Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wisdom from… [22 Apr]

ORIGEN OF ALEXANDRIA (185–253): Peace with God

Now that we have been justified by faith, therefore, let us be at peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have reached the state of grace in which we now find ourselves, and rejoice in the hope of God's glory. In order to grasp the apostle's meaning more clearly here, we must try to understand what he means by peace, and in particular by that peace which comes to us through Christ our Lord.

Peace is said to exist where dissension, discord, enmity, and cruelty of every kind are absent. Formerly we were hostile to God, followers and captives of his arch-enemy the devil. But now, by throwing away the weapons of the evil one, taking up the insignia of Christ, and following the banner of his cross, we shall indeed once more have peace with God. But this peace will come to us only through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has reconciled us with the Father by the offering of his blood. Anyone, therefore, who has been reconciled through the blood of Christ and is at peace with God must have no further contact with anything that is in league with God's enemy.
(Romans 4, 7-8: PG 14, 985-988.)

Origen became the head of the catechetical school in Alexandria and devoted his life to the study of Scripture. He was an exegetical giant, especially as regards his Platonic allegorical methods and multilingual abilities. In the following centuries he became a controversial figure, and certain of his views, especially the doctrines of apokatatsasis, universal salvation, and the preincarnate existence of souls, were condemned in the 5th century.

"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God. … But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. … Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you."
1 Peter 4:1–2; 5:6–7.

The vicariousness of Christ's sacrifice for us has not only to do with our passive pardon from sin, but also, more actively, with our own efforts to know God. The pardon effected at the Cross enables this divine knowledge, but appropriating this knowledge must be as cruciform as the original pardoning. And just as vicariously ours in Christ. The Passion of the Lord is already the vicarious "penance" we should do in our own lives; it is already the vicarious mortification we must practice in the light of that love. It is true, as St. Ignatius of Loyola said, that whoever suffers greatly is poised by God for great holiness. What is equally true, however, by an even more basic grace than that of partaking in the sufferings of Christ, is that even when we do not suffer like the great martyrs and saints, we can enter into the vicarious sufferings of Christ. We can suffer through Him since He wills to suffer on our behalf. The first step in our vicarious suffering is to find ourselves insufferable, and cast our selves, our own burdensome selves, upon Him, thus mystically incorporating our own vices as wounds upon Him, wounds which He overcame and glorified in His Resurrection. To leave our wounds––in the sense of both wounding-others and being-wounded––outside the wounds of Christ, is to leave them outside the consummate glory that puts the Cross in context. The most potent way we can enter into the "wounds that should be our own", is to let those wounds enter in selves that should not be our own: that is, to receive devoutly the Eucharist. To receive the Eucharist is to embrace the wounds of Christ, and to release the wounds, woundings, woundedness, of our selves, thus losing ourselves in His glorious scars and finding ourselves in the texture of crucified love that is to be lived for and with our neighbors.

ST AUGUSTINE: Inner Conflict

Controlling my will as he did, the enemy fashioned a chain out of it and bound me with it. A new will that had begun in me, to wish freely to worship you and find joy in you, O God, was not yet able to overcome that prior will, grown strong with age. Thus did my two wills––the one old, the other new, the first carnal, the second spiritual––struggle with one another, and by their conflict they laid waste my soul.
-- Confessions 8, 5

Prayer. "You have proved my heart, Lord, and visited me by night": because my heart itself has been proved by the visitation of distress.
-- Commentary on Psalm 16, 3


Everything passes, O Christians; after a few days of this present life, we shall enjoy that life which has no end. It does not matter one iota if these days are comfortable or uncomfortable, provided we are happy for all eternity. Let this holy eternity that awaits us be our consolation, together with the thought of being Christians, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, reborn by means of His blood. Our glory consists simply and solely in this, that the Savior died for us.
(Letters 1547; O. XIX, p. 10)


IT is a common saying that anything may happen behind our backs: transcendentally considered, the thing has an eerie truth about it. Eden may be behind our backs, or Fairyland. But this mystery of the human back has, again, its other side in the strange impression produced on those behind: to walk behind anyone along a lane is a thing that, properly speaking, touches the oldest nerve of awe. Watts has realized this as no one in art or letters has realized it in the whole history of the world; it has made him great. There is one possible exception to his monopoly of this magnificent craze. Two thousand years before, in the dark scriptures of a nomad people, it had been said that their prophet saw the immense Creator of all things, but only saw Him from behind.
('G. F. Watts.')

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