17 January 2006

The Coming One

Here is an outstanding article that a friend sent my way today:

http://tinyurl.com/ax27o

Typical John Behr - dense with goodies. Here's a teaser:

"In other words, baptism is not simply a stepping stone to membership of the Church. Rather the paschal dimension of baptism characterizes the totality of the Christian life, shaping and informing every aspect of it, until we are finally raised in Christ. The mode of becoming a Christian, through conversion and instruction, is the mode of remaining a Christian, all the while learning to confess Christ more fully and so put on his identity more perfectly."

I was also intrigued by his pointing out that for St. Irenaeus' famous dictum about the glory of God being a man fully alive, the reference is not to a man living with gusto, enjoying this age to the fullest (this is how John Powell, the Jesuit, takes it). But rather to a martyr. A person who is fully alive in his death to this world and in his life oriented solely toward to the Coming One.

Thoughts?

7 comments:

Petersen said...

I can't speak to the intent of St. Irenaeus, but I think the glory of God being a man fully alive with best be understood as the balance between both views, in line say with Aristotle's Nicomedian Ethics. A man is fully alive when he is in balance, strong yet gentle, wise yet simple, etc. So here too the glory of God is seen in the Christian when he both loves and enjoyus this creation to its fullest as gifts from God (i.e., skiing to the lodge at Jackson hole and drinking fine wine) and who the same time recognizes the futility of this world and counts it as nothing while fully expecting the Life to come.

There is a temptation to elevate the later to a higher level, since it seems more "spiritual," but if this world has no glory, no joy, or if that glory and joy are denied, then there is no sacrifice, nothing to lose, nothing to walk away from. Take for example Our Lord's warning: "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." This does not mean that mother and father, son and daughter are worthless. It means they are the most valuable things in this world, and even the most valuable things must be set aside. So that if we cast it into its reverse (and kept it true - not simply negating all things) it would read: "The man who loves father and mother, son and daughter, is ready for me."

Anonymous said...

The Fathers of the Church also makes the connection between the once celebrated sacrament of Baptism and the ongoing life of Repentance (Jesus' first sermon, after all). We are to weep over our sins enough to fill the font for us to be baptized "again".

Anonymous said...

There is a story about a spiritual seeker who goes to a monastery. A monk greets him and tells him that the fathers were about to go out to the fields and would he like to come. No, he said, take me to a cell that I may pray and imbibe the Fathers of the Philokalia, that is why I came to the monastery. The day went on and he read and prayed. He heard the bell ring and he started smelling dinner cooking. However, no one came to get him. He then saw the Fathers returning from the fields and going to the Refectory. Still no one came to get him. Finally, angry, he stormed down to the Abbot and demanded to know why no one got him for dinner. The abbot replied, well, you are spiritual and wanted to do nothing but pray, but we are mere men and need our daily bread, and therefore must work.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Petersen,

Aristotle!!!! Actually, I suspect (for I surely do not know from personal experience) that the martyr's life which is wholly in Christ is what enables him to experience this world for the first time as God intended it to be. It's freed from the burden of being an idol. If you looked up that Acathyst of Thanksgiving I posted a while back, it points the way. Here is a priest who is surely dead to the world because of his clinging to Christ, and yet look at his delight in creation! He is fully alive because all of the creation summons him: "Let us go to the Father!"

Pablo said...

"The mode of becoming a Christian, through conversion and instruction, is the mode of remaining a Christian, all the while learning to confess Christ more fully and so put on his identity more perfectly." Maybe more Christ centered but still a work's righteous message. Becoming a Christian is up to me and remaining a Christian is up to me. This view is against the biblical view of Salvation. It is all a gift. Christ is the one who Saves me and Sanctifies me.

William Weedon said...

Paul,

I don't think so. He's an Orthodox writer and the Orthodox simply rule out any notion of salvation being earned from the get-go. Many Orthodox would stress that not even Christ EARNED salvation, but that Christ is how God GIVES us salvation.

It's gift - just as they confess in the Anaphora of St. John Chrysostom at the Divine Liturgy: "You brought us into existence from non-being and when we had fallen, You did not cease *to do all things* until You had brought us up to heaven and endowed us with the Kingdom which is to come."

The point Fr. Behr is making is that just as catechesis is what brings one to Baptism, it remains the church's method of keeping one "in Christ" so that we grow up into Him. Fr. Schmemann once expressed this same reality like this: "And the holiness of the Church is not our holiness, but Christ's, who loved the Church and gave Himself for her 'that He might sanctify her...that she might be holy and without blemish' (Eph 5:25-27). Likewise the holiness of the saints as well is but the revelation and the realization of that sanctification, that holiness that each of us received on the day of baptism, and in which we are called to increase. But we could not grow in it, if we did not already possess it as a gift of God, as his presence in us through the Holy Spirit." (Eucharist, pp. 23, 24)

I personally have never encountered work righteous thinking among the Orthodox.

MBowers said...

Pablo,

You say that... "still a work's righteous message. Becoming a Christian is up to me and remaining a Christian is up to me. This view is against the biblical view of Salvation. It is all a gift. Christ is the one who Saves me and Sanctifies me."

I fail to see where anything in this article states or posits that... becoming a Christian is up to me...

It confesses clearly that... by hearing the Word... faith is wrought in me"

The clear teaching of scripture is... that faith comes by hearing... and hearing the WOrd of God.. Romans 10-17. What is catechesis if not... hearing the word of God? And by that hearing... I receive the free gift of faith by the grace of God. And by the continued hearing of God's word after baptism, I continue to receive the gift of faith.