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As such, God is All-Perfect; this infinite Perfection is viewed, successively, under various aspects, each of which is treated as a separate perfection and characteristic inherent to the Divine Substance, or Essence. A certain group of these, of paramount import, is called the Divine Attributes.
God, being infinite and beyond human comprehension, surpasses any single name. "God revealed himself progressively and under different names to his people, but the revelation that proved to be the fundamental one for both the Old and the New Covenants was the revelation of the divine name to Moses in the theophany of the burning bush..."  "I Am Who Am". The word "God" is a translation of the Hebrew word Elohim, which is more of a designation of the deity, than a personal name. "Lord" derives from the Greek word "Kyrios". Jesus almost always used the term Abba, a familiar form of "Father". In 2008, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a directive that in liturgical texts the Tetragrammaton is to be translated as "God", and Adonai/Kyrios as "Lord".
"Jesus", the name of the second person of the Blessed Trinity, means "God saves" and was revealed by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:31). It expresses both his identity and his mission. Other names or titles found include "Christ" which means "the anointed one", and "Emmanuel" or "God is with us". Veneration of the Holy Name of Jesus is a particular devotion, promoted by Anselm of Canterbury as early as the 12th century.
The proper name of the third person of the Trinity is the "holy Spirit", from the Hebrew word ruah, meaning breath, air, or wind. He is also called the "Paraclete" as in "advocate", sometimes translated as "consoler".
In the fourth century Aetius and Eunomius maintained that, because the Divine nature is simple, excluding all composition or multiplicity, the various terms and names applied to God are to be considered synonymous. Otherwise they would erroneously imply composition in God. This opinion was combated by St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Basil, and St. Gregory of Nyssa (In Eunom., P. G., XLV). The principle of attribution received more precise statement at the hands of St. Augustine, in his investigation of the conditions of intellectual knowledge (De Genesi ad Litteram, IV, 32). In the ninth century, John Scotus Erigena, who was largely influenced by Neo-Platonism, transmitted through the works of the Pseudo-Dionysius, contributed to bring into clearer relief the analogical character of predication (De Divinâ Naturâ, Lib. I). The Nominalists revived the views of Eunomius, and the opposition of the Realists was carried to the other extreme by Gilbert de la Porrée, who maintained a real, ontological distinction between the Divine Essence and the attributes. His opinion was condemned by the Council of Reims (1148). St. Thomas definitively expressed the doctrine that, after some controversies between Scotists and Thomists upon minor points and subtleties, and with some divergence of opinion upon unimportant details, is now the common teaching of Catholic theologians and philosophers. It may be summarized as follows: The idea of God is derived from our knowledge of finite beings. When a term is predicated of the finite and of the Infinite, it is used, not in a univocal, but in analogical sense. The Divine Perfection, one and invisible, is, in its infinity, the transcendental analogue of all actual and possible finite perfections. By means of an accumulation of analogous predicates methodically co-ordinated, we endeavour to form an approximate conception of the Deity who, because He is Infinite, cannot be comprehended by finite intelligence. Modern philosophy presents a remarkable gradation, from Pantheism, which finds God in everything, to Agnosticism, which declares that He is beyond the reach of knowledge. Spinoza conceives God as "a substance consisting of infinite attributes each of which expresses eternal and infinite essence". The two attributes manifested to us are thought and extension. At the other extreme we find Agnostics of the school of Herbert Spencer (see agnosticism) and some followers of Hegel, who hold that the nature of God, or, to use their favourite term, "the Absolute" is utterly unknowable, and its existence not determined to any mode; therefore, to predicate of it various attributes, expressive of determinations, is idle and misleading. Between the finite and the Infinite there is no common ground of predication. Hence, words that signify finite perfections can have no real meaning when predicated of God. They become mere empty symbols. All theological attempts to elaborate an idea of God are vain, and result in complete absurdity when they conceive God after man's image and likeness (see anthropomorphism), and circumscribe the Infinite in terms borrowed from human psychology. Criticism of this kind indicates that its authors have never taken the trouble to understand the nature of analogical predication, or to consider fairly the rigorous logical process of refining to which terms are subjected before being predicated of God. It often happens too, that writers, after indulging liberally in eloquent denunciation of theological anthropomorphism proceed, on the next page, to apply to the Infinite, presumably in a strictly univocal sense, terms such as "energy", "force", and "law", which are no less anthropomorphic, in an ultimate analysis, than "will" and "intelligence".
