Posted by: godandchocolate | January 20, 2010

God, Chocolate, and the Incarnation

St. Teresa of Avila

“God and chocolate is better than just God.” What are we to make of this quote? Is it blasphemy? An amusing and irreverent truism? A deeply theological point? All of the above?

To be honest, I don’t know much about St. Teresa of Avila (but I do plan on learning!). Nor do I really remember where I ever heard this saying attributed to Teresa, the saying which has inspired this blog. (I can’t find any sources on the web that provide any more historical evidence than hearsay–can you?)

On the surface, it’s easy to side with the blasphemous and amusing truism camp when it comes to God and chocolate. “Nothing on earth is better than God,” the pious objector says. “God is heavenly, supernatural–far beyond creation in glory and power and goodness. Please don’t allow your tastebuds and cocoa cravings bring you to blasphemy!”

Allow me to explain. A Doctor of the Church said this, so don’t throw those anathemas at me just yet for repeating her wisdom!

Nothing on earth, apart from God, is better than “just God”. No created thing can be better than its Creator, nor can any of God’s creations stand apart from their Creator. That’s not what Teresa is saying.

The central truth here is this: the Creator and His “very good” creation, together, are better than the Creator alone. Our proof of this is, well, everything. God, eternally existing as He is, has no need of us. But apparently He does have great love for us. After all, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God’s perfect plan of salvation involves creation–creation which can only have taken place out of gratuitous, overflowing love. Creation–all parts of creation, including the most delicious–are good, simply by virtue of being created by God. We know this because God says so: “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good” (Gen 1:31).

What’s more, God comes to meet us through creation.

From our human perspective, this simple statement about my favorite food gets to the heart of the Christian life, and accesses the central mystery of orthodox Christian faith: the Incarnation. The eternal Word of God, through whom and in whose image we were created, entered into His creation by becoming human. I have heard it said by a good and holy priest that in the Incarnation we see that God has come from heaven and “kissed” the earth–but even this falls short of capturing what has taken place.

Marvel at the fact that by so ordinary a means as the body have immortality and incorruption been manifested to us, and that by death immortality has reached to all, and that by the Word becoming man, the universal providence has been known, and its giver and artificer the very Word of God.”

{St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word}

Marvel at it! The eternal, invisible, perfect, incomprehensible God has manifested Himself to us, not only through a burning bush and a voice from above, but as a man and with a human body. Put into Incarnational/Christological terms, then, “God made man is better than just God.” Obviously God thought so, or else He wouldn’t have been born in Bethlehem all those years ago. For every person, God becoming human is the decisive point around which our human existence turns. It is the source of our very life, our reconciliation with the Father, our re-creation in the image of God, our clear way to the Father. Again, from Athanasius:

The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the Father, Who could recreate man made after the Image.

{St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word}

The Incarnation has bridged the once incommensurable gap between man and God, natural and supernatural, ordinary and extraordinary. The world we can see is not hiding the more important, invisible things from us, but is the medium through which they are revealed to us.

Even chocolate, that delicious gift from above (okay, okay, from the cacao bean), can reveal the beauty and goodness of God. And for me, at least, it reveals His love.

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