EXPAND YOUR READING!!

"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

THE JOURNEY OF FAITH, LIVING THE CHRISTIAN FAITH WITH J.R.R. TOLKIEN







“The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact.” C.S. Lewis


J.R.R. Tolkien

“… we make things by the law in which we were made. We create because we are created.  Creativity, imagination, is God’s imageness in us.   We tell stories because God is a storyteller.  In fact he is THE storyteller.  We tell our stories with words.  He tells his-story with history.  The facts of history are his words and his providence is his storyline.” 

This being the case, no historical account is fully true, whether it is the history of a nation, a family, or an individual, if it is not seen from the point of view of divine Providence, from God's point of view, not as a mere participant, as one person among many to be included among the rest, but as Author, and Creator of the whole story.  This is even true in each and every event, at each and every moment in the life of each and every one of us, and of all of us as organically united in the Mind of God.

Every individual event and the whole of history are related to the Mystery of Christ which is the major theme of God's story of Creation and Redemption, a story in which all human beings are included in a special way by the incarnation.  Of course, this does not means we can recognise all the connections.  Only God can do that.  Nevertheless, we can, at least, recognise how full of God each moment, each circumstance, each event is, because God is its ultimate author as it takes its place in the wonderful story that is God's Creation and Redemption. 

We shall continue our theme with the help of the great Jesuit spiritual director much followed by traditional English Benedictines, Jean-Pierre de Caussade.





“The duties of each moment are the shadows beneath which hides the divine operation.” 
“There is not a moment in which God does not present Himself under the cover of some pain to be endured, of some consolation to be enjoyed, or of some duty to be performed. All that takes place within us, around us, or through us, contains and conceals His divine action.”“The books the Holy Spirit is writing are living, and every soul a volume in which the divine author makes a true revelation of his word, explaining it to every heart, unfolding it in every moment.” “To escape the distress caused by regret for the past or fear about the future, this is the rule to follow: leave the past to the infinite mercy of God, the future to His good Providence, give the present wholly to His love by being faithful to His grace.” “In the state of abandonment the only rule is the duty of the present moment. In this the soul is light as a feather, liquid as water, simple as a child, active as a ball in receiving and following all the inspirations of grace. Such souls have no more consistence and rigidity than molten metal. As this takes any form according to the mould into which it is poured, so these souls are pliant and easily receptive of any form that God chooses to give them. In a word, their disposition resembles the atmosphere, which is affected by every breeze; or water, which flows into any shaped vessel exactly filling every crevice. They are before God like a perfectly woven fabric with a clear surface; and neither think, nor seek to know what God will be pleased to trace thereon, because they have confidence in Him, they abandon themselves to Him, and, entirely absorbed by their duty, they think not of themselves, nor of what may be necessary for them, nor of how to obtain it.” 
Of course, we all have a different role to play in  God's story at whatever level we are asked to play it, but only those with faith will be conscious that they have a part to play.   Just as the Incarnation involves all humanity in the Story, so faith in the Incarnation challenges all who receive this gift to step out into the road and play our part along the way that leads to global salvation.   To be a Christian is a vocation to walk with Christ, to where and to what, only God knows because only God is the Author.



Roads go ever ever on,

Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on,

Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on

Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Still ’round the corner there may wait

A new road or secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.


Around March and my eighty-first birthday, I made my move from Peru to Herefordshire, from mid-summer to mid-winter, from a community I had watched grow up and over which I had been superior for nine years, a communiity that was obviously terribly sad to see me go, to a community, most of whom I scarcely knew and who were, at the most, only moderately glad to see me. 


Yet there is no doubt in my mind that this is God's will.   Although I was re-called by the abbot so that I would not be a burden in my old age on the young peruvian community and because healthcare is free in England, this is not the most profound reason why it is God's will. The Father's power of love can work through us only in proportion to our humble obedience to his will, only in so far as we permit him.  As I near the end of life, so God will take from me - if I permit it - all that stands between me and my participation in his Trinitarian life of Love.  When all has been stripped away, then all that will be left will be Christ who descended into the place of death for me; and I shall rejoice because "Christ is Risen!".

