Pr, Florescu, de la Edinburg, un prieten drag, întâlnirile cu care sunt întotdeauna un eveniment de poveste, a publicat ieri pe blogul său un text cu adevărat profetic legat de sărbătoarea Pastelui.
Iata aici fragmentul de început.
De la Ierusalim la Emaus erau 60 de stadii, adică ceva mai puțin de 12 kilometri (Luca 24,13-35). Dar în duminica învierii Domnului drumul acesta se va face distanța nesfârșită dintre instituția credinței și împărăția cea vie a lui Dumnezeu.
Este aceeași distanță dintre religie și credință, pe care cei mai mulți credincioși, din păcate ținuți în captivitatea ritualică a religiei chiar de preoții lor care în aceste zile se pozează pe facebook în posturi dramatice, nu o vor străbate niciodată.
De aici și sentimentul general de insecuritate, de sfârșitul lumii, de dezorientare spirituală: unde să te mai duci, unde să-l mai găsești pe Dumnezeu, atunci când toate drumurile tale au fost în afară și n-ai fost învățat să călătorești înlăuntrul tău.
Vă încurajez să citiți AICI restul textul, care este la fel de miezos ca și introducerea.
Most of the Western Christians – Catholics, mainline Protestants and evangelicals, look at the cross of Christ through the lens of a legal metaphor. According to it, God created humans and gave them his commands. At the devil’s temptation, they disobeyed God, whose honour, as head of the universe, was utterly offended. Because of human rebellion, called sin, God cursed the entire creation. And thus, death entered our world. At the peak of history, God sent his son into the world, to die for us, so that the guilt for Adam’s fall and our sinfulness could be atoned for. Through Christ’s terrible death, justice was done for the breaking of God’s law, and God’s wrath was appeased. The penalty for our sins was paid (let us not ask ‘to whom exactly’, as this may lead us into all sorts of strange theories). If humans believed that Christ died for their sins (what is usually called the ‘penal substitution theory’) they would be saved, and when Christ comes back, at the end of history, he will take them with him to heaven, while this world will perish in flames. As to those who did not believe, God, in his wrath, has prepared for them the eternal fire of hell.
I imagine many of my readers would be familiar with this perspective, maybe it is also their own, even if they might be disturbed here and there by the way I phrased things. This is the perspective behind Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of Christ, and of many of the western depictions – cinematic, literary or theological, of the events we rememorate at this time in the church calendar. For some, this is the only correct way of understanding the story of Christ. For them, this is the Gospel.
Yet, this is by no means the only way to look at it, and, dare I say, not the best way of accounting for Christ’s incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension. The Eastern Church and the Celtic Church viewed the cross through a radically different lens, which we may call generically, the Christus victor motif. In what follows, I will talk more of the Celtic version of the story.
During this period of Lent, the first I ever spent in Scotland, I did two things which gave me a somewhat different perspective on Easter. First, I followed the daily readings from David Cole’s book Celtic Lent: 40 Days of Devotions to Easter. Second, I am watching at this time the Vikings series, which begins with the first incursion of the Norsemen on the Monastery of Lindisfarne on the Holy Island, the famous Celtic religious centre in Northumbria, which I had the privilege of visiting a number of times.
Cole talks often in this book about the Christus victor metaphor that informed the Celts’ understanding of Christ’s sacrifice, not as a ransom to appease God’s wrath, but as the culmination of a hero saga, in which the Dryhtnes (the Celtic word for Lord, which was originally the designation of a warlord in charge of a band of warriors) becomes victorious in his battle against the invisible forces of evil, in spite of his terrible death, precisely because death is followed by resurrection. And that not because God’s wrath has been appeased, but because death was the entry door for the hero to be received in triumph at his return in the angelic world (the Christian version of Valhalla, if you want).
Watching in the Vikings the painful and courageous death of Ragnar Lothbrok, helped me understand much better how this metaphor worked in the minds of Celtic Christians. To be fair, being a moderate pacifist, I am more attracted to the peaceful metaphors of the Gospel in the biblical text (grain of wheat, mustard seed, light, yeast, etc.) and I have an instinctive negative reaction to the aggressive metaphors favoured for instance by the American obsession with ‘cultural wars’. Though, this may have not been so much of a problem for the Celts, who were (and their hers still are) short tempered, very passionate people, constantly engaged in war between themselves and with others.
