CC in brief — What do we mean when we say that God is everywhere?

Catholic Candle note: We should study the Catholic Faith our whole life.  Part of this duty is to understand more fully the truths of the Faith we already learned as children.  Thus, for example, concerning the question “Who is God?”, we know from our First Communion Catechism that “God is the Supreme Being Who made all things.”  During our life, we should learn more about God, as best we can, little-by-little, using the opportunities we have.

The very short article below is an aid to help us to “peer a little more deeply” into the answer to the catechism question “Where is God?”  

Q:        What do we mean when we say that God is everywhere?

  1. St. Thomas Aquinas, greatest Doctor of the Catholic Church, gives this simple, clear, and profound answer, explaining how God is everywhere, in three ways:

It is customary to say that God is in all things by His essence, presence, and power.  To understand what this means, we should know that someone is said to be by his power in all the things that are subject to his power; as a king is said to be in the entire kingdom subject to him, by his power.  He is not there [i.e., in his entire kingdom], however, by presence or essence.  

Someone is said to be by presence in all the things that are within his range of vision; as a king is said to be in his house by presence.

And someone is said to be by essence in those things in which his substance is; as a king is in one determinate place [e.g., on his throne].

Now we say that God is everywhere by His power, since all things are subject to His power: “If I ascend into heaven, you are there ….  If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the furthest part of the sea, even there your hand will lead me, and your right hand will hold me” (Ps 138:8).

He is also everywhere by His presence, because “all things are bare and open to His eyes,” as is said in Hebrews (4:13).

He is present everywhere by His essence, because His essence is innermost in all things.  For every agent, as acting, has to be immediately joined to its effect, because mover and moved must be together.  Now God is the maker and preserver of all things with respect to the esse [i.e., the being] of each. Hence, since the esse [i.e., the being] of a thing is innermost in that thing, it is plain that God, by His essence, through which He creates all things, is in all things.  [In other words, God creates all things by His Own essence and so God’s essence must be together with all creatures and so is everywhere.]

Lectures on St. John’s Gospel, St. Thomas Aquinas, ch.1, #134.

Conclusion.  God is in all things in these three ways, by His essence, His presence, and His power.