In an increasingly materialistic and secular world, a deadly math has set up. It is deadly because it has rejected the spiritual math of God and of spiritual goods.
What is meant by “spiritual math”? It is a math that recalls that spiritual goods, in themselves, do not admit of division and subtraction, but only of multiplication and addition. Rather than diminishing, spiritual goods grow when shared. And this is a critical math never to forget.
This “strange,” spiritual math is announced in the opening moments of the Great Easter Vigil. During the Paschal Proclamation (more widely known as the Exsultet) comes a line that speaks to the reality of the Paschal candle, of a Church now ablaze with hundreds of smaller candles lit from it and held by worshipers:
A fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing its light!
Yes, here is declared the divine economy, the mathematics of spiritual goods. The flame is divided but undimmed. This is a strange sort of division and subtraction; it’s not really division or subtraction at all, for nothing is lost and all is gained! We struggle for words to describe it. We speak of “division,” but really we experience something closer to distribution. And thus something “divided” becomes more, not less of what it is.
A modern analog of this insight is, “Hugs multiply when shared.”
As always, St. Thomas Aquinas expresses well this paradoxical math and the truth of spiritual goods:
Contrary to spiritual goods, material goods divide men because they cannot belong simultaneously and integrally to a number (Summa Theologica, IIIa q. 23 art. 1, ad 3um).
And he states the complementary truth, Spiritual truths can be possessed by many at the same time unlike material goods (Summa Theologica, IIa IIae q. 28 a. 4).
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