Monday, September 22, 2008

Tears and Fire: Recovering a Neglected Tradition III

What do we mean by 'the world'?

What is the life of which we are emptied? Isaac of Nineveh (seventh century) has a wonderfully exact description of 'the world' (more specifically, the 'passions'):

". . . these are: love of riches; the gathering of possessions, fattening up the body, giving rise to the tendency toward carnal desire; love of honour, which is the source of envy; the exercise of position of power; pride and the trappings of authority; outward elegance; glory among men, which is the cause of resentment; fear for the body." [3]

Note that these passions not only induce the illusion of power and status, security and even immortality in the person who possesses (or is possessed by) them, but that they also provoke envy and resentment in others. At their root is 'bodily fear', that is, the fear of death. To yield to the passions, to deny mortality is to begin a malignant cycle. One lie needs to be supported by another. Isaac's perception of the passions and their effects on the world are echoed in modern psychological theory. Isaac is writing for monks, but he draws on an older, pre-monastic tradition.

[3] Tr. Sebastian Brock; see also The Ascetical Homilies of Isaac the Syrian, tr. Dana Miller (Boston 1984) p. 297; and Mystic Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh, tr. A.J. Wensinck (Nieuwe Reeks, Deel XXIII, No. 1, 2969).


Blogger Kirk A Kubicek said...

I am preaching out of The Fire & The Furnace this morning, and the kenotic self-emptying of God as it relates to our imago

1:42 pm, September 28, 2008  

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