On The Beloved Dust…

I am itching to read another Robert Hughes, Robert Davis Hughes III and his ‘Beloved Dust: Tides of The Spirit’ this year, just begun. It sounds lovely and this image of Beloved Dust is profoundly exciting. This heavenly earthiness, Beloved Dustwhich may well synchronise with what I’ve discerned from the Scriptures and discovered in Evgeny Lampert and Martin Thornton, seems to suggest a necessary spiritual rootedness, striking threefold, Holy chords- Conversion, Transfiguration, Glory...
(Here are a couple of reviews and overviews of the book from Amazon to bring it to life. The front cover is enticingly sweet too.)

”Robert Davis Hughes’ brilliant and generous exploration of the “tides of the Spirit” in Christian spirituality, Beloved Dust, is an education in the history, interrelatedness, and potential of spiritual life in the Christian in all its forms.

Hughes “rescues” spiritual theology from its exile–begun in the thirteenth century–from being considered outside dogmatic theology or subordinated to moral theology. Describing how spirituality in a new pneumatological context “flows naturally from Trinity to creation to Christ to Spirit to church and beyond”–he develops implications of the Spirit’s mission as koinonia: participation in the Trinity as a gift to the whole created order.

Beginning with an understanding of our humanness as dust–assembled as we are from material elements in the universe–Hughes illustrates how spiritual life manifests as physical life indwelt by God’s Spirit. Humans indwelled can grow to discover their capability for self-transcendence–evoked in us through God’s self-transcendence–while remaining always dependent on God’s giftedness to us.

Covered here–among many other topics extensively explored–are aspects of conversion; the theological and cardinal virtues as actualized in Christian life; theories of self-transcendence and spiritual style; and implications of Christian love as individuals and communities become engraced in this ultimate gift of God.

Highly recommended as a satisfying and comprehensive case for a new understanding of Christian spirituality in the light of what we know about being human and what we must seek to understand and incorporate into our lives as disciples of Jesus.”

Isabel Anders, Managing Editor, Synthesis Publications
Author, The Faces of Friendship (Wipf & Stock, 2008).

and

”This superb book begins with about seventy pages devoted to surveying the history of spiritual theology (also known in earlier times as mystical theology or ascetical theology), particularly unpacking the reasons why mysticism became marginalized after the Reformation, and why the entire discipline of spiritual theology more or less collapsed after Vatican II, largely because trends in ascetical theology in the early to mid-twentieth century were essentially rendered obsolete by the council. Of course, even if theologians and the church at large were not paying much attention to a theology of the Spirit, the Spirit himself (or herself, as Hughes clearly prefers the ancient Syriac rendering of the Holy Spirit as feminine) was on the move, as evidenced by the post-conciliar explosions such as the charismatic renewal, the interest in Christian meditation and centering prayer, the growth in oblate and lay monastic associations, and the increased (actually, emergent) interest among lay Christians in the writings of the classical mystics. Hence, Hughes correctly discerned a need in the larger discourse of the Christian community: a survey of the issues and concerns related to the theology of the Holy Spirit, anchored in the tradition but fully engaged with the issues of our time. This is what the book sets out to do. Speaking as a layperson for whom spiritual theology is deeply relevant to my own identity and practice as a Christian, I’d say this book is not only a splendid compendium of the first two thousand years of Christian spiritual wisdom, but it offers plenty of food for thought to nourish us as we move forward into the third millennium.

Although he acknowledges the weaknesses in the traditional developmental map of the spiritual life as purgation – illumination – union, Hughes retains this tripartite model, both because of its Trinitarian character and because it so neatly corresponds with three central events of the life of Christ: his baptism, his transfiguration, and his resurrection. With the life of Christ in mind, Hughes recasts this mystical itinerary as conversion, transfiguration, and glory. But just as the Christian experience involves a coterminous relationship with all three persons of the Blessed Trinity, so too the spiritual life should not be understood as sequential: as if we undergo conversion and then, done with that, move on to transfiguration as a prelude to the final experience of glory. Rather, the clear evidence of how spirituality manifests in so many unique ways in the lives of different people down the ages reveals that the Spirit can bring us to continual, life-long conversion — a process that never ends, at least not on this side of eternity — that can coexist simultaneously with the experience of luminous transfiguration and joyous glory. Hughes uses the metaphor of waves crashing on the shore to suggest that these three aspects of the spiritual life are “tides of the spirit,” moving in a circular rather than sequential manner.

