I Don’t Love You Anymore

the-lovers-19281-jpglarge

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.

 

IMG_0181

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).

 

Epiphany

wpid-img_20140315_0953051

The crib becomes an altar: therefore dies
No ox nor sheep; for in their fodder lies
The Prince of Peace, who, thankful for his bed,
Destroys those rites in which their blood was shed.

~Sir John Beaumont, from Of The Epiphany


The Christian season of Epiphany has almost faded into obscurity.  How ironic. The word means ‘manifestation’ and indeed, we are most grateful to serve a speaking God.  Absent God’s revelation of Himself, we would forever be lost to the darkness of sin in which we have eternally sequestered ourselves.  We longed for His coming during Advent and rejoiced at His incarnation during Christmas.  Now, at Epiphany we worship His revelation.

At Epiphany, the Western church focuses on the Magi who traveled far to bestow their treasures in humble reverence, and before that, the Eastern church understood the season to be of Christ’s baptism where we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit manifested to man. In each the church bows in the presence of Emmanuel.

Our modern minds carry us only so far, for modernity’s reason knows Descartes to be lacking.  It is not Cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am) but rather  Credo ut intelligam (I believe in order that I may understand.)

God spoke, therefore I am.  Worship is the only adequate reply.

IMG_0181

Isaiah 60:1–7

Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. “Lift up your eyes all around, and see: They all gather together, they come to you; Your sons shall come from afar, And your daughters shall be nursed at your side. Then you shall see and become radiant, And your heart shall swell with joy; Because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, The wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you. The multitude of camels shall cover your land, The dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba shall come; They shall bring gold and incense, And they shall proclaim the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together to you, The rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; They shall ascend with acceptance on My altar, And I will glorify the house of My glory.

 

Dig Deeper

Art: Shadows and Silhouette. Photo and design by Josephine R. Unglaub

Liturgy: Epiphany (Gk. ἐπιφάνεια, ‘manifestation’; later τὰ Ἐπιφάνια is used of the feast). Feast of the Church on 6 Jan. It originated in the E., where it was celebrated in honour of the Baptism of Christ (sometimes also in connection with the Nativity) from the 3rd cent. onwards. *Clement of Alexandria (d. c. 215) reports that the *Gnostic sect of the *Basilideans observed a feast in honour of the Baptism of Christ around this time of year (Strom. 1. 21), and from the 4th cent. there is ample evidence for the feast, which then ranked with *Easter and *Pentecost as one of the three principal festivals of the Church. One of its main features in the E. is the solemn blessing of water.

It was introduced into the W. Church in the 4th cent. but here lost its character as a feast of the Baptism of Christ, which it has retained in the E. Church down to the present day. Instead it became associated with the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles in the person of the *Magi, as is borne out by the Homilies of *Leo I on the ‘Theophania’ (an alternative name of the feast). In the Mass and Office the Magi were given the chief place, though mention is also made of the Baptism of Christ and of the miracle at Cana. In 1955 both the Octave and Vigil of the Epiphany were abolished, but the Sunday after Epiphany was made a separate feast of the Baptism, which had figured largely in the liturgy of the Octave. In England the Sovereign makes offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh in the *Chapel Royal on the feast.

F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 557.

Credo ut intelligam: Augustine is widely known for his writings on the Trinity, grace, free will, and epistemology (the study of knowledge). Regarding epistemology, Augustine is perhaps best known for his words credo ut intelligam, a Latin phrase that may be translated “I believe in order to understand.” The meaning of this statement has been debated for centuries, with many people believing that Augustine gave faith a logical priority in the relationship between faith and reason in the Christian life. Augustine’s view, however, was more complex. He actually saw faith and reason operating in a reciprocal manner in Christian thinking.

Nash, Ronald H.,”Faith and Reason,” p. 88

Literature: Of The Epiphany, by Sir John Beaumont (1582-1623)

Fair eastern star, that art ordained to run
Before the sages, to the rising sun,
Here cease thy course, and wonder that the cloud
Of this poor stable can thy Maker shroud:

Ye heavenly bodies glory to be bright
And are esteemed as ye are rich in light;
But here on earth is taught a different way,
Since under this low roof the Highest lay.

Jerusalem erects her stately towers,
Displays her windows and adorns her bowers:
Yet there thou must not cast a trembling spark,
Let Herod’s palace still continue dark;

Each school and syngogue thy force repels,
There Pride enthroned in misty error dwells;
The temple, where the priests maintain their quire,
Shall taste no beam of thy celestial fire,

While this weak cottage all thy splendour takes:
A joyful gate of every chink it makes
Here shines no golden roof, no ivory stair,
No king exalted in a stately chair,

Girt with attendants, or by heralds styled,
But straw and hay enwrap a speechless child.
Yet Sabae’s lords before this babe unfold
Their treasures, offering incense, myrrh and gold.

The crib becomes an altar: therefore dies
No ox nor sheep; for in their fodder lies
The Prince of Peace, who, thankful for his bed,
Destroys those rites in which their blood was shed:

The quintessence of earth he takes, and fees,
And precious gums distilled from weeping trees;
Rich metals and sweet odours now declare
The glorious blessings which his laws prepare,

To clear us from the base and loathsome flood
Of sense and make us fit for angels’ food,
Who life to God for us the holy smoke
Of fervent prayers with which we him invoke,

And try our actions in the searching fire
By which the seraphims our lips inspire:
No muddy dross pure minerals shall infect,
We shall exhale our vapours up direct:

No storm shall cross, nor glittering lights deface
Perpetual sighs which seek a happy place.

