The worst Lent

After some very tart (and well-chosen) words for the pope, Michael Brendan Dougherty unburdens his own soul:

On the other hand, I’m almost jealous of the pope and could myself use an unguarded moment with an atheist confidante. Maybe it’s the never-ending end of winter, but I’m much more tempted to deny the joys of the blessed than the reality that human souls may be damned to eternal torment. This has been the worst Lent since I came back to the Church in my college years. At Mass, I do little more than wrestle with my squirming children. The great music and great silences of the liturgy are all around me, but their consolations rarely penetrate my consciousness.

The bell rings. My knee bends. But the mind has long since drifted away,  taken up with preparations for the weekly battle, with the striving for the successes and satisfactions of middle age, and the achievement of some security for my children. To that end, I’m writing a book and filing several columns a week. Baseball season has started, which means the return of my seven-day-a-week morning newsletter, The Slurve. Season six. Periodically, I check Twitter to see if some social-media outrage typhoon has fallen on my reputation and ruined us. (Not yet!) My son also refuses to sleep through the night. More often than not, every single member of my household wakes up in the morning in a bed or on a couch they did not intend to sleep in that night.

So lately, my relationship to the faith is more aspirational. It would be nice to get back to regularly contemplating life’s mysteries, and slowly turning myself toward the love without which man is nothing, wouldn’t it?

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Is it good for man to be alone?

  1. It is good for man to be alone
  2. The end of White Guilt?
  3. Manchurian Candidate?
  4. Kristoff #Fail
  5. Hal Lindsey update
  6. I’m no big deal
  7. Go back to your own country!
  8. Sudden, involuntary, chaotic simplification

Continue reading “Is it good for man to be alone?”

Tuesday, 3/18/14

  1. Guess who didn’t keep their powder dry
  2. This Calvinist non-Lent brought to you by the letter “T”
  3. Suicide for a serious candidate, but …
  4. Soft and Tough Pander Bears
  5. Nomads of Science
  6. Thea Kronborg on what matters

Continue reading “Tuesday, 3/18/14”

“Let us make man ….”

Father John Behr, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, makes “a really interesting and often overlooked distinction” in a Lenten reflection:

… {T]he opening chapter of Genesis … begins, of course, with God issuing all sorts of commands:

“Let there be light.” There was light.

“Let there be a firmament. Let the waters under the heavens be gathered. Let the earth put forth vegetation. Let there be light in the firmament. Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures. Let the earth bring forth living creatures.

This is simply a divine fiat. “Let it be.” And this divine fiat is sufficient to bring all these things into existence. “Let it be. It was. It was good.”

Then having declared everything into existence by a word alone, God then announces His project. Not with an injunction – “Let it be” – but in the subjunctive – “Let us make a human being. Let us make a human being in our image, after our likeness.”

The express intention and the work of God Himself, therefore, is fashioning a human being in His image and likeness. This is the work of God. This is what He sets His mind to do. This is what He specifically deliberates about. This is the divine purpose and the divine resolve.

And this is the only thing which is not followed by the words “And it was so.”

In fact, only at the end – after Pilate unwittingly says “Behold the man,” or more literally, “Behold the human being” (… anthropos) – only then do we hear Christ say “It is finished.”

So the work of God, His intention from all eternity, is to make a human being. This is a project He announces at the very beginning, and this is what He completes in His Pascha.

When we come to the end of Great Lent, and our journey with Christ to Jerusalem, standing by the cross and burying His body, then we will hear at the Doxasticon for Vespers on Holy Saturday, we’ll hear a confirmation of exactly this point. We’ll sing “Moses the Great mystically prefigured this present day, saying “And God blessed the seventh day, for this is the blessed sabbath, this is the day of rest, on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works. Through the economy of death,” it continues, “He kept the sabbath in the flesh, and returning again through the resurrection He granted us eternal life, for He alone is good and loves mankind,” or more literally, loves anthropos, loves the human being.

With the Passion of Christ, the work of God is complete, and the Lord of creation now rests from His works in the virgin tomb on the blessed sabbath, to be the firstborn of the virgin, the firstborn of the dead, whose bretheren we are called to become.

So the project – the work of God Himself – announced at the beginning, is completed at the end by one who is God and man. For every other aspect of creation, all that was needed was a simple divine fiat – “Let it be” – but for the human being to come into existence requires one amongst us who is able to say “Let it be.”

If this is the case, then we have yet to become human.  And as St. Ignatius testifies so resoundingly, we only and finally do so by following Christ to our own martyria, our own witness, and our confession of Him. Giving our own fiat. So only in the future then, are we finally created, being born into life as a human being.

I have formerly echoed Fr. Stephen Freeman in saying I despair of sainthood, but I’m working on becoming a real human being.  Maybe that’s not such a small thing after all. Maybe it’s even a distinction without a difference.