He also considers the “slack” between tides as a metaphor for John of the Cross’s famous concepts of the dark night: the dark night of the senses, when we are called to ever-deeper detachment from our earthly addictions and will-to-control, and the far more terrifying dark night of the soul, when even our attachments to God and to matters of the Spirit are called to be sacrificed on the altar of utter self-donation to the Ultimate Mystery. These “darknesses” exist and persist beneath, before and beyond our experience of the Light of God, just as profound silence exists beneath, before and beyond our words as well as our apprehension of The Word.

Throughout Hughes’ study, a deep appreciation of the Trinitarian nature of Christian spirituality remains central to the narrative, as does his titular metaphor of humanity as dust, beloved by God, called into being, given life, and ultimately deified through the continual unmerited grace bestowed upon us by our loving creator. Consideration of classical categories of ascetical theology — such as the cardinal and theological virtues — anchor this book’s function as a continuation of the tradition.

The “transfiguration” chapters form the book’s strongest section, primarily because of the brilliant discussion of the work of two of the twentieth century’s most important mystics, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Simone Weil. His unpacking of Weil’s four forms of the implicit love of God is particularly enlightening. The final section on “glory” is beautifully written but seems far too short, even with the author’s humble insistence that he himself “knows precious little” of the deified life.”

Carl McColman

Let’s Hope it becomes a beloved work in my library and lives up to these high expectations.

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Word, Image and Life.

Today, I have been familiarising myself with the work of Art critic Robert Hughes. He is an Australian of Irish Catholic descent and is someone I’ve come across serendipitiously. And am I grateful for that!

Basically, I’d been looking for pieces by the Christian Scholar Robert Davis Hughes, whose book Beloved Dust… appeals to me greatly, when I came across his namesake. Now, to add to the wonderful insights of Robert Davis Hughes on the Johannine Spirit of today and it’s work across time, I’ve Robert Hughes to teach me about the history of Art across time and to enable me to see some of it’s dreadful forms today.

The latter’s work on America in ‘American Visions’ has been most fruitful in helping me to understand the significance of researching art and architecture to understand a people, their visions and their lives.

robert hughes

‘The Shock of The New’ has had the same effect and would serve well as an overview of History in terms of Images, not as something trivial or ornamental but as integral to understanding. This deeper non-economist driven, non- Marxist play of History is much closer to the Truth and delves deeper to discern what life’s about.

A simple but necessary revelation hit me after watching these programmes, obvious as it is in ways  and as far as this is possible- All History should be Illustrated History. Perhaps partly this is why I love David Bentley Hart’s The Story of Christianity so much more than other histories, even though I’m not a big fan of his overall.

Hart Story of Christianity

 

There are other fine guides through History in Word, Image and other- Roger Scruton, Bishop Barron, Kenneth Clark, Marshall McLuhan, Jacques Ellul, Wendell Berry, Norman Wirzba, Christopher Lasch, Paul Gottfried, Jaroslav Pelikan, etc- but I’m happy that Robert Hughes has brought this emphasis on The Image to the forefront of my mind.

How would one understand Christianity without all of these- her Scriptures, Her Icons, Her lavish Cathedrals, Her complex liturgies and Churches? They would not.

Let us not be iconoclasts of History but give Word, Image and even the fruits of the other senses their due in History, which is to say Theology, because this is His-Story.

Clearly, we live and move and have our being not in Word and Image alone but all the senses gifted to us by God and His Eschatological fulfillment is surely Transfiguring them all, in The Kingdom. The experience in the liturgy and a life fully lived engages them all for Good so let us lovingly manifest and reflect upon that in Word, Image, Sound, Taste, Touch and Smell.

”Experiences of the first order, of the first rank, are not realized through the eye.”

Eugen Rosenstock- Huessy

The glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God” (Against Heresies, Book 4, 20:7).

https://www.openbible.info/topics/the_five_senses

 

Ascetical Theology

 

Just recently I have been blessed to come across the work of Fr Martin Thornton and have already learnt so much from his ressourcement reflections on The Life in God.

