In a recent post (Try To Remember) we were pondering and trying to absorb the fact that our very own souls were with Jesus during his Passion, accompanying and comforting Him. I was struck by the idea that it was “some sort of backwards in time sort of thing”, but as evidenced by the Scripture passages I quoted from Jeremiah and St. Paul, I was also reflecting on the mystery of when we were actually created by God (was it at the moment of our conception in our mothers’ wombs, or did we exist as souls with God prior to our conception?)
After doing a little (very little) research, I discovered that the pre-existence of souls is not accepted by the Catholic Church (not to be confused with reincarnation, also rejected by the Catholic Church), so what, I wondered, could those two Scripture passages actually mean? Did we exist in the mind of God from all eternity? Did God “know” us in some creative way before we were conceived?
Now tell me, o people: What do you think you were when you were not yet in body and soul? You truly do not know how you were created. [From: Hildegard von Bingen’s, Mystical Visions, pg. 21]
Oh Hildegard, we truly don’t; at least, I do not, and your very first question is exactly what I’ve been thinking about. Not yet having done the reading/research necessary to understand the Catholic Church’s rejection of the pre-existence of souls, I have nonetheless come to realize over the years that when the Church discards a suggested answer to a mystery one can be certain that there is an even greater underlying mystery and an even more astounding answer which has been revealed to Her.
I reached for Meister Eckhart (Sermons and Collations) and would like to share two things:
Firstly, something to reflect on as we ponder how it is possible we were with Jesus during His Passion:
…in eternity, exalted above time, man does one work with God. People sometimes ask how man can do the work that God was doing a thousand years ago and in a thousand years will be doing still. They cannot understand it. But in eternity is no before or after; the happenings of the past millenium and the future one and now, in eternity are all the same. God’s doings of a thousand years ago and now and a thousand years to come are but one single act. It follows that the man who is exalted above time into eternity will do with God what he did in the past and also what he does in the next thousand years. (pgs. 150-151)
Secondly, as wonderful as it is to ponder the mystery of our own creation – of how we were begotten of God – it is far more wondrous to ponder how God begets Jesus in us; not only wondrous, but of far more importance, for it is essential to our salvation and to our bringing Christ to others that this mysterious begetting occurs within us.
I had explored this subject in December 2008 here and here, but I love how the Lord keeps bringing back the same topics over time so that we can continue to deepen our understanding of them, and so that the truth of them may be reinforced in our souls. I will leave you with another quote from Meister Eckhart and a splendid little reflection on time from Arthur Young:
The Father ceaselessly endeavours to get us born in his Son so that we may be the same as his Son is. The Father is begetting his Son, and in his begetting the Father finds so much peace and pleasure that his entire nature is expended in it… When the Father bears his Son in us we shall know the Father with the Son and the Holy Ghost in both of them and the holy Trinity… Then time and number are no more. (pg. 151)