“My Way of Life” opening paragraphs.

[“My Way of Life” (Walter Farrell O.P., S.T.M, and Martin J. Healy, S.T.D) was written to be a simplification (yes, that’s correct, a simplification) of Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. I only discovered this little book while rummaging through a used book store yesterday. I’ve since learned that it is a classic in its own right. I found the opening paragraphs very thought provoking. Here is a link to an online edition of Walter Farrell’s 4 vol Companion to the Summa.]

“THE ROAD THAT STRETCHES before the feet of a man is a challenge to his heart long before it tests the strength of his legs. Our destiny is to run to the edge of the world and beyond, off into the darkness: sure for all our blindness, secure for all our helplessness, strong for all our weakness, gaily in love for all the pressure on our hearts.

IN THAT DARKNESS beyond the world, we can begin to know the world and ourselves, though we see through the eyes of Another. We begin to understand that a man was not made to pace out his life behind the prison walls of nature, but to walk into the arms of God on a road that nature could never build.

LIFE MUST BE LIVED, even by those who cannot find the courage to face it. In the living of it, every mind must meet the rebuff of mystery. To some men, this will be an exultant challenge: that so much can be known and truth not be exhausted, that so much is still to be sought, that truth is an ocean not to be contained in the pool of a human mind. To others, this is a humiliation not to be borne; for it marks out sharply the limits of our proud minds. In the living of life, every mind must face the unyielding rock of reality, of a truth that does not bend to our whim or fantasy, of the rule that measures the life and mind of a man.

IN THE LIVING OF LIFE, every human heart must see problems awful with finality. There are the obvious problems of death, marriage, the priesthood, religious vows; all unutterably final. But there are, too, the day to day, or rather the moment to moment choices of heaven or hell. Before every human heart that has ever beat out its allotted measures, the dare of goals as high as God Himself was tossed down: to be accepted, or to be fled from in terror.

GOD HAS SAID SO LITTLE, that yet means so much for our living. To have said more would mean less of reverence by God for the splendor of His image in us. Our knowing and loving, He insists, must be our own; the truth ours because we have accepted it; the love ours because we have given it. We are made in His image. Our Maker will be the last to smudge that image in the name of security, or by way of easing the hazards of the nobility of man” (My Way of Life, pgs 1-2).

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‘My name is John Daker’ as a theological parable about the relationship between eros and agape and the virtue of perseverance. ;)

Recently I was reminded of the video ‘My name is John Daker’ and it got me thinking… Initially, I was a bit baffled by the medley of two songs, one a classic Christian hymn celebrating the resurrection and the other a 1950s hit song by Dean Martin celebrating romantic love. However, I now think John Daker was making a profound (though subtle) theological point in crafting his performance into a parable.

As Origen states, ‘my eros has been crucified’. However, it is because of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and Pentecost that our eros may be redeemed and gathered up into agape and thus be directed towards the Lord in worship (a total repudiation of Nygren’s thesis in ‘Eros and Agape’ (with a h/t to Dante) doubtless both these works influence this parable). In our ‘now and not-yet’ reality none of us can give clear expression to this truth. We forget, falter and get things wrong (sometimes even embarrassing ourselves). The key is to persist under the grace of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit in allowing the resurrection power of Christ to sanctify all our loves. One of the key virtues in this spiritual warfare is the virtue of perseverance. This virtue is called to battle especially when it appears that what we are doing is futile, ridiculous or failing. As John Daker indicates through the clever use of his eyebrows, he gets all of this perfectly. Also, by recording his parable and stating his name at the outset he indicates that this ‘treasure’ is held in jars of clay and must be joyously incorporated into our witness. ‘God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness’.

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C. S. Lewis on isolation and discussion in the modern world

“In any fairly large and talkative community such as a university, there is always the danger that those who think alike should gravitate together into ‘coteries’ where they will henceforth encounter opposition only in the emasculated form of rumor that the outsiders say thus and thus. The absent are easily refuted, complacent dogmatism thrives, and differences of opinion are embittered by group hostility. Each group hears not the best, but the worst, that the other groups can say.”

Spoken to the Socratic Club (h/t http://www.scriptoriumnovum.com/l/club.html)

 

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The internet, curiosity, and hesychasm

“When you see articles promising lists, like “25 photos of bad plastic surgery,” do not click on those links. That’s the first step to hesychasm*.”

Metropolitan Tikhon speaking at St. Vladimir’s Seminary graduation, June 1, 2015.

(H/t Frederica Matthews-Green)

C.f. Josef Pieper on ‘the companions and peers of despair’ here.

* Definition of Hesychasm: “Hesychia or quiet, outer and esp. inner repose, eliminates passions and worries, not work or pastoral responsibility, though at times it tries to keep the latter at a distance. It is one of the aims of monastic renunciation, a condition of prayer. The motif, attested at the end of the 4th c. in Egypt and Cappadocia, grows in importance in Palestine and Sinai (Dorotheus, John Climacus). For the legislator Justinian, hesychast is synonymous with anchorite. Within Byzantine monasticism, hesychasm characterizes the tendency of Symeon the New Theologian, the of Gregory Palamas and, later, of the medieval Philokalia. The West has an analogous contemplative ideal, but less distinct from solitude and from the techniques of recollection” (Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity, Angelo Di Berardino, General Editor).

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Plato’s three forms of ‘atheism’

“No one who believes, as the laws prescribe, in the existence of the gods has ever yet done an impious deed voluntarily, or uttered a lawless word: he that acts so is in one or other of these three conditions of mind—either he does not believe in what I have said [that gods exist]; or, secondly, he believes that the gods exist, but have no care for men; or, thirdly, he believes that they are easy to win over when bribed by offerings and prayers” (Laws, Book 10, section 885b)

Accessed here.

C.f., “The Moral Law does not give us any grounds for thinking that God is “good” in the sense of being indulgent, or soft, or sympathetic. There is nothing indulgent about the Moral Law” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 1, Chapter 5).

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Dostoevsky (Fr Zossima) on Technology, consumerism and vanity

“We are assured that the world is getting more and more united and growing into a brotherly community by the reduction of distances and the transmission of ideas through the air. Alas put no faith in such a union of peoples. By interpreting freedom as the multiplication and the rapid satisfaction of needs, they do violence to their own nature, for such an interpretation merely gives rise to many senseless and foolish desires and habits and most absurd inventions. They live only for mutual envy, for the satisfaction of their carnal desires and for showing off. To have dinners, horses, carriages, rank, and slaves to wait on them is considered by them as a necessity, and to satisify it they sacrifice life, honour, and love of mankind” (The Brothers Karamazov, 6.3)

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Ivan Karamazov, the Euclidean mind

“I have a Euclidean, an earthly mind, and so how can I be expected to solve problems which are not of this world” (Ivan speaking to Alyosha, The Brothers Karamazov, Book V, III).

On the contrary

“But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4.20-24).

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