Getting to Know the Real St. Francis
Imagine that you have never seen a mirror, much less had a picture taken of yourself or broadcast your image on social media. Imagine, as well, that you’ve never taken advantage of a still pool of water to admire yourself. How would you know what you look like? Lost within our modern culture is the fact that the face is not created for its owner. For eons, human beings had little idea of how they looked other than what they were told by others. That is the true normal.
Nothing is more truly “personal” than the face. In Greek, the word for person, “prosopon,” means “face.” What we mean by the word “person” is a metaphorical extension of the face. Within, or upon, the face is placed “who we are.” But this reality is distorted by the modern fascination with our own face. What is most important about the face is not how I look, but how we look to each other, face-to-face.
When theologians get technical about the notion of “personhood,” they quickly tell us that it is “relational.” My face is only revealed as my face when it is seen by another face. Or, more correctly, when it is seen looking at another face by the other face. We only know ourselves as we see ourselves in the faces of others.
In a culture that increasingly exists as a mirror (selfie’s and such), true self-knowledge is more difficult. In a manner of speaking, looking inward at the mirror is looking in the wrong direction. Our psychologized society tends to direct our attention towards the self. “I have been working on some issues,” we say. But, if the faith is true, and love is that which most truly heals us, then the answer is not within my own face (gazing in the mirror), but in the encounter with others.
I have been writing, from time to time, on the topic of shame. It is an emotion that can be entirely crippling. Ironically, it is something that cannot be healed alone. One psychologist defines shame as “how the self sees the self.” Shame fears being seen. But it is only in revealing shame in the context of love and safety that its wounds can be identified and healed. Of course, it is a very deep wound within our “person,” for shame creates a wall between ourselves and others. And, not so strange, the primary expression of shame is looking away, or looking down. Shame does not want to see face-to-face.
But, my thoughts in this article, are on personhood, what does it mean to exist “personally.” I will suggest that we think of it as “who-I-am-as-I-see-and-as-I-am-seen.” These are simultaneous and cannot be separated. We are told by Christ, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” God can only be seen face-to-face because He is personal. The Lutheran Theologian, Robert Jenson, once said, “The Father only knows Himself as He sees Himself in the Son.” This is true. The very names by which God has made Himself known show this. The term “Father” has no meaning in isolation. “Father of whom?” we have to ask. “Son,” is the same. And if we understood the word for “Spirit,” we would know that it is the word “breath.” “Who’s breath?” In every case within the Trinity, there is only being-in-and-towards-the-other.
For convenience sake, we have created a false consciousness in which things-in-relation are separated and discussed as though they stood alone without reference. We imagine our human existence in this manner, though it is never true. We have no such existence. Everything within the created order has this same characteristic. Nothing exists apart from everything else that exists. But this is a difficult way to think (much less speak). And so, we resort (for convenience sake) to a shorthand version of existence, soon forgetting that it is shorthand and mistaking it for what is real and true.
This leads to the nonsense of atheist speech. If I say, “I am,” (which must be said before I say anything about myself), I have already invoked God, who is our being. Nothing has existence in and of itself, except God. He is the “author of our being.” He is “That-Within-Which-We-Exist.” He is thus a part of every conversation whether acknowledged or not. We speak God. He is the Logos, That-Which-Is-The-Order-of-All-Things. We do not make random noises when we speak, but evoke an order and grammar, meaning and sense, none of which exists apart from the Logos.
The most revealing thing within human history is the appearing of Jesus Christ in our midst. In this coming-among-us, we see the face of God. That face alone can tell us who we truly are. I can only know myself as I see myself in Him. He is the face of God and the face of man. I do not exist apart from His face, nor does Christ, as man, exist apart from us. It is only when we turn our faces away from Him, or worse yet, become enthralled to the false mirrors we have created, that we cease to exist, or begin a movement in that direction. In that movement, and its distorted mirror, the fullness and the wholeness of all things are swallowed up in the madness of solipsism. Nothing makes sense by itself, in itself, for itself. Nothing can be seen truly in that manner.
We have a greater hope.
