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

Saturday, August 11, 2007

On Truth Again and Other Matters

In a recent conversation with AG, I came up with an analogy that might aide in the clarification of certain ideas described in a recent post:

Say you are to be introduced to a person who you have never met. You will be given an extremely detailed description of how he looks, his mannerisms, and his personality. You will also be given all of his personal data: his age, his place of birth, his occupation... all the way to his favorite food and his pet's name.

You could be given volumes and volumes about this man. And it would be plausible to say that you somehow know him. But you have never met him. You don't know what his face looks like when he meets someone for the first time. You do not know what the verbal quirks in his speech sound like, the rhythm of his gait, the look in his eye when he is bored, etc. Unless you have met him, you know a lot of things about him, but you don't really know him.

And that is the difference between knowing the Truth and knowing facts. And this is arguably the difference between contemplation and the processing of data. The Truth is intuitive because it always entails a force greater than our reason that sheds light on what we think. Oftentimes, it is as if something from the outside triggers the Truth within us so that, to quote Plotinus, we find that which is outside becomes "congenial, concordant, a friend".

I have recently got myself in a bit of trouble on this question on the Reformed Catholicism site when I made some comments on the development of doctrine. To tell the truth, I don't want to "go there" right now since the only thing that I will stand by in my comments is that history is very loud in its silences, and to pretend to know the mind of those who came before you is very difficult. It could be argued that we are all trapped in postmodern hermeneutic prejudices that taint everything we analyze. This may have always been the case, but we are much more conscious of it now.

The issue I will touch upon is what I once addressed partially in this post, and it has to do with the analogy that I posed above. I have a real problem with any idea about the legitimacy of the Church that excludes the life of the Church itself in its considerations. That is, I am not really concerned with what rules, principles, historical facts, etc. constitute, define, formulate, etc. the Church. Perhaps it is my intellectual myopia at work, but I am much more concerned with what the Church looks like, how it acts and how it breaths. I am much more fascinated with the Church as a heaving organism vibrant with life. I suppose one must know the rules, principles, etc. to know the life of the Church, but it is arguable that both sides of this equation feed off of each other, just as the phrase "legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi" is interchangeable in its two parts.

When I think of the Church, I always think of this South American procession that I witnessed as a seminarian where I literally witnessed a human wave of "here comes everybody": the poor, the rich, the saint, the sinner, the fervent, the bored, etc. etc. As in ancient Greek philosophies, I am more interested in contemplating the Church as the transfigured cosmos, as the confrontation or wrestling of sinful man with Almighty God. This, it seems to me, is far more marvelous in its scope than what often passes for theology, and it does indeed make the human mind feel its own smallness in the face of so great a mystery. This is not to belittle knowing "the facts" about the Church, but among the positive things that arose out of Vatican II, the idea that the Church is the "universal sacrament of salvation" means that the Church is larger than "just the facts".

And just as there is a difference between knowing information about someone and meeting him face to face, so it is that how the Church lives its life day to day must be incorporated into any apologetic of the Church. That is the difference between knowing and arguing things about the Church, and knowing the Church.


At 4:56 PM, Blogger Carlos said...

I love the analogy of the church as a living organism. It is not some stoic machine that was created entirely by human hands and proceeds along a pre-determined line of rules and laws (albeit there are canons and doctrine that do guide the church though this may very well be like the law of gravity that acts upon an organism and keeps it from floating into space, much as doctrine keeps us from floating off into heresy), but rather lives and breathes, like the human body, complete with a soul/ the spirit, that God gave to guide it.

In regards to the reformed catholicism site, it seems they are some sort of Lutheran/Anglican convoluted Protestant group that attempts to reconcile them to the Catholic faith. I love the statement of who they are, starts off good then then becomes more or less a list of what they are not... as oppossed to what they...


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