“formed in the image of Christ”

Alan Jacobs on Tim Keller:

Those who say that Keller’s message is not suited to this political moment, that it is not an effective political strategy, are therefore, I believe, laboring under a category error. Keller’s pastoral role has not been to articulate a political strategy, but to make disciples. If he is correct in thinking that the counsel of Scripture is indeed counsel for all of us, and if the passages I cite above are indeed in the Bible, then it doesn’t matter whether obeying them is politically effectual (according to whatever calculus of effectiveness you happen to employ) or not. The task of serious Christians is to become Jesus’s disciples, to become formed in the image of Christ – including Christ in His suffering – whether that “works” or not.

See also Jacobs’s “periodic friendly reminder of a very inconvenient truth.”

Forgiveness: re-action and new action

Eric J. Hutchinson and Jordan Ballor:

Nothing is more purely reactionary than vengeance. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is the only reaction that is also a new action; it makes an end so that it can make a beginning. If vengeance lives only in the past, replaying the original offense on an endless and obsessive loop in the manner of Groundhog Day, forgiveness has the uncanny ability of effecting a genuine and surprising scene-change. The director’s “Cut!” is not a call for violence, but rather an opportunity for a second act. So, too, is forgiveness.

Refuge for the sake of witness

Leah Libresco Sargeant:

This is the same challenge that faces those who are attracted to thick Christian community primarily as a refuge from the outside world, rather than as a means to live abundantly for God. The aim of a refuge is to make space to offer an open, joyful witness, not to pull up the ladder behind you. But it is difficult to break habits of fear and despair.

“cooperation with people who have very different first principles”

V. Bradley Lewis:

The [Second Vatican] Council, along with the 1965 pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, and, just as important, its Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, defined this common good as the “sum total of conditions by which individuals and groups can more fully and easily achieve their perfection.”

This formulation is not individualistic: It comprises both individuals and groups. Nor is it in any way neutral as to the end of human life: It assumes a Catholic view of perfection, a life of moral and intellectual virtue culminating in unity with God. But its focus on the conditions of virtue entails a recognition that the state cannot itself achieve these goals and that modern societies include many persons who do not share the Catholic view. Though there is no hint of relativism, there is a recognition that modern societies are pluralistic and that the basic work of civic life must include cooperation with people who have very different first principles.

Gifts and Selves

Anastasia Berg and Rachel Wiseman reviewing The Lost Daughter:

To give life to someone else is always to give away something of your own and to saddle yourself with a love that can be almost unbearable. A child’s life really does come at the cost of yours. But Ferrante’s novels, which cover decades and span multiple generations, remind the reader that no matter how hard we might try, life cannot be hoarded. Every life is a life that will be lost. We grow up, we grow old, we lose our youth and strength and eventually we lose the sources of creativity and inspiration that make it possible for us to create something new of our own. This is true whether or not we have children. If we have them, along the way, we can at least pass on something of what we lose to someone else. This possibility—of sharing our life, entrusting that which we will lose to someone else—may be one good reason not to try to escape, after all.

And Leah Libresco Sargeant on gift economies:

Opening our hands and letting our wealth pass through them can be difficult, but it is the practice version of the real generosity that God calls us to. Wealth is a temptation, but we can physically let it go, and once it is out of our hands, it is hard to reclaim, even if our heart aches for it.

But the real calling is to hold our selves just as loosely.

She then quotes a footnote from Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property:

If our lives are gifts to begin with, however, in some sense they are not “ours” even when we become adults. Or perhaps they are, but only until such time as we find a way to bestow them. The belief that life is a gift carries with it the corollary feeling that the gift should not be hoarded.

All of which brings to mind St. Augustine’s Homilies on the Gospel of John 29.3, where he tries to resolve the apparent contradiction in Christ’s statement in John 7:16: Mea doctrina non est mea, sed eius qui misit me (“My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me”). Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) in his Introduction to Christianity summarized Augustine’s solution to the apparent problem:

[Augustine] asks himself first whether it is not a sheer contradiction, an offense against the elementary rules of logic, to say something like “Mine is not mine.” But, he goes on to ask, digging deeper, what, then, is the teaching of Jesus that is simultaneously his and not his? Jesus is “word” [Augustine quotes John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”], and thus it becomes clear that his teaching is he himself. If one reads the sentence again with this insight, it then says: I am by no means just I; I am not mine at all; my I is that of another. With this we have moved on out of Christology and arrived at ourselves: “Quid tam tuum quam tu, quid tam non tuum quam tu”—What is so much yours as yourself, and what is so little yours as yourself? The most individual element in us—the only thing that belongs to us in the last analysis—our own “I”, is at the same time the least individual element of all, for it is precisely our “I” that we have neither from ourselves nor for ourselves. The “I” is simultaneously what I have completely and what least of all belongs to me. Thus here again the concept of mere substance (=what stands in itself!) is shattered, and it is made apparent how being that truly understands itself grasps at the same time that in being itself it does not belong to itself; that it only comes to itself by moving away from itself and finding its way back as relatedness to its true primordial state.

Introduction to Christianity (Ignatius, 2004), p. 190

Sol, ecce, lentus occidens

A beautiful hymn by Anselmo Lentini, OSB, from today’s Vespers. You can find a translation here.

Sol, ecce, lentus occidens
montes et arva et æquora
mæstus relinquit, innovat
sed lucis omen crastinæ,

Mirantibus mortalibus
sic te, Creator provide,
leges vicesque temporum
umbris dedisse et lumini.

Ac dum, tenebris æthera
silentio prementibus,
vigor laborum deficit,
quies cupita quæritur,

Spe nos fideque divites
tui beamur lumine
Verbi, quod est a sæculis
splendor paternæ gloriæ.

Est ille sol qui nesciat
ortum vel umquam vesperum;
quo terra gestit contegi,
quo cæli in ævum iubilant.

Hac nos serena perpetim
da luce tandem perfrui,
cum Nato et almo Spiritu
tibi novantes cantica. Amen.

“ever-renewed listening and learning”

From John Webster’s The Domain of the Word via Alan Jacobs’s newsletter:

Theological work, including theological interpretation, requires the exercise of patience. This is because in theology things go slowly. We are temporal creatures, we do not receive revelation in a single moment; and we are sinful creatures whose idolatry and inattention are only gradually overcome. It would be a poor conception of theological interpretation which presumed to have acquired Scripture’s meaning in a final way which cut out the need for ever-renewed listening and learning. ‘My soul languishes for thy salvation’, says the psalmist, ‘I hope in thy word. My eyes fail for watching for thy salvation’ (Ps. 119.81f.) We must be patient, suffering God’s works, looking for the coming of the Spirit to instruct us in the truth of the Word. But we must also be patient with others. Augustine, again, considered the activities of biblical interpretation as an exercise of charity through mutual learning, as what he called a ‘way for love, which ties people together in the bonds of unity, to make souls overflow and as it were intermingle with each other.’