Meanwhile, I will make Bilbo's song my own



The Road goes ever on and on 

Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.


this is just included because it is

worth listening to. It is up to you
to find the relevance.


Wednesday, 9 May 2018

FEAST OF THE ASCENSION






Reflections on the Feast of the Ascension
Author: Damian Howard SJ
Category: Saints and seasons, Theology, philosophy and ethics
Tags: Ascension, Easter
my source: Thinking Catholic





The Feast of the Ascension strikes many Christians as the poor relative of the two rather bigger celebrations which top and tail the long and joyful season of Eastertide: Easter itself, and Pentecost. But Damian Howard SJ ascribes to this feast the utmost significance. What are we to make of the story of Jesus being taken up into a cloud, an episode that not only sounds like mythology but also violates our modern sense of space?

In between our celebrations of the Lord’s Resurrection at Easter and of the gift of the Spirit to His disciples, the ‘birthday of the Church’ at Pentecost, we observe another feast: the Feast of the Ascension. For all the memorable imagery that the story of Jesus’s ascension into heaven evokes, it still strikes many Christians as a rather curious episode. To put it crudely, had Jesus simply ascended vertically into space we would by now expect him to be somewhere in the outer reaches of the solar system, a thought that is hardly an aid to Christian devotion. Yet the event of the Ascension, which appears in both the New Testament books authored by Luke (his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles), serves as the narrative lynchpin of the grand story told by scripture. It is, as one scholar argues, the culmination of every biblical event leading up to it and the condition of the drama that follows it.[1] To understand why this is so will take a little explaining.

A good way to begin would be to ask yourself a question: what, in a nutshell, is the core of the New Testament message? There are doubtless as many answers to that question as there are Christians, but most of them would probably involve one or more of a bundle of ideas: resurrection–reconciliation–new life–triumph over sin and death, all very good, very Eastery answers – and all, incidentally, very much about us human creatures. The centrality of these notions to most Christians explains both why Easter and Pentecost are so important to us and why the Ascension is not. Easter and Pentecost can be quickly established to be all about us: the promise of forgiveness and new life for us, the gift of the Spirit to us. It is not quite so clear what the Ascension has to offer us? The best answer I have been able to come up with is that Christ’s withdrawal brings about a new mode by which Christ can be present to us, intimate, yet universal and ‘interceding for us at the right hand of the Father’.

If you were to ask the same question to the New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, you would be given a subtly different response, one that puts centre stage someone other than us. For Tom Wright, the core truth of Christianity is that Jesus, and hence God, has become King. The crucified Nazarene has been raised by God to be the universal Lord. Christ’s rising from the dead is not in itself the end of the story but a vitally important part of the trajectory that takes him to his heavenly throne. Wright’s interpretation hardly denies the importance of resurrection; it just sees it as part of a bigger picture. Jesus is raised to be King.

All of which has serious implications for Christian belief and practice. If we were to think very schematically, we might say we have two styles of Christian living here: let’s call them Resurrection-Christianity and Kingdom-Christianity. (I am sketching here ‘ideal types’ for the sake of reflection and these should not be taken as applying to any individual or group in particular, still less as criteria for some kind of orthodoxy.) Resurrection-Christianity would focus, obviously, on the Resurrection, on the fact that Christ has overcome death and won eternal life for those who believe in Him. Kingdom-Christianity is more attentive to the arrival of the Kingdom of God, in other words a state of affairs abroad in the world, such that a new source of power and of ultimate authority is enabling and challenging human beings to allow themselves to be transformed, to receive ‘eternal life’ in the here and now. The two styles are hardly opposed to each other but their focus is appreciably different.

What makes Kingdom-Christianity so convincing an interpretation is the way it makes sense of the whole narrative of the Bible by offering a ‘crowning moment’ in the shape of the final resolution of an expectation spelt out in a spectacular apocalyptic scene by the prophet Daniel (7:13-14):

I saw one like a human being

    coming with the clouds of heaven.