As I showed with the last post on this page with the help of my friend and wonderful scholar Alice’s work, the Bible and Church at Her best are very much about the great both/and of life and love, the consummation of all things, the great Mystical Supper of the lamb, new heaven and new earth, and on and on; the Incarnational Theology of Martin Thornton lives and moves and has its being in that Christian participation so should be shared in.

He called this ‘Ascetical Theology’ but uses that word in a wonderfully encompassing manner and saves it from the dry rigidity of the past alone or from men in far-off places nothing to do with how we live our lives with The Living God; as Fr Behr has done wonderfully elsewhere.

 

Thornton speaks of ‘the schools’ and ‘the wilderness’ as well ‘the pendulum’ that often swings too far in one way and doesn’t allow for the Paradoxes of Christ to command our ascent. On all of this is is presciently correct and he offers guidance against such folly, comparable to Alan Jacobs’ ‘Way of exchange’.

Take this from Fr Dallman’s thesis on Thornton. (Referring here to his book on English Spirituality.)
”The next words are “makes the bold and exciting assumption”
These clearly demarcate this statement as either part or all of Thornton’s
motif. He is trying to state what he understands, at the writing of this book at least, the basis for his interpretation and thinking to be. Why is this assumption both “bold” and “exciting”? We might be reminded of the words “we are bold to say” that precede the recitation of the Our Father in eucharistic liturgy. Thornton does not expressly explain his use of the word “bold.”
Yet he does immediately expand on what he means by “exciting,” or at least one
meaning. In the subsequent paragraph, he writes
It is a common dilemma of theological students, absorbed or otherwise, in
a lecture on Old Testament sources, the synoptic problem, or some
intricate piece of Scholastic philosophy, to sit back and ask themselves ‘if
I am training to be a parish priest what has all this to do with it?’ Ascetical
theology asks the same question in a way which excludes the answer
‘nothing at all.’ The question becomes honest and exciting instead of
frustrating; one of the lesser values of ascetical study is to colour and
bring alive some aspects of theology which, to the average student, would
otherwise be academic and dull.
At least in the immediate sense, “exciting” refers to theological students who are bored
by a particular aspect, idea, or area of their study. This
continues to affirm that Thornton
intended to offer here a motif, because he thinks application of the motif in real life
theology brings some kind of change to the interpretation or interpretive mood of the
person who adopts it. Furthermore, application of this motif does exclude at least one
kind of interpretation. The response to any theological insight cannot be “it has no
bearing on my priestly ministry,” or more bluntly, “it does not matter.”
Expressed in the converse, the consequence of Thornton’s theological motif
is “everything matters.”
Somehow, the most intricate piece of Scholastic philosophy, the most arcane aspect of an
Old Testament lecture or lecture on the synoptic problem of the gospels must have some
kind of relationship to the ministry of the theological student after graduation.
Thornton continues with the words “that every truth flowing from the Incarnation,
from the entrance of God into the human world, must have its practical lesson.” This is
the expression, in clear terms, of the motif that governs Thornton’s ascetical thinking, at
least as of 1963 and English Spirituality. Notice the clear and strong language: “every
truth,” not just some and not others; “flowing from the Incarnation,” an image that brings to mind the image of “living water” from the Gospel of Saint John;
“entrance of God into the human world,” brings to mind another Johannine image, “
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father”;
and then “must have its practical lesson,” is a clear affirmation of the relationship between theological interpretation and Christian practice: a practical lesson and not an
intellectual lesson.”
Is this the ‘Johannine’ stage that Rosenstock-Huessy spoke of? (As mentioned in Peter Leithart’s article linked below.)

”He spoke of the world entering a “Johannine” age of history, an age of the Spirit that would move quite differently from the earlier ages of the Church: “each generation has to act differently precisely in order to represent the same thing. Only so can each become a full partner in the process of Making Man.”