However, the Christian version of the Celtic cult of the hero has nothing to do with physical fighting or waging ‘holy wars’, supposedly for the spreading the Gospel, which dominated so much of Medieval Christendom, booth in the East and the West, but it is about spiritual warfare against the demonic forces of evil, of which Paul the apostle speaks in Ephesians 6.
This reminds me of a very insightful observation made by Michael Green in his book Evangelism in the Early Church. He argues there that when Peter the apostle preached to the Jews, the recipients of the law of Moses, he spoke of sin as breach of God’s law and of salvation in terms of propitiation for their lawlessness. However, when Paul spoke to the Greeks, who had no law of God revealed to them (besides the testimony of God in nature and their own conscience, as Paul shows in the book of Romans), the apostle spoke of evil in terms of people being enslaved by fear of the primordial forces of evil, and he presented salvation in terms of liberation from under the oppression of these forces and the adoption of these Gentiles as daughters and sons of the God of love, who sacrificed his own son in order to liberate them and give them life in all its fulness, the resurrection of Christ being the guarantee of this promise, which was to be accepted by faith.
Because of their cultural resemblance, I find the Celtic view of Easter much closer to the way in which Paul preached to the Greeks. Same was true, I guess, about Viking culture. As a result, the Norsemen may have been victorious against the Scots and the Anglo-Saxons, but, in the end, they themselves were conquered spiritually by the Christus victor, the Dryhtnes, the hero, whose glorious victory we remember and celebrate these days.
So, I invite you to look at the cross with new eyes and to get enriched with this new perspective, which will give new meaning to your song ‘Christ is risen’.
Though I deeply admire the Desert Fathers and Mothers, I must be completely honest with you. There is much about them that I do not find attractive or helpful. And it is important to share that here, or you might pick up one of the collections of their “sayings” and throw it out as unreal, dualistic, naïve, and pre-rational—all of which, I think, would be largely true. The desert mystics represent a level of human consciousness and historical development that we have collectively moved far beyond. And yet, I still admire and even need to learn from them! Let me use the desert abbas and ammas to illustrate an important point for understanding many historical personages and traditions (and even the Scriptures themselves).
Contemporary philosopher Ken Wilber offers a helpful distinction between stages and states.  Your stage is your outer awareness. Your state is your inner aliveness. The goal is to be both holy and whole, saintly and wise. But your state and stage don’t always coincide; many of us are stronger in one area than another.
You can be a high-level thinker and be quite astute about psychology, theology, history, or philosophy (a high stage), but do it all from a perspective of individualism and arrogance about that very information (a low state)—because it is still all about “you.” Conversely, you could be quite unified within and with others, in a high state of loving consciousness, but be poorly informed, lacking in exposure and education to helpful and informative knowledge.
Perhaps you know people who are compassionate and kind yet still reveal prejudicial attitudes. They may seem hypocritical but are simply at a high state and a low stage. Love will win out in them and goodness will flow through them, even if they don’t have the gift of teaching or of understanding complex or contradictory issues. They are holy but not whole, saintly but not “smart.”
This describes many Desert Fathers and Mothers: having high states of union but by today’s standards low levels of cultural, historic, or intellectual exposure to coherent thinking. Enjoy them for their state, but do not hate them for their stage! Today we have large segments of the population with the opposite problem: high stages of intellectual exposure with very low levels of unitive consciousness—very smart but without awe, humility, or love, which the Desert Fathers and Mothers had in spades!
Many of the desert sayings may sound naïve, simplistic, and even dangerous, but try to receive the simple wisdom of the desert mystics with an open heart and mind in the coming days and let it lead you to authentic joy. Perceive and enjoy their state of loving union; don’t dismiss them for living in a pre-rational society. Perhaps holding this tension compassionately for them will help us do the same for people in our own time.
Gateway to Action & Contemplation: What word or phrase resonates with or challenges me? What sensations do I notice in my body? What is mine to do?
Prayer for Our Community: O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us. May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all beings. Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world. [Please add your own intentions.] . . . Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God, amen.
clearly believed in change. In fact, the first public word out of his
mouth was later translated into the Greek imperative verb metanoeite, which
literally means “change your mind” or “go beyond your mind” (see
Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15). Unfortunately, in the fourth century, St.
