There is an old medieval puzzle which asks, in its essence, “Can God create a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it?” On the face of it, the question seems rather absurd, considering the fact that if God is omnipotent, He can do anything … but then as one considers the possibilities, it seems impossible to answer the question in the affirmative on all counts. God can make whatever he wants, so of course He can create an infinitely heavy object. However, God is all powerful, so He can therefore also lift whatever He makes. Therefore, no matter how the question is answered, either He can’t make the rock, or He can’t lift it.
Philosophers through the ages have attempted to tackle the question head-on. St. Thomas Aquinas posits, for instance that the source of the paradox is a misunderstanding or a misuse of the word “omnipotence.” In the question 25 of the first part of the Summa Theologiae, The Angelic Doctor tells us:
whatever implies contradiction does not come within the scope of divine omnipotence, because it cannot have the aspect of possibility. Hence it is better to say that such things cannot be done, than that God cannot do them. Nor is this contrary to the word of the angel, saying: “No word shall be impossible with God.” For whatever implies a contradiction cannot be a word, because no intellect can possibly conceive such a thing.
In other words, contradiction always implies impossibility, regardless of whether God is the principle actor in the proposed thought experiment or not.
C.S. Lewis, rather than examining the puzzle as a problem of logic took it on as problem of definition. In his book, A Grief Observed, Lewis said:
Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great theological and metaphysical problems – are like that.
Today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a perfect time to ponder this old problem of paradox, and with great apology to the those thinkers who are greater than I, I humbly propose that not only can God make an object so great that He cannot lift it, but He did.
The great thinkers most definitely answered the question on its face value by pointing out the nonsense for the illogic that it is. However, with some understanding of the two natures of God, we can see that there is an element that is not being considered.
The most Blessed Virgin Mary is the pinnacle of God’s creation, perfect in all ways, without blemish, and literally full of God’s Grace. God created Mary to be a bridge of perfection between Himself and man. Without Her perfection, there could be no passage from Godhood to humanity. And through Our Lady’s fiat, God became man as our Lord was conceived in Her womb.
At that very moment, our Blessed Lord, who has two natures, was in full presence within the womb of Mary. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. And as God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, He became Man. And once incarnate in the womb of the most Pure Virgin Mary, He became completely reliant upon Her for life and sustenance. In fact, after He was born, He not only could not pick Her up, but for the first time in all of human history, a human was able to look DOWN into the face of God.
And in picking up the Christ Child to place Him upon Her knee, our Lady became the Seat of Wisdom.
God made Mary … but in becoming incarnate in Her womb, He simultaneously made something (or rather, someone) that was in time and place, so big, He could not pick Her up.
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, pray for us who have recourse to Thee!