Rosenstock-Huessy also develops a kind of Trinitarian historiography and anthropology. He links the articles of the creed¯which moves from Father, Son, to Spirit¯with three millennia of church history. During the first millennium, the Church concerned with being body of Christ (Son); the second concentrated on restoring creation to its Creator, since after men restored to God, they could begin to purge the world of ungodliness (Father); the next millennium will be the age of the Spirit, which will concentrate on “revealing God in society” (Spirit).”

 

This gets at what the Church and Life in Christ is about- the great both/and, the Pentecost of Life, God and Man, Marriage and Monasticism, Male and Female, etc etc and is true witness. May such work help you to love God and others as yourself in a joyful pleroma of ways, now and ever and unto ages of ages.

 

 

Memory Eternal!

http://akensidepress.com/books/thornton/my_god/

http://anglicanhistory.org/academic/dallman_thornton2015.pdf

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/03/the-benedict-option-and-the-way-of-exchange

https://www.svots.edu/sites/default/files/marriage-ascetisicm-sobornost.pdf

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2007/06/the-relevance-of-eugen-rosenst

 

The Bible… both/and.

Thanks to the great Alice Linsley I understand the Bible a lot better. A lot of my views on Marriage and Sexuality, resistance to Universalism and Pacifism are built on the Theologic of The Bible and The Kingdom so I hope this helps understand the posts on this blog.

A healthy skepticsim of false dualisms is a good thing of course but need not rule out all binaries. Paradox, paradox, paradox…

 

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.ie/2017/12/greek-linear-logic-vs-hebrew-step-logic.html?m=1

 

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.ie/2017/07/the-binary-worldview-of-bible.html

 

Happy Christmas season.

Evgeny Lampert, Witness to God’s Good Creation.

If you haven’t already done so, please familiarise yourself with this Russian Christian Genius’ work! ‘The Divine Realm: Towards a Theology of The Sacraments’ is a shamefully neglected Masterpiece from 1943 and therefore precedes Father Schmemann’s brilliant work on Sacramental Theology by decades. Like the great Prophet to America’s work, Lampert illuminates the earth and the heavens through witness to the life in God.

There are many wonderful similarities between these two great modern Priest-Prophet-Kings but there are various joyful similairites also between Lampert’s work and an interesting collective of the best Orthodox writers.

He writes with the poetic fire of Berdyaev, the Theological- Historical integrity of Florovsky, The Trinitarian centrality of Staniloae, the historian’s bird’s-eye view of the ages that Pelikan offers and more besides.

Yet he’s a a uniquely and independently personal scholar, who contains all this wonderful eclecticism within his person. Moreover, Lampert illuminates his lived experience with The Living God, in an exemplary way.

Please do yourself a favour and get your hands on The Divine Realm as soon as is physically possible but in the meantime here is a link to his work on Nicholas Berdyaev, available free online.

https://ia600201.us.archive.org/19/items/nicolasberdyaeva00lampuoft/nicolasberdyaeva00lampuoft.pdf

As well as some thoughts from Fr Lawrence Cross- http://compassreview.org/spring12/4.pdf

Blessings in this wonderful season, full of Hope!

Christmas has come a little early.

”On the question of the meaning and experience of sex, Lampert decries the tendency that appeared early in Christian writings to see sex as a kind of split in the creation, as an inevitable consequence of man’s mixed nature
of flesh and spirit. This Neo-platonist and Gnostic view infiltrated the thought of some of the greatest Church Fathers and colluded with ‘hatred of sex and of women, to cast out love from the world, portraying it as enticing lust, alluring falsehood, sweet poison or simply as ‘paganism’.14 This infiltration has had disastrous consequences, because it: …killed the great religious dream of the holiness of sex and of love, and of life as the feast of love. Sex was driven into the prison of bourgeois family existence and domesticity, where it was ‘tolerated’; or else it was or is dragging on an irreligious life in night-clubs and similar institutions—a fatal counterpoise of marriage and the family conceived as mere matrimonial transactions. Sexual love found itself outside religion, unsanctified, abandoned to the whims of fate or…of the devil.15 In the face of this Lampert claims that the creation of woman is the very acknowledgement of the reality of sex as the fulfillment of creation; that sex is a transcendent reality, and that sexual life has a transcendent significance, while ‘the union of the sexes in love is a witness to the fullness of being and life eternal.’ It is a true tragedy that the holiness of sexual love has been so blasphemed: on the one hand by cold dualism, detesting the flesh as a source of defilement, and on the other, by an amoral monism which sees the flesh as the theatre of mere animal activity. Both are blind to ‘the mystery and sacrament of holy flesh’, as the ‘way of ascent into the heavens and the grace of the Holy Spirit descending on it’16 The coda to Lambert’s The Divine Realm comes in four short sections entitled The Symbol, The Sacramental Principle, Metabolism and Epiklesis. In his conclusion, entitled The Ultimacy of the Sacrament, the sacraments are affirmed as essentially realized eschatological events.”

 

Fr Cross on Evgeny Lampert’s insights into the Life in Christ.
Richard M Davidson’s book ‘Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in The Old Testament is a real masterpiece of Scholarship and marvellous reference guide for deeper understanding.
I’ve come across many resources in this book that I want to read and that’s within the first few pages but have many hundred’s of thankful pages to go. Gloria in Excelesis Deo!
Vladimir Lossky, in his Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, recently released in English, highlights the weaknesses of some of the early Christians on sexuality, noting the potential for manichaeism and sees problems with Gregory of Nyssa’s view of Sex (in terms of male and female) but doesn’t develop this as he should have. (Or the editors have left what he had to say out regrettably). What this extensive literature on Marriage, human sexuality and the purposes of God’s Good Creation reveal to me though is how unbiblical Nyssa’s (et al) notion of Sex is; in more than just the male and female sense. Dr Davidson recommends Werner Neuer’s book as one example.
Lampert’s claim that this is at least partly to blame for some of the problems we face, is unfortunately correct.
Only a properly Eschatological and Eternally Blessed place for sex and Marriage, I see, will prevent this gender blending madness and heretical automatic corruption of sex (impersonal Eros rather than rightly ordered TriPersonal Eros-Agape-Storge-Philia Love) distortion of God’s Good Gift made for The Kingdom. The Eastern Church has preserved many key points of The Scripture’s outlines for Marriage but neglected others in many parts. See the outline given by Schmemann and it becomes pretty apparent that an Eschatological view of Marriage and Sexuality should be wed together.

https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/eastwest/for_the_life_of_the_world_part_ten

”Fr. Alexander says, and I want to read this quote to you, he says,

It is here, at this moment, that the pseudo-Christian opposition of the “spiritual” and the “material,” the “sacred” and the “profane,” the “religious” and the “secular” is denounced, abolished, and revealed as a monstrous lie about God and man and the world. The only true temple of God is man and through man the world. Each ounce of matter belongs to God and is to find in God its fulfillment. Each instant of time is God”s time and is to fulfill itself in God”s eternity. Nothing is “neutral.”

There’s a physicality to our faith that is wonderful and I think really speaks to the cosmic dimension of Christ’s redemption. You know, it’s not just that it’s a spiritual redemption in which we’re delivered from this body and this world, but even our bodies are claimed in Christ, and through Chrismation and consecrated unto Him and are to serve Him.

Chrismation is the affirmation also of each man’s uniqueness to be who he was made to be; to do what he was made to do. It’s the gift of vocation, Fr. Alexander says.”

Note that this involves our Priestly and Kingly functions.

 

https://thebibleproject.com/podcast/you-are-soul/

https://thebibleproject.com/podcast/lets-get-physical/

Body and Soul.

 

 

George Kordis

‘Love is…’

”My painting does not aim to express the essence of reality, human sentiments or feelings, nor does it present a subjective description of what my eyes see in the world. It isn’t a kind of expressionism or surrealism, although there are many similarities with these stylistic movements of modernism. My painting cannot be categorized using a framework associated with Western modern art because is based on a different cultural framework, where painting and its function are conceived differently. Painting deals with the surface (epiphaneia) of objects. The surface, however, is not just a surface, nor is it a vacuum or empty space that does not correspond to the very essence of the object. The epiphaneia is the manifestation of the essence (hypostasis) of the object which is revealed and hidden simultaneously – the existence is revealed while the essence is hidden.
My painting aims at creating an embracement between the object and the spectator. The artwork is created in direct reference to the beholder and is relative to his/her senses. So the beholder becomes part of the artwork and the artwork is part of the beholder. Thus, the artwork does not describe feelings, or impressions. Rather, it describes the relationship between the object depicted and the spectator. Therefore, there is a close internal bond between these two subjects- objects. In this relationship there are no defined roles, nor are there subjects or objects. What exists is just a relationship. A state of love, synousia, (the Greek world for the action of love). where the boundaries are lost, and life is an eternal communion.
This aim of my art can be realised through the traditional principles and ideals of Byzantine painting, specifically, through rhythm. Everything in a picture is energy: lines, colours, movements, etc. These energies must be reconciled and exist in a ‘perfect’ way, in a balanced dynamic state. Through rhythm, as understood by Greek-Byzantine tradition, the image becomes a manifestation of a state of love, and a peaceful time-place on earth. Whatever, is depicted through rhythm is transformed into a new reality and manifests the desire of a new world where conflicts and hate are replaced with love and peace.
This ‘consoling realism’ characterises my painting and focuses on expressing the needs of contemporary people for who are tortured by the void of relationships and the abyss of darkness. I work and create to present a consoling picture of communion and love needed by people today.”

 

George Kordis 2016love-is-george-kordis

Fr Nikoloas Loudovikos, corrective to Origenism.

I’ve only just discovered Fr Loudovikos’ (apparently) great work but better late than never and he has much good to say on areas which have been of primary concern to me; such as Theologies of Creation or Universalism and Hell.

His work is a nice addition to the insights I’ve garnered from Fr John Behr, Fr Florovsky, Fr LeMasters and co.

Fr Louth mentions him alongside Fr Behr in his Modern Orthodox Thinkers book, saying that he’ll have a big impact on the Orthodox Church of the 21st century. If he’s anything like Fr Behr, let’s hope so! I cannot give a satisfactory portrayal of his thought yet as I’ve only read articles but there are some great points in these articles.

Namely, he provides some very good critiques of the likes of Yannaras and an ‘Origenist’ tendency which I think is indeed a real problem, contrary to many academic Theologians, who try and pass these kinds of things off as merely academic and/or largely illusory issues. Yet, his bashing of ‘the west’ is all too typical of many Orthodox thinkers and ignorant of the nuances of History, just as those who fetish the early church, the middle ages, or the modern are ignorant of the nuances in time.

This ‘origenist’ strain which Loudovikos points to is one which a lot of American ‘liberal’ Theologians work within but even those at the higher end are not averse to it. Moreover, it’s not only an American problem. I think the amicable Englishman John Milbank, who I contact regularly and who has been most courteous to me, and some of the radical orthodoxy clique are prone to this however, as much as I really like him, some of his work and as kind as he is to me via email, I must tell it like it is.

DB Hart, perhaps the most ‘famous’ Orthodox Theologian today, is much the same, but more so. On the latter, and whilst his book The Story of Christianity is really good, I would not even recommend reading as Orthodox. There are many other Orthodox Theologians ahead of him who are more orthodox in practice. I say this with sadness because I do not see the full implications of the Incarnation permeating his work like I do in figures such as Fr Schmemann or Evgeny Lampert.

On practically every issue as he seems to be in the wrong camp. (His Christian Platonism, his Universalism, his crude economic views, etc all despite his mammoth intellect. (Maybe because of it… who knows!?)

 

ile:///C:/Users/markc/Downloads/Ecstatic_or_Reciprocal_Meaningfulness_Or.pdf

Beyond The Benedict Option, towards Kerygma and being The Church.

Saint Benedict

 

I’ve been following the career of Rod Dreher for a number of years now and he’s been tremendously helpful in pointing me in the direction of fine authors who’ve deepened my understanding about the world- Wendell Berry, Walker Percy and many others. So, when I heard about his venture ‘The Benedict Option’, I became intrigued.

Unfortunately however, this vision of The Benedict Option has come at a time of great confusion in America, which affects his analysis for ill and Mr Dreher is sounding more and more unhinged and alarmist than before. There is a fearfulness to his political stance at the moment which is not uncommon amongst American Christians and whilst it’s not entirely baseless to assume Christians are being ‘attacked’ in the secular age, this posture still needs critiquing.

