ON LOVING GOD

I wrote this first back in 2013

St-Bernard-cropped

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

‘He spake the word, and they were made’ (Ps. 148.5). But to redeem that creation which sprang into being at His word, how much He spake, what wonders He wrought, what hardships He endured, what shames He suffered! Therefore what reward shall I give unto the Lord for all the benefits which He hath done unto me? In the first creation He gave me myself; but in His new creation He gave me Himself, and by that gift restored to me the self that I had lost. Created first and then restored, I owe Him myself twice over in return for myself. But what have I to offer Him for the gift of Himself? Could I multiply myself a thousand-fold and then give Him all, what would that be in comparison with God?

Clairvaux, St. Bernard of (2009-06-11). On Loving God – Enhanced Version (Kindle Locations 287-292). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.

I walk early in the day mostly between 4 and 5.  I am usually left to my own devices so I pray and while I pray I walk and while I pray and walk I listen to some book.  To pray while listening to a book may seem contradictory but would you believe the text of the book often becomes the word of the Lord to my soul.  It was so this past Tuesday;  I walked a bit after five am and  listened to On Loving God by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Abbot Bernard wrote this little book at the request of a Cardinal Deacon of the Roman Church who sought his counsel as to living the Christian life. As is often the case, I gain insight from the teaching of a Christian from another time. Such instruction is often synchronistic for as I begin to explore, pertinent material seems to come to me as much as I seek it out.  Such is the case with this work.

When the earliest Christians read their scriptures they were looking for Jesus and found him on every page.  Of particular interest was typology where a type, a person or an event in the Old Testament is in some sense repeated in the New Testament (the antitype) only with greater clarity and completeness.   For almost a year I have wandered in the sacred texts finding types & antitypes.  In some cases the connection seems tenuous but even then provocative.

In the text above Bernard points out a fairly obvious example of type and antitype.  Creation is the type. In Creation God gives us ourselves. This is a gift that we find onerous at times. Someone has said that humanity demands freedom only to promptly give it away almost as soon as they grasp it.  The events of Genesis 3 displays how reckless our grandparents, Eve and Adam threw away the gift by turning it from gift to possession.

They stumbled and fell. (Joseph Campbell says, “Where you fall is where your treasure is buried.”  I want to consider that more at a later time.)  The “fall” some say was up which is a contradiction but as the truth lives in the country of paradox, the contradictions strain toward the way of grace.  When we humans, all of us, lost the gift of ourselves God acted.  And the type of Creation moves toward its consummation in its antitype of redemption.

Saint John elegantly lays it out for us in the prologue to his Gospel.  Now, that we have blown it, walked in and dwelt in deep darkness so that up is down and down is up and just when we are totally disoriented suddenly a light shines.  The eternal word became flesh.  In creation God gave us ourselves now in the incarnation God gives us himself.  Jesus came to tell us who God is.  The important to know is that God is like Jesus.  Jesus is the example of authentic humanity and he is the means by which we are redeemed and restored to full humanity.  Type and Anitype produce joy!

 

Lent IV

“It’s snakes, why does it have to be snakes?” Indiana Jones

It is a true saying and worthy of all people to be received, that When 2 or 3 are gathered together, someone is always complaining

The Brazen Serpent - James Tissot

The Brazen Serpent – James Tissot

The children of Israel (note they were never called the adults of Israel) are complaining about, you guessed it, the food. They got really personal about it too, doubting God and sassing Moses.

So they certainly had it coming when the serpents slivered into camp with their names written on them. Naturally, they came running for help, given the bite of consequences. They never seemed to “get it” or at least the crowd that exited Egypt never got it. That is why only two of that generation made it to the Promised Land. It took wandering in circles for forty years for them to die off. Their children were a hardier lot.

Hold that thought.

Seeing the cross coming and going and coming again.

28-serpentJesus seeing his passion coming picked the story of the serpent on the pole as a metaphor for his coming death. This is called the type. However, this is a type only because what Jesus saw the striking similarity of the upward movement of the serpent on a pole and his body on a cross.

This is called the Antitype. After Good Friday, the disciples saw the connection and realized that the incarnation (Jesus coming as a man) reflecting back and forth.

Over time, they realized the New Testament as it developed, was concealed in the Old Testament and the Old Testament was revealed in the New Testament.

This is reading
• “forward (New Testament)
• backward (Old Testament)
• forward” (New Testament again with greater insight.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Let’s examine two words that are often misunderstood.

