Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Thomas Merton, My Father, and Mary Ellen Chase

June 29, 2010. At St. Augustine’s House

In a monastery library I chanced upon a long-neglected volume and found the author’s name vaguely familiar: Mary Ellen Chase. Why did that name ring a bell? I opened the book, Psalms for the Common Reader, and then remembered that this was the name of a colleague of my father’s, with whom he had co-edited/authored a college textbook back in the 1950’s. Could this be the same person? A glance at the first few pages confirmed that it was, and my eyes fell upon a quotation from the early Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “God is winter and summer, war and peace, light and darkness, bread and hunger.”  
Mildly intrigued by the coincidence, I returned the volume to the shelf and, a minute later, picked up another that seemed to hold more promise, Raids on the Unspeakable, a book of poems and essays by Thomas Merton. Opening it, I encountered a poem entitled “The Heraclitean River”, and read these words:
   “As for the technological Platos who think they now run the world we live in, they imagine they can tempt us with banalities and abstractions. But we can elude them merely by stepping into the Herclitean river, which is never crossed twice…When the poet steps into that ever-moving river, poetry itself is born out of the flashing water. In that unique instant, the truth is manifest to all who are able to receive it. No one can come near the river unless he walks on his own feet. He cannot come there carried in a vehicle. No one can enter the river wearing the garments of public and collective ideas. He must feel the water on his skin. He must know that immediacy is for naked minds only, and for the innocent… Come dervishes: here is the water of life. Dance in it.”

I find myself wondering if Mary Ellen Chase had been familiar with Thomas Merton’s writings. As I often do, I presented these thoughts to my father for his commentary, and then felt us all- Dad, Professor Chase, Thomas Merton, and myself- all wading into the current of a prodigious river, all making our way through the shallows toward an unseen shore. Around us were protruding rocks, like the twelve stones placed in the Jordan at Joshua’s command, objects for the water to come up against and flow around, places for encounter, consciousness, and commentary, places to lean against and feel the water and its power.

(Are these thoughts at all significant, noteworthy, intelligible? Or are they random and flakey, the ringing in the ears of an aging man who misses his Dad, his sons, his own “youthful mind?”)

A voice emerges from within: “Jonathan, your mind has never been more alive and alert than at this moment. Go ahead and lament the lost moments and the lost loves. Lose yourself in the current’s flow. Join them all in the river with the philosopher’s  coincidental name.”

Come dervishes: here is the water of life. Dance in it.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Why Did Jesus have to die for us?

1.       Bigger Question: Why life? Why a world? If God is such a clever creator, then why bother with any of it?
·         FOR REASONS KNOWN ONLY TO GOD, God loves this world the way it is, and loves human beings (who could not be what they are without this sort of a world), and seeks communion and relationship with them. 
2.       GOD’S “STRATEGY” FOR establishing communion and relationship with humanity/creation, is to share the experience of life in the world, and thereby transform, fulfill, and “save” it.
3.       THAT INVOLVES DEATH. It better. Only a God who shares in our suffering and death is acceptable. 
Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
   did not regard equality with God
   as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
   taking the form of a slave,
   being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
   he humbled himself
   and became obedient to the point of death—
   even death on a cross.  Philippians 2
“it becomes increasingly difficult in the Christian world to see the ultimately important human experience as an escape into the transcendent, a flight out of history and the flesh. There is a demand for the affirmation of history, and thus of human change and growth, as significant. If the heart of 'meaning' is a human story, a story of growth, conflict and death, every human story with all it's oddity and ambivalence becomes open to interpretation in terms of God's redemptive work.”
― Rowan WilliamsThe Wound of Knowledge: Christian Spirituality from the New Testament to St. John of the Cross

When the crucified Jesus is called "the image of the invisible God," the meaning is that THIS is God, and God is like THIS.”
― Jürgen MoltmannThe Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology

“In the raising and exaltation of Christ, God has chosen the one whom the moral and political powers of this world rejected – the poor, humiliated, suffering and forsaken Christ. God identified himself with him and made him Lord of the new world ….. The God who creates justice for those who suffer violence, the God who exalts the humiliated and executed Christ – that is the God of hope for the new world of righteousness and justice and peace.”
― Jürgen MoltmannEthics of Hope 

romans 6:4

Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

philippians 3:10

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,

Colossians 3.3:
for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 

Colossians 3.1:
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Galatians 6:17
From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.

“The earthly form of Christ is the form that died on the cross. The image of God is the image of Christ crucified. It is to this image that the life of the disciples must be conformed; in other words, they must be conformed to his death (Phil 3.10, Rom 6.4) The Christian life is a life of crucifixion (Gal 2.19) In baptism the form of Christ's death is impressed upon his own. They are dead to the flesh and to sin, they are dead to the world, and the world is dead to them (Gal 6.14). Anybody living in the strength of Christ's baptism lives in the strength of Christ's death.”
― Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship