'I said, "You are gods!"'
'. . .the tiny flock . . . the muddy, imperfect, tone-deaf, literary simpletons . . . many many different people with a whole range of hopes, needs, hurts and fears . . .' [phrases from recent comments on this blog]
What really upsets me about the approach summarized by the above statements—that 'we do the best we can with the hurt, flawed, etc. people'—is that it is such a snivelling, pinched, patronising view of the human person and the work of Christ. It is degrading it is most certainly not Christian anthropology at all!
Rather, we should revere one another as Christ-bearers, as people capable of divinisation, who bear within themselves the divine nature, and encourage one another to behave accordingly. This is what we should be striving for as Christians, and if so, the rest follows! This is not to say that hurt and suffering go away, but they are no longer able to de-stabilise us. It doesn't happen overnight, but we can truthfully hold out this hope: the work of silence makes us self-forgetful, kenotic, instead of solipsistic.
What we realise in opening to the deep mind is our shared nature with God (John 14-17): divinity, theosis. Liturgies such as the Easter Vigil, done late at night and without any instruction are profound teachers of silence. The most fundamental resonances are there, which is why I find it absolutely shocking that in a place like Devon, which is so numinous, almost no one does it. Cyril of Jerusalem meant for his mystagogical catecheses to be taught after the rites—this was the wisdom of his old age. He understood as so many patristic writers did, that good liturgy is the best teacher.
Theosis is not just a New Testament idea; "I said, 'ye are gods'"; 'he has made you a little lower than the angels'; to quote just two verses from the Psalms.
As noted earlier in this blog (and as Peter Brown in The Rise of Western Christendom and Brock and Parker in Saving Paradise note), for the first thousand years, Christians understood that the veil between heaven and earth was lifted, that the new creation was present in the silence of their minds, in their liturgies that appealed to all the senses, in their programmes of social welfare, their beautiful churches which depicted people as noble, upright, beautiful, confident (parreshia) to approach God, life, and each other, celebrating the luminosity of the creation—not as fearful, hurting, bewildered, benighted downtrodden solipsists clutching closely the comfie blankie of folksy tunes, Taizé chants and stasis.
In The Farthest Shore, Ursula le Guin paints a devastating picture of our society obsessed with its short-sighted materialism and fear of death:
'...when we crave power over life—endless wealth, unassailable safety, immortality—then desire becomes greed. And if knowledge allies itself to that greed, then comes evil. Then the balance of the world is swayed, and ruin ways heavy in the scale . . .'
'. . . to refuse death is to refuse life . . . For only that is ours which we are willing to lose. That selfhood, our torment and glory, our humanity, does not endure. It changes and it goes, a wave on the sea. Would you have the sea grow still and the tides cease to save one one wave, to save yourself? Would you give up the craft of your hands, and the passion of your heart, and the hunger of your mind, to buy safety?'
Stasis is idolatry, and if we are to call our selves Christian, then we must let our selves go to grow and change, out of our sight as we do the work of silence and realise our spiritual maturity, and our divinity.