And he came to the Ancient One

    and was presented before him.

To him was given dominion

    and glory and kingship,

that all peoples, nations, and languages

    should serve him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

    that shall not pass away,

and his kingship is one

    that shall never be destroyed.[2]
Here, the coronation of the ‘one like a human being’ (the original expression is translated literally as ‘one like a Son of Man’, from which you can deduce whence Jesus derives His favourite way of referring to Himself) is presented exactly as an onlooker in heaven would enjoy the scene. It is a dream-vision, an imaginative rendition of the deep, hope-filled aspiration of faithful Jews, suffering persecution at the hands of an enemy so powerful they could scarcely envisage ever overcoming it. The Ascension, Douglas Farrow points out, is quite simply the very same event as viewed from the earth, the Son of Man setting out on His journey to take up His throne alongside the ‘Ancient One’.[3]

Hence, in the Ascension we see the mystery alluded to in the Hebrew Bible acted out in full view of the disciples. You can see now that the Ascension is no quirky interlude between Resurrection and Pentecost but a dramatic consummation that makes sense of them: the Resurrection is the beginning of Christ’s heavenly journey, Pentecost the echo on earth of heaven’s jubilation at his coronation. The Ascension is crucial, not decorative.

Farrow defends this view of the centrality of the Ascension from the understandable and legitimate anxiety that it downplays resurrection hope as an end in itself:

In the Bible, the doctrine of the resurrection slowly emerges as a central feature of the Judeo-Christian hope. But if, synechdochically, it can stand for that hope, the hope itself is obviously something more. Resurrection may be a necessary ingredient, since death cuts short our individual journeys, but it is not too bold to say that the greater corporate journey documented by the scriptures continually presses, from its very outset and at every turn, towards the impossible feat of the ascension.[4]
So Kingdom-Christianity in no way cancels out or negates Resurrection-Christianity: it includes it but situates it in a bigger picture and it is a picture that does not have us at the centre, with our desires and hopes, but the person of, if you like to think of it like this, King Jesus.

In his book Surprised by Hope,[5] Tom Wright works out some of the consequences of what is for many a surprising angle on the Biblical story. The problem is not that Resurrection-Christianity (he does not use the term) is false. Rather, it is that if it becomes detached from its original moorings in the proclamation of Jesus as King, then it can drift into something lesser. An example is the way many modern Christians have come to think that the point of Christianity is about ‘getting to heaven when you die’. A Christianity rooted in its original proclamation of the Kingdom of God is not in the first place about life after death, but very much about life in the here and now under the new conditions of God’s reign (which is also not in any way to deny life after death!). If it totally loses its anchor in the Kingdom proclamation, an exclusive concern with resurrection has been known to see this world as a decadent and evil place without hope; salvation begins to look like escape. This is a Gnostic tendency to which Christianity has long been vulnerable. For Wright, the time has come to get back to the original Kingdom-Christianity of the Bible with its confidence in the resurrection of the body, its utter Christ-centredness and its concern for the mission of Christians to help transform the world in accordance with the in-breaking Kingdom.

I must confess both to excitement about Wright’s work and also to a certain perplexity. The excitement springs from the plausibility of his biblical interpretation, from the stress he puts on the Gospel as a God-event rather than the transmission of some new information, and on the implications of all this for the way we think about Christian action and witness in the world. But my perplexity is twofold. First, Wright is suspicious about a great deal of the Christian tradition as it has come down to us over the years. He regrets the medieval corruptions that set in, entailing the loss of the ‘real narrative’ of the Kingdom, until, that is, modern exegesis came into existence. An evangelical Protestant like Wright is entitled to think like that, of course, even if it puts a Catholic on the back foot. But is Christian tradition so badly in need of correction or has it, perhaps, managed to hang on to the Kingdom-story rather more than Wright allows? After all, leaf through any hymn book, Protestant or Catholic, and dozens of images of kingship will jump out at you. But still, Wright might say, these may not correspond to the way people actually think and act in their religious lives. Maybe there is a case to answer here.

