Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Desiring the Kingdom: Flourishing as a Human

I'm going to try to get back on the book study track with Desiring the Kingdom.    For this week, I am just going to write quick notes as they occur to me.

Go to Simply Convivial for links to more discussion.

1.  Christian worship as human flourishing

Christian worship, or the sum total of Christian liturgical practice, is not solely eschatological; it is also part of what it means to be human, in natural terms.

 "It is training for temporal, embodied human community."
 "Christian discipleship is the shape of what it means to be a renewed human being."

I suppose this is because we are not divided.  Since we are what we are, made in the image of God and incapable of true human development without Him, the only thing that can make a complete human naturally speaking is this supernatural element.

2.  Law, or God's Will for our lives.

"God's law is not a stern restriction of our will but an invitation to find peace and rest in what Augustine would call the "right ordering" of our will."   

Commandments are like guardrails.

Chesterton says this too.

“If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments, they shall be governed by the ten thousand commandments” 
 Charlotte Mason often talks about the freedom of not being constantly thrown into the chaos of one's own untrammeled will and reason.

I was just reading Montessori's first Great Lesson, about Creation, where she talks about how everything is created for a purpose and their "goodness" is in fulfilling that purpose.  Only we (and once the angels) have the freedom to choose to do so, however.

3.   The Need for Confession

Because of our fallen human nature, we will fall down in our attempts to live by God's will.    The more we try, the more we realize our complete incapacity to live rightly on our own (another hint that man's natural flourishing can only be realized in a supernatural context).

Thus we need to repent regularly.

Repentance is not shame and it is not an impersonal acknowledgement of error.  It is a personal thing -- ultimately a realization of a breakdown in the relationship with God and a return to Him.

All sins come out eventually.   We seem to have a deep need to confess.   People reveal what they are continually -- I can't help think of the Reverend Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter as a kind of paradigm of this.

In a way, mystery stories are parables about how secret crimes are brought out into the open.

Only confession and repentance before God gives us hope, though.   One can't help contrasting Peter's temporary apostasy with Judas's.    This time of year, my kids and I seem to often ponder together what made the outcome so different.   Or, what made Saul different from David?

If there is anything that separates those that Jesus healed from those He accused, it is the way the broken sinners turned to Him while the whited sepulchers turned to their own road.

4.   Education

Some of the educational implications seem to be:

I. Christian formation is at the very heart of all education.    If one doesn't happen to have been brought up in the faith, then pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness as best as one knows how will probably do something to get one on the right path.     There is no true learning that doesn't involve the whole self, and indeed learning IS integration, and that is something that never completely happens, which is why learning continues for life.    Socrates composed poetry while in prison waiting to be executed.  

II.  It's impossible to learn without realizing what one doesn't know and wanting to overcome that ignorance.    This seems to parallel the need for repentance and confession in getting back on the right path in the life of grace.   Aquinas calls wonder a species of fear.    One desires knowledge because one is fleeing from ignorance and error.    Socrates said that "wisdom begins in wonder" and he felt that his key task was to make people realize that they didn't know or knew wrongly, in order to open the door to the possibility of true knowing. 

III.  Knowledge is ultimately relationship.   It's not just technical proficiency or a mental encyclopedia of facts.   It's an ordering of things, an interior that reflects the truth of how things are.    This involves more than the head, but the whole array of affections and resolutions.

For some reason I think here of the Anima Christi, which St Ignatius put at the front of his Spiritual Exercises, which is in fact a manual for integrating every thought, word and action of daily life into a wholly Christian liturgy:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds, hide me.
Separated from Thee let me never be.
From the malignant enemy, defend me.
At the hour of death, call me.
To come to Thee, bid me,
That I may praise Thee in the company
Of Thy Saints, for all eternity.
Also his Suscipe:

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess, Thou hast given me: I surrender it all to Thee to be disposed of according to Thy will. Give me only Thy love and Thy grace; with these I will be rich enough and will desire nothing more. Amen.

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