Son of Man and Ancient of Days: The Forever Young God Who Gives Joy to My Youth
To the Pope's prayer, I add one of my own: Oh Eternal God, you are the Ancient of Days, but you are also the Forever Young
It is in particular the Holy Spirit who may be viewed as the dynamic balancing "counterpart" to the Ancient of Days, the dynamic God who proceeds from the Father and the Son. If God the Father is the Ancient of Days, God the Holy Spirit is the Forever Young. That is why the Spirit is depicted in the Scriptures and iconography as a bird, a dove, a creature singularly free of boundaries, or as wind or fire, something with even less boundaries still. The Spirit blows where it wills. (John 3:8) The Ancient of Days, one the other hand, is like a rock, a fortress. (2 Sam 22:3)
The Spirit of God transforms and transfigures
In struggling to image and capture--however feebly--the concept of the eternity of God, man's iconography often depicts God the Ancient of Days as an old man with a long flowing white beard. "From everlasting to everlasting, you are God," say the Psalms. (Ps. 89:2)
This image is particularly vivid in the book of Daniel, where the prophet Daniel has a vision of "someone like a son of Man" who gained privileged access to the "Ancient of Days," and from the Ancient of Days received "rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him." (Dan. 7:13-14)
The "son of Man" referred to by the Prophet Daniel is, of course, the very title assumed by Jesus during the course of his ministry hear on earth. In the Gospels, Jesus refers to himself as the "son of Man" eighty-one times, almost certainly his most frequent appellation. Jesus' appropriation of the title "son of Man" suggests that He claimed unique access to God the Father, the Ancient of Days, and claimed to have received from Him ruleship over the entirety of creation.
One should recall how significant this title was: it is Christ's reference to himself as the "son of Man" which so upset the Jewish authorities of his time, and it is what led them to accuse him of blasphemy. (Matt. 25:64-65)
The "son of Man" is a title distinct from, though related to, Jesus' claim to be the Messiah or Christ, and we should not forget that God-Man who claimed that before Abraham "I am" also claimed that he had visited the Ancient of Days and had been given singular authority over heaven and earth. "He who has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9)
It is this singular figure of the Lord Jesus as Son of Man and Son of God who promised his followers to make them into a new creation by showing them the Father and by giving them the Holy Spirit.
This results in a new birth, a new creation, one outside of time and forever young. As the classic prayer to the Holy Spirit (which invokes Psalm 104:30 [103:29]) puts it:
Send forth your Spirit
And they shall be created
And you shall renew--that is make young--the face of the earth.
Christ's promised "newness of life" to his followers, and the dynamism promised in the Holy Spirit is a new revelation of God. This revelation allows us to look at the image of God's eternal Being in a new way which does not contradict, but amplifies the old.
This new revelation is that not only can the Being of God be viewed as the Ancient of Days, God's Being can also be viewed as the Forever Young. God's Being is viewed more as a verb, as God who works in us, than a noun, a God who just is.
It is in particular the Holy Spirit who may be viewed as the dynamic balancing "counterpart" to the Ancient of Days, the dynamic God who proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is the Forever Young. That is why the Spirit is depicted in the Scriptures and iconography as a bird, a dove, a creature singularly free of boundaries, or as wind or fire, something with even less boundaries. The Spirit blows where it wills. (John 3:8) This is the youth of God personified.
In some of his writings, Pope Benedict XVI invokes this notion of the Forever Young Holy Spirit. He refers to the Holy Spirit as the "eternal youth of the Church." It is an expression that he has used from time to time, and has even invoked in prayer.
This notion of God's forever youngness is part of Catholic Tradition. "Gott is ewig jung," God is forever young, says Hans Urs von Balthasar in his book Spirit and Life, "and he needs disciples that express his temperament and humor."
What does von Balthasar mean by saying that God needs disciples who are "forever young," ewig jung, like the Forever Young God they follow?
Surely, von Balthasar had Meister Eckhart in mind when he made that particular point. The great Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart reflected on God's Eternity and stated that, with respect to the Eternal One, the Ancient of Days, "Being and Being-young are one in Him," daß Dasein und Jungsein bei ihr eins sind.
The Ancient of Days, the Son of Man, and the Forever Young--the three Persons in one God that is the Trinity--are three in one, and so they are one in Being and one in Being-young.
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