Source: A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885)

Also see

epiphany (Gk ‘manifestation’) The term primarily denotes the festival which commemorates the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi. The feast is observed on January 6th, ‘Twelfth Night’, the festival of the ‘Three Kings’. More generally, the term denotes a manifestation of God’s presence in the world. James Joyce gave this word a particular literary connotation in his novel Stephen Hero, part of the first draft of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which was first published in 1916. The relevant passage is:

“This triviality made him think of collecting many such moments together in a book of epiphanies. By an epiphany he meant a sudden spiritual mani- festation [my italics], whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself. He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments. He told Cranly that the clock of the Ballast Office was capable of an epiphany.”

A little further on he says:

“Imagine my glimpses of that clock as the gropings of a spiritual eye which seeks to adjust its vision to an exact focus. The moment the focus is reached the object is epiphanized.”

Joyce elaborates this theme at considerable length. The epiphany is a symbol of a spiritual state. This aspect of aesthetic theory is left out of A Portrait, but a knowledge of it is essential for an understanding of Joyce as an artist. Dubliners, A Portrait, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake are a series of increasingly complex and revealing insights of grace as well as intuitions of immortality. However, Joyce’s description of such an experience does not imply a discovery on his part. Many writers, especially mystics and religious poets, have conveyed their experience of epiphanies. Striking instances are to be found in the poems of George Herbert, Henry Vaughan and Gerard Manley Hopkins. And there are particularly fine passages in Wordsworth’s Prelude (Book VIII, 539–59, and VII, 608–23) which describe epiphanies (the term he uses is ‘spots of time’). Shelley calls these visionary occasions ‘moments’; De Quincey, ‘involutes’.

Dictionary of Literary Terms and Theory

 

 

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

In what might be the best country song ever written, Don Williams sings this verse:

“Nothing makes a sound in the night like the wind does
But you ain’t afraid if you’re washed in the blood like I was
The smell of cape jasmine thru the window screen
John R. and the Wolfman kept me company
By the light of the radio by my bed
With Thomas Wolfe whispering in my head”

What Do You Do With Good-ole Boys Like Me resonates with every southern man over 50 and most of the rest because it gets 51D8R4NZ2HLat the essence of our boyhood. The verse is important because it is informed by another tale of southern boyhood, Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe, who indeed whispers in our head.

When Wolfe died, William Faulkner said he was the greatest writer of their time.

Few have really read this book because it isn’t easy reading. It’s written in stream of consciousness style reminiscent of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Wolfe was criticized for his unapproachable style but remained unrepentant.  F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to him suggesting shorter novels, but Wolfe’s reply letter was 8 times longer than Fitzgerald’s.

Angel does, however get right at the marrow and rewards good ole boys willing to stick with it.  Wolfe’s title was almost Alone, Alone, borrowed, he said, “from the poem I like best, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner; then it evolved to O, Lost!; finally, when his publisher asked for something more inspired, Wolfe went to Milton:

. . . Ay me! Whilst thee the shores, and sounding Seas
Wash far away, where ere thy bones are hurld,
Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides,
Where thou perhaps under the whelming tide
Visit’st the bottom of the monstrous world;
Or whether thou to our moist vows deny’d,
Sleep’st by the fable of Bellerus old,
Where the great vision of the guarded Mount
Looks toward Namancos and Bayona’s hold;
Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth.

Milton’s angel in Lycidas was St. Michael; the statue in Look Homeward, Angel was of a different sort, based on one that Wolfe’s father had purchased for his tombstone shop.  The actual Wolfe statue has been identified on the grave of the wife of a Methodist minister in the Asheville, North Carolina area, and is today a stop for the literary traveler.

When you finish this great book, then read You Can’t Go Home Again.


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

What is Beauty?

Bs-PietaPIED BEAUTY
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:
Práise hím.

Michael Graves recites Pied Beauty

 

Isaiah 33:17

Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; They will behold a far-distant land.

 


RickBeauty is the splendour of truth,” observes Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and to explain his passion for beauty, Stephen draws upon the thoughts of Plato, Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, among others.  Metaphysics asks the question – “What is real?” and philosophy and literature have long since tried to answer.  What we call love at first sight is that mysterious moment when our eyes tell us we are gazing at something (usually someone) so beautiful it at once fulfills a longing in our hearts and answers questions we have no words to ask.

We think it is sexual, but there is a fine line between the longing beauty of art and the filth of pornography, but as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said of obscenity “we know it when we see it.”  Our understanding of beauty always goes directly to our values.  Today we worry about the Unesco world heritage sites as ISIS destroys one after another.  I’m reminded of the day in 1972 that Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was damaged by a vandal.  I thought of that event as I stood before the masterpiece for the first time and wondered how anyone could want to destroy something so beautiful, so magnificent, so obviously from the heart of God.

That was it – my moment of epiphany.  I looked past the marble and saw Mary holding her dead Son and I knew: She was thinking the same thing.

Join the discussion on Facebook HERE 

Logo

John 1:1

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