Jerome translated the word into Latin as paenitentia (“repent”
or “do penance”), initiating a host of moralistic connotations that have
colored Christians’ understanding of the Gospels ever since. The word metanoeite referred to a primal change of mind, worldview, or way of processing and perceiving—and
only by corollary about a specific
change in behavior. This common misunderstanding puts the cart before
the horse; we think we can change a few externals while our underlying
worldview often remains narcissistic and self-referential.
misunderstanding contributed to a puritanical, externalized, and
largely static notion of the Christian message that has followed us to
this day. Faith became about external requirements that could be
enforced, punished, and rewarded, much more than an actual change of heart and mind, which
Jesus described as something that largely happens “in secret, where
your Father who sees in secret can reward you” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18).
Jesus invariably emphasized inner motivation and intention.
For example, he taught: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall
not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman
with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew
5:27-28). Jesus made religion about interior change and “purity of
heart” (Matthew 5:8) more than visible behaviors or rituals or anything
that would have a social payoff or punishment.
Jesus didn’t focus on individual sin outside or over there,
where we can point to it,
punish it, and try to change it. That is too easy and mostly
ineffective. Without making light of evil, he showed how to actually
overcome and heal it. Sin, for Jesus, was the very act of accusing (Satan means “the accuser”). Whenever
we try to expel and accuse others, and somehow leave ourselves or our
group out of the equation, we end up “sinning.” We must first recognize
our own complicity in evil before we can transform it. We see this
pattern when Jesus himself was faced with three temptations to power
(Matthew 4:1-11). Until we face our own demons, none of us are prepared
to fight evil elsewhere.
Jesus thus stood in solidarity with individuals who were excluded,
deemed unworthy, or demonized. Why? Because the excluded from any group always reveal the unquestioned idolatries of that group!
He even partied with sinners and tax collectors, and the “pure” hated
him for it (see Luke 15:2). The way Jesus tried to change people was by
loving and healing them, accusing only their accusers. Why did we not
notice that? His harshest words of judgment were reserved for those who
perpetuated systems of inequality and oppression and who, through
religion itself, thought they were sinless and untouchable. Jesus did not so much love people once they changed, but he loved people so that they could change.
calling this year’s theme “Old and New: An Evolving Faith.” The term
“evolution” may be challenging for some Christians who believe that
science and the Bible contradict each other. We’ll look more closely at
the Bible (and how Jesus interpreted it) next week, and later this year
we’ll focus on Creation and science. For now, let’s simply consider how
the inner process of change and growth is fundamental to everything,
even our bodies. Having undergone several surgeries, cancer, and a heart
attack, I’ve been consoled by the way my body takes care of itself over
time. The miracle of healing comes from the inside—but with help from
religion, however, many prefer magical, external, one-time transactions
instead of the universal pattern of growth and healing—which is always
through loss and renewal. This is the way that life perpetuates itself
in ever-new forms: through various changes that can feel like death. The
pattern disappoints and scares most of us, even many clergy who think
death and resurrection is just a doctrinal statement about the lone
is not a single discipline today that does not recognize change,
development, growth, and
some kind of evolving phenomenon: psychology, cultural anthropology,
history, physical sciences, philosophy, social studies, drama, music, on
and on. But in theology’s search for the Real Absolute, it imagined a
static “unmoved mover,” as Aristotelian philosophy called it, a solid
substance sitting above somewhere. Theology has struggled to imagine
that once God includes us in the narrative then God is for sure
changing! Is that not what the Bible—at its core—is saying? We matter to
God and God thus allows us to change the narrative of history . . . and
the narrative of God.
Religion tends to prefer and protect the status quo or the supposedly wonderful past, yet what we now see is
that religion often simply preserves its own power and privilege. God does not need our protecting. We often worship old things as substitutes for eternal things.
Jesus strongly rejects this love of the past and one’s private
perfection, and he cleverly quotes Isaiah (29:13) to do it: “In vain do
they worship me, teaching merely human precepts as if they were
doctrines” (Matthew 15:9). Many of us seem to think that God really is
“back there,” in the good ol’ days of old-time religion when God was
really God, and everybody was happy and pure. This leaves the present
moment empty and hopeless—not to speak of the future.
keeps creating things from the inside out,
so they are forever yearning, developing, growing, and changing for the
good. This is the generative force implanted in all living things, which
grow both from within—because they are programmed for it—and from
without—by taking in sun, food, and water. Picture YHWH breathing into
the soil that became Adam (Genesis 2:7). That is the eternal pattern.
