Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A runny thought on theological speculation

There's a lurid wanderlust in the spiritual speech of many Western Christians, roots of which go way back. Imagination, speculation, and sentimentality are the basic hallmarks of this non-ascetical approach to theological reflection. Some find grand allegorical meaning in the mysteries of astronomy and calendrical science; others in musicology, paleoanthropology, linguistics, mathematics or any intricate body of knowledge. What unifies them all is a spirit or mind that finds some solace or satisfaction in special, secret knowledge that is not accessible to the common man. Without a prior fragmentation of Catholic truth, such speculation would be close to impossible. But the Catholica has been shattered and become a buffet. We're now at liberty to pick our favorite pieces of the Truth and fetishize them, always licensed and sometimes emboldened by the enforcement structure of the institutional Church to rebut any criticism with an indignant "Well, it's true." It's not the same spirit as the allegorical style of the Fathers.

From Opuscula Theologica
Yesterday was mid-winter, the shortest day of the year. From now on the days will become brighter and longer, reminding us of the Light of the world, born in Bethlehem, and of the never ending day of His Second Coming.

“Again the darkness is past; again Light is made; again Egypt is punished with darkness; again Israel is enlightened by a pillar (cf. Ex. 14:20). The people that sat in the darkness of ignorance, let it see the Great Light of full knowledge (cf. Isa. 9:6). Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new (cf. I Cor. 5:17). The letter gives way; the Spirit comes to the front. The shadows flee away; the Truth comes in upon them. Melchisedec is concluded (cf. Heb. 7:3). He that was without Mother becomes without Father (without Mother of His former state, without Father of His second). The laws of nature are upset; the world above must be filled. Christ commands it, let us not set ourselves against Him. O clap your hands together all you people (cf. Ps. 47:1), because to us a Child is born, and a Son given to us, Whose Government is upon His shoulder (for with it the Cross is raised up), and His Name is called The Angel of the Great Counsel of the Father (cf. Isa. 9:6).”

- St. Gregory the Theologian
No carelessly inflected slogans/truisms here. All pure theologia, not academic, pedantic, or esoteric knowledge. St. Gregory's speculative imagery and allegory (eg, solstice) is grounded directly in the spirit and mind of Christ, not just in "objective facts" about his existence or coming. May we attain to this spirit/mind of our Doctor Fathers. We effectively deny and spit on the (personal) Spirit of Truth when we speak with emotions, attitudes, or poses that diverge from Christ's very own. The eyes of the Sacred Victim turned on Peter (us), at his denial should convict us more and purge from us the filthy bile that spews from our bowels whenever we engage in theological banter. It's not what we profess that matters as much as how we profess it. It's not even what we believe so much as how we believe. Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life is directed at the HOW, not just the what.