The second difficulty is that my modern imagination rather baulks at the thought of Jesus sitting on a throne as King in heaven. It’s a fine metaphor but in what sense does it represent a state of affairs? My mind is uneasy with what sounds like mythology and I find myself restlessly wanting to ‘demythologise’ it, to translate it into categories more related to my way of seeing the world. The problem is that the Ascension is essentially an ‘is’ statement whereas demythologising usually ends up with ‘ought’ statements like saying that ‘living in the Kingdom of God’ really just boils down to living by ‘Kingdom values’ or, ‘building the Kingdom’ by being good citizens, speaking up for the victims of injustice and behaving in an ecologically responsible manner. If that is the ‘cash-value’ of the doctrine of the Ascension, then it seems to have made no real difference. Yet the only alternative would seem to mean fixating on a rather literalist interpretation of the doctrine itself; if my (or your) imagination cannot cope, that’s just too bad, because that’s how it is…

An answer to both perplexities comes in the shape of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola. What I see in his famous itinerary for a 30 day transformative retreat experience is a playing out of precisely the kind of spirituality that flows naturally from the Kingdom narrative: not one of resurrection as an end in itself (though resurrection is very present) but a vivid engagement with Christ, the Eternal King, and a focused and prolonged imaginative effort to contemplate the world under the aspect of the Kingdom of Christ and to discern in depth the difference that this truth makes: i.e. that it calls me to become a servant of Christ’s mission.

There is some irony in making this point. Everyone who has ever made the Exercises knows full well Ignatius’s fondness for regal and military metaphors. People often assume that behind it is Ignatius the (minor) nobleman harking back nostalgically to his time in the Spanish court or soldiering against the French. Yet Ignatius was no sentimentalist. If he used kingly language to speak of Jesus it was quite simply because he knew Jesus as a King.

In this he was helped by the standard, even ubiquitous iconography of the Middle Ages. One of the most common depictions of Jesus throughout the period was the eschatological Christ seated on a throne, surrounded by an oval aura called a mandorla and the four apocalyptic beasts. This figure, known as the maiestas domini, adorns many a Cathedral tympanum, reminding those entering below that Christ is indeed their King here and now. This Christ was majestic and powerful, not entirely dissimilar to the eastern Christian icon of Christ pantokrator, Lord of all. The mandorla was significant too, an unmistakeable reference to the birth canal. The figure of the King in the mandorla, the Kingdom in the very process of being born, echoes the Lord’s prayer: ‘thy Kingdom come!’ It is a dynamic image of God’s Kingdom coming to us as we look on, a reminder that if the Kingdom is indeed already a reality, nevertheless it has not yet fully arrived. It still has something of the subjunctive about it.

Ignatius, judging by the language he uses to speak of Christ in the Exercises, took this icon as his preferred depiction of the Lord. Whenever he imagines himself standing before God, offering himself for service in whatever way God will decide, he speaks of God/Christ as ‘the Divine Majesty’:

Then I shall reflect within myself and consider what, in all reason and justice, I ought for my part to offer and give his Divine Majesty, that is to say, all I possess and myself as well… (Sp Exx 234)[6]
The most important and transformative exercises are preceded by an invitation to imagine Christ as King and to allow oneself to enter into the scene of that image, adopting the behaviour appropriate to it:

how much more is it worthy of consideration to see Christ our Lord, the eternal king, as to all and to each one in particular his call goes out: ‘It is my will to conquer the whole world and every enemy and so enter into the glory of my Father…   (Sp Exx 95)
And:

