From The Consolation of Philosophy by Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (ca. 524AD)Book II
Lady Philosophy is explaining to the suffering, imprisoned Boethius the danger of the charms of Fortune and her deceitful gifts of riches.
"It is no matter for surprise that at the cross supremely we should become aware of elements in Christianity which pass the limits of human speech and thought. All true religion enfolds that which is unfathomable, and the cross with the saving experiences it engenders is the focus of Christian religion. If we have stood beneath its shadow, if its aspect has touched and changed us, we too can bear witness to its ineffable significance; we now know that the mystery of goodness is greater by far than the mystery of evil. That the abyss between the Holy Father and us the sinful should have been crossed, from the father side; that in Jesus the guiltless suffering of the righteousness, and for us, should have put on its absolute and final form, leaving nothing undone by God that might be done, nothing unendured that might be born—this is nothing of course, but a strange and unimaginable miracle, we cannot measure it; and its wonder, which no mind can compass or define, we can sing.
True, it cannot be assumed that the significance of the cross will be equally manifest, or indeed equally welcome, to all men or even all Christians. There are distinguishable stages in the appreciation of Christ and His achievement. A man may embark on the Christian life by taking Jesus as his example, and may derive from Him in that character an imparted faith and power which in a most real degree give victory over temptation. Christ thus far is in large measure only a new and homogeneous factor in his moral development, bringing his own higher impulses to fruition. But a deeper necessity may emerge. He may well be obliged to face the shattering discovery that all his moral efforts are vain and that, in the light cast by God, he now appears even to himself as one who, guiltily and unconditionally, has failed. In Christ’s presence he learns, gradually or suddenly, the final truth about himself; and the revelation breaks him. It is in such hours of inexorable conscience, when in his solely responsibility and acknowledged impotence a man has bowed his head and fallen on his knees, that “the word of the cross” can find its most effectual entrance. Nor will any message of reconciliation suffice which does not contain a worthy relief for this, or profoundest and sorest need." (pp. 196-197)
|"Joseph Lowered into the well by his brothers"|
By Peeter Sion
“We want an assurance that the soul in reaching out to the unseen world is not following an illusion. We want security that faith and worship, and above all love, directed towards the environment of the spirit are not spent in vain. It is not sufficient to be told that it is good for us to believe this, that it will make better men and women of us. We do not want a religion that deceives us for our own good. There is a crucial question here; but before we can answer it, we must frame it.
The heart of the question is commonly put in the form, ‘Does God really exist?’ It is difficult to set aside this question without being suspected of quibbling. But I venture to put it aside because it raises so many unprofitable side issues, and at the end it scarcely reaches deep enough into religious experience…Theological or anti-theological argument to prove or disprove the existence of a deity seems to me to occupy itself largely with skating among the difficulties caused by our making a fetish of this word. It is all so irrelevant to the assurance for which we hunger. In the case of our human friends we take their existence for granted, not caring whether it is proven or not. Our relationship is such that we could read philosophical arguments designed to prove the non-existence of each other, and perhaps even be convinced by them—and then laugh together over so odd a conclusion. I think that it is something of the same sort of security we should seek in our relationship with God. The most flawless proof of the existence of God is no substitute for it; and if we have that relationship, the most convincing disproof is turned harmlessly aside. If I may say it with reverence, the soul and God laugh together over so odd a conclusion."
“The inspiration, therefore, descends upon believing man from the heights of the absolute as the absolute genius which is essentially superior to man in every respect. And yet, at the same time, the inspiration rises from man’s own most intimate depths: it is the person himself who loves and tastes God, and not an alien principle that does this through the person. As Paul says, such a person is one ‘impelled by the Spirit’ (Rom 8.4, Gal 5.18) and, as such, is not ‘under the law’; but this is so because the Spirit, which cannot be captured by any law and which ‘blows where it wills’ (Jn. 3.8), is a ‘Spirit of sonship’ which makes us ‘children of God’ and thus incorporates us into the divine law of the Son of God (Rom 8.14 f.). The Son, in turn, into whom we are incorporated and with whom we become co-heirs of the Father, is the incarnate Son who suffers, rises up and lives on in the church, and we receive his Spirit only if we enter into the form of his revelation. Once again, all aspirations of a natural aesthetics are here fulfilled and more than fulfilled: this is the inviolate circle of the beautiful that arises between the inspiration from above (and from within) and the attachment to the form from which the light of inspiration must come forth if we are to recognize as beautiful what we have beheld. Already in a natural aesthetics the process of artistic creativity (and in some sense also its ‘repetition’ in the enjoyment of art) is founded upon a mysterious obedience: in the last analysis, the inspired artist does not follow his own idea, but rather allows something ungraspable to cast its rays upon him. To art belongs not only the master’s skill—the ability to translate a vision into sensual form—but also the ability not to obstruct either the illumining action of the idea or, so to speak, the idea’s generation’ and ‘incarnation’ in the mind of the artist. Eternally the artist may choose to appear haughty, but interiorly he must be a humbly receptive womb for the ‘conception’. Only if he knows how to be quite will the anima sing in him. (p 243-244)
“…[S]hould we dream of describing as good or loving one whom we believe to be incapable of anger at wrong-doing? Just here is found one of the difficulties of which earnest but not very clear headed people are conscious when they are being urged to forgive an injury. They hesitate, because to pardon looks like confessing that their anger was reprehensible; whereas they know, without reasoning, that in the circumstances anger was not only permissible but obligatory. Lack of indignation at wickedness is a sign, not of a poor nature only, but of positive unlikeness to Jesus Christ…Unless we sophisticate ourselves, we all feel this. Intentional discourtesy, the calculated ruin of purity, an act of savagery to a child—he is not to be envied who can look on calmly when such things are done. For beings like us, doubtless, it is hard to be angry and not sin, but we must not turn this frailty into a proof that wrath is inconsistent with Holy Love.
Occasionally the flank of our difficulty seems to be turned by the phrase that God is angry not with sinners but with their sin. And it would be pedantry to cavil at such an expression when used colloquially or in poetry:
Thou judgest us: thy purity
Doth all our lust condemn;
The love that draws us nearer Thee
Is hot with wrath to them.
None the less, the phase when insisted on is a misleading catchword. There is no such thing as sin apart from a sinner, any more than pleasure could be real, in pure abstraction, irrespectively of a pleased consciousness. The one fact in the case is the sinful life to which God’s attitude invariably is personal. To be angry with a thing—and sin abstracted from sinner is no more –ranks as a moral absurdity. The man who spitefully kicks the stool over which he has tripped in the dark has for the moment become irrational. Anger, the anger of moral love, can only be directed upon moral beings. If therefore it is permissible to speak of God’s wrath, it is with sinners—with ourselves when we defy love—that His wrath has to do. (p 144-145)