5/59.1 Our sense of divine filiation.
Whenever we read Psalm 2 we come across this messianic reference: I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, ‘You are my son, today I have begotten you’. The adverb ‘today’ speaks of eternity. It is the ‘today’ of the intimate life of God, the ‘today’ of eternity, the ‘today’ of the Most Holy and ineffable Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who is eternal Love and eternally consubstantial with the Father and the Son.
According to its definition, filiation requires an equality of nature. This is why Jesus is the only-begotten Son of the Father. We may say in a broader sense that all creatures, especially spiritual beings, are ‘children of God’. But this filiation is inherently imperfect. Creatures cannot be equated with their Creator according to nature.
Of course, it is true that Baptism acts to regenerate the soul. This new birth into the supernatural order allows us to participate in the divine nature. This supernatural elevation to divine filiation represents an immense improvement on our natural filiation as creatures. St John teaches us in the Prologue to his Gospel: But to all who received him, who believed in his name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. As St Athanasius explains: The Son of God became man so that the sons of men, the sons of Adam, might become sons of God ... He is the Son of God by his nature. We are sons of God by grace.
The concept of divine filiation holds a key place in the message of Jesus Christ. The Good News is an eloquent testimony to the overwhelming fact of God’s love for mankind. St John wrote: See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. Our condition of being children of God fills our earthly existence with joy and hope. As St Paul tells us in one his epistles: For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God ... We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons ... The Apostle speaks of the fulness of this adoption since here on earth we have been made sons of God, the greatest of titles: So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.
The words spoken by the Father to his only begotten Son can be applied to each one of us: You are my son, today I have begotten you. Today means our life here on earth. He says to us: ‘You are my son’. Not a stranger, not a well-treated servant, not a friend – that would be a lot already. A son! He gives us free access to treat him as sons, with a son’s piety and I would even say with the boldness and daring of a son whose Father cannot deny him anything.