Posts tagged ‘creation’

November 7, 2015

as if all creatures constituted a host of worshipers in the cosmic temple

Key passages from The Liberating Image by J Richard Middleton:

First of all, the interpretation of the imago Dei among systematic theologians almost universally excludes the body from the image (whether explicitly or by omission), thus entrenching a dualistic reading of the human condition. …Any Old Testament scholar worth her salt will acknowledge that the semantic range of selem—the Hebrew word for image in Genesis 1—includes idol. Although its semantic range is broader than this single meaning, we need to account for selem in many contexts clearly referring to a cult image, which in the common theology of the ancient Near East is precisely a localized, visible, corporeal representation of the divine. A basic word study would thus lead to the preliminary observation that visibility and bodiliness may well be important for understanding the imago Dei and that this dimension of its meaning should not be summarily excluded from consideration. [24-25]

It is more than plausible that in Genesis 1 (like Isaiah 6) God shares with angelic courtiers the decision to commission the human agent for a significant earthly task. …Beyond suggesting that God consulted with angels to create humanity (“let us make”), Genesis 1 may include the notion that humans are created in the likeness of angels. “Image of ‘elohim” in 1:27 would thus appropriately reflect God’s decision to create humanity (“in our image, according to our likeness”) in 1:26. It is fascinating that even the Genesis 2-3 paradise/fall story seems to understand a certain similarity between humans and angels. The latter text uses the very same verb to describe the purpose of both. While adam is placed in the garden to till/work and “keep” (samar) it (2:15), the cherubim are placed east of the garden to “guard” (samar) the way to the tree of life (3:24). In this case, however, it may not be humans imaging angels, since the cherubim seem to take over the human vocation that was forfeited through sin. Thus when adam is expelled from the garden, all that is left to do is to “till” or “work” the ground (3:23). The task of keeping or guarding the garden has been passed on to others. [57-59]

Like the Egyptian god Ptah bringing creatures into being by speaking first in his heart and then with his tongue (in the Memphite Theology) or the Mesopotamian god Marduk first creating and then destroying a constellation by his mere word (in Enuma Elish), creatio per verbum clearly portrays God as supreme in power and authority. [66]

Creation, followed by temple building and then divine rest, is a central theme in Mesopotamian, and perhaps Ugaritic, mythology (both Marduk and Baal have temples built for them after their conquest of the chaos monster). …The notion of Cosmos as temple in Genesis 1 is suggested more specifically by the prominence of sevens in the creation story. …The heptadic structure of Genesis 1 thus seems to have cultic, liturgical significance and may well be associated in some way with the Jerusalem temple. …This association of the number seven with temples extends beyond the Old Testament to other ancient Near Eastern cultures. …But more important than these … associations are the significant structural and thematic parallels between the creation account in Genesis 1 and the account of the construction of the tabernacle … in Exodus. [81-84]

Beyond the association of word and breath, however, the presence of the ruah elohim in Genesis 1 might even suggest that the newly completed cosmic sanctuary would then be indwelt by this divine presence (as the glory of YHWH filled the tabernacle when it was completed in Exodus 40:34). [86]

If the cosmos can be understood as indwelt by the creator, then the language of Psalm 119:91 (“all thoughts are your servants”) might well refer not only to the obedience of creatures to their cosmic ruler, but also to liturgical service in the cosmic sanctuary. This is consistent with Psalm 148, which exhorts all creatures—humans, angels, animals, even the sun, moon, mountains, and trees—to praise the creator, as if all creatures constituted a host of worshipers in the cosmic temple, over which God is exalted as king. This picture of creation as a cosmic temple also suggest the appropriateness of humanity as God’s image in the symbolic world of Genesis 1. For just as no pagan temple in the ancient Near East could be complete without the installation of the cult image of the deity to whom the temple was dedicated, so creation in Genesis 1 is not complete (or “very good”) until God creates humanity on the sixth day as imago Dei, in order to represent and mediate the divine presence on earth. [87]

Bezalel’s discerning artistry in tabernacle-building images God’s own construction of the cosmos. Bezalel’s Spirit-filled craftsmanship, which imitates God’s primordial wise design and construction of the cosmos, is functionally equivalent to the imago Dei. [87]