Thomas Aquinas said that starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world's order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe. The Church teaches that God can be known with certainty from the created world with human reason.
Our natural knowledge of God is acquired by discursive reasoning upon the data of sense by introspection, "For the invisible things of Him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; His eternal power also, and Divinity" (St. Paul, Romans 1:20). Created things, by the properties and activities of their natures, manifest, as in a glass, darkly, the powers and perfections of the creator. But these refracted images of Him in finite things cannot furnish grounds for any adequate idea of the Infinite Being.
"Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point,...Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God."
Of his own accord and by his own power he made all things and arranged and perfected them; and his will is the substance of all things. He alone, then, is found to be God; he alone is omnipotent, who made all things; he alone is Father, who founded and formed all things, visible and invisible, sensible and insensate, heavenly and earthly, by the Word of his power. And he has fitted and arranged all things by his wisdom; and while he comprehends all, he can be comprehended by none. He is himself the designer, himself the builder, himself the inventor, himself the maker, himself the Lord of all.(Irenaeus. Against Heresies, 2:30:9)
Reason teaches that God is one simple and infinitely perfect spiritual substance or nature. Sacred Scripture and the Church teach the same. The creeds usually begin with a profession of faith in the one true God, Who is the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth. As stated by the First Vatican Council: "The Catholic Church believes that there is one true and living God, the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, Almighty, Eternal, Immense, Incomprehensible, Infinite in intellect and will and in all perfection; who, being One, Individual, altogether simple and unchangeable Substance, must be asserted to be really and essentially distinct from the world, most happy (blessed) in Himself, and ineffably exalted above everything that exists or can be conceived."
As a personal being, He is intelligent, free, and distinct from the created universe. According to Tatian, "“Our God has no introduction in time. He alone is without beginning, and is himself the beginning of all things. God is a spirit, not attending upon matter, but the maker of material spirits and of the appearances which are in matter. He is invisible, being himself the Father of both sensible and invisible things”God is Creator of all that exists. Francis J. Beckwith explains, "God keeps the universe in existence at every moment, since a universe, even an everlasting and infinitely large one, consisting entirely of contingent beings in causal relationships with each other, could no more exist without some sustaining First Cause than could an alleged perpetual motion machine exist without an Unmoved Mover keeping its motion perpetual.
"Conscience always involves the recognition of a living object towards which it is directed. Inanimate things cannot stir our affections; these are correlative with persons. If, as is the case, we feel responsibility, are ashamed, are frightened, at transgressing the voice of conscience, this implies that there is One to whom we are responsible, before whom we are ashamed, whose claims upon us we fear... we certainly have within us the image of some Person to whom our love and veneration look,... such as require for their exciting cause an Intelligent Being.
It is in God's nature to love, to forgive, to heal, protect and save. Even when human beings do what is wrong or selfish or evil, God's nature does not change.
"Presence of God" is a term used in Catholic theology and devotion.
In theology, it refers to the belief that God is present by His Essence everywhere and in all things by reason of His Immensity. Psalm 139:7-8 reads:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
It also refers to the belief that God is in a special manner really and substantially present in the souls of the just.
In devotion, to put oneself in the presence of God, or to live in the presence of God, as spiritual writers express it, means to become actually conscious of God as present, or at least so to live as though thus actually conscious.
Another way to be mindful of His Presence is by the exercise of reason directed by faith. One sees God in the earth, the sea, the air and in all things; in heaven where He manifests His Glory, in hell where He carries out the law of His Justice.
"By natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of his works. But there is another order of knowledge, which man cannot possibly arrive at by his own powers: the order of divine Revelation. Through an utterly free decision, God has revealed himself and given himself to man..." By revealing himself God wishes to make man capable of responding to him, and of knowing him and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity. God communicates himself to man gradually.
According to Dei verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, God reveals himself through his Word;
The concept of a perfection derived from created things and freed of all defects, is, in its application to God, expanded without limit. God not only possesses every excellence discoverable in creation, but He also possesses it infinitely. To emphasize the transcendence of the Divine perfection, in some cases an abstract noun is substituted for the corresponding adjective; as, God is Intelligence; or, again, some word of intensive, or exclusive, force is joined to the attribute; as, God alone is good, God is goodness itself, God is all-powerful, or supremely powerful.