It is in this context that I’ve decided to look more at this Benedict Option, both as he perceives it and by relating his own sketches to the musings of others, from various perspectives.

As a basic premise, an intentional rule for the Christian Life, comparable to St Benedict’s- but made to fit with Church members today, many of whom are Married with children- ‘The Benedict Option’ is more than solid. Why we’d need to label it ‘The Benedict option’ or why others call for ‘The Augustine Oprion’, I dont know, but it only limits the witness of The Church in Her Mission, which is not merely an option or bound by particular manifestations, no matter how inspirational.

More on that later, but let’s start with a few of the negatives.

Firstly then, we have a finely nuanced critique of The Benedict Option and it’s alarming reception from the pen(or cursor) of the indefatigable Alan Jacobs.

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/03/the-benedict-option-and-the-way-of-exchange

His is one of the best I’ve read bout our subject alongside Adam DeVille’s, on his blog at ‘Eastern Christian Books’ and bares thinking about. (Unsurprisingly, both reference Fr Alexander Schmemann, a Church Father of our age.)

http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2017/05/05/reading-rod-drehers-benedict-option-with-macintyre-and-schmemann/

The ‘way of exchange’ proffered by Jacobs directs me to Ecclesiastes 3 and is most welcome.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes+3
It looks like Christ-following has (amongst other things) at least two necessary threads relating to living in the world- Ascetism and Mysticism, broadly defined.
Whilst I believe the former has been the more historically prominent, or at least much better recorded, both are essential and it is with much regret that I note we tend to assume that the ‘ascetical’ alone is ‘Christian Spirituality’. (Defined often in crude and austere ways- an almost Gnostic rejection of ‘the world’.)

In a line parallel to this article’s own however, it’s clear we need both the ‘ascetical’ and ‘mystical’ or the fast and the feast; and we really need to illuminate the Mystical thread today more than ever; For The Life of The World.

This is the inverse of what many of the so-called ‘traditionalists’ want to do. That’s those who think in strict dichotomies of ‘the Church’ and ‘The culture’, or the sacred and the profane, all the while idolising a past that never was- making it sacred in their idolatry and thinking of ‘the modern world’ as almost entirely profane. This is untenable with the Bible, Theology and History.

https://publicorthodoxy.org/2017/06/28/benedict-vs-the-benedict-option/

This pick and choose religiosity often involves glorifying the spirituality of men and women from a place or time unlike our own, out of mere naive nostalgia or contorted escapism. ( Think of the fetish idolotraus infatuation with the monks of Mount Athos amongst some Orthodox or the false pietistic Roman Catholic idolisation of certain orders or Medjugoree, etc. Twisting and making idolotraus the great and good work that people have rightfully done for The Kingdom. In this the problem lies in the idolatry and lack of nuance and we recognise and respect Holiness wherever it is and whoever manifests it. However, their ways need not be our ways in many of their particulars, even though we share much and can join them in may respects.)

‘The Benedict option’, as a more balanced and tenable Christian way for the many, is not a bad place to start in fairness, but its jutlst that- a start and while Dreher has picked a good Image of Christian Living which does resonate with our time when it hasn’t been grossly caricatured, we need to go beyond this ‘option’. This is only relevent under specific conditions and he hasn’t quite laid the groundwork for those conditions because of the narrowness of his interpration, his fears, dichotomising tendencies and lack of references to The Scriptures.

The tone of Dreher’s work is well critiqued here but James KA Smith is off, not just with ‘The Augustine Option’ set up as an alternative but his own brand of Americanist tendencies. For example, Smith has given credence to anti-Christian ideas like ‘white privilege’ and Ta-Nehisi Coates because of particular race-relations issues in the USA, real and imagined. This is not justifiable within the Christian worldview and isn’t properly related to The Church. Black and white dichotomies are of ‘the flesh’. (As previous posts have discussed.)

https://www.cardus.ca/comment/article/5039/the-benedict-option-or-the-augustinian-call/

The proper relevence of Benedict’s witness.