The human task of exercising power over the earth is nevertheless modeled on God’s creative activity, which, in Genesis 1, is clearly developmental and formative, involving the process of transformation the tohu wabohu into an ordered, harmonious cosmos. By implication, then, the human calling as imago Dei is itself developmental and transformative and may be helpfully understood as equivalent to the labor or work of forming culture or developing civilization. Besides the definitive human task represented in 2:15 by the agricultural metaphor (to “till” and “keep” the garden), which is a paradigmatic form of organizing and transforming the environment into a habitable world for humans, we may note the pervasive interest throughout the primeval history in human cultural achievements and technological innovations such as city-building; and nomadic livestock-herding, music, and metallurgy. The human task thus reflects in significant ways the divine artisan portrayed in Genesis 1 as artfully constructing a world. [89]

The imago Dei also includes a priestly or cultic dimension. In the cosmic sanctuary of God’s world, humans have pride of place and supreme responsibility …as priests of creation, actively mediating divine blessing to the nonhuman world and—in a postfall situation—interceding on behalf of a groaning creation until that day when heaven and earth are redemptively transformed to fulfill God’s purposes for justice and shalom. The human vocation as imago Dei in God’s world this corresponds in important respects to Israel’s vocation as a “royal priesthood” among the nations (Exodus 19:6). [89-90]

Given the widely agreed upon Mesopotamian background of the primeval history, I will assume … that the author of Genesis 1 (whenever he lived) was acquainted (in either oral or written form) with the Mesopotamian notion of the king as image of a god (as a particular crystallization of royal ideology) and that he intentionally challenged this notion with the claim that all humanity was made in God’s image. [145]

In John Walton’s summary, “the cuneiform literature everywhere agrees that people were created to do the work the gods were tired of doing and to provide for the gods’ needs.” [166]

The Mesopotamian deity remained aloof—yet its partaking of the ceremonial repast gave religious sanction, political status, and economic stability to the entire temple organism, which circulated products from fields and pastures across the sacrificial table to those who were either, so to speak, shareholders of the institution or received rations from it. At any rate, the image is the heart and hub of the entire system. His attendance worshipers lived from the god’s table, but they did not sit down with him. [169, extended quotation from A. Leo Oppenheim]

The mythology of Enuma Elish proclaimed in no uncertain terms the servitude (even bondage) of humanity, “created out of evil substance,” as cheap slave labor to do the “dirty work” of the lower gods. [176]

For human sociopolitical life to achieve its best and highest form, society must replicate the divine pattern that the gods enacted in primordial time. Sociopolitical order is thus thought of as a microcosm of the larger world of the gods and their founding of the cosmos, with some central urban site typically conceived as the navel of the world or the bond of heaven and earth. [177]

Human beings as imago Dei are thus not only priests of the Most High, they are (if we may dare to say it) God’s living cult statues on earth. Indeed, humans are the only legitimate or authorized earthly representations of God. …The claim that humanity is created as imago Dei suggests a rationale for the prohibition of images beyond anything we find explicitly stated elsewhere in the Old Testament. [207]

God in Genesis 1 creates for the benefit of the creature, without explicitly asking for a return of any kind. And humans, in God’s image, I suggest, are expected to imitate this primal generosity in their own shared rule of the earth. [211]

It is thus of immense significance that the primeval history recounts the founding of the first city not by God but by a human being. …In the ancient myths … “the gods provide humanity with all the essentials of human civilization. By contrast, in the Bible, early humans develop their own culture. The human being, a creature created by God, is the initiator and creator of its own culture. …Perhaps most significant for purposes of comparison with Mesopotamia, the [Bible’s] primeval history portrays a world without the institution of monarchy. While this would be literally unthinkable in Mesopotamian civilizations (or indeed any of the high cultures of the ancient Near East), on this point Israel’s historical narrative is clear. …It is the king’s primary duty to study the Torah and not exalt himself above other Israelites by inordinately increasing his power or wealth. [217-219]

Thus it would seem, at first glance, that the tower of Babel text describes (and critiques) a particular cultic structure. Yet there is nothing even remotely cultic about the narrative portrayal of this tower in Genesis 11. …Cities may be said to have fortified walls reaching “up to the heavens.” …Prophetic oracles against Babylon, especially in Jeremiah 51 and Isaiah 14:3-23, do not single out cultic practices, but rather imperial hubris, military fortifications, and oppressive power, portraying this in terms of Babylon’s aspiration to reach up to the heavens (see especially Jeremiah 51:53; Isaiah 14:12-20). [223]

