Living Life in Harmony: God IS Life
Sr Angelika Laub OP reflects on how other religions and cultures can help us and our Church to experience and know God better.
An atmosphere of death and despair is spreading around the world due to natural disasters, Russia’s war in the Ukraine, terrorism in many countries, increasing global poverty and the ongoing loss of our biodiversity. These feelings are intensified by a sense of powerlessness and the growing coldness in the relationships between ourselves and all living creatures.
The loss of care for each other is a result of selfishness and greed for power and wealth, characteristics that are further fostered by the economic system of neoliberal capitalism which Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis have strongly criticised.
The religious culture of Vietnam, called Tam Giáo, might show us a way to return as individuals to our humanity. It might also help our Church be present to our world as a centre of warmth and life, and to be a home for the many who search for meaning and hope. In Tam Giáo, motherhood is seen as the source of life and as symbol for love and care.
This is in contrast to the patriarchal structure of our society which overly emphasises cold logic over the “logic of the heart” which is proper to feminine thinking and acting. In the culture of the Vietnamese, a mother gives birth to life and remains concerned for that life.
This idea goes beyond gender: the earth, land, sea, men and women are all considered as mother because they are part of creating and caring for life of family and nation. God, as Creator of Heaven and Earth, is called Dao, the Mother of all living beings.
Guided by heart and reason
Life originates by unification, and life is happy if it is lived in harmony with other living beings. This harmony is achieved when reason and feeling, ideals and reality, are used to achieve goals, and the anticipated impacts of the use of these means are reflected on collectively. To live in harmony with other people and with nature is to be guided by reason and heart.
Harmony is a feeling, and to live a life in harmony requires that people listen to the voice of the heart. The logic of the heart acts in two ways: as having a good conscience and “common sense”. Most traditions and customs originate in this “common sense”, which comes from the heart.
Unity is achieved by the acknowledgement of different ways of living life and the harmonious cooperation between these, giving birth to new forms of “living life”.
The Vietnamese do not separate God from life. God, or Dao, is the creator of life, saviour of life, source of consolation, the one who is improving life. God is adored as a good, just and immortal person who is present in our heart and reason. People who do good to others and whose intellect is principled are venerated as women and men of God.
As our Church seeks to open itself up more to other culture and religions, we trust that God’s Spirit will lead her to learn from the experience of that Spirit’s presence and activity in other religions. Together with them, the Church can lead humanity to an ever-deepening knowledge and experience of who God is, and towards peace.
We live in a time when the majority of people are deprived of the right and possibility of living their lives in dignity. We pray that through their deep suffering, and that of all creation, in unison with Christ’s suffering, the world will find life and faith and trust in a God who wants love for the world.
Sr Angelika Laub is a Dominican based in Johannesburg archdiocese.
Published in the August 2023 issue of The Southern Cross magazine
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