Here will be to see myself in the presence of God our Lord and of all his saints that I might desire and know what is more pleasing to His Divine Goodness. … here it will be to ask for the grace to choose what is more for the glory of his Divine Majesty and the salvation of my soul.   (Sp Exx151-2)
Two vital clues suggest that the link with the Ascension was one Ignatius would have made himself. In the ‘Fourth Week’ of the Exercises, which deals with the Resurrection of Christ, Ignatius offers for meditation no less than 13 appearances of the Lord, including one to Paul which would have taken place after the Ascension. But he insists that it is the Ascension that should be the final mystery of the whole retreat to be contemplated. For Ignatius this is no mere detail, no pious addition to the list of biblical incidents but the highpoint, the climax of the whole movement of Christ that brings him to the divine throne before which he stood repeatedly seeking God’s will for his life. The other detail comes from an autobiographical incident that took place when Ignatius was on pilgrimage in Jerusalem. He was about to be expelled from the Holy Land by the Franciscan authorities but before heading for the coast he was desperate to do one last thing: to revisit a particular site from the pilgrim’s itinerary, the place where, tradition has it, Jesus ascended into heaven. Bribing the guards with a pair of scissors, of all things, Ignatius managed to get up to the Mount of Olives where he could check the exact position of Christ’s footprints before He was taken off into the cloud.

So, with regard to my first perplexity, it is clear that Ignatius at least, one of the Catholic tradition’s most brilliant and influential spiritual masters, is an unabashed exponent of Kingdom-Christianity. If you know anything about his life that observation will ring true; he was above all a man who desired to let God’s glory shine out here in the world by living his life as a divine mission. Knowing this, one could never say blandly that the tradition of the Church simply lost sight of the central significance of Jesus Christ as universal King. Indeed, it seems to have maintained it with clarity and vigour.

Ignatius has also relieved my second perplexity considerably, the anxiety that simply proclaiming the kingship of Christ as a literal state of affairs does not seem to get us very far. Appropriating this deep truth, as Ignatius’s life shows, requires a very special human faculty, one that Ignatius was forced to deploy by the very forces which were undermining the ‘Kingdom’ in his day. For at the time he is writing, the image of the Divine Majesty was facing a major crisis. This was thanks to the impending demise of that ancient, traditional cosmology in which the image of Christ as King in heaven made some sense. By the end of the 15th Century the new sciences and the successful circumnavigation of the globe had put that picture under severe pressure. Politically things were changing too. A united Christendom had been evidential warrant to the notion of a civilisation united under the rule of Christ. But now, under the impact of the Reformation, Christendom was breaking up, making it all but impossible to conceive of Christ as King of the universe. This is the decidedly inauspicious climate in which our young Basque finds himself not only drawn to the maiestas domini but also sensing its urgent appeal. I imagine him gazing longingly at some cathedral portal after Mass, on fire with the love of God and aware that, despite all the contradictory desires that filled his heart, it was only in the service of Christ’s mission that inner unity and purpose in life could be achieved. He must have seen depicted in this image a process, a dynamic by which human beings could allow order to be drawn out of the chaos of their lives. He understood that the only way to unleash the transformative power of the Kingdom was not merely by assent to a purported state of affairs but by the deepest possible imaginative exploration of what it means to live in the world where Jesus is King. For the key to engaging with the mystery of the Kingdom is, for Ignatius, as for the Spinner of parables Himself, the human imagination.



Damian Howard SJ lectures in theology at Heythrop College, University of London and sits on the Editorial Board of Thinking Faith.



[1] Douglas Farrow, Ascension and Ecclesia (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999), p. 26.

[2] New Revised Standard Version.

[3] Ascension and Ecclesia pp. 23f.

[4] Ascension and Ecclesia pp. 26-7.

[5] London: SPCK, 2007.

[6] This and all passages from the Exercises are taken from the translation of Michael Ivens, Understanding the Spiritual Exercises (Leominster: Gracewing, 1998) p. 174.