This intertextual association of various elements of the Babel story with oppressive military/imperial power coheres well with the suggestion of David Smith that the story does not portray an idyllic world unified with a single primal language, but reflects the Neo-Assyrian imperial practice of imposing the single language of the conqueror on subjugated people. …Thus we find that an extant Assyrian royal inscription declares that Ashurbanipal II “made the totality of all peoples speak one speech” and that “his sovereign approach made the unruly and ruthless kings speak one speech from the rising of the sun to its setting.” Likewise a cylinder inscription of Sargon II boasts: “Populations of the four world quarters with strange tongues and incompatible speech…whom I had taken as booty at the command of Ashur my lord and by the might of my scepter, I caused to accept a single voice,” which Stephanie Dalley interprets as part of the Neo-Assyrian policy of indoctrinating foreigners into their supposedly superior language and culture. [223-224]

God is not threatened by this Promethean act of human assertion. Rather, a careful reading of Genesis 11 in the context of the primeval history suggests that Babel represents imperial civilization par excellence and that this imposed, artificial unity is a danger to the human race. [225]

A canonical interpretation of the [the tower of Babel text] suggests that it ultimately protests the hidden, systemic violence beneath Babylonian/Mesopotamian civilization by stripping away its putative divine legitimization. Babel is thus disclosed as nothing more than a human construction, and a violent one at that. …The civilization that claimed to represent the epitome of order is unmasked as simply another form of chaos. [227]

This invitational character of God’s creative fiats is indicated by their not being imperatives at all, but Hebrew jussives (which have no exact counterpart in English). As Eugene Roop explains, the force of the Hebrew jussive can range “from very strong (almost a command) to very soft (almost a wish)” and “always possesses a voluntary element.” [265]

…The word tôb has in this context at least a twofold connotation, esthetic and ethical. The cosmos is good in two senses: it is both pleasing to God, as a beautiful, well-constructed world, and it is evaluated positively since it enacts God’s will (and is not recalcitrant or rebellious). [266]

Indeed, we need to confront the overwhelming violence that pervades the Bible—from the widespread patriarchal social structure and assumptions that underlie the biblical text (which certainly constitutes a form of systemic violence against women) through the holy wars of Israel against the Canaanites (at God’s command), to the plethora of violent incidents attributed to God’s people in the historical books or to God directly (including eschatological violence). [268]

The opening biblical creation account (which does not contain cosmogonic conflict) now serves as the overture to the entire BIble, dramatically relativizing the other cosmogonies. …Genesis 1 constitutes a normative framework by which we may judge all the violence that pervades the rest of the BIble (including, but not limited to, texts of cosmogonic conflict). [269]

Corresponding to days 1-3, we have days 4-6, on which God fills precisely the static spaces just created with mobile creatures that appropriately inhabit them. …Yet two anomalies are found in this pattern. …We have the interesting phenomenon of two sets of borderline creatures (vegetation and heavenly bodies) that blur the boundaries between the panels as commonly understood. [278-280]

[Genesis 1 depicts] the process of creation as God sharing power with creatures, inviting them to participate (as they are able) in the creative process itself. …Both governing (or ruling) and separating [as tasks assigned to the sun and moon] are paradigmatically divine acts not only in the ancient Near East (especially in the Sumerian and Akkadian creation accounts), but also in Genesis 1, where God’s sovereign creative activity on days 1-3 consists precisely in three acts of separation. …Likewise, the “expanse” or “firmament” that God created (on day 2) is granted the godlike function of separating the waters above from the waters below (1:6), in imitation of God own separation of light from darkness on day 1. …This implies that sun, moon, and firmament, like humans in God’s image, participate in (or imitate) God’s own creative actions. [287-288]

