the fourth gospel Jesus unites in himself, applies to himself, the “I am” of Exodus 3 and Isaiah 43, it becomes clear at the same time that he himself is the name, that is, the “invocability” of God. The idea of the name here enters a decisive new phase. The name is no longer merely a word but a person: Jesus himself. Christology, or belief in Jesus, is raised to the level of an exposition of the name of God and of what it signifies.”


Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2004 [20002], 135, 148-149,132-133.




Reflect on your faith in and relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you see in Him the face of the Father? Do you experience in His love, embrace, strength, and forgiveness, the love, embrace, strength, and forgiveness of the Father? Do you truly see and relate to God as your Father, as the Father who has given Himself to you in Jesus?

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