And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. (Rev. 22:3-4)
Admittedly, our present situation can’t be blamed entirely on a rigorous relativism. Most people aren’t relativist when it comes to things in which they strongly believe. The fact is that generations of Americans have been actively taught that their country and culture are not worthy of loyalty. The traitor class doesn’t want you just to believe that your civilization is no better or worse than others; It wants you to believe that it is the worst that history has ever produced. Moreover, the traitor class has conditioned generations of students to believe in a new set of loyalties—loyalty above all to diversity and multiculturalism (and perhaps also to whatever multinational company for which one happens to work).
The upshot is that those who stifle free speech for the sake of protecting Islam from criticism, or those who cover up for cultures that are misogynistic, anti-Semitic, and anti-Christian may actually believe that they are serving their country.
Sir John Harington, a member of Queen Elizabeth I’s court, composed numerous trenchant epigrams. One of the most famous is this one:
Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?
Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.
The logic is impeccable. Once the traitors have taken power, it’s dangerous to call them traitors. Today, treason is prospering in America as never before. Professors, politicians, and pundits who are willing to jeopardize their country’s safety for the sake of a fashionable narrative will be well-rewarded in terms of salaries, promotions, and honors. By the same token, those who dare speak out about the dangers of Islamization will be increasingly at risk.
Once again, I am not speaking of treason in its narrowly defined Constitutional sense, but in its broader sense of a betrayal of trust or a breach of allegiance. You can’t be hanged for committing treason in the broader sense, but this kind of treason still has its victims, and some of them suffer profoundly. For an instructive example, let’s switch from the U.S. to the U.K. In Rotherham, England, gangs of Muslim rapists victimized teenage girls for a period of 15 years with almost complete impunity. Police, town council members, child protection workers and the media knew about the crimes. (With 1,400 victims, how could they not know?) Yet they chose to cover up the crimes. They betrayed the girls and their families because they didn’t want to be thought racist or “Islamophobic.” In a grotesque inversion of priorities they protected the Muslim gangs and allowed the lives of the girls to be ruined. This may not be treason in the narrowly defined sense, but any sane person would recognize it as a profound betrayal. It is with good reason that some in Britain have taken to calling the governing class the “traitor class.” And there is good reason to believe that a similar class is already well-established in America.
There have been some amazing inventions in technology over the years. I remember when we went to the first birthday of my niece’s newborn son. The town we went to was small many years ago but today it is one of the fastest growing suburbs of Austin Texas. Finding the location of the birthday party would have been very difficult forty years ago but made easy today with GPS navigation.
In 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, two viewpoints are considered; the world view and the God view. Pointed out is that the wisdom of this world has been made to look foolish at times. If you think about the history of the world, I think we could all agree that experts in various fields seem to miss what should be obvious. Wrong data is captured and various opinions interfere in the accuracy.
Yet, the God view allows us to factor in…
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I recently wrote a reflection for preachers in our current time, and shared it with Ministry Matters. Here is that reflection on the preachers who pander to the political powers, and the call to be gospel preachers with integrity and courage. I hope it is an encouraging word for you in your work for today.
There’s a history of preachers attempting to ingratiate themselves with the powerful; some clergy are always willing to sacrifice the gospel in exchange for proximity to the crown. Louis XIV had his pet court preachers like Bossuet and Massillon who came to Versailles and, in elegant sermons, told the Sun King what he wanted to hear. Encountering mild resistance from some German Protestant preachers, Hitler elevated a prominent pastor, Ludwig Müller, to the role of Reich bishop in his new German Church and the majority of the churches stepped into line behind the…
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Orthodoxy Represents Our Original Incompetency
— Read on blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2018/09/11/orthodoxy-represents-our-original-incompetency/
December 10 looms large in the life story of Thomas Merton.
He entered the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky on December 10, 1941, and died tragically in Thailand in an electrical accident on December 10, 1968—45 years ago today.
He was 53.Considering the Incarnation, he once wrote words that seem fitting for Advent:
Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room.
His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world.
Thank you, Fr. Louis. Thank you.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…