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God envelopes and overshadows us in his overwhelming desire to know us more fully

       I like this line from St. Paul: “If one loves God, one is known by him.” (1 Cor 8:3) A couple of things come to mind. . .

       First, notice what the line does notsay. It does not say, “If one loves God, one knows God.” Exactly. The anonymous author of the 14th century book, “The Cloud of Unknowing,” writes, “No one can fully comprehend the uncreated God with his knowledge; but each one, in a different way, can grasp him fully though love.”

       Second, as St. Paul’s line stands, does not our eye focus on the second phrase of that sentence: “One is known by him”?

       That is a very interesting line, for doesn’t God say “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you?” (Jeremiah 1:5) Then how can St. Paul write that we are known by God if we love God?

       Ah, but you know the answer to that, just in a different context. That context is marriage.

       A husband is known by his wife, because the husband loves his wife, and vice versa. The longer the marriage, the deeper one loves and the deeper one is known by the spouse. Marriage, in a sense, is a continual unfolding of being known.

       When a couple first marries, the husband and wife are very much cognizant of the other’s existence. Over time, the husband and the wife are known more and more by the other. Just when you think you believe you know everything there is to know about your spouse, wham, a new revelation about him or her occurs. But what drives this knowledge is the love the husband and wife have for one another.

       The same goes with God. God is quite cognizant of our existence (God created us after all), but God wants to “know” us to the same degree that a husband and wife know one another, only deeper. God wants to know us so deeply, that God overshadows us and envelops us, just as he overshadowed and enveloped Mary at the Annunciation.

       But God cannot do that if we don’t allow him to do so by loving him. Again, married couples know this. When the marriage is strained, instead of intimacy, there is distance between the couple. A line frequently thrown in the face of the husband or wife at such a time is a variant of this: “I don’t know you anymore!”

       What he or she means, of course, is that the husband or wife appears as a total stranger to the other, notthat the husband or wife is not cognizant of the other’s existence.  And why? The spark of love has flickered or has just flat out gone out.

       So, too, with God. If we don’t love God, then God cannot break through the false-self we have constructed for ourselves, and God cannot subsequently know us. The false-self is just that - false, not real.

       God can only know what is real. Remember the parable of the Ten Virgins that Jesus tells in Matthew’s Gospel? Remember how it ends? “Lord, Lord, open the door for us! But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’” (Matthew 25:11-12)

       But just as a husband and wife grow to love one another in stages, so our love for God grows in stages as well. It takes time to love God, and fortunately for us, God is quite patient. Thus, it may behoove us to heed the advice of that Dominican spiritual master of the late 13th /early 14th century, Meister Eckhart:

        “The more essentially and simply the mind rests on God and is sustained by him, the more deeply we are established in God and the more receptive we are to him in all his precious gifts – for human kind should build on God alone.”

       So today…love God. Be known by him. The psalmist nailed it when he wrote: “Your promise is sweeter to my taste than honey in the mouth.” Folks, that’s pretty darn sweet.

       Such are my thoughts on this month of Valentine.


Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



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