Archive for December, 2011

Sub Specie Aeternitatis

Friday, December 30th, 2011

How to “envisage the essential points of Christian doctrine” sub specie aeternitatis? It seems you’re well on your way to doing that already. You adduce Eckhart, but one needn’t look only to the works of an “alleged heretic”! The essential ideas—that the Logos has “always” been incarnate and that human nature as such, not the humanity of only one historical individual, has been assumed by this Logos—are implicit (when not explicit) in both Scripture and Tradition, including the classic Patristic formulations of Christology.

The Fathers were not metaphysicians, of course; this goes without saying, and there should no surprise in the fact that they presented the Truth “dynamically” and in reference to a “historical transformation”. But thinking of Christ’s work in these terms need in no way conflict with a metaphysical perspective. One temporal event can’t happen at two different times—I leave aside here any “quantum” objections!—but there’s nothing to prevent a temporal event from having a trans-temporal root. These are different orders altogether.

In any case, here’s how I myself attempt to sum up the metaphysical essentials of the Faith roughly half way through my lecture course on Christian Theology, as we begin transitioning from Christology to Soteriology:

We’ve learned that a transcendent and yet immanent Mystery, whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere, is (even as we speak) emptying Itself into our world and ourselves, at once creatively and re-creatively, bringing us and all things into being from the No-Thing It is while at the same time redeeming and restoring those who, inevitably and yet reprehensibly, are falling away into a nothing It is not.

Now it’s up to those who are falling away to respond, and this they do in two ways: (1) through their trust in the fact that the world-restoring operations of the Mystery have already achieved their goal, and (2) through their recognition that, paradoxically, they are nonetheless responsible for achieving this very goal for themselves, which they can do by mirroring the operations of the Mystery, willingly emptying themselves into It even as It empties Itself into them, in order that finally they might become what It is.

As you’ve no doubt already intuited, the effort to “properly reconcile the temporal and the eternal in the Christian message” is not a scholastic exercise, but a matter of spiritual practice.

The Technique

Friday, December 16th, 2011

I forget whether you’ve read my Advice to the Serious Seeker. If not, no matter. I mention it simply because what little I know on the subject of prayer, and feel confident enough about to discuss in a public forum like this, can be found in the fourth part of that book.

Many other books are available too, and it’s clear from your list of explorations that you’ve already read rather widely. But in the final analysis a book can’t teach you. You need the guidance of another, flesh-and-blood human being. And no legitimate guide will be able to help you until and unless you establish a sacramental relationship with a genuine, orthodox tradition. Prayer presupposes sincerity, and sincerity demands faith and commitment.

In the meantime, of course, you can always offer up personal prayers—spontaneous requests for God’s help, woven of humility and trust. These last words are crucial. He who wishes to pray must be prepared to put himself, his agenda, his expectations aside. You speak of having investigated many methods and techniques. But the technique—if you will allow me to speak like the Zen masters—consists in realizing there is no technique.

There is instead a crystal-clear space opened up by our resignation and attentive listening.