Under The Aspect Of Eternity

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Lightness of Being, by Chris Levine, 2004

SUB SPECIE AETERNITATIS
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

From all this it now follows that the content of ethical problems can never be discussed in a Christian light; the possibility of erecting generally valid principles simply does not exist, because each moment, lived in God’s sight, can bring an unexpected decision. Thus only one thing can be repeated again and again, also in our time: in ethical decisions a man must consider his action sub specie aeternitatis and then, no matter how it proceeds, it will proceed rightly.”

1 Corinthians 1:26–31

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.


Rick WilcoxEngland’s Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning monarch in British history. By all accounts she has held her role with deep regard for its responsibility to history and the British people.  She is famously private and guarded of her personal beliefs and emotions.

In 2004, artist Chris Levine, while commissioned to take her official portrait, caught the image shown here in between takes as she rested her eyes.  The meditative state of repose is engaging because it makes her somehow more accessible, more human.  We can almost sense her thoughts.  If you know a little about her, you might know of her beloved Corgis. The dogs have been associated with the Royal Family for years. Queen Elizabeth says she enjoys her Corgis because they don’t know she is Queen.

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” wrote Shakespeare in King Henry the Fourth, and we get it.  It’s the feeling of modern adulthood. We are jugglers, plate spinners and multi-taskers in the kingdom of our own making.  No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with props and material possessions to make us feel successful and accomplished, we all know that, as Montaigne said, “on the loftiest throne in the world we are still only sitting on our own rump.”

The Germans have a word for this condition: Zerrissenheit (loosely, “falling-to-pieces-ness”).  This is the loss of internal coherence that can come from living a multitasking, pulled-in-a-hundred-directions existence. This is what Kierkegaard called “the dizziness of freedom.”  When external constraints are loosened, when a person can do what he wants, when there are a thousand choices and distractions, then life can lose coherence and direction if there isn’t a strong internal structure.

It’s what happens when we make ourselves our own God.

The folly of this lifestyle can only be remedied by seeing the world through God’s eyes – sub specie aeternitatis – under the aspect of eternity.

In plain talk, what that means is that only God’s perspective matters. Regardless of what other people think of us (good or bad) or what society says is right or wrong, the only measure of our life is how obedient we are to God.

All of the importance and significance we seek in pleasures and material possessions is completely misplaced.  We are the pinnacle of God’s creation and our self worth is realized through the reconciliation of grace back into His fellowship.

 

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Logo

John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

 

D I G  D E E P E R


Sub specie aeternitatis

Latin for “under the aspect of eternity”, is, from Baruch Spinoza onwards, an honorific expression describing what is universally and eternally true, without any reference to or dependence upon the temporal portions of reality.

In clearer English, sub specie aeternitatis roughly means “from the perspective of the eternal”. Even more loosely, the phrase is used to describe an alternative or objective point of view.

Spinoza’s “eternal” perspective is reflected in his Ethics (Part V, Prop. XXIII, Scholium), where he treats ethics through a geometric investigation that begins with God and nature and then analyzes human emotions and the human intellect. By proceeding sub specie aeternitatis, Spinoza seeks to arrive at an ethical theory that is as precise as Euclid’s Elements. In the history of philosophy, this way of proceeding may be most clearly contrasted with Aristotle’s manner of proceeding. Aristotle’s methodological differences in his “philosophy of human affairs” and his natural philosophy are grounded in the distinction between what is “better known to us” and things “better known in themselves,” or what is “first for us” and what is “first by nature” (discussed, among other places, at Metaphysics Z.3, 1029b3–12), a distinction that is deliberately discarded by Spinoza and other modern philosophers.

 

 

I Don’t Love You Anymore

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PSALMS
DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

We say that religion is a matter of mood: we must wait until the mood strikes us. And then we often wait for years—perhaps until the end of our life—until we are once again in the mood to be religious. This idea is based on a great illusion. It is all well and good to let religion be a matter of mood but God is not a matter of mood. He is still present even when we are not in the mood to meet with him.… In religion, as in art and science, there are—in addition to times of great excitement—times of sober work and practice. Interaction with God must be practiced; otherwise we will not find the right tone, the right word, the right language, when he surprises us. We must learn God’s language, laboriously learn it. And we must work at it, so that we will be able to talk with him.


RickHow many relationship break-up because someone says “I just don’t love you anymore”?  What does that mean?  It can only mean that feelings of affection have died because the person no longer meets the other person’s needs.  Those needs might be physical, or emotional, or social or even spiritual, but regardless of their validity, the point of view is entirely self-centered.

How fortunate that God does not love us that way.

God’s love is sacrificial and unconditional.  He loves us because we are His and that love can neither be earned or lost.  The only thing that can end it is us if we choose to walk away.  What He desires from us is the same wholehearted adoration, irrespective of circumstances. How instantly our lives would change if we really loved Him the way He loves us, and if we in turn loved each other exactly the same.