The earth is invited to produce first vegetation (1:11) and later land animals (1:24), [while] the waters are invited to teem with water creatures (1:20). They are invited, in other words, to exercise their God-given fertility and thus to imitate God’s own creative actions in filling the world with living things. Actually, God takes quite a risk in calling for the earth to produce vegetation [on day 3] since up to that point in the story God has not yet engaged in the act of filling (it is not until days 4-6 that God fills with mobile being the regions or spaces demarcated on days 1-3). Indeed, on the next day, it is God who imitates the earth’s prior creative action by filling the sky with heavenly bodies, which in the literary structure of Genesis 1 is a derivative actions. God is, rhetorically speaking, preempted by the earth and does not seem to be threatened by this. Attention to these rhetorical features points us to a God who does not hoard divine creative power, with some desperate need to control, but rather to a God who is generous with power, sharing it with creatures, that they might make their own contribution to the harmony and beauty of the world. [288-289]

When creation is complete and we would expect a final formula, “There was evening and there was morning, the seventh day,” there is none, which leaves the attentive reader hanging and suggests that the seventh day is open-ended or unfinished. In the literary structure of the book of Genesis, the seventh day has no conclusion since God continues to rest from creating, having entrusted care of the earth to human beings. [291]

In Brueggemann’s summary, the picture of God in Genesis 1 and of humanity as imago Dei foregrounds “the creative use of power which invites, evokes, and permits. There is nothing here of coercive or tyrannical power, either for God or for humankind.” …The imago Dei [grounds] an ethic characterized fundamentally by power with rather than power over. [297]

Summary thoughts after reading The Liberating Image by J Richard Middleton:

God created the world as a temple with humans representing Him within this sanctuary as living and breathing images (legitimate idols) of Himself. Our presence makes the temple of this world into a place where the Creator is known, recognized, worshiped, and enjoyed everywhere and in every detail. Humans are made to act like their Creator, representing Him as His stewards, servant-kings, and priests. We were commissioned to fill up this temple-creation, doing God’s work of protecting everything, crafting beautiful new things, inviting new life to flourish, and recognizing God’s good design within everything. We do this, first, by simply giving names to each new thing, because to name a thing is to recognize it, uniquely, as a gift from God. God’s great goal and desire for this creation is for humans to produce and develop cultures and communities spreading throughout the world that He made and filling it with His image-bearing children. Every detail of creation, living and inanimate, is made to communicate God’s goodness and blessing, and humans are made to recognize, receive, and proclaim God’s goodness as we find it in every corner of our temple-world.

Genesis 1 and 2 teach these things in beautiful, careful language. They also intentionally and specifically oppose a set of creation myths from the surrounding cultures (where Israel was enslaved in Egypt and exiled in Babylon):

  • Humanity is not made to carry out tasks that the gods do not wish to do or to provide for the needs of the gods. Instead, humanity is made to enjoy God’s blessing and to imitate God’s own free work (of calling forth and crafting good and beautiful things that share God’s own life-giving qualities).
  • Humanity is not made from some inferior substance (such as the blood of an evil sub-deity who was vanquished by the higher gods). Instead, humanity is crafted from clay and the Creator’s own breath to carry the Creator’s own image and likeness.
  • The divine image and vocation does not belong only to the priests and kings of great civilizations. All humanity (male and female from every tribe, nation, and tongue) are God’s image within the created worldequally, collectively, and individually.
  • Human culture and civilizationin all its growth, power, noise, and diversityis never a threat to God. Unlike the pagan gods who must control and often limit aspects of human life and culture in order to ensure that humanity serves their divine purposes, God’s intention for human culture is always that it would flourish freely, spreading and diversifying of its own accord throughout the Creator’s world.
  • God does not create the world through violence, by defeating and dismembering the monsters of chaos and deep darkness to create a temple for Himself. God invites with a voice of authority but also a voice that always leaves space for a voluntary and participatory response. God hovers (like a brooding mother bird) and invites with his voice and crafts with his hands rather than attacking, cutting, or tearing like a warrior.
  • After the fall and rebellion of humanity, God does show Himself to be a warrior against the violence that humanity unleashes upon itself (and upon the creation that humanity was designed to protect and prosper). Violence and coercion immediately begins to plague and characterize every aspect of human life, culture, and civilization. As victims and perpetrators of violence, humans become agents of chaos and darkness instead of life and light. The most sophisticated city-empires are only a complex cover for extreme internal and structural violence against free, flourishing, and diverse human communities. In the tower of Babel text, an empire arises that forces many nations to speak one language and to serve the power of one kingly and priestly class (who alone represent the will of the gods), and God fights against this empire for the sake of preserving and promoting free and flourishing human culture throughout the world. This theme (of God fighting for free and flourishing human culture against empires of violence, coercion, and chaos) is central to the entire biblical story: the Great Flood, the tower of Babel, Abram called out of Ur, Joseph sold into Egypt, Moses fleeing Pharaoh, Samuel/David versus Saul/Philistines, Daniel versus Nebuchadnezzar/Darius, Christ versus Herod/Caesar/Satan, and the church versus the Whore of Babylon. Scripture is full of calls for God’s people to defend the powerless against the powerful (within a fallen world that is so given to violence). This is essential to the biblical idea of justice: defending the most powerless in a violent world because every human is God’s image (created to make God present within His good creation).
September 7, 2015