God is still breathing into soil every moment!
Evolutionary thinking is actually contemplative thinking
because it leaves the full field of the future in God’s hands and
agrees to humbly hold the present with what it only tentatively knows
for sure. Evolutionary thinking must agree to both knowing and not
knowing, at the same time.
This is hard for the egoically bound self. It wants to fully know—now—which is never true anyway.
Astazi am primit de la prieteenul meu, preotul reformat Levente Horvath, aceasta frumoasa meditatie de ziua ea de nastere, pe care, cu permisiunea lui, o impartasesc aici cu voi.
* * *
Dragul meu Dănuț!
Cum am putea defini detașarea? Pentru mine detașarea înseamnă a fi eliberat de mine însumi și a mă preda lui Dumnezeu în mod necondiționat. Îmi este greu să mă las singur, să mă eliberez de mine însumi. Să ne amintim chiar de Fiul lui Dumnezeu, căruia de asemenea i-a fost greu, să fie lăsat singur (Mt 27,46) și chiar abandonat de Tatăl. Detașarea înseamnă că îmi iau grija de pe mine și mă las să cad necondiționat în mâinile lui Dumnezeu. Este greu, nu numai din cauza păcatului, ci si din cauza fragilității și vulnerabilității mele psihice și mentale ca om. Adevărul palpitant este că Dumnezeu nu mă lasă niciodată singur. Totuși, când eu însumi mă las singur, este un test înfricoșător de credință. Când harul mă surprinde, sunt prins în abandonarea lui Dumnezeu. Atunci viața mea în totalitate este preluată de Cel pe care Îl abandonez, neavând nici o pretenție de la El. Detașarea înseamnă că nimic și nimeni nu îmi datorează nimic, ba mai degrabă că eu îi sunt dator altuia. Nici pe Dumnezeu nu–l mai consider a-mi fi dator cu nimic. L-aș putea lăsa chiar pe Dumnezeu să plece. Prin urmare, numai atunci este posibilă ascultarea. Îl ascult ca un fiu adoptat, nu ca slujitor sau sclav. În mod rezonabil, Dumnezeu merită o ascultare pe măsură dumnezeiască; Lui nu-i suntem datori cu nimic mai puțin decât atât. Doar Fiul a putut să arate Tatălui acest fel de ascultare. Filiația lui Isus se bazează pe egalitatea Persoanelor Trinității. Prin urmare, ascultarea autentică poate fi posibilă numai între cei egali. Eu am fost făcut fiu al lui Dumnezeu prin adopție. Prin urmare, o ascultare pe scala lui Dumnezeu este posibilă numai prin Spiritul înfierii (adopției). Doar Dumnezeu este capabil să asculte de Dumnezeu. Prin adoptare pot să ascult; un slujitor nu poate, dar un fiu poate. Sunt ascultător doar astfel, pentru că nu îmi stă în putere ca om să fiu ascultător. Ceea ce este imposibil la om, este posibil lui Dumnezeu. Trebuie să cred în adevărul paradoxal că Dumnezeu „acestora [Egiptenilor] le-a schimbat inima, ca să urască poporul Lui și să se poarte mișelește cu slujitorii Săi” (Ps.105,25). Dumnezeu hotărăște orice vrea El, și totuși, eu sunt răspunzător pentru tot ceea ce este păcătos; hotărârea lui Dumnezeu nu putea servi drept scuză pentru poporul lui Faraon. Trebuie să-i las lui Dumnezeu libertate ca El să decidă ceea ce Îi place; totuși eu pot mă pot feri de auto-justificare. Dintre toate creaturile, numai oamenilor li s-a dat cel mai mare privilegiu, acela de a nu avea dreptate împotriva lui Dumnezeu, așa cum a spus Kierkegaard. Fie ca El să ne binecuvânteze cu o asemenea libertate și detașare, să ne bucurăm de privilegiul că nu trebuie să ne mai auto-justificăm!