  • Believe
    Belief is not an affirmation of facts and data.
    Belief here is internalizing the truth perceived, evidenced by the reordering of our loves.
  • Eternal Life
    Eternal life is not endless chronology. An old movie device for the passage of time was a calendar with leaves for each day set upon by a fan. The days flipped by and then moving faster and faster, years and decades. Calendar leaves blown by gale force winds in perpetuity is not eternal life.

Eternal life is the quality of time, transcending the clock.

As Robert Capon once put it, “Clock time is, “what time is it?” Eternal-life time is, “high time, what it time for is?”

The eternal is the quality of reality outside time and space. Since we have never been outside either, we cannot conceive it (yet).

Some people are incapable of going to hell, because they are living there already in this present time. In the same way, eternal life begins now.

Take heart. God is not like us!

Moses did not hoist the serpent in the wilderness to taunt the Children of Israel with the image of the punishment they had earned by doubting God and sassing Moses. That is not how God works. Moses, not being God, was tempted to go that route a few times, but was, to his credit, mostly restrained. The serpentine image was a sign of and a source of healing and salvation. All this when the Children of Israel clearly had it coming.

Raising the Cross - James Tissot

Raising the Cross – James Tissot

Jesus was not lifted up to shame or pronounce judgment on the sinful and uninformed there that Passover. No, so that everyone who accepts the improbable good news of saving from the pandemic of sin, always fatal. Bizarre as it seems it makes perfect sense with the mind of faith. Don’t just do something today, stand there. Gaze upon the inoculation from death.

Is this not wondrous, O my soul? Is this not wondrous, beloved to your soul?

How then should we live?

Salvation is the free gift of God to sinners; in Christ, man is given union with God even though he crucifies it. We are saved through faith in this gift, and through gratitude for it perform good works. Alan Watts – Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion (p. 198).

In this post-Christendom where we find ourselves, we no longer have the luxury of an unexamined and lazy spirituality. Now, we simply must know better. That being the case, let us live like it, being in constant prayer. What is ours in Christ Jesus is a gift. But finally it is a gift we must act on and live in. Lent will soon end. Easter is coming. When Saint Paul exhorts us to live in the power of the resurrection, it is not just a metaphor for moral living Life. Saint Paul means it literally. In this, we must be literalists!

Remember, Easter is coming. Amen

The Origin & Healing of Sin

Abel and Cain offer their sacrifice to God

Abel and Cain offer their sacrifice to God

Prudentius(1) in a work entitled The Origin of Sin demonstrates the Type – Antitype(2) Structure of Christian Biblical interpretation. He shows this through the story the murder of Abel by his brother Cain enraged that Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God and his was not.

Then a brother in jealousy of the goodness that was accepted arms his hand to commit parricide, and breaks his own brother’s neck with his bent hoe, staining the new-made world with unnatural bloodshed, a world to be purified late in time when it was already growing old, by the sacred blood of Christ whereby the destroyer fell.  Death first began with he wounding of one that was innocent, and passed away by the wounding of one that was innocent, and passed away by the wounding of one that was guiltless. Through sin it arose, by sin it was done away, in that afortime it smote Abel, and then Christ; it was itself  brought to an end in aiming at one who is without end.

The Origin of Sin: Prudentius
The Origin of Sin: Prudentius

The Type/Antitype typology speaks to the criticism that says the God of the Old and New Testaments are not the same God.  The old one is vengeful and the new one is don’t worry be happy.  This is really grossly over-simplified as the Hebrew Scriptures are full of the loving kindness and never failing mercy of God. While the Book of Revelation for one in the New Testament has plenty of judgement (thank you very much).

For me at least,  I see the difference as not about God’s character at all but rather about the development stage of humanity.  There is a story I remember reading about John Wesley (where I have no idea) who went to the mines preaching grace and the miners paid him no mind.  The next day he returned, this time preaching hell-fire and judgment.  That day they heard him.

The structure of Type & Antitype display the essential and deep harmony of the entire sweep of the Bible.  It is one story. The murder of Abel is the murder of our brother and the failure of Cain is the failure of our brother.  When that becomes true we will be a long way toward understanding the amazing grace of God’s steadfast love demonstrated in the saving acts of God in history.

ivory panel cain(1)Aurelius Prudentius Clemens was a Roman Christian poet, born in the Roman province of Tarraconensis in 348. He probably died in the Iberian Peninsula some time after 405, possibly around 413. Wikipedia

 (2)Type – Antitype
1. One that is foreshadowed by or identified with an earlier symbol or type, such as a figure in the New Testament who has a counterpart in the Old Testament.
2. An opposite or contrasting type.  Free Dictionary