- Can Democratic Man be saved?
- Hell cries, “Get out!”
- Marmeladov’s Vision
- The American Dream
- Sartre never had it so good!
- There is no “non-traditional” Christianity
- The sincere and the insincere
I have hundreds of blogs I saved to read later. This long weekend is “later.” I here excerpt some edifying comments from two of my favorite Priest-bloggers.
Everywhere he goes, he meets his equals. All of the world is open to him, bidding him enter in, take what he wants and go his way. Early on he learns to negotiate his way through competing crowds of others, jostling for position, asking for attention, making his way forward. His direction is a matter for decision – first this way and then that. He migrates at will, following an inner guide that says, “Go there. Take that. Move on.” He becomes what he wants to be and learns what he wants to know. He chooses his mate and negotiates his marriage, contracting for his happiness. If he chooses, he will have children. If not, he has none. He will turn back disease, and even replace parts and improve his lot in life.
This is the Democratic Man.
Can such a man find God, or even be saved?
That may sound like a strange question, but it lies at the heart of the modern religious crisis. For God is not a choice ….
(Fr. Stephen Freeman) Yes, this is meant to whet your appetite for the whole thing.
Some years back I sat in a cave that is purported to be the grave of Lazarus. I could not help but think of him – but of him in Hades rather than the tomb. It is said in the Fathers that when Christ raised him from the dead, it was necessary for Him to say, “Lazarus, come forth!” For had He only said, “Come forth!” all of the dead would have risen before their time. It’s a thought that I like a lot.
It is also, however, a thought that has occurred to Hades itself, at least in the hymnody of the Church:
I implore you, Lazarus, said Hell, Rise up, depart quickly from my bonds and be gone. It is better for me to lament bitterly for the loss of one, rather than of all those whom I swallowed in my hunger.
Why do you delay, Lazarus? cried Hell. Your Friend stands calling to you: ‘Come out.’ Go, then, and I too shall feel relief. For since I swallowed you, all other food is loathsome to me.
O Lazarus, why do you not rise up swiftly? cried Hell below, lamenting. Why do you not run immediately from this place? Lest Christ take prisoner the others, after raising you. (From the Canon of Lazarus Saturday)
It is as if when Christ says, “Come forth!” Hell cries, “Get out!”
I do not need anyone to remind me that 1 Corinthians 6:10 says that “drunkards” will not inherit the Kingdom. But, O strange wonder, many of them will be found in the Kingdom while others are thrust out! Dostoevsky’s Marmeladov explains why.
…”And He will judge and will forgive all, the good and the evil, the wise and the meek…And when He has done with all of them, then He will summon us, ‘You too come forth,’ He will say, ‘Come forth, ye drunkards, come forth, ye weak ones, come forth, ye children of shame!’ And we shall all come forth without shame and shall stand before Him. And He will say unto us, ‘Ye are swine, made in the image of the Beast and with his mark; but come ye also!’ And the wise ones and those of understanding will say, ‘O Lord, why dost Thou receive these men?’ And He will say,’This is why I receive them, O ye wise, this is why I receive them, O ye of understanding, that not one of them believed himself to be worthy of this.’ And He will hold out His hands to us and we shall fall down before Him…and we shall weep…and we shall understand all things! Then we shall understand all!…and all will understand, Katerina Ivanovna even…she will understand…Lord, Thy kingdom come!” And he sank down on the bench exhausted and helpless, looking at no one, apparently oblivious of his surroundings and plunged in deep thought. His words had created a certain impression; there was a moment of silence; but soon laughter and oaths were heard again.
The American Dream is embodied in strength. Gen. George Patton famously said, “America loves to win and cannot abide a loser.” The spirituality of winning is probably the fastest growing and most attractive version of “Christianity” to be found on the American scene. Mega Churches, seating 10’s of thousands have sprung up as temples of success.
And yet, the American Dream may be the greatest obstacle to salvation the world has ever known.
Tragically, the role of male and female has largely been removed in contemporary versions of Christianity. In an overreaction to Roman Catholicism, Protestant Christianity increasingly told the story of our salvation with minimal reference to Mary. For many contemporary Protestants, Mary’s womb is but a borrowed space, her role quite secondary. Our salvation is related as a payment, a death that assuages the wrath of God and allows God to see us as though we were righteous. There is no union. Baptism becomes but a token symbol, the Eucharist a mere memorial. The entire human story, that can only rightly be told with reference to male and female, is transformed into a story of contract and payment, a sexlessly neutral theological event.
This account of salvation provided the groundwork for the modern view of humanity. Gender in the modern world is but a biological inconvenience, something to be minimized if possible, reimagined when necessary. What matters about human beings in the modern world is that they produce and consume. We exist for the economy. Career trumps child-bearing. Gender expectations and traditional roles are dismissed as patriarchal nonsense that prevents people from fulfilling their dreams and vocations.
