The only way of coming to know and understand the divine, therefore, is by the god annulling the absolute difference in absolute equality in the absolute paradox of the incarnation.Sylvia Walsh. Kierkegaard: Thinking Christianly in an Existential Mode
I have quoted the above previously on this blog. I was thinking about it in the broader context of my life. It does use “absolute” a lot but it is necessary. There is no room for a “god of the gaps” in Christianity. I like that it places the incarnation at the centre – or, maybe, it places Jesus at the centre – of all “Christian thinking”. Kierkegaard’s language, of placing Jesus as the absolute telos of our life.
Also: the “absolute difference”! In nature God is transcendent but “in love” is imminent. So the absolute paradox of the incarnation, of Jesus, is God’s act of love. Not to make us “loveable” but because God reaches out in love across the difference that we cannot bridge.
ALSO: the above is very much what Kierkegaard writes about monasticism and the problematic relationship he has with it. There is a way that Kierkegaard lives as a modern solitary.
But, seriously, what would I know?!
They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus.Luke 5:19
Today the reading at Morning Prayer was from Luke 5. I may have written about this before but I was struck by the people who cannot come near to Jesus “because of the crowd”. I wonder if the crowd here is not something like “Christendom”? Or, how often have I stopped people from seeing Jesus by being “religious”?
I have a tattoo that says, “the crowd is untruth”. Of course, it is from Kierkegaard’s “This Single Individual”. But I wonder, in the wider sense, if Kierkegaard is not making the same point as Luke? Sometimes the many can stop us from seeing Jesus clearly.
I have been reading The Cloud of Unknowing. And I wanted to share the prayer it starts with, which is also the Collect for Purity that starts the Anglican Eucharist:
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord.
A major theme in anchorite spirituality is freedom. Unlike more traditional monasticism, where the major theme is obedience, anchorites have the freedom to build their own spirituality alone. I think, in a way, this is how in a modern context, the ancient tradition can be lived. Built around prayer, meditation, and reading, the anchorite builds their life in freedom completely focused on Jesus.
So I found this quote from Merton that says it much better:
This means I must use my freedom in order to love, with full responsibility and authenticity, not merely receiving a form imposed on me by external forces, or forming my own life according to an approved social pattern, but directing my love to the personal reality of my brother, and embracing God’s will in its naked, often unpenetrable mystery. I cannot discover my “meaning” if I try to evade the dread which comes from first experiencing my meaninglessness!Contemplative Prayer
After Communion yesterday I had this very strong sense that Jesus is saying to me:
I surrender justice and “being right” for love of you.
I had a sense of being called to share in the cross in a special way. Psychologically I can see where that sense originated – I have decided on a new life. But Jesus gives up everything, including any concept of justice, on the cross for love of me.
Or, of course, it could simply be the leftover wine that I drank!?
I have so many things happening in my head that I often find it very hard to put them in order. So I was somewhat confused (and happily amazed) when I read this:
All coming into existence occurs in freedom, not by way of necessity.Kierkegaard
A “new life” will not come without my choice made in freedom. No one is forcing me, circumstances do not set the agenda. And I think the moment has come for a choice. Without knowing the future and without allowing the past to slow me down. I know all of that but feeling it is a completely different thing.
BTW: the liturgical rites we have (baptism, communion, especially monastic vows) are a free choice for a new life.
The second requirement is that in order to see yourself in the mirror when you read God’s Word you must (so that you actually do come to see yourself in the mirror) remember to say to yourself incessantly: It is I to whom it is speaking; it is I about whom it is speaking.Kierkegaard
I have been following the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia. A little more like a spectator than a person who is involved. It is the community I call home but I am also somewhat distanced from it.
One of the things that struck me was the attempt to regulate how Scripture is read. Making statements about what Scripture does or does not say is difficult. But what worries me more is summed up in the quote above: Scripture is a mirror for me. I can take the Bible seriously without taking it literally. But above all else, it is always speaking to me and not to someone else.
And, morality is not a relationship with Jesus – the absolute telos and all that!?
Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”John 8:10-11
I was thinking about the story of the woman caught in adultery. I was thinking about how the story ends with Jesus not condemning the woman. Compassion over law!