*See Fr Martin Thornton’s wonderful piece on St Benedict and his rule, here. He makes it clear that this is not other-worldly, as Dreher’s Benedict Option is often accused of being but as we can see it isn’t, for all it’s faults. It is less inapplicable to today in the way than many other idolised ways and images are but doesn’t answer all the questions of our particular time and place. We need to bear Witness Kerygmatically.

http://akensidepress.com/books/thornton/english_spirituality/chap6/

Regrettably, the careful and composed tenor of Thornton is missing in many of Dreher’s ramblings, whose tone again is offf and something Steven Christofourou and Christian Gonzalez rightly contest with here.- http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/popculture/episode_41_contemplating_the_benedict_option
Those Christian ways mentioned and others like them do have great value and there is much to learn from Athos or Catjoloc orders but they have their place, time and role, and we ours. Each tributary is fruitfully forming part of our Christian way of exchange.

For are they the only ways? Has The Body stopped growing? Where is the Proclamation of the Mysticism of the everyday, of the love of play, music or good food, ‘Lay’ Friendship, the song of the un-cloistered?

*note, this ‘Mysticism’ could equally be descrbed as Ascetism and what I refer to as Ascetism has been labelled as Mysticism under certain definitions.

In the sense that the good Father Martin Thornton has shown us, Ascetism is rooted deeply in the Bible and Tradition, and obvious in his vision is the Incarnation of Our Lord.
Perhaps now is the time and place in which we need to give voice to the Mystery of Marriage, feast and friendship, the un-storied daily martyrs who live God’s love through his Good creation and with good company; playing the game they’ve been gifted to play but with their own struggles and concerns, no lesser a Christian way but rather a little Church within the Church?

This would be a new emphasis in creative Tradition and Spirituality, but one rooted in the Bible and The Tradition; a silent gathering of witnesses singing their songs for others to hear.

For those who have missed the nuances of The Benedict Option and genuinely want to run for the hills (unlike Dreher it seems, in fairness), I suppose you have the right to opt out of what is clearly a bad game for Christians generally, but do it with clear eyes and a clear conscience and know that it is not necessary or the only way. In fact, you place further burden on The Church if you do so out of fear and fail to live the Kerygma.

There’s a certain distance between erratic emotion and good policy in these discussions and Dreher, like the best of us, has not articulated well enough the case, yet there are very many good points in what he’s doing and there is something here for us to avail of in this secular age.

We must be Christians by coviction and more than that, habituated in our Churches ways of life, forming Incarnate Christian habits of mind, body and soul; of Nephesh.

In what Rosenstock- Huessy has labelled a Johannine age, we must go with the Spirit where He leads us, not by dry inadequate and ignorant imitations of the past, or the past of our own invention, but as a flowing river gushing forth from the rock which provides all our foundations.

http://akensidepress.com/books/thornton/rock_and_river/chap1/

B_Facundus_254 New Jerusalem

 

Play by the rules of the game that you’ve been given rather than trying to play another’s game. For why would you live another’s vocation? Obedience to the vagaries of history? What is your vocation? What name has God written for you in The Book of Life?
Hopefully and assuredly so because they already are, some of us can and will play our own part with an every day Ascetic-Mysticism, taking our cue from a G.K Chesterton, a Martin Thornton or a Fr Alexander Schmemann; rushing out into the world from the Rock of Ages, For the life of The World…

The vocation of many Christians, now as all through time, is this particular river; the Joyful Mystical-Ascetism or Ascetical-Mysticism of Marriage, Fast and Feast and this in no way takes away from Monasticism, other forms or the life of the celibate, who have their own role in the way of exchange. The Bible is both/and, a garden of flowers as Fr Moses Berry beautifully articulates in word and lifestyle.

“In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.” Karl Rahner SJ

 

 

 

Note- Again, and especially fter discovering the work of Fr Martin Thornton, it should be made clear that the terms Ascetism and Mysticism are in ways interchangeable and not meant to be taken as rigidly defined, nor the only two relevant elements of the Christian Life, which has many forms and wonders, but free to The Spirit who liftes up our beloved dust.

*The Icon is of Saint Benedict of Nursia and the illuminated manuscript is of The New Jerusalem and the River of Life (Apocalypse XII), Beatus de Facundus, 1047. An equally good alternative would be Christ, The Rock in The Jordan because he was transfiguring water there, as we’ll see with the post on Epiphany/Theophany.