The modern view of human beings is that we are autonomous centers of consciousness whose choices and decisions bring about self-actualization. Male and female have nothing to do with our humanness in this view. Being human is about choice, decision-making, freedom and autonomy. The givenness of gender is therefore an obstacle to our fantasy existence. The lofty words of choice and freedom, enshrined in the laws and philosophy of our land, are actually just disguises for saying that we are producers and consumers. When a human being’s ability to choose is impaired, we despair that they have somehow lost their personhood. To produce and to shop are the core of our being.
I consider it the single most amazingly successful example of French philosophy, in that its ideas are currently being espoused by children in Middle School. Sartre never had it so good!
(Fr. Stephen Freeman, speaking of the Post-Modernism of Foucault and Derrida)
There is no “non-traditional” Christianity (for Christ Himself and all knowledge of Him comes from someone other than ourselves). I easily understand that many Christians fear that “the traditions of men” will somehow distort the purity of the gospel. But we cannot have a Christianity that is not a tradition. But we can have grateful hearts and learn to be good stewards of the mystery of God.
How to admonish the sincere and the insincere.
Admonition 12. The sincere are to be admonished in one way, the insincere in another. The sincere are to be commended for their intention of never saying anything false, but they should be warned that they should know how to withhold the truth on occasion. For, just as falsehood always harms him who utters it, so the hearing of the truth has sometimes done harm. Wherefore, the Lord, tempering speech with silence in presence of His disciples, says: I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
The sincere are, therefore, to be admonished that, as the avoidance of deceit is always profitable to them, so they should utter the truth always profitably …
On the other hand, the insincere are to be admonished to realise how burdensome is the business of duplicity which they guiltily bear. For in the fear of discovery they ever try to defend themselves even dishonourably, and are ever agitated with fear and apprehension. Now, nothing is more safely defended than sincerity, nothing easier to speak than the truth. But when a man is forced to defend his deceit, his heart is wearied with the toilsome labour of doing so. Wherefore, it is written: The labour of their lips shall overwhelm them. For what fills them now, envelops them afterwards, as by it the mind that is now elevated with a soothing disquietude, is then oppressed with bitter retribution. Wherefore, it is said by Jeremias: For they have taught their tongue to speak lies, they have laboured to commit iniquity; in other words, they who could have been the friends of truth without labour, labour to sin, and as they decline to live in sincerity, they are at pains to perish laboriously.
For commonly, though they are discovered in their fault, they shrink from being known for what they are, and they screen themselves under a veil of deceit, and the fault which is quite obvious they try to excuse. The result is that often one who aims at reproving them, led astray by the mists of disseminated falsehood, finds that he has all but lost the certain conviction he had been holding concerning them. Hence it is rightly said by the Prophet, under the similitude of Judea, against the soul that sins and excuses itself: There hath the hedgehog had its hole. Here the term hedgehog symbolises the duplicity of the insincere mind that craftily defends itself. For when the hedgehog is discovered, its head is seen, its feet are obvious, its whole body revealed; but the moment it is captured, it gathers itself up into a ball, draws in its feet, hides its head, and the thing disappears in the hands of him who holds it, whereas before all the parts were visible.
Let them be told how the Prophet Sophonias [i.e., Zephaniah] holds out over them the stroke of divine reproof, when he says: Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, great and horrible…. That day is a day of wrath, a day of darkness and obscurity, a day of clouds and whirlwinds, a day of the trumpet and alarm against all the fenced cities and against all the high corners. What else is expressed by fenced cities but minds suspicious and ever surrounding themselves with the defence of deceit, minds which, as often as their sin is reproved, do not allow the darts of truth to approach them? And what is symbolised by high corners (a wall being always double at its corners) but insincere hearts which, in shunning the simplicity of truth, are, as it were, doubled back on themselves by their perverse duplicity? And, what is worse, by the very fault of insincerity they uplift themselves in their thinking with the proud assumption of prudence. Therefore, the day of the Lord comes, full of vengeance and rebuke, on fenced cities and lofty corners: the wrath of the Last Judgment destroys human hearts that have been closed against the truth by bulwarks, and destroys what had been enveloped in duplicity. Then these fenced cities fall, because souls which showed themselves impervious to God shall be lost. Then the lofty corners fall down, because hearts that lifted themselves up in the prudence of insincerity, are stricken down by a just sentence.
(St. Gregory the Great, called in the East “Gregory the Dialogist,” via Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, who has no elisions – bold added because I need the reminder; underlining added to emphasize how the Church legitimately interprets scripture at times.)
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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)