honoring your mother might be the last in the sequence relating to right worship

But to return to the matter of honoring your mother. I think it is significant that the Fifth Commandment falls between those that have to do with proper worship of God and those that have to do with right conduct toward other people. I have always wondered if the Commandments should be read as occurring in order of importance. If that is correct, honoring your mother is more important than not committing murder. That seems remarkable, though I am open to the idea.

Or they may be thought of as different kinds of law, not comparable in terms of their importance, and honoring your mother might be the last in the sequence relating to right worship rather than the first in the sequence relating to right conduct. I believe this is a very defensible view.

…It seems to me almost a retelling of Creation—First there is the Lord, then the Word, then the Day, then the Man and Women—and after that Cain and Able—Thou shalt not kill—and all the sins recorded in those prohibitions, just as crimes are recorded in the laws against them. So perhaps the tablets differ as addressing the eternal and the temporal.

What the reading yields is the idea of father and mother as the Universal Father and Mother, the Lord’s dear Adam and His beloved Eve; that is, essential humankind as it came from His hand. There’s a pattern in these Commandments of setting things apart so that their holiness will be precieved. Every day is holy, but the Sabbath is set apart so that the holiness of time can be experienced. Every human being is worthy of honor, but the conscious discipline of honor is learned from this setting apart of the mother and father, who usually labor and are heavy-laden, and may be cranky or stinky or ignorant or overbearing. …At the root of real honor is always the sense of the sacredness of the person who is its object. In the particular instance of your mother, I know if you are attentive to her in this way, you will find a very great loveliness in her. When you love someone to that degree that you love her, you see her as God sees her, and that is an instruction in the nature of God and humankind and of Being itself. That is why the Fifth Commandmemt belongs on the first tablet. I have persuaded myself of it.

From Gilead my Marilynne Robinson.

July 17, 2015

a creation every moment

For Preservation is a Creation; and more, it is a continued Creation, and a creation every moment.

From The Country Parson by George Herbert (1652 ed., chap. XXXIV) quoted in Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (111). Here are two other references to this theme by Robinson shortly afterward:

There’s a mystery in the thought of the re-creation of an old man as an old man, with all the defects and injuries of what is called long life faithfully preserved in him, and all their claims and all their tendencies honored, too, as in the steady progress of arthritis in my left knee. I have thought sometimes that the Lord must hold the whole of our lives in memory, so to speak. Of course He does. And “memory” is the wrong word, no doubt. But the finger I broke sliding into second base when I was twenty two years old is crookeder than ever, and I can interpret that fact as an intimate attention, taking Herbert’s view. [115]

…I always imagine divine mercy giving us back to ourselves and letting us laugh at what we became, laugh at the preposterous disguises of crouch and squint and limp and lour we all do put on. [117-118]

February 8, 2015

the world was created for my sake

“Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe.” (From the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5.) The entire surrounding passage is noteworthy:

