Conversion Notes 2

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth…. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” — John 1:14-28

Dear God, you dwelt among us, and from time to time I caught a glimmer of your light, flickers of grace and truth.  And yet, I have spent my life obsessed with Moses, and hating him.  I have seen your Law, carried down from your mountain.  I have learned its words (not the Word!) and cleverly dissected them, woven new words, and always imagined worlds of words unto themselves.  And always have I turned away from the vision that there was anyone at all on the top of that mountain.  Sure, I’ve proudly imagined some  unknowable source of some unknowable Truth.  Yet any truth that might be grasped I always laughed at as the imposition of some inadequate Moses.  And so I have passed my life spinning about that mountain, haunted by the face of Moses, thinking I knew that the Truth lay anywhere but that place — yet tilting over and over at those windmills;  only fitfully, momentarily, and unreliably turning from what I had already rejected towards the Light I only dimly glimpsed.

I beg forgiveness for my foolishness, arrogance, and errancy; my neglect of the greatest responsibility of my life, the life you gave me to fulfill.  I also beg forgiveness for the persistent perversion still manifest in this prayer — for, reading your Truth revealed in the Book of John, I have turned once again to a prayer that is all about my own delinquency.

Grant me the humility to pass beyond my regrets and into the gratitude that is the only sane response to your gift of Jesus, the Word, bearer of grace and truth. Amen

“If souls please you, then love them in God because they are mutable in themselves, but in Him firmly established:  without Him they would pass and perish.  Love them, I say, in Him, and draw as many souls with you to Him as you can, saying to them: ‘Him let us love….’” — Augustine, Confessions 4:12

In part, this could be Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius writing about the foolishness or excessive attachment to individual humans — they would draw my attention to the duty we owe to others, both in individual relationships and broader civic duty.  This duty is grounded in our nature as social animals and as members of the greater whole and our duty to God/the gods.  From the Stoic perspective, commitment to these prosocial duties is tied to the virtue of Justice.  We are freed to live our commitment to these duties precisely by our disengagement from over-reaching ego projects, precluding possessive relationships, whether for people or possessions.

In a similar way, this passage from Augustine suggests that the love of others is only justified in the context of the primary love of God.

In the next paragraph of 2:XII, Augustine elaborates on the relationship between Christ’s redemption and the primary relationship of love between man and God.

The primary axis of Christianity is the relationship between God and Man (both collective and individual).  This is what makes sense to me.  More extraverted or socially-oriented people want to see the sense of Christianity in the spirit of love and compassion among people (and many are willing to justify religion only insofar as it measures up in that regard — to the extent that Jesus’s value is assessed in terms of his social teaching).

In order for my soul to be free to love God, I must be free from competing attachments in this world of time and space (including things, power, people and life itself) and the negative emotions that depend upon them (anxiety, jealousy etc.). Only then can I fully enter into that relationship which is the ultimate source of satisfaction and meaning.  Incidentally but necessarily, justice and compassion, generosity, and kindness flow as automatic consequences of that same freedom from attachments.

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