WEDNESDAY, MAY 12, 2010
WHAT IS THE ASCENSION AND WHAT IS HEAVEN?
The Ascension of Christ

by
+ Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann



“The feast of the Ascension is the celebration of heaven now opened to human beings, heaven as the new and eternal home, heaven as our true homeland. Sin severed earth from heaven and made us earthly and coarse, it fixed our gaze solidly on the ground and made our life exclusively earthbound. Sin is the betrayal of heaven in the soul. It is precisely on this day, on the feast of the Ascension, that we cannot fail to be horrified by this renunciation that fills the whole world. With self-importance and pride, man announces that he is strictly material, that the whole world is material, and that there is nothing beyond the material. And for some reason he is even glad about this, and speaks with pity and condescension, as he would of buffoons and boors, of those who still believe in some sort of “heaven.” Come on brothers, heaven is the sky, it’s just as material as everything else; there is nothing else, there never was and never will be. We die, we disappear; so in the meantime, let’s build an earthly paradise and forget about the fantasies of priests. This in brief, but absolutely accurately, is the end result and high-point of our culture, our science, our ideology. Progress ends in the cemetery, with the progress of worms feeding on corpses. But what do you propose, they ask us, what is this heaven you talk about, into which Christ ascended? After all, up in the sky nothing of what you are speaking exists. 

“Let the answer to this question come from John Chrysostom, a Christian preacher who lived sixteen centuries ago. Speaking about heaven, he exclaims: “What need do I have for heaven, when I myself will become heaven…” Let the answer come from our ancestors, who called the church “heaven on earth.” The essential point of both these answers is this: heaven is the name of our authentic vocation as human beings, heaven is the final truth about the earth. No, heaven is not somewhere in outer space beyond the planets, or in some unknown galaxy. Heaven is what Christ gives back to us, what we lost through our sin and pride, through our earthly, exclusively earthly sciences and ideologies, and now it is opened, offered, and returned to us by Christ. Heaven is the kingdom of eternal life, the kingdom of truth, goodness and beauty. Heaven is the total spiritual transformation of human life; heaven is the kingdom of God, victory over death, the triumph of love and care; heaven is the fulfillment of that ultimate desire, about which it was said: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). All of this is revealed to us, all of this is given to us by Christ. And therefore, heaven permeates our life here and now, the earth itself becomes a reflection, a mirror image of heavenly beauty. Who descended from heaven to earth to return heaven to us? God. Who ascended from earth to heaven? The man Jesus.

“St. Athanasius the Great says that, “God became man so that man could become God.” God came down to earth so that we might ascend to heaven! This is what the Ascension celebrates! This is the source of its brightness and unspeakable joy. If Christ is in heaven, if we believe in him and love him, then we also are there with him, at his banquet, in his Kingdom. If humanity ascends through him, and does not fall, then through him I also have access to ascension and am called to him. And in him, the goal, meaning and ultimate joy of my life is revealed to me. Everything, everything around us pulls us down. But I look at the divine flesh ascending to heaven, at Christ going up, “with the sound of a trumpet,” and I say to myself and to the world: here is the truth about the world and humanity, here is the life to which God calls us from all eternity.”

(Celebration of Faith, Volume 2, St. Vladimir Seminary Press, pp. 148-150, H/T to my parish website)



Friday, 4 May 2018

ENCOUNTERING GOD IN STORIES


Not all stories are myths but they become so if they are generally accepted and told in a particular culture because they help people to understand that environment and their role in it.

  The classical cowboy stories followed a common theme.  White Hat, who is a hero that rides alone, comes into a town that is at the mercy of Black Hat, an  unscrupulous and sadistic villain who also wants to marry the beautiful girl, daughter of the man who founded the town.   After enduring much adversity, anxiety and pain and against huge odds, White Hat wins because of his superior skill with a gun and marries the daughter, while Black Hat bites the dust.  Enoch Powell, hardly a representative of Soviet said it was a version of the "St George and the Dragon" story and has been used by Anglo-Saxons since time began.  The trouble is, if Americans are St George, in order to fulfil that role, they need a dragon; so they look around for a dragon. Poor old Russia or Islam!! Nazi Germany revelled in Teutonic mythology and used it to support their own brand of idealism. The historicity of the American cowboy and Germanic mythology didn't matter much, only their ability to interpret the kind of people Americans or Germans are.  Myths have helped people form their world view and have influenced their actions.  That is not to say that they are the most important factor.

