II By Contrast ....
[Continuing the article by Michael Downey. CSQ, 45.1, 2010]
The theologian has come away from Southern California, the land of eternal traffic. I have withdrawn from voicemails, emails, faxes, committees, boards, consultations, evaluations, assessments, confrontations, allegations, litigations, liturgical skirmishes, exchanges, meetings, struggles, relationships, worries and—in the hyper-psychological parlance of our day—"issues." In this house of prayer laced 'round by the Santa Rita Mountains there is room enough for a silence in which the question can emerge as if for the first time: Who art Thou? Who are You? Who is God? There is a nudge, a hunch from somewhere back in the long ago, a stirring of the first intuition that theology as a way of life is worthy of the one an only life I have to live, a whole way of perceiving and being that is in service of the search for an answer.
To profess faith in Jesus Christ is to live day by day with the question "Who is God?" admitting that we do not yet know fully who Christ is. The Gospels give us sketches of Christ, not beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt scientific evidence or historical facts. Efforts to present in film and other media realistic depictions of the passion, crucifixion, and death of Jesus may satisfy what is often an inordinate desire for certainty ans assurance of personal salvation, but they bring us no closer to a definitive answer to the question "Who is God?" For the Christian, the beginning of an answer lies in the admission that we do not know. When we are convinced, when we are altogether and absolutely certain, there is no room in us for learning what we do not know. Indeed, the first step in knowing is admitting that we do not know. The secret discipline lies in knowing how not to know. [emphasis mine MR]
We do have the sketches: clues, hints, and traces. When I follow the clues with humility and in fidelity I discover that they are luminous, leading me to insight, to some sense of who God might be. Perhaps the greatest act of humility of all is accepting the fact that these traces must suffice, that I no longer have a big picture, that systems and institutions and normative claims to truth have so often failed to satisfy the deepest desire of the human heart for truth, for goodness, for beauty.
The theologian, like the contemplative, is all eyes. We want to see, to behold, to gaze. Likewise, we want to be looked upon, to be seen, to be gazed upon. This is to speak of vision, a way of seeing: Seeing by loving, and loving by seeing, and by being seen. We are always learning how to look. Again and again. The more we see, the more we love. And the more we love the more we can see. And the more we see the more we realize that there is more to what we see than can ever be seen.