[I've taken to reposting here, stuff that i post in other venues, which i think might be interesting to collect in one place. This went up on FB today. The quote from St Isaac was contributed by someone else.]
“Someone who has actually tasted truth is not contentious for truth. Someone who is considered among men to be zealous for truth as not yet learned what truth is really like: once he has truly learnt it, he will cease from zealousness on its behalf.
The gift of God and of the knowledge of Him is not a cause of turmoil and clamor; rather this gift is entirely filled with a peace in which the Spirit, love and humility reside.
The following is a sign of the coming of the Spirit: the person whom the Spirit has overshadowed is made perfect in these very virtues.
God is reality. The person whose mind has become aware of God does not even possess a tongue with which to speak, but God resides in his heart in great serenity. He experiences no stirring of zeal or argumentativeness, nor is he stirred by anger. He can not even be aroused concerning the faith.”
—St. Isaac of Syria
i tend to think that’s how it is, though i’d hardly claim for myself the attainment St Isaac writes of. Sometime before or during when i was a ‘missionary’ in Uganda, i stopped being interested in ‘making’ any ‘converts’ at all. Oh, i have five god children there, and not just because i acquired them by virtue of my official capacity— i actually resisted baptizing them until i knew i was leaving, and gave in only because they desired it, and i knew they might not have gotten baptized after that, given the situation of the church there. But that’s another story. In any case I’m still not quite sure what ‘baptism’ means, or whether it means anything, much of the time.
But God— and actually, I prefer to be much more specific: the God who sent his son Jesus, the Jewish Messiah— *is* real, as the saint says, and it is *not* necessary to contend or to prove. It’s much more interesting just to listen to the stories people are telling, and to try to hear what they mean. I don’t in any way consider other stories to be on the same ‘level’ as Jesus’ story, if that means all teachers are equal— by their own words they are not!— but as stories, all stories are equal. The thing is, they can and do influence and affect and change us, and that’s true of the ones i tell too, of the gospels. My god children came to me; i did not go to them; and it was because of the stories i was telling.
I’ve just finished writing my commentary for Mt 13.33, the parable of the leaven, for the class on Matthew i’m hoping to start in a few weeks:
‘Heaven’s regime is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour’.
The usual interpretation concentrates on the contrast between the small lump of leaven and the great mass of bread, essentially the same as between the tiny mustard seed and the ‘tree’ resulting from that, in the verse preceding. And it’s true: that amount of flour would produce bread enough for one hundred people. But the parable does not say that the leaven is ‘little’; it says it is ‘hidden’, and that it has a prodigious effect. Hidden leaven penetrates a huge lump of dough till it fills the whole table.
We try to impose our ethno-phyletic solutions on others because we’re not really confident in our own stories. Often, we’ve reduced them to abstractions, that must somehow be proven, like equations, or policed, like laws. But in Africa we liked nothing better than to sit around talking about the Bible. I saw how foreign the Bible was to my friends, and hence to me. I also saw how deeply powerful it was, when you really heard it, and not just the conventional moralism that we often substitute for it. Leaven is not something you see, but it has a prodigious effect when the conditions are there.