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Piety as Paradox

glorious sunLast week, Easter Sunday, at the culmination of an extraordinary week in the care of the Holy Spirit, this little. seemingly disconnected post, one of Fr. Richard Rohr’s daily devotions that I subscribe to, came to my inbox.

But like a cherry bomb, or firecracker placed in just the right place at just the right moment, it kicked free a pebble that dislodged a stone that released a rock that freed a boulder, that loosed an avalanche of love and grace. I have spent the week pretty much letting the dust settle and recovering.

I wish I could “wind back the avalanche”, and display all the wondrous parts for all to see. I cannot, gravity just doesn’t seem to work like that. So I cannot “recreate” the experience here in these posts. I also lack Fr. Richard’s gifts, talents, and skill with words expressing the movements of spirit that illuminate the Garden of Prayer so brilliantly… more’s the pity.

But in my own halting fashion I want to lay out some of these lovely pieces, these wondrous milestones that mark various turnings and landmarks along the path… and see if they interest and edify.

First, let’s look at the simple (THREE PARAGRAPHS!!! lol), writing of Fr. Richard last week:

Paul as Non-dual Teacher

Sunday, April 5, 2015
(Easter Sunday)

Meeting the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus changed everything for Paul. He experienced the great paradox that the crucified Jesus was in fact alive! And he, a “sinner,” was in fact chosen and beloved. This pushed Paul from the usual either/or, dualistic thinking to both/and, mystical thinking. The truth in paradoxical language lies neither in the affirmation nor in the denial of either side, but precisely in the resolution of the tug of war between the two. The German philosopher Hegel called this process thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The human mind usually works on the logical principle of contradiction, according to which a proposition cannot be both true and false at the same time. Yet that is exactly what higher truths invariably undo (e.g., God is both one and three, Jesus is both human and divine, bread and wine are both matter and Spirit). Unfortunately, since the Reformation and the Enlightenment, we Western, educated people have lost touch with paradoxical, mystical, or contemplative thinking. We’ve wasted five centuries taking sides!

Not only did Paul’s way of thinking change, his way of being in the world was also transformed. Suddenly the persecutor–and possibly murderer–of Christians is the “chosen vessel” of Christ, chosen and sent “to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15). This overcomes the strict line between good and bad, between evil and virtue. The paradox has been overcome in Paul’s very person. He now knows that he is both sinner and saint, as we too must trust. These two seeming contradictions don’t cancel one another out. Once the conflict has been overcome in you, and you realize you are a living paradox and so is everyone else, you begin to see life in a truly spiritual way.

Perhaps this is why Paul loves to teach dialectically. He presents two seemingly opposing ideas, such as weakness and strength, flesh and spirit, law and grace, faith and works, Jew and Greek, male and female. Normal dualistic thinking usually takes one side and dismisses the other, stopping there. Paul is the first clear successor to Jesus as a non-dual teacher. He forces you onto the horns of the dilemma and thus invites you to wrestle with the paradox. If you stay with him in the full struggle, you’ll see he eventually brings reconciliation on a higher level, beyond the conflict that he himself first illustrates.

Now, if you visit this blog very often, you’ve probably heard the words “dualism” and “dialectic” here before. We’re not going to do much with them today, besides the confession that my Dad (my Jesuit Dad) was an Hegelian Phenomenologist, and such was my upbringing, in years before “postmodernism” had yet entered the streams we inhabited. Were he alive today, I know he would be quite comfortable with the tributary into which my spiritual life has flowed, as his views and perceptions and my own have grown vastly more unified through the years. Thus, Fr. Richard’s brief words in these three paragraphs spoke volumes to me, and rang deep in my own heart and spiritual roots.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But the word I want to focus on in this post… the image I would like to place before you… the cherry bomb that dislodged the pebble that released the stone… (and so on)… is the word “Paradox”.

There! There it is! There is the essence of “mystery” about the “Christian Mystery”. There is the obstruction, the fence, the boundary, the source of all denial of Christ, and grace, and love, and God. With rapid acceleration, understanding simply “unfolded”, like the time lapse photography of a garden filled with roses.

God, His Nature, Our Salvation and Redemption, Our Union with Him, Our very knowing of Him and possession (embrace) of Eternal Life… all hinges on our willingness to surrender to Paradox! And, generally speaking, we are NOT willing to do that.

We want “Balance”. We want “self control”. We want “rationality”, “reason”, “sanity”. We want “stability” and “predictability”. Beyond all things… We want what WE WANT!

For better or worse, we belong to a God who knows so much better than our childish insights, that as He works His will, His love, His grace… it looks nothing like our own wisdom, and so seems utterly contrary to everything we think we want. Our wisdom is foolishness, but yet it is dear to us because it is our own… and constantly, we judge Him by it.

“Paradox”… His wisdom is not ours, and it looks foolish to us. It looks impossible. It looks nonsensical. Every day, every moment, we are faced with the choice of whether to accept and embrace Him in spirituality on His own terms, or whether to reject that and “redefine Him” into religion with which we are vastly more comfortable because we can exert vastly more control.

How comfortable are we, how comfortable am I, how comfortable are you… with the Paradox of Truth in God?

  • Death leads to Life
  • Jesus become Sin
  • God become Servant
  • Jesus in self, Self in Jesus
  • God become Man
  • All Sin enter One Man
  • New creation perfected, yet still prone to sin
  • All fall short, yet all made righteous through faith
  • Eating body, drinking blood, bringing life
  • Bride/Body of Christ… Church Collective AND Individual soul

Impossibiities! Illogical! Impossible! Inconceivable! Nonsense!

No words, no semantics, no theology, no logic or syllogism can render “reasonability” around these Truths.

Paul’s Epistles do not so much “argue” such propositions, as he simply proclaims, illustrates, and renders them apparent. People, readers now or hearers then, have to decide whether they are willing to embrace these as Truth, or not. Jesus did the same.

So… in a quest to experience and embrace the Immediate Presence of Transparent God… this is the first challenge.

Are we willing to embrace the Paradox of Grace, and admit the finite limitations of logic, syllogism, and clever semantic argumentation? Are we willing to allow God to take our “experience and conscious recognition of Truth”, beyond our own reasoning and rational comfort zones?

Are we willing to “apprehend” and “embrace” even what we may be constitutionally incapable of “comprehending” and “understanding”?

For most, especially those addicted to religion, the answer is “No. No we are not.” They will continue to trek between the Temple and the Mountain, arguing about which Time-Share God prefers and spends more of His sabbaths in.

But for others… bold, courageous, a bit rebellious perhaps… but for those capable of passion and deep abiding love, driven by grace and the desire to know Him, whatever that takes…

For those few, the answer may be. “Yes. Yes we are.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Which team? Which group?

Our own choice. The risks are great. But so are the rewards. The choice is always our own.

Grace to thee — The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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