The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Sarabite Manifesto- Second Edition

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.”

-John 20:31

We would need a very long discussion if we were seriously to approach the problem posed by the survival of Christianity in the modern world. From the point of view of my own experience, I can say that one of the great difficulties of Christianity- I’m thinking here of the textual criticism of the Bible- was what revealed to me a more general problem which could be formulated in the following terms: is modern man still able to understand the texts of antiquity, and live according to them? Has there been a definitive break between the contemporary world and ancient tradition?”

-Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, pgs. 278-279

This blog is not about defending one denominational position against another. It is not about convincing those who are in the darkness of one church to come into the light of another church. I am not a theologian nor am I going to pretend to be one. This blog takes another approach, and it is to answer Monsieur Hadot’s question: can we understand what has come before us as Christians and live according to these ways authentically?

My goal is not the re-formulation of the truths of the Faith for modern man. That would be too easy and only half a solution. The crisis goes must deeper than that. We must find again what it means to be a human being: to eat like a human being, to walk like a human being, to think like a human being, to laugh like a human being, and to wonder like a human being. If we fail to do this, we will read all of our theological sources, from the Bible to modern declarations of the Magisterium, as disembodied Cartesian robots more worried about obtaining the right information than about living by the Truth. We do not understand, and it is our job to seize this understanding by the glorious violence of beauty, compassion, and love. It is only the return to the sources of our Faith and classical thought with the wonder of a child that can make this possible. All other methods would only create a rationalistic and totalitarian mimicry of the Gospel.

There are neither smug answers nor magical formulas for doing this. The problem does not have to do with one theological school against another. It is neither about apologetics nor the study of history. What we are facing is a crisis of humanity, of what it means to be human and how are we are going to restore it. More specifically, it has to do with how Jesus Christ is both the paradigm and fulfillment of our humanity, how He has redeemed it, renewed it, and given it meaning.

We live in a world where cultural identity, gender, race, and hierarchy are constantly being questioned. We can neither give into this skepticism nor can we become knee-jerk reactionaries in the face of modernity. We have to ask tough questions, and we have to question the “side” that we are on, whether it is Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican or Protestant. A heightened sense of history, greater personal freedom, and even this medium of the Internet itself make these questions all the more urgent.

The point of this blog is not convince anyone of anything. I cannot demonstrate what I believe even with my cleverest arguments. The goal is to show the truth not to formulate it. Above that, though, it is to create in the midst of our world of noise and commotion a small refuge on the Internet of beauty, joy, and laughter. I hope to do this in Our Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Ghost for the glory of God the Father.

The method of this blog, then, is not to engage in long polemical battles nor is it to formulate massive summae that exhaust the complete meaning of a given doctrine. As one reader of this blog put it, I prefer to lob stones into all the right windows. That is, most of the posts will have a “prophetic” character in that their aim is to make the reader see an issue in a different light and from a different perspective. The goal is not to enlighten per se; it is to wake up and arouse us from our complacency. If I do a good job of this or not is for you to decide and you are more than free to tell me publicly or privately where I succeed or fail to do this.

All these ravings, then, are more about the road and not the destination; they are more about the means rather than the end. This is partially because I believe that our journey into the heart of God is eternal and never reaches satiety. If you think, then, that you have all of the answers, or at least all of the important answers, you are not going to like reading what I have to say. If, however, you want to throw your world out of equilibrium for at least a moment, please stick around.

And most of all, please keep in mind, I DO NOT TAKE MYSELF VERY SERIOUSLY. I have gone through too many ideological permutations in my life to make this mistake again. Thought is not an end unto itself; it is a means to achieve true beatitude. And sometimes that can come better through humor, even if my attempts at humor are not that effective.

So if you like pretty things, strange things, things that don’t make sense, and things that don’t fit into normal world views, please help me in my own quest for sanity and holiness. I really need your help and please pray for me.

-Arturo Vasquez


At 8:40 PM, Blogger axegrinder said...


Though I grieve that you and I, along with our Orthodox cyber-acquaintances and others, may not eat from the same table due to geographic and ecclesial distances, I do look forward to the day when the Good Shepherd shall gather all his wandering sheep to the Supper to end all suppers.

All the best,

Jason Kranzusch

At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arturo Vasquez, I'm amazed that someone who is a Berkeley student can also be an ex-monk, along with all the other twists and turns of your life...What God hath wrought is indeed a thing of beauty. Exito! I'm on the other side of the Bay, in unincorporated North Fair Oaks with a Menlo Park post office, just north of St. Patrick's. Mi ilusion es vivir los ultimos dias de mi vida en Solesmes, cantando las hazanas del Senor. Time will tell if the OSB will accept an old shoe like me. James Garcia

At 10:32 PM, Blogger Bijoy said...

Hi, i just surfed in searching for interesting blogs on Spirituality, you have a cool blog. Do keep up the good work. I'll be back even though i live far from where you live. its nice to be able to see what people from across the world thinks.

Warm Regards from the Other Side of the Moon.

On a related note perhaps you might find the following link interesting. Its propossing a theory and i'll like to hear your take on the subject via comments. See ya...

Jesus an Essenes ?


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At 8:41 AM, Blogger rK said...

You don't want to defend one position over another? Maybe you should.

You don't take yourself seriously? Maybe you should.

Now is the time in the course of human events where the invention of New Religion finds itself demanded.

You have a beautiful mind, but I see that you worry too much about the internet judging you harshly and I worry this will obscure from you the truths you seek. Please be brave.

At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came across your blog by accident as I was researching the meaning of sarabite. I am not sure about what you are trying to say considering your seeming knowledge of religion and articulate mastery of the English language. I can only refer to this phrase once said by ?: "one must believe, so that one might understand." I hope my comment is not more confusing than your blog.

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