HOW GOD WORKS IN TIMES OF TRANSITION
Mary Troxell, a philosophy professor at Boston College, once wrote,
"My first mistake was becoming Catholic. ... Then in college I became a Marxist atheist. ... Then the worst mistake of all - I got a job! ... They say that God draws straight with crooked lines."
To get us started, I've attached Prof. Troxell's essay, plus an essay by Fr. William Leahy SJ. If you have time, I recommend them! But whether you get them read or not, please do come to our café evening. Be ready to share some of the best mistakes in your life, and how God drew good things even out of your bad decisions.
WHAT IS LIMINAL THEOLOGY?
The power and the mercy of God are revealed at the margins, at the spaces in between, in the hard to define or classify.
Theologians call this idea "liminal theology". Josef Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) often spoke of this "liminal condition" in connection with purgatory. For example, in the encyclical Spe salvi (2007), he wrote,
"Very few people experience pure goodness or pure evil, but always something in between. ... Our experience of life, and our experience of judgement, is always at the intersection of God's justice and God's mercy. But no one lives alone, no one sins alone, no one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. ... So where does my purgatory end and the next person's begin?" (Spe salvi, par. 47-48)
St. Francis of Assisi (13th cent.) said it with a picture: he called this transition between God's mercy and God's judgement "the seraphic confusion - the confusion of the angels". Only when I admit that I am totally confused and cannot figure my own life out, said the saint of Assisi, do I give the Holy Spirit room to work. We have to leave our comfort zones and embrace the confusion. (here is an essay)
Already in the 10th century, St. Symeon the New Theologian - called "the Last Father of the Church" - said that the human being inhabited a world of in between, where weakness leads to strength and our crookedness becomes Gods directness. For in the beginning, God breathed out the Universe, and now He inhales the Universe back into Himself, and human life takes place at the turning of God's breath. He wrote:
O Christ, behold my affliction,
behold my faintheartedness,
behold my powerlessness,
behold my beggary,
behold my feebleness,
and have pity on me, O Logos! ...
And God said:
“Why do you expect to constrain Me with words, O children of the humans?
And why do you senselessly say that I hide my face from you?
And why do you suspect that I shut the doors and gates?
And why do you suspect that I ever separate myself from you?
And why did you say that I burn you,
and ignite you,
and beat you to a pulp?
Your words are not straight,
your understanding is all crooked.
But rather listen to the words that I am going to say to you,
and I will make straight lines with your crooked fears. ...
Understand what I teach you!
And so I have said:
by my power I blew a soul into you,
a soul both logical and rational,
which was united to your body
and the one being appeared out of the two.
You are a rational, bodily, living being,
a human who is double from two natures inexpressibly;
from a visible body that is without senses and irrational,
and from an invisible soul according to my image both logical and rational.
What a strange marvel!
You, o human, are between all things, between creatures.
Your existence is in essence in between.
Between the material and the immaterial.
St Symeon the New Theologian. Hymns of Divine Love no. 53
From: St. Symeon the New Theologian. Divine Eros (Popular Patristics Series Book 40) Yonkers NY, St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2010. Pages 340-343
Well met at Café Holy Tony!
~Friar Bob Showers OFM Conv.
Café Holy Tony
Wednesday, November 3, 2021 at 7:00 p.m.
Caruso's Restaurant, Angola
Café Holy Tony is an open discussion forum for young Catholics. Friends are welcome!