Monday, 3 October 2011

Consubstantial

Most Holy Trinity

I love the word ‘consubstantial’. Love it, love it , love it. Can’t get enough of it. So I was so excited when I heard that ‘consubstantialem’ was going to be translated as consubstantial and not ‘of one being’.

When we have looked at other translation changes, we have usually seen that something was not translated correctly or was omitted. So what about consubstantial? What does it mean? 

Con - with, substantial - substance. ‘With substance’, the Son, with the substance of the Father. The two of them are the same substance, the same type of thing, indeed the same whatsit-ness. Hmmm. We need to think about this… first a little hint of Aristotelian categories.

All things are described in two ways: (1) What they are, and (2) things about them. So (1) this is a blog. Its ‘substance’ its ‘what-ness’ is blog. Now (2) things about it, what colour the background, where it is (its URL address), how much space it takes up, what the entries are about...etc. Its (1) ‘substance’ (blog-ness) is shared with other blogs, like the ones on the side bar. That is what a blog is. It might be a different blog, but it is a blog none the less. This works for all things (except for the Blessed Sacrament I hear you cry, when through transubstantiation, the substance of bread is changed in to the substance of Body-of-Christ). I'll not go into the whole (2) section. I just wanted to talk about substance at the moment.

This blog shares its blog-ness with other blogs
Aristotelian metaphysics for blogs

So getting back to ‘consubstantial’. By using this word we are saying that God the Father, and God the Son are of the same substance, not that they are made of the same physical stuff, but that they are one in identity, of what they are in their very essence. In fact, not too far from ‘of one being’! So here we have a change in translation from a term which is quite good to one which is more difficult to understand.

And that it why I love it so much. Because while this term is exact (consubstantial has a very exact philosophical meaning) we have to accept that this is the God-ness of God, and it is beyond our understanding. When we say ‘of one being’ we think “O, I understand that” and that is very dangerous, because though we sort of understand it, we don’t really. 

Using consubstantial reminds us that we sort of get it, but really its just too hugely big. We are talking about the God-ness of God for goodness sake… the God-ness of God! 


It has to have its own word. 


And it does because that word is ‘consubstantial’.

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