“Love one another, fathers…Love God’s people. For we are not holier than those in the world because we have come here and shut ourselves within these walls, but, on the contrary, anyone who comes here, by the very fact that he has come, already knows himself to be worse than all those are in the world, worse than all on earth…And the longer a monk lives within his walls, the more keenly he must be aware of it. For otherwise he had no reason to come here. But when he knows that he is not only worse than all those in the world, but is also guilty before all people, on behalf of all and for all, for all human sins, the world’s and each person’s, only then will the goal of our unity be achieved…Do not be afraid of your sin, even when you perceive it, provided you are repentant, but do not place conditions on God. Again I say, do not be proud. Do not be proud before the lowly, do not be proud before the great either. And do not hate those who reject you, disgrace you, revile you, and slander you. Do not hate the atheists, teachers of evil, materialists, not even those among them who are wicked, nor those who are good, for many of them are good, especially in our time. Remember them thus in your prayers: save, Lord, those whom there is no one to pray for, save also those who do not want to pray to you. And add at once: it is not in my pride that I pray for it, Lord, for I myself am more vile than all.”
–Fydoror Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Book IV, Chapter 1
So, this sounds off, and I’m really not sure I buy it, but it was interesting enough to share. From Schweizer’s commentary on Matthew I quoted yesterday:
“If, then, we follow the Old Testament in understanding the righteousness of God as the power of love seeking to carry the day on earth and win men’s hearts, we can no longer make a sharp distinction between God’s actions with respect to men and the human actions that spring from God’s. The question is only one of emphasis.
Earlier, he made this claim:
“[In the OT, God’s] righteousness is without exception salvation for his people (Isa. 4:5; Ps. 22:31; 40:10; 69;28; etc.), which of course includes judgement upon Israel’s oppressors.
That seems fairly obvious. But how we get from that to righteousness = love I don’t understand.
This is Anthony Esolen, an English professor and Dante scholar/translator, on the inscription above the gates of hell in Dante’s Inferno:
“I have long thought that the most chilling words upon the portal of Hell are not those that shut the door on the fulfillment of human longings: ABANDON ALL HOPE YOU WHO ENTER HERE. These crush with their finality, but they do not possess the shocking irony of the simple signature of the architect: DIVINE OMNIPOTENCE CREATED ME, THE HIGHEST WISDOM, AND THE PRIMAL LOVE. Of course, it is a Trinitarian signature. Still, the sonorous ending on amore, Love, should give us pause. How can Love fashion a realm of groaning and wailing, of utter agony and alienation? Theology can take us far: the just punishment of the wicked, says Thomas, is an act of charity toward them (justice and charity cannot finally be at odds), even when that punishment does not or cannot result in their correction. At the least it restrain them from deeper depravity. One may suppose, too, that punishment respects the dignity of the sinner, to grant him what his own disordered love has merited and has longed for. For such a lover, the only place more agonizing than Hell would be Heaven. Indeed, the one place hotter than Hell is Heaven, as Dante imagines it: without grace, the fires of Love in Paradise would be unendurable. Perhaps, then, the inscription over the gates of Hell is meant to teach as much about Love as about Hell. For Love, as Dante saw, is no mere sentiment, no habit of ease. It is a consuming fire.”
Here are three short passages from a fairy tale, a story, and a prophecy to celebrate Christmas: the day when the fairy tales, stories, and prophecies came true.
From The Lord of the Rings, after Sam is rescued from Mount Doom and wakes up for the first time.
Full memory flooded back, and Sam cried aloud: “It wasn’t a dream! Then where are we?”
And a voice spoke softly behind him: “In the land of Ithilien and in the keeping of the King; and he awaits you.” With that Gandalf stood before him, robed in white, his beard now gleaming like pure snow in the twinkling of the leafy sunlight. “Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?” he said.
But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue?”
From Andrew Peterson’s song, “Gather Round, Ye Children Come:”
Gather round, ye children come,
Listen to the old, old story,
Of the power of death undone,
By an infant born of glory.
And from Isaiah 42:1-4:
Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
“But when I love You, what do I love? It is not physical beauty nor temporal glory nor the brightness of light dear to earthly eyes, nor the sweet melodies of all kinds of songs, nor the gentle odor of flowers and ointments and perfumes, nor manna or honey, nor limbs welcoming the embraces of the flesh; it is not these I love when I love my God. Yet there is a light I love, and a food, and a kind of embrace when I love my God–a light, voice, odor, food, embrace of my inner man, where my soul is floodlit by light which space cannot contain, where there is sound that time cannot seize, where there is a perfume which no breeze disperses, where there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lessen, and where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part. That is what I love when I love my God.” –St. Augustine, The Confessions
One of my favorite stanzas in W.H. Auden’s famous poem “September 1, 1939” echoes Pascal’s argument that we avoid thinking about our true selves out of fear. I’ve found it to be a helpful explanation of the idea. Perhaps you will too.
Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.
I’m rereading Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings The Yearling, and I came across this passage about halfway through the book. For some reason, I found it quite powerful and thought I’d share it.
To set the scene, young Jody’s father, Penny, was just bitten by a rattlesnake and Jody doesn’t know if he’s going to make it. He falls asleep while the doctor watches Penny.
“Jody moved through a tortuous dream. With his father beside him, he fought a nest of rattlesnakes. They crawled across his feet, trailing their rattles, clacking lightly. The nest resolved itself into one snake, gigantic, moving toward him on a level with his face. It struck and he tried to scream but could not. He looked for his father. He lay under the rattler, with his eyes open to a dark sky. His body was swollen to the size of a bear. He was dead. Jody began to move backward away from the rattler, one agonized step at a time. His feet were glued to the ground. The snake suddenly vanished and he stood alone in a vast windy place, holding the fawn in his arms. Penny was gone. A sense of sorrow filled him so that he thought his heart would break.”
Penny recovers later in the chapter, but in one scene Rawlings has wonderfully reinforced Jody’s love for his father. At this point, we can’t stop reading. There’s a lot I can learn from this passage, and I thought you might find it as moving as I did.