Monday, January 22, 2007

In This Boat Together

Mark Gordon over at Suicide of the West has an analysis of symptomology that passes for entertainment in our present state of sacrificial preparation, "The Love That Dare Not Whinny Its Name."

The Massketeers have been discussing how difficult it is not to get caught ourselves in the mimetic swirl of rivalry, resentment and ongoing human funny business. How awfully true this is. That is why I illustrate this post with Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galilee.

If one counts carefully, one will see Our Lord seated in the boat as the storm rages. One counts and finds ... ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen disciples? What is happening here?

Rembrandt has painted himself into the painting. He's the fellow hanging onto the rigging and his hat. He knows that we are in the same boat as the disciples, facing the same storm and same fears and human weaknesses.

So, when we relate the symptomology of others, as Mark Gordon does arightly above, we aren't judging, castigating, scapegoating. We are only where we are on this journey of faith by the grace of God, and "there but for that grace go we."

But analyze the cultural situation we must. If more had before Kristallnacht, many millions of lives might have been saved in the conflagration of World War II. Naiveté and ignorance lead only to more sacrificial behavior.

The only solution we have comes via the transmission of the deposit of faith in Sacred Scripture and Tradition protected and handed on by the Magisterium of the Church: namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through this power alone can we supercede the paganism that threatens to swamp our boat.


David Nybakke said...

You got to love the many wonders and paradox within Christianity and the Church. (This comment goes with this post as well as the poor Clare post.)

From CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 22, Faith:
“I want to start by saying something that I would like every one to notice carefully. It is this. If this chapter means nothing to you, if it seems to be trying to answer questions you never asked, drop it at once. Do not bother about it at all. There are certain things in Christianity that can be understood from the outside, before you have become a Christian. But there are a great many things that cannot be understood until after you have gone a certain distance along the Christian road. These things are purely practical, though they do not look as if they were. They are directions for dealing with particular cross-roads and obstacles on the journey and they do not make sense until a man has reached those places. When ever you find any statement in Christian writings which you can make nothing of, do not worry. Leave it alone. There will come a day, perhaps years later, when you suddenly see what it meant. If one could understand it now, it would only do one harm.”

So why short-change the width and breath of Catholic spirituality? Does it not all help to lead us (as one body with many parts) to the Kingdom? So if you feel lost or uneasy with the spirituality of the poor Clare’s or von Balthazar then as what CSL says, do not bother about it so that no rivalry or scandal develops.

I think our discussion here is good, yet by the nature of these blog comments our thoughts are cut short and shallow. It is hard to imagine a discussion that could bounce one way and then the other by lobbing a GK Chesterton quote on one side and a von Balthazar quote on the other – an image of St. Therese on one side and an image of St. Clare on the other. How shallow can we be in our efforts to bring the vastness of the Church within the communion of saints and those destined to be by playing off one onto the other?

For me, like von Balthazar, I find that a great deal of understanding of ‘personhood’ must stay focused on the Trinity and particularly the relationship of divinity and humanity found within Christ Jesus. Like Francis and Bonaventure I find that we can gain much in reverence and obedience if we open ourselves up to encompass all of humanity within our understanding of what makes up personhood. Like Pope Benedict I find that we must plow through the darkness ever-more to grow in love with God and others.

Though I think everyone is on the same trajectory, I do not think we are all on the same place of the curve. I simply do not believe in the singular when it comes to salvation and individuals, like in the saying, me and Jesus got a good thing going. From the Lord’s Prayer to creeds, I see ‘us’ not ‘me’ and this helps me stay joyful and also connected with others as we are all in this together (including those who have gone before and those who are yet to come). I have embraced mimetic theory to the point of helping us comprehend the person that each of us are called to be; which is always relational. The paradox is that this process of being called into existence and being saved comes in increments of one. Go figure.

As a Protestant, I had felt that we jumped ever-so-nimbly to the resurrection, never-ever wanting to look at the dark-night-of-the-soul of humanity’s alienation from God. Now as a convert, and as I had come to accept God’s Love for me, I could venture deeper into the caverns of human darkness to realize my complicity in the crucifixion (and that continues to this day as humanity carries on scapegoating one victim after another). With the help of Girard, Bailie and my Massketeer comrades, I have been coming to terms with the culture founding event and the following scapegoating mechanism. This awareness has not been so much an intellectual experience, but rather a relational experience – an experience where I witnessed the ravenous wolves as well as saw myself as one. I guess this comes close to a St. Francis’ hallucination or a Rembrandt painting himself into the painting.

So the little way of St. Therese works right along side of Brother Lawrence and of the little poor beggar, St. Francis. The stark and clear message of GKC is somehow weaved together ever so well by the Church with the mystifying and complexities of von Balthazar.

I apologize for the length and hope that it doesn’t jeopardize my fellowship in the Massketeers.

David Nybakke said...

Great post Athos. Great picture. I love Rembrandt painting himself into the painting. There is a mystical quality of that - something akin to von Balthazar's spirituality from within.

Athos said...

Your first comments are excellent ones, Aramis, and I appreciate them and your honestly sharing them. We ARE all on different place on our journeys of faith, and we all see different emphases to lift up. Why, they'll even let three middle aged Catholic converts into the blog world and share what THEY think is important to them at the moment.

So the fact that the dark night of the soul is impacting you powerfully is vital and important to our (ongoing) discussion re: conversion. The "via negativa" as it has been referred to is an essential part of Christian spirituality: St John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, for example. The "via positiva" was Dante's path, ultimately, in which NOT to follow his desires would be a sin.

All is NOT one, but the Body of Christ has many "members" (Gr. meloi - 'organs') and one cannot say to another, "You are not needed," says St. Paul.

And I say, you MUST share your unique contribution; not to would be thwarting how you see your experience in Christ's love and grace. If you sensed criticism from me, it was not that. It was my need for more understanding. I think your statement above helps me.

Thanks, brother in Christ.

David Nybakke said...

Dear Athos,

Where does "via negativa" and "via positiva" come from? I was already into MT when these terms slipped past my screen. To be honest, to me, they seemed to be based in some individual psychology and disconnected from a social contagion dynamic. My introduction to these terms was by way of Matthew Fox, so you might see why I did not take to them.

Porthos said...

Nice pic, nice commentary on it, and nice discussion.

I can't think of anything to say. How about one of those old fashioned emoticons? A smiley: :-)


Athos said...

Though Matthew Fox alludes to these helpful terms, Aramis, he didn't coin them by any means - a broken clock is right two times a day, after all.

Bailie uses them himself; the Dante reference, actually. A quick Google search, say, entering 'John of the Cross via negativa' will mine a good read or two.

Athos said...

I didn't answer your question, though. The terms aren't MT in origin, but from the realm of Christian spirituality. One of Charles Williams' novels has two characters embody each 'way' (via). Wish I could recall the title; it's been a while!

Porthos said...

Procedural note: Ath, your email is bouncing back again. I don't know if the problem is fixed. Anyway, I sent you the technical guidance you requested yestiddy, and then sent an extra one to Aramis to forward to you. Hope it works out!.