 

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Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

 

Dig Deeper

Art: The Lovers by René Magritte (1898–1967). Frustrated desires are a common theme in René Magritte’s work. Here, a barrier of fabric prevents the intimate embrace between two lovers, transforming an act of passion into one of isolation and frustration. Some have interpreted this work as a depiction of the inability to fully unveil the true nature of even our most intimate companions.

Liturgy: The Great Commandment, or “Summary of the Law,” as it is sometimes referred to in Western Christian liturgies, is found in the renewal document of the Torah, Deut. 6:4–5. It reads: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD; and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” The Shema, as it is called in Jewish liturgy, is above all a call of the chosen to obedience: shama conveys the sense of the imperative “obey” (cf. Num. 27:20; Josh. 1:17; 1 Kings 2:42); hence the call to “hear” this commandment and obey it implies obedience to the whole of the Law.

Recited each morning and evening as a call to prayer, on a pattern ascribed to the angels themselves (Tan. Ber. 4.144-45; Liqqutim 4.70a–70b; Bera. 5a), the Shema is uttered also on joyous occasions. Talmudic midrashic sources regard it rather than the Ten Commandments as containing the substance of the entire Torah (e.g., Bera. 1.3c).

In the NT, when Jesus is asked “which is the greatest commandment in the law?” he quotes the Deuteronomy passage, intensifying the last phrase by adding “with all thy mind,” and linking the Shema to a “second” commandment in Lev. 19:18: “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:36–40; Mark 12:28–34; cf. Luke 10:25–37).

The Great Commandment thus becomes foundational to Christian ethical life since, according to St. Augustine, it is clearly a summary of both law and prophets as well as of Christian wisdom (De sermone Domini in Monte, 2.22.74-75; cf. De consensu Evangelistarum, 2.73.141-42). St. Thomas Aquinas refers to this “Law of Love” as the basis of “perfection in the Christian life,” observing in a famous passage that “Christian perfection lies directly and essentially in charity, primarily in the love of God, secondarily in the love of our neighbour.” He continues: “No measure is demanded in our loving, the reason being that ‘the end of the commandment is charity’“ (1 Tim. 1:5), so that “while nobody in this life may fully achieve this perfection” it is perfectly appropriate to our life’s proper goal that the command should be given and obeyed (Summa Theol. 2a–2ae.184.3). In this vein Richard Rolle speaks of obedience to the Great Commandment as a willed motion of the heart toward God (“a wilful stiryng of owre thoght intil God”), so that it accepts nothing which opposes the love of Jesus Christ (“The Commandment”).

The Ten Commandments themselves were often divided on the pattern of the twofold commandment of love, so that the first three were said to pertain to the love of God, the balance to the love of one’s neighbors (e.g., Wyclif, De Decem Precepta). The Lollard Knight, Sir John Clanvowe, says in his devotional treatise The Two Ways that the Great Commandment thus simplifies one’s approach to the Ten: “Sithen þat we mown with the lovyng of God and of oure neighebour keepen all the Commaundementʒ of god, we aughten not þanne hoolde it heuy for to keepen his hestes ne we shulden not grucchen to keepen hem on þat wise” (670-74). To Chaucer’s Parson, similarly, “soothly the lawe of God is the love of God” (The Parson’s Tale, 10.127) and “the love of God principal, and lovyng of his neighebor as hymself ” is the “remedie agayns this foule synne of Envye” (10.514-30), but also intrinsic to the remedy, he adds, for each of the other Seven Deadly Sins. It is this fact which makes the poor Parson’s brother the Plowman an ideal of the perfect Christian (General Prologue, 1.529-38).

The Great Commandment is a familiar element in Catholic, Anglican, and Calvinist catechisms but became less prominent in literary allusion after the Reformation. In the 19th cent. the second precept tended to predominate in theological and philosophical reflection and, where present, the “first and great” commandment was often subsumed under duties to one’s “higher self,” so that, for Carlyle, the personalized first commandment assumes its importance in terms of the second (“Characteristics”).

Literature : During his debate over vocation in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce has Stephen Dedalus reflect that it would be for him “Idle and embittering, finally, to argue, against his own dispassionate certitude, that the commandment of love bade us not to love our neighbor as ourselves with the same amount and intensity of love but to love him as ourselves with the same kind of love” (chap. 4).

Bibliography

Craigie, P. C. The Book of Deuteronomy (1976);
Craufurd Tait Ramage, Scripture Parallels in Ancient Classics
France, R. T. Jesus and the Old Testament (1971
Jeffrey, D. L. The Law of Love: English Spirituality in the Age of Wyclif (1988).