Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Swimming the Atlantic

Everything is bound up in freedom, and the creature has the freedom to turn the positive exitus of its creation around, as it were, to rupture it in the Fall: this is the refusal to be dependent, saying No to the reditus. Love is seen as dependence and is rejected. In its place comes autonomy and autarchy: existing from oneself and in oneself, being a god of one’s own making. The arch from exitus to reditus is broken, the return is no longer desired, and ascent by one’s powers proves to be impossible.
Spirit of the Liturgy, 33
Reflection – The language of exitus-reditus is classical, entering Christian theology through the neo-Platonism of early writers such as pseudo-Dionysius et al., and central to the thought of medieval scholastics such as Aquinas and Bonaventure.

OK, so that sounds all erudite and stuff and proves I went to school – so wassitmean?

Going out from God so as to return to God—this is the basic structure and movement of all created reality, and most especially the creature man. ‘We come from the mind of God and return to the heart of God,’ was Catherine Doherty’s poetic expression of the principle. God made something that is ‘not-God’ so that this not-God could enter into a communion of love with Himself. And this is the whole story, the sweeping movement of the entire action of God, as far as our poor human minds can understand it.

Of course, freedom is at the heart of all this. It is no communion of love if there is no freedom. God is not a rapist, forcing Himself on us. It’s a very subtle dynamic, one which we don’t fully understand. We do not actually have the freedom to enter communion with God, any more than we have the freedom to swim the Atlantic ocean or fly to the top of Mount Everest. It is beyond us.

But our freedom is required, to dispose ourselves towards that reditus, that return to God. God has to achieve the deed, but our willingness to co-operate with Him is necessary. He will not force us to love Him, even though the power by which we love Him is ultimately given to us by Him.

And so, being free, we can refuse. The exitus can become not just a going out from, but a going away from. In truth, we go out only to return: the exitus is only and absolutely for the sake of the reditus. But something in us rebels at this, there is no question. We want something of our own, something that is not God’s and is not to do with God.

There is nothing of that nature in existence. And so the flight away from God is a flight into nothingness, oblivion. It is supremely ironic; we flee from God because we reject the utter dependence and servility of our position with Him. But in fleeing from God we discover the shocking totality of our poverty and nothingness: we cannot ascend to the heights by our own power. And so we collapse into various forms of slavery and degradation: enslaved to the passions, to the spirit of the age, to the devil’s machinations, ultimately to the inevitability of death and destruction.

Meanwhile, God in his mercy awaits our return. And the way back is as near as the nearest altar, as the nearest confessional, the local parish. The book quoted here is Spirit of the Liturgy, after all, and Ratzinger is talking about where this reditus occurs.

It occurs through, with, and in Jesus, and Jesus is with us most fully, most assuredly in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Well, this is kind of a funny post. I’ve been wading into controversy upon controversy the past week or so, and wrestling with the complexities of dialogue and encounter with the other. I guess it is good, after all that, to come to rest in a simple statement of what we really believe life is all about. It’s not about controversy; it’s not about gender theory; it’s not about abortion or same-sex marriage or the host of contentious issues that plague us in our day.

It is about God, our coming forth from Him in love, and our return to Him in and through the grace of Jesus Christ. It is true that we can reject this and fly off into all sorts of illusory and false ‘alternative realities.’ But the Truth is always not just out there, but near at hand, and available to us. And it is ultimately not a dogma, not a position, not an argument, but a Person and a Love which runs out to meet us and enfolds us in His care at every moment, comes to carry us home into the Father’s house, into the heart of God.

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