Sunday, March 07, 2021

In his steps

I watched a (to me) interesting 17-part documentary in which a couple of Coptic monks at St. Anthony's explained their life and the reasons for it--and the purpose of tradition. I found this episode ironic: they extoll the blessing of being able to put your feet where St. Anthony put his.

In a way this is the exact opposite of detaching yourself from attachments to the world. The highest things for them should be the mass and prayer, with nothing between them and God. That St. Anthony walked there is a mere accident in comparison.

But it's natural to sense a connection with other people through things. "This was my great-grandmother's lace." "My father gave me that knife." "My granddaughter made that card for me." "This is where Degas used to sit and paint." "Her icon is a window to Saint Magdalene."

I think it was meant to be that way; that we were meant to incarnate love through action in the world. Because God is love, that means that we have a role in making God immanent in His world, a role in creation. (This isn't "free-form" "love," of course.) Grandfather's gift is an incarnation of his love, and through him of God's love.

To aim for complete detachment in a cave seems wrong to me. It is ungrateful--unwilling to put love into and receive love from the world. We weren't put in a desert, after all, but a garden. But the other side, clinging to souvenirs rather than holding them lightly for God, is clearly wrong.

I, of course, tend to cling and detach exactly backwards from what I ought.

Jesus built a number of things, which I assume all wore out long ago. He also healed a large number of people, fed a lot of people, produced quite a lot of very good wine--all long gone, except from God's presence. What would you do if you could get one of the yokes Jesus made? See Justin Martyr From the fact that none seem to exist anymore, I guess people used them for what He made them for. I wonder which approach He would prefer.

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I have been thinking about this the last couple of days. We are not abstractions, we exist in a world that has fish, and fingernails, and fleas. The Orthodox and other eastern traditions have apophatic theology, less-used in the West. God is good, but not good as we understand it; God is loving, but his love is not as ours. There's some of it in CS Lewis, in both Screwtape and , that while pictures of some sort are unavoidable, we should always take care to remind ourselves that He is Not Thus. Our attachment to things is much the same. We cannot learn anything about love, or goodness, or beauty without them, yet each much ultimately be released.

This has a poignancy this evening in that a deeply sentimental item is currently lost in the mail on its way to my son in Houston.