Monday, August 11, 2008

Wisdom from…

No need to say thanks every time, Brad. I get it now.

ST GREGORY OF NYSSA (330–395): The river of grace

Receive the garment of incorruption which Christ unfolds and holds out to you. Do not refuse the gift or you will insult him who offers it. You have wallowed in the mud long enough; hasten now to the Jordan, in answer not to the call of John but to invitation of Christ. For the river of grace flows everywhere; its source is not in Palestine, nor does it flow into the sea there, but encircles the whole earth and empties itself into paradise. It flows in the opposite direction to the four rivers which flow out of paradise, and the things it carries in are far more precious than those they carry out. For the rivers that flow away carry spices and agricultural produce and the fruits of the earth. But the river of grace brings with it men and women, the offspring of the Spirit.

You must follow the example of Joshua, the son of Nun, and carry the gospel as he carried the ark. Leave the desert, leave sin behind you to cross the river Jordan. Hurry to follow the way of Christ, to enter the land fertile with gladdening fruits and flowing with the promised milk and honey. All those things are symbols for us, all are prefigurations of realities now made visible.
(Treastise on Baptism: PL 46, 417-421.)

Gregory was the younger brother of Basil the Great, bishop of Nyssa, and was the greatest speculative theologian of the three great Cappadocian Fathers (i.e., Basil, himself, and Gregory Nazianzus).

ST AUGUSTINE: Two Types of Fear

Shall I say something about the two types of fear? There is a servile fear and there is a chaste fear. The first fears that it may suffer punishment; the other fears that it may lose justice. The chaste fear endures forever. Love does not destroy it or drive it out of us, but rather embraces it and holds on to it as its companion. We come to the Lord in order to see him face to face. Then a chaste fear preserves us.
-- Sermon on John 43, 7

This chaste fear of which the Doctor Gratiae writes is, I think, something akin to the choking sensation we sometimes experience in the midst of great joy. Our glee is so visceral and (literally) incredible that a surge of happy panic wells up within us, as a sort of shock that something so good could find its way into our lives, and as a sobering shadow that it might just as easily leave us. We are insecure about grace, even when we properly understand it as pure gift, not because it is too weak for the world nor because God is unreliable. Rather, grace unnerves like a mountain: it is so exceptionally stable as to threaten smothering everything else if it were to grow any larger or look any grander. Far from grace appearing as a wobbling pole, or cross, on the allegedly stable earth, grace seems precarious and frightening because its vastness over the earth seems to threaten plunging down upon it. A turtle upheld the world of the ancients, but a gigantic cross uplifts and suspends the world of Christians.

Prayer. I implore you, God, you to whom faith calls us, hope leads us, and love unites us. Come to me in your mercy.
-- Soliloquies 1, 3


If we want to enjoy interior peace, it is necessary to have one will and one desire: to love Jesus crucified, employing all our faculties and energies for this purpose. Different indeed is the peace resulting from this love––a peace that the world does not give. The worldly boast of their peace, but certainly it is a false peace that eventually will be destroyed.
(Sermons 30; O. IX, p. 301)


TOM JONES is still alive, with all his good and all his evil; he is walking about the streets; we meet him every day. We meet with him, we drink with him, we smoke with him, we talk with him, we talk about him. The only difference is that we have no longer the intellectual courage to write about him. We split up the supreme and central human being, Tom Jones, into a number of separate aspects. We let Mr. J. M. Barrie write about him in his good moments, and make him out better than he is. We let Zola write about him in his bad moments, and make him out much worse than he is. We let Maeterlinck celebrate those moments of spiritual panic which he knows to be cowardly; we let Mr. Rudyard Kipling celebrate those moments of brutality which he knows to be far more cowardly. We let obscene writers write about the obscenities of this ordinary man. We let puritan writers write about the purities of this ordinary man. We look through one peephole that makes men out as devils, and we call it the New Art. We look through another peephole that makes men out as angels, and we call it the New Theology. But if we pull down some dusty old books from the bookshelf, if we turn over some old mildewed leaves, and if in that obscurity and decay we find some faint traces of a tale about a complete man––such a man as is walking on the pavement outside––we suddenly pull a long face, and we call it the coarse morals of a bygone age.
('All Things Considered.')

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