How are witnesses inspired with awe in capital cases? They are brought in and admonished as follows: In case you may want to offer testimony that is only conjecture or hearsay or secondhand evidence, even from a person you consider trustworthy; or in the event you do not know that we shall test you by cross-examination and inquiry, then know that capital cases are not like monetary cases. In monetary cases, a man can make monetary restitution and be forgiven, but in capital cases both the blood of the man put to death and the blood of his [potential] descendants are on the witness’s head until the end of time. For thus we find in the case of Cain, who killed his brother, that it is written: ‘The bloods of your brother cry unto Me’ (Genesis 4:10) — that is, his blood and the blood of his potential descendants…. Therefore was the first man, Adam, created alone, to teach us that whoever destroys a single life, the Bible considers it as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a single life, the Bible considers it as if he saved an entire world. Furthermore, only one man, Adam, was created for the sake of peace among men, so that no one should say to his fellow, ‘My father was greater than yours…. Also, man [was created singly] to show the greatness of the Holy One, Blessed be He, for if a man strikes many coins from one mold, they all resemble one another, but the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, made each man in the image of Adam, and yet not one of them resembles his fellow. Therefore every single person is obligated to say, ‘The world was created for my sake.’

And a second translation for comparison:

How were the witnesses awestruck in criminal cases? They were brought in and warned: Perhaps your testimony is based only on a supposition, or on hearsay, or on that of another witness, or you have had it from a trustworthy man; or perhaps you are not aware that finally we will investigate the matter by examination and cross-examination. You may also be aware of the fact that there is no similarity between civil and criminal cases. In civil cases one may repay the money damage and he is atoned; but in criminal cases the blood of the person executed, and of his descendants to the end of all generations, clings to the originator of his execution. So do we find in the case of Cain, who slew his brother. It reads [Gen. iv. 10]: “The voice of the ‘bloods’ of thy brother are crying unto me from the ground.” It does not read “blood,” but “bloods,” which means his blood and the blood of his descendants. Therefore the man was created singly, to teach that he who destroys one soul of a human being, the Scripture considers him as if he should destroy a whole world, and him who saves one soul of Israel, the Scripture considers him as if he should save a whole world. And also because of peace among creatures, so that one should not say: My grandfather was greater than yours; and also that the heretic shall not say: There are many creators in heaven; and also to proclaim the glory of the Holy One, blessed be He. For a human being stamps many coins with one stamp, and all of them are alike; but the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, has stamped every man with the stamp of Adam the First, and nevertheless not one of them is like the other. Therefore every man may say: The world was created for my sake.

October 19, 2014

born in God’s thoughts

From George MacDonald’s book David Elginbrod. In chapter XIX, Lady Emily muses: “I wish I were you, Margaret.” Margaret answers:

“If I were you, my lady, I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of. For to have been thought about—born in God’s thoughts—and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest, most precious thing in all thinking.”

Note: some concepts and language from George MacDonald here are comparable to what C.S. Lewis has to say in “The Weight of Glory” (see this passage for example).

October 9, 2013

engaged with existence in its fullness

If we reflect that prayer is the highest human activity—the defining purpose of human existence and the goal of human destiny—we should say that Jesus’ prayer reveals more about him as a human being than anything else he did.

…In prayer a human being is engaged with existence in its fullness. First, when a person prays, he represents the whole created order, of which he is the conscious, self-reflective part. It is in the prayer of human beings that creation becomes conscious of its relationship to God. Man is the thinking part of the cosmos. In the entire material world, the only being that even thinks to pray is man. Human thought is the only place where the cosmos is self-reflective. Second, when someone prays, he represents history, which has bequeathed to him the very language he uses to speak and to think. To pray is to take an heir’s possession—by language—of all that has transpired during man’s existence in this world. We are no more able to separate ourselves from the time of human history than from the space of the created order.

From The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon.

December 12, 2012

deep within the clay

A nativity poem by Scott Cairns (about the overshadowing of Mary by the Holy Spirit):

Deep within the clay, and O my people
very deep within the wholly earthen
compound of our kind arrives of one clear,
star-illumined evening a spark igniting
once again the ember of our lately
banked noetic fire. She burns but she
is not consumed. The dew falls gently,
suffusing the pure fleece. Her human flesh
adorns its Lord, and lo, the wall comes down.
And—do you feel the pulse?—we all become
the kindled kindred of a King whose birth
thereafter bears to all a bright nativity.

Composed for an event with Gordon College students in Orvieto, Italy. See this page.

December 10, 2012

quivering anticipation of a plenitude

From pages 116-124 of “Creative Vow as the Essence of Fatherhood” in Homo Viator by Gabriel Marcel (1965):

Fatherhood … only exists as the carrying out of a responsibility, shouldered and sustained. …It utterly denies its own nature when it is the mere blind generation of a being not only incapable of providing for his progeny and guiding their spiritual development, but of realising and acknowledging the obligations he has undertaken towards them. It is probably in contrast with such inertia and blindness that we can best understand what the pure act of fatherhood should be. …This pure act is inconceivable without what I proposed to call the væu créateur.

