Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tears and Fire: Recovering a Neglected Tradition VI

I am drawing a distinction here between self and self-image. Giving up this self-image involves letting go the illusion of power; particularly of the illusion that we are in control and that we can control, and that we should control. It is our desire to control that brings us to slavery, because our own designs are limited, and cannot help but end in a closed system, a dead end. The closed system may give us a sense of security, but it obviates possibility. And salvation—being sprung from a trap–means possibility.

What do we mean by control? Giving up the world, in Isaac's definition, is often rightly put in terms of self-control. But this is not the world's entrapping control. Self-control is really a gathering of the fragments of self-image in order to be emptied, in order to lose control. It involves letting go the illusions of power that keep us full of self-image. Self-image must be emptied out, in order that God, who is always emptying out divine mercy on creation, might enter, indwell, and pour out through us the transfiguring Spirit onto the earth. This right kind of letting go control is especially important in terms of our ideas of how God works in us, in terms of what, or how important we think particular gifts are. Often we are trapped by our ideas of God and holiness.

God's life is able to dwell in us whether or not we cooperate. We exist by mercy. But if we are to grow into the image, the mirroring, of God's willing powerlessness, we need to increase our capacity to have the divine love poured out through us. In ancient tradition, God 'absented' a bit, or 'pulled aside the skirts of glory' in order to make room for the creation, since God was everywhere. The kenosis of God begins with creation, because God is committed to be involved in it, to give it freedom, to suffer-with in its joys and sorrows, in its bewilderment and pain. And it means that God willingly limits God's power to intervene and control.


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