Transcendentally one, absolutely free from composition, the Divine Being is not, and may not be conceived as, a fundamental substrate in which qualities or any other modal indeterminations inhere. The reality to which the various attributes are ascribed is one and indivisible.
God is eternal in that in essence, life, and action He is altogether beyond temporal limits and relations. He has neither beginning, nor end, nor duration by way of sequence or succession of moments. There is no past or future for God — but only an eternal present. This is expressed by Christ when He says in John 8:58: "Before Abraham was, I am." The eternity of God is a corollary from His self-existence and infinity. Time being a measure of finite existence, the infinite must transcend it. God, it is true, coexists with time, as He coexists with creatures, but He does not exist in time, so as to be subject to temporal relations: His self-existence is timeless.
As God is transcendent of all temporal limitations, so also is He transcendent in relation to space. God is both immanent and transcendent; necessarily present everywhere in space as the immanent cause and sustainer of creatures, and on the other hand, He transcends the limitations of actual and possible space, and cannot be circumscribed or measured or divided by any spatial relations.
The Deity, because He is Infinite, cannot be comprehended by finite intelligence. The Divine Perfection, one and invisible, is, in its infinity, the transcendental analogue of all actual and possible finite perfections. By means of an accumulation of analogous predicates methodically co-ordinated, it is possible to form an approximate conception of the Deity. Other attributes are simplicity, perfection, infinity, immutability, unity, truth, goodness, beauty, omnipresence, intellect and will. According to Aquinas, the Simplicity of God means that God has no parts, that He is not composed in any way. In God, essence and existence are the same thing. His wisdom, justice, mercy, and all His attributes are not really distinct from each other nor from His essence.
Only God's omnipotence is named in the Creed: his might is universal, for God who created everything also rules everything and can do everything.
God is a spirit, an immaterial substance having intellect and will, although often described in anthropomorphic imagery. When the scriptures attribute to God human emotions such as of hatred, joy, pity, repentance, etc., they do so figuratively.
In this respect, the relation of the attributes to the Divine nature might be illustrated by the various reflections of one and the same object from a concave, a convex, and a plane mirror. Nevertheless, to systematize the idea of God, and to draw out the rich content of the knowledge resulting from the proofs of God's existence, some primary attribute may he chosen is representing one aspect of the Divine perfection from which the others may be rigorously deduced. Then arises a logical scheme in which the derivative attributes, or perfections stand towards one another in a relation somewhat similar to that of the essence and the various properties and qualities in a material substance. In this arrangement the primary perfection is termed the metaphysical essence, the others are called attributes. The essence, too, may be regarded as that characteristic which, above all others, distinguishes the Deity from everything else. Upon the question, which attribute is to be considered primary, opinions differ. Many eminent theologians favour the conception of pure actuality (Actus Purus), from which simplicity and infinity are directly deduced. Most modern authors fix on aseity (Aseitas; a = "from" se = "himself"), or self-existence; for the reason that, while all other existences are derived from, and depend on, God, He possesses in Himself, absolutely and independently, the entire reason of His uncaused infinite Being. In this, the most profound and comprehensive distinction between the Divinity and everything else, all other distinctions are implicitly expressed. Whether, and in what way, the distinctions between the attributes and the metaphysical essence, and among the attributes themselves have an ontological basis in the Divine nature itself was subject, which divided Nominalists and Realists, Thomists and Scotists, in the age of Scholasticism (cf. Vacant, Dict. de théol. cathol., I, 2230–34).
Throughout the writings of the Fathers the spirituality of the Divine Nature, as well as the inadequacy of human thought to comprehend the greatness, goodness, and infinite perfection of God, is continually emphasized. At the same time, Catholic philosophy and theology set forth the idea of God by means of concepts derived chiefly from the knowledge of our own faculties, and our mental and moral characteristics. We reach our philosophic knowledge of God by inference from the nature of various forms of existence, our own included, that we perceive in the Universe. All created excellence, however, falls infinitely short of the Divine perfections, consequently our idea of God can never truly represent Him as He is, and, because He is infinite while our minds are finite, the resemblance between our thought and its infinite object must always be faint.
Sometimes men are led by a natural tendency to think and speak of God as if He were a magnified creature — more especially a magnified man — and this is known as anthropomorphism. Thus God is said to see or hear, as if He had physical organs, or to be angry or sorry, as if subject to human passions: and this is a perfectly legitimate and more or less unavoidable use of metaphor.