Before you read my blog post today, I want you to listen to this video because I take it for granted in what I have to say.


J.R.R.T: "We tell stories because God is a story teller.  He is the story teller...We tell stories with words: he tells stories with history.  The facts of history are his words and Providence is his storyline."C.S.L. "Are you suggesting that all of history, that everything around us is all part of some divine myth?"J.R.R.T.: "We are all part of his story.  This very conversation is part of this story."C.S.L.: Perhaps it isn't his story.  Perhaps it is only your story.  How do you know that your story, the one you believe, the Christian story, is any more real than all the other stories?"J.R.R.T.: "Don't you see, it is not my story: it is his story.  It is not just one myth among many.  It is the true myth.  Christianity really happened.  Jesus really existed, and so did Pilate; and it is this true story that makes sense of all the other stories.  It is the archetype in which all the other stories have their source, and is the story towards which all the other stories point.   It has everything.   It has catastrophe and its very opposite, what we may call "eucatastrophe" [A sudden and favourable resolution of events in a story; a happy ending.] the happy ending, the sudden joyous turn in the story that is essential to all myths.  It has to a sublime degree this joy of deliverance, this "evangelium", this fleeting glimpse of the real joy towards which all other joys are but a distant echo."C.S.L.: "What do you mean when you say it has the catastrophe and the eucatastrophe?"J.R.R.T.: For example, it has the catastrophe of the fall and the eucatastrophe of the redemption, the catastrophe of the crucifixion and the eucatastrophe of resurrection.  It has everything man's heart desires because it is being told by the One who is the fufilment of desire itself.  It is a story that begins and ends in joy.....In my own life, it has led me from darkness to light."
This conversation began when C.S. Lewis said that the stories about Jesus in the gospels follow themes that can be found in pagan myths all over the world. There is nothing original about them and should be lumped together with all the other myths as fiction supplied by the human imagination to fill the gap that can only be really filled by scientific exploration.

J.R.R. Tolkien acknowledged that there is a limited set of story lines in myths that are the same throughout the world, whatever the culture, and that the stories of Jesus fit into the mythical pattern very well.   However, myths cannot be considered mere fiction: they are, at the deepest level, insights into the reality of things and of human nature.   All things have a meaning (logoi) which reflect the Meaning (Logos) in the Mind of Him who created them; everything fits into a story that is being told by God.  It fits into its own story told within its own context and also into the transcendent story which is God's Providence.   Myths are about the meaning of life as interpreted by human beings' God-given desire.  But then, "the Logos became flesh and pitched his tent among us," and God embodied his Truth among human beings, and thus his story is the Myth that is true, God's own Myth reflected in all other myths.   The fact that the Jesus stories fit into the same pattern as other myths is not an argument in favour of the Gospel being fiction, but, because the life, death and resurrection actually happened to a historical person it is an argument in favour of seeing all myths as a reflection of the Truth.

The answer, Lewis’s colleagues told him, was to recognize that the gospel story was mythic and should be appreciated as such, “but with this tremendous difference that it really happened. . . . The dying god really appears—as a historical person, living in a definite time and place.” As Lewis later wrote, “By becoming fact [the dying god story] does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle.” But “it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e. the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call “real things.” “The Christian story of the dying god, in other words, lay at the exact intersection of myth and history."

The early Christians saw the Old Testament as full of stories, all of which can help us how to live, and all of which can teach us about Christ and his Church.  To that extent they are true and the Word of God.

The story of Creation is especially true, choc-a-bloc with Christian understanding.   As an example, let us take Adam and Eve.

Jesus:
 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Jesus is using the two commandments to love God with everything we have and are and to love our neighbour as ourselves as the interpreter of the Law and shows us the story of Adam and Eve supports us going beyond law in  our observance of the Law.  Law takes into account our hardness of heart, but Christian commitment is to the absolute demand of self-giving love.

