Monday, March 10, 2014

Knowledge, Love and Suffering - the Paradox of Passion


The image of the cross to Paul is what opens the mind to the spirit. Richard Rohr says there are two things that lead us to transformation (that is, redemption/metanoia/changing the way we see things) love and suffering. Love opens the heart space and then the mind space. Suffering opens the mind space and then the heart space. This latter path is what Paul describes – 

“But the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are saved (enlightened), it is the power of God. 1 Cor 1:18.

The goal of spiritual life, according to John, was more about agape (love) than gnosis (wisdom) as with Paul. This is not affective emotional love, however. It is the love exemplified in the cross, the washing of the feet, the caring for the unlovable. It is compassionate love.

One thing we will discover is the way in which knowledge and love vary in importance as the manifestation of the presence of God in the person opens to his grace. In the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries, knowledge will prevail. In the 11th through 14th centuries, love will take over.

New Testament Images:
Metanoia = Mind of Christ
Cross = Love in total Humility
Purity of Heart = Logos – emptiness (poverty) which allows for enlightenment and union (apophatic explanation) OR Kierkegaards definition, the ability to will one thing – to see the light of God (kataphatic explanation); these can also be likened to transformative suffering (opens the mind, then the heart) and love (opens the heart then the mind).

As I reread this, I realize that both the Cross image and the Purity of Heart image can converge the concepts of suffering and love or receptive (apophatic) and active (kataphatic). Truly, one of the most profound interpretations of the Cross is the union of love and suffering, the two occurring at once, the reduction of paradox into one symbol that includes everything!

One Christmas while writing an advent devotional on Joy, I discovered paradox. I realized the unity and the paradox of love and suffering, and the word, Passion, that captures both. We often think of passion as romantic, ardent love. In Latin, the verb patior means "to suffer."  I then understood the Passion of Jesus the Christ. Love in humility suffering willingly for the greater good. These mingle all the time, every day. They are. And they are not. All of reality is paradoxical (the point of parables and koans). 

When Ireneaus said, "The glory of God is a human fully alive." He was referring to the paradox of being human. Everything exists as both positive and negative, good and bad, matter and energy, what is seen and what is not. We coexist like particles and waves. We tend to see objects and concepts linearly and either one way or the other. But they are exchanging places all the time. And our awareness simply catches them at one point in time and another and another...indeed, how would we know light without the darkness? 

In part, adapted from Urban Holmes, A History of Christian Spirituality

If I remain silent, paradox will reveal itself to me. It is in silence that I can hold the tension of either - or. And once I realize that either/or is both/and, I have discovered something very special. I have eyes to see! I have discovered the Unity of Life, the Oneness of all things.

Blessings, Peggy


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