God and limitless desire

This truly is the vision of God: never to be satisfied in the desire to see him. But one must always, by looking at what he [or she] can see, rekindle the desire to see more. Thus, no limit would interrupt growth in the ascent to God, since no limit to the Good can be found nor is the increasing of desire for the Good brought to an end because it is satisfied.

St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978 ), p. 116.

True prayer arises from our limitless desire for an infinite Good, i.e. God. For Gregory, because God is infinite and we are finite, the satisfaction of our desire gives rise to yet greater desire. In the near presence of God, there is, in fact, never ending growth and transformation.

Limitless desire is a frightening thought, probably because so many of our desires are disordered, out of proportion to their object. Sometimes, in the case of our human relationships, we can seek to control or possess our beloved, and depersonalize them in the process. Or perhaps we may lose something of our own integrity and sense of self in close relationship with another. Even in the most holy and life-giving of relationships (to say nothing of those that are inherently abusive or otherwise fatally flawed), we may fall into either or both of these traps, which are mirror images of one another. In both cases, we bump up against limits imposed by sin and finitude.

What is life-giving about a human friend or lover is the extent to which he or she participates in God’s mystery and self-giving, making us more ourselves, causing us to grow and flourish in the image and likeness of God, as they themselves do likewise, through a mutually enriching exchange of gifts.

And yet, our participation is never perfect. Only God loves consistently and without fail, always giving more than we could ever receive, always remaining true to self and allowing us to do the same. Only God is the proper object of limitless desire, in whom all our other loves find their fulfillment and, if need be, discern their limitations.

Bill Carroll

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