Taking as the basis of classification the ways by which the attributes are developed, they are divided into positive and negative. Among the negative attributes are simplicity, infinity, immutability. The chief positive attributes are unity, truth, goodness, beauty, omnipotence omnipresence, intellect and will, personality. Some authors divide them into incommunicable and communicable. The former class comprises those that belong to God alone (e.g., all-wise, self-existent, omnipotent) to the latter belong those that are predicable, analogically, of God and creatures as good, just, intelligent. Again, the divine nature considered either as static or as the source activity; hence another division into quiescent and active. Finally, some perfections involve a relation to things distinct from God, while others do not; and from this standpoint theologians divide the attributes into absolute and relative. The various classifications adopted by modern Protestant theologians are due partly to the results of philosophical speculation and partly to new conceptions of the nature of religion. Schleiermacher, e.g. derives the attributes of God from our threefold consciousness of absolute dependence, of sin, and of grace. Others, with Lipsius, distinguish the metaphysical attributes from the psychological and the ethical. A simpler division groups omnipotence, omnipresence, eternity, omniscience, and unity as the metaphysical predicates, justice and goodness as the moral attributes. The fundamental attribute is, according to Ritschl, love; according to Professor Royce, omniscience. The main difficulty with these writers centres about the idea of God as a personal being.
The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion — the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God." In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus says, "Go, therefore,* and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit..." In John 1: 1-18, the evangelist identifies Jesus with the Word, the only-begotten of the Father, Who from all eternity exists with God, and Who is God.
St. Basil the Great tells of an ancient custom among Christians when they lit the evening lamp to give thanks to God with the prayer: "We praise the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit of God". "The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior's grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father."
The divinity of Christ is an essential teaching of the Catholic faith. Jesus has two distinct natures in one person; a Divine nature as God, and a human nature as man. "The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his "beloved Son". Jesus calls himself the "only Son of God", and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence."
By the expression "He descended into hell", the Apostles' Creed confesses that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and through his death conquered death and the devil "who has the power of death". The Nicean Creed states,
•I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
In the New Testament, the phrase "Kingdom of God" or "Kingdom of Heaven" has various shades of meaning. It means, then, the ruling of God in the hearts of the faithful; those principles which distinguish believers from the kingdom of the world and the devil; the benign sway of grace; the Church as that Divine institution whereby one may make sure of attaining the spirit of Christ and so win that ultimate kingdom of God Where He reigns without end in "the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God".
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus explains that detaching oneself from the things of this world (Mt 19:24), doing the will of the Father (Mt 21:31), and bearing good fruit (Mt 21:43) are necessary to enter the Kingdom of God. It refers to the effective rule of God over his people."In the expectation found in Jewish apocalyptic, the kingdom was to be ushered in by a judgment in which sinners would be condemned and perish,... This was modified in Christian understanding where the kingdom was seen as being established in stages, culminating with the Parousia of Jesus." At the beginning of Jesus' ministry in Galilee, he proclaims "“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God is thee third Luminous Mystery.
Jesus not only proclaims the coming of the kingdom by his word but in his actions of healing and forgiveness makes the kingdom actually present. "The kingdom is understood by most Roman Catholic theologians to be both present and future; it is both "now" and "not yet"." "...the promised restoration which we are awaiting has already begun in Christ, is carried forward in the mission of the Holy Spirit and through Him continues in the Church.'
The Fathers of the Church distinguish between theology (theologia) and economy (oikonomia). "Theology" refers to the mystery of God's inmost life within the Blessed Trinity and "economy" to all the works by which God reveals himself and communicates his life. Through the oikonomia the theologia is revealed to us; but conversely, the theologia illuminates the whole oikonomia. God's works reveal who he is in himself; the mystery of his inmost being enlightens our understanding of all his works. So it is, analogously, among human persons. A person discloses himself in his actions, and the better we know a person, the better we understand his actions.
The Catholic Church has always defended the use of sacred images in churches, shrines, and homes, encouraging their veneration but distinguishing between veneration and worship. In Western art, God the Father is conventionally shown as a patriarch, with benign, yet powerful countenance and with long white hair and a beard, a depiction largely derived from the description of the Ancient of Days in the Old Testament.
The Holy Spirit is almost always depicted as a dove.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "The Nature and Attributes of God". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.