…This væu créateur is no other than the fiat by which I decide to put all my energies at the service of this possibility which is already imposing itself upon me, but only upon me, as a reality, so that I may transform it into a reality for all, that is to say into an established work. This means that the væu, far from being reduced to a mere wish, has the character of an engagement and a decision. But this engagement or this decision is not made simply within my own being, something transcendent is involved, however indistinct my consciousness of it may as yet be.

…It is at bottom a question of spontaneous confidence in life which can almost equally be regarded as a call or as a response. It is this, and this alone, which enables man to establish his roots in the universe and to develop to his full stature.

…We have to lay down the principle that our children are destined, as we are ourselves, to render a special service, to share in a work; we have humbly to acknowledge that we cannot conceive of this work in its entirety and that a fortiori we are incapable of knowing or imagining how it is destined to shape itself for the young will it is our province to awaken to a consciousness of itself. We can see clearly enough that the væu créateur implies the combination of a deep personal humility and an unshaken confidence in life, conceived of not as a natural force but as an unfathomable order, divine in its principle. Now it is exactly the opposite combination which tends most often to be effected before our eyes, that is to say a maximum of personal pretension associated as we have seen with a radical agnosticism concerning life, its value and its meaning.

…It becomes possible to understand the fundamental nature of the væu créateur, wherein we believe we have found the essence of fatherhood to lie. It is the quivering anticipation of a plenitude, of a pleroma in the bosom of life, no longer an endless improvisation of disappointing variations on a few given themes, [that] will be satisfied, concentrated and reassembled around the absolute Person who alone can give it the infrangible seal of unity.

October 13, 2012

offering the world to God

It seems natural for man to experience the world as opaque, and not shot through with the presence of God. It seems natural not to live a life of thanksgiving for God’s gift of a world.

…The natural dependence of man upon the world was intended to be transformed constantly into communion with God in whom is all life. Man was to be the priest of a eucharist, offering the world to God, and in this offering he was to receive the gift of life. But in the fallen world man does not have the priestly power to do this. His dependence on the world becomes a closed circuit, and his love is deviated from its true direction. He still loves, he is still hungry. He knows he is dependent on that which is beyond him. But his love and his dependence refer only to the world in itself. He does not know that breathing can be communion with God. He does not realize that to eat can be to receive life from God in more than its physical sense.

…The world is meaningful only when it is the “sacrament” of God’s presence. …For one who thinks food in itself is the source of life, eating is communion with the dying world, it is communion with death. Food itself is dead, it is life that has died and it must be kept in refrigerators like a corpse.

For the wages of sin is death” The life man chose was only the appearance of life. God showed him that he himself had decided to eat bread in a way that would simply return him to the ground from which both he and the bread had been taken…. [Man] ceased to be the priest of the world and became its slave.

From chapter one in For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann (16-17).

April 4, 2012

the way things were shaping up

YHWH’s Image

And YHWH sat in the dust, bone weary after
days of strenuous making, during which He,
now and again, would pause to consider the
way things were shaping up. Time also would
pause upon these strange durations; it would
lean back on its haunches, close its marble
eyes, appear to doze.

But when YHWH Himself finally sat on the
dewy lawn—the first stage of his work all but
finished—He took in a great breath laced with
all lush odors of creation. It made him almost
giddy.

As He exhaled, a sigh and sweet mist spread
out from him, settling over the earth. In that
obscurity, YHWH sat for an appalling interval,
so extreme that even Time opened its eyes, and
once, despite itself, let its tail twitch. Then
YHWH lay back, running His hand over the
damp grasses, and in deep contemplation
reached into the soil, lifting great handsful of
trembling clay to His lips, which parted to
avail another breath.

With this clay He began to coat His shins,
cover His thighs, His chest. He continued this
layering, and, when He had been wholly
interred, He parted the clay at His side, and
retreated from it, leaving the image of Himself
to wander in what remained of that early
morning mist.

By Scott Cairns from Recovered Body.

%d bloggers like this: