God is Not the Summit
No, the God of Christians is not the summit – reassuring and plain to see – of a pyramid of beings. He is the depth who reveals depths everywhere, making of the most familiar creature a thing unknown. We are like drunken potholers; every face we see reveals the hidden side of the earth.
It is a wonderful and compelling vision.
‘Do not try to distinguish between the worthy and the unworthy; all must be equal in your eyes to love and to serve … Did not the Lord share the table of publicans and harlots, without putting away the unworthy from him? Thus you shall confer the same benefits, the same honors … on the faithless and the murderer, forasmuch as he is also your brother, since he shares in the same human nature’ (St Isaac of Syria).
The vocation of St Therese of Lisieux was born of her prayer for a murderer whose terrible fate was reported in the newspapers. She felt like his mother.
Murderers are the sort of people whom we would rather ignore. But the first to whom Christ gave the assurance, ‘this day you shall be with me in paradise’, was a murderer on the gallows. It was there that the mystery of the person was consecrated.
In the 20th century, philosophical reductionism has become historical reductionism. Who can tell the connection between Nietzsche and Hitler, between Marx and Stalin, between Pavlov and Freud and the society of emptiness and ‘happiness’? The blood of the martyrs, and above all their prayer for their tormentors, witnessed in the Soviet Union as well as in the Nazi camps, testifies to the irreducible character of the person.
So many rebellions of today – pursued with a vigor out of all proportion to their original causes – are evidence that we desire transcendence and joy, and not this happiness with which people are obsessed, which is the happiness of livestock, well nourished, well washed, well psychoanalyzed, force-fed with agreeable sensations and scientifically achieved orgasms. If we had recipes for ecstasy we should even be free from the need for repentance. But the human being is a person in the image of God and the image aspires towards its Pattern.
From Olivier Clement, On Human Being: A Spiritual Anthropology
“If you have become the throne of God, if the heavenly charioteer has ascended within you and your soul has become as a single spiritual eye and has become completely luminous, and if you have been clothed in light ineffable and fed from spiritual delights and drunk from living water, and all your inner life has been tested and proven in hope, then in all truth you have started to live the eternal life, even in this present age, and your soul has found its rest in God.” —Makarios the Great
From John Anthony McGuckin, The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations on the Soul’s Ascent, from the Desert Fathers and other Early Christian Contemplatives