Paul:

Paul uses the Adam and Eve story in many ways to help us to understand Christ.  After all, revealing Christ is the main role of the Adam and Eve story as well as that of the whole of the Old Testament.  Jesus is the "first born" through his resurrection in the "new heaven and the new earth" and we are on our way; just as Adam is the first born in the old creation

Paul the Apostle contrasted Adam and Christ as two corporate personalities or representatives (Rom 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:20–3, 45–9) and saw human beings as bearing the image of both Adam and Christ (1 Cor. 15:49). Where Adam's disobedience meant sin and death for all, Christ's obedience more than made good the harm due to Adam by bringing righteousness and abundance of grace (Rom 5:12–21).[4] As a "life-giving spirit", the last Adam is risen from the dead and will transform us through resurrection into a heavenly, spiritual existence (1 Cor. 15:22, 45, 48–9). Thus Paul's Adam Christology involved both the earthly Jesus' obedience (Rom. 5) and the risen Christ's role as giver of the Spirit (1 Cor. 15)

 The Early Church:

The early Church continued and developed this line of thinking.  Here is an example, St Irenaeus who was martyred around 170AD:


EVE & MARY – DISOBEDIENCE VS. OBEDIENCEAs Eve was seduced by the word of an angel and so fled from God after disobeying his word, Mary in her turn was given the good news by the word of an angel, and bore God in obedience to his word. As Eve was seduced into disobedience to God, so Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; thus the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons

This excerpt from St. Irenaeus shows that the Blessed Virgin Mary is truly a new Eve, just as her son Jesus Christ is a new Adam.  He contrasts Eve’s disobedience with Mary’s obedience.

The Lord, coming into his own creation in visible form, was sustained by his own creation which he himself sustains in being. His obedience on the tree of the cross reversed the disobedience at the tree in Eden; the good news of the truth announced by an angel to Mary, a virgin subject to a husband, undid the evil lie that seduced

EVE & MARY  Eve, a virgin espoused to a husband.– DISOBEDIENCE VS. OBEDIENCEAs Eve was seduced by the word of an angel and so fled from God after disobeying his word, Mary in her turn was given the good news by the word of an angel, and bore God in obedience to his word. As Eve was seduced into disobedience to God, so Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; thus the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve.

mary new eve irenaeus obedient disobedient

Christ gathered all things into one, by gathering them into himself. He declared war against our enemy, crushed him who at the beginning had taken us captive in Adam, and trampled on his head, in accordance with God’s words to the serpent in Genesis: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall lie in wait for your head, and you shall lie in wait for his heel [Genesis 3:15].

The one lying in wait for the serpent’s head is the one who was born in the likeness of Adam from the woman, the Virgin. This is the seed spoken of by Paul in the letter to the Galatians: The law of works was in force until the seed should come to whom the- promise was made. [Gal. 3:19]

HIS SON, BORN OF A WOMAN

He shows this even more clearly in the same letter when he says: When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman. The enemy would not have been defeated fairly if his vanquisher had not been born of a woman, because it was through a woman that he had gained mastery over man in the beginning, and set himself up as man’s adversary.
That is why the Lord proclaims himself the Son of Man, the one who renews in himself that first man from whom the race born of woman was formed; as by a man’s defeat our race fell into the bondage of death, so by a man’s victory we were to rise again to life.

Just as the Protestant Reformation stressed the literal truth of the Bible as substitute for the authority of the Church, in the New Testament and in the Church Fathers, it is the symbolic truth of the Bible, a truth no less real, that is stressed.  This is not a denial of history but a revelation of its meaning through the biblical stories.

Please listen to this:

The rest of what I have to say will be written after Ascension Day (in the western Church), the post for which will be written tomorrow.  I shall complete the theme of this post in a separate one that should appear two or three days after Thursday.






Notes


The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially 'escapist', nor 'fugitive'. In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

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