Beyond the experience of duality

Fr Bede on our capacity for God

I think that I can best answer your questions by saying that every human being is born with a capacity for God.  As a result of sin this capacity is often obscured or distorted or totally buried, but it always remains – it is the ‘image of God’ in each of us. The grace of God, which is offered in some way to every human being can always renew this image in us and awaken us to the Divine Presence in us.

Jesus Christ in our Christian understanding is one in whom this capacity for God was totally fulfilled (“in him dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily”) and the image of God was realized in its perfection. Each of us as we grow in grace can come to share more and more in the gift of the Holy Spirit and so grow in the likeness of Christ so that we share in his Sonship and are able to know God as our Father. “God has sent the Spirit of his Son in our hearts crying Abba, Father”. (Galatians 4.6) In this way we come to share, as you say, in the inner life of the Trinity.

The value of Christ’s death on the cross is not so much on his suffering (which was in a sense accidental) but in his total surrender of his will to the will of the Father. Through his example we also are able to make the total surrender of our will to the will of God – in other words to surrender ourselves totally in love and so be set free from sin – which is selfishness, the refusal to love and experience the love of God ‘poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given us’.

The problem with re-incarnation is that for a Christian death is essentially passing out of our present mode of being and consciousness into the presence of God – not going on to another life in this world. There may well be an intermediate state when those who are not yet ready to face the reality of God’s love have to undergo a purification. This can be interpreted in terms of ‘purgatory’ and possibly some form of re-incarnation could be accepted, but it is essentially an intermediate state before one enters finally into the presence of God.

I don’t think that being a Hindu and a Christian are necessarily incompatible. One can accept all that is ‘true and holy’ in Hinduism and still be a genuine Christian. That is how I would see myself.

This is extracted from a letter to Tina Goodchild dated March 14th 1988