Saturday, December 13, 2008

Advent 13

The Advent mystery is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not yet Christ.--Thomas Merton
"So, then, (to continue with our poem), the god has made his appearance as a teacher. He has taken the form of a servant; to send someone else, someone completely trusted, in his place could no more satisfy him than it could satisfy that noble king to send in his place the most highly trusted person in his kingdom. Yet the god had another reason as well, for between one human being and another the Socratic relationship is indeed the highest, the truest. Therefore, if the god did not commit himself, then everything would remain Socratic, we would not have the moment, and we would fail to obtain the paradox. But the servant form is not something put on but is actual, not a parastatic but an actual body, and the god, from the hour when by the omnipotent resolution of his omnipotent love he became a servant, he has himself become captive, so to speak, in his resolution and is now obligated to continue (to go on talking loosely) whether he wants to or not. He cannot betray his identity; unlike that noble king, he does not have the possibility of suddenly disclosing that hs is, after all, the king--which is no perfection in the king (to have this possibility) but merely manifest his impotence and the impotence of his resolution, that he actually is incapable of becoming what he would become. Although the god is unable to send anyone in his place, he presumably is able to send someone in advance who can make the learner aware. Of course, this predecessor cannot know what the god wants to teach, because the god's presence is not incidental to his teaching but essential. The presence of the god in human form--indeed, in the lowly form of a servant--is precisely the teaching, and the god himself must provide the condition...; otherwise the learner is unable to understand anytning. Through a predecessor of this kind, a learner can become aware, but no more than that.

"The god did not, however, take the form of a servant in order to mock human beings; his aim, therefore, cannot be to walk through the world in such a way that not one single person would come to know it. Presumably he will allow something about himself to be understood, although any accommodation made for the sake of comprehensibility still does not essentially help the person who does receive the condition, and therefore it is actually elicited from him only under constraint and against his will, and it may just as well alienate the learner as draw him closer.He humbled himself and took the form of a servant, but he certainly did not come to live as a servant in the service of some particular person, carrying out his tasks without letting his master or his co-workers realize who he was--wrath such as that we dare not ascribe to the god. Thus the fact that he was in the form of a servant means only that he was a lowly human being, a lowly man who did not set himself off from the human throng either by soft raiment or by any other earthly advantage and was not distinguishable to other human beings, not even to the countless legions of angels he left behind when he humbled himself. But even though he was a lowly man, his concerns were not those that men generally have. He went his way unconcerned about administering and distributing the goods of this world; he went his way as one who owns nothing and wishes to own nothing, as unconcerned about his living as the birds of the air, as unconcerned about house and home as someone who has no hiding place or nest and is not looking for such a place. He was unconcerned about accompanying the dead to their graves, was not attracted by the things that commonly attract the attention of people, was not tied to any woman, so enthralled by her as to want to please her, but sought only the follower's love. All this seems very beautiful, but is it also proper? Does he not thereby elevate himself above what is ordinarily the condition of human beings? Is it right for a human being to be as carefree as the bird and not even fly hither and thither for food as the bird does? Should he not even think of tomorrow? We are unable to poetize the god otherwise, but what does a fiction prove? Is it permissible to wander around erratically like this, stopping wherever evening finds one? The question is this: May a human being express the same thing?--for otherwise the god has not realized the essentially human. Yes, if he is capable of it, he may also do it. If he can become so absorbed in the service of the spirit that is never occurs to him to provide for food and drink, if he is sure that the lack will not divert him, that the hardship will not disorder his body and make him regret that he did not first of all understand the lessons of childhood before wanting to understand more--yes, then he truly may do it, and greatness is even more glorious than the quiet assurance of the lily.
"So now we have the god walking around in the city in which he made his appearance...; to proclaim his teaching is for him the one and only necessity of his life, is for him his food and drink. To teach people is his work, and ot be concerned about the learners is for him relaxation from his work. He has no friends and no relatives, but to him the learner is his brother and sister.
"How, then, does the learner come to an understanding with this paradox, for we do not say that he is supposed to understand the paradox, but only to understand that this is a paradox. WE have already shown how this occurs. It occurs when the understanding and the paradox happily encounter each other in the moment, when the understanding steps aside adn the paradox gives itself, and the third something, the something in which this occurs (for it does not occur through the understanding, which is discharged, or through the paradox, which gives itself--consequently in something), is that happy passion to which we shall now give a name, although for us it is not a matter of the name. We shall call it faith."

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