Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deuteronomy. 6:4-5)
We are commanded to love God, and so we do, with our many prayers, oblations and rituals. We prostrate ourselves before him and sing his praises. Lives are dedicated to his service and sometimes lost defending the faith. But what exactly is the object of our devotion? There are stories, images, perhaps moments of exultation. Yet this God we love remains wholly other, always tantalizing beyond our reach. The God who appeared in the biblical creation story walking in the garden in the cool of day has long since been banished to the far reaches of heaven.
I am reminded, in an odd sort of way, of the Narcissus story in Greek mythology. Narcissus was not narcissistic in a clinical sense. Although he fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, he did not recognize it as himself. According to the story, his self-infatuation was the result of an enchantment that a goddess placed on him in revenge for having spurned the affections of a wood nymph. Every time poor Narcissus dipped into the water to embrace the object of his affections, the image would flee. He eventually pined away by the water's edge, his love unrequited.
We may catch a tiny glimpse of God's reflection in the world, or even see him reflected everywhere, and still not suspect that we are the source. That must await the realization that there is one God and no other, least of all that pallid creature we are pleased to think of as "me." The otherness of God disappears, and along with it the object of our devotion. We have discovered that God is all there is. As Angelus Silesius wrote long ago, "God bends and bows, and to himself doth pray."