O Gladsome Light: Thoughts at Epiphany

That God is eternal does not mean he is not also in time. There is no contradiction between the two modes of being; if there were, then there would no way to have temporality in the first place; for, since eternity is prior to time, time is happening in eternity, and is fully limited by and conformed thereto.

So, God responds to us in time, just as we respond to each other. His response is happening in time and in eternity – in time, which is an aspect of eternity. So Jesus is in time as we are, but he is also consciously eternal. The Incarnation happened before all worlds because all worlds happened before all worlds. The happening of worlds is a procedure of eternity.

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When Buddhists talk of attaining nirvana, they talk of the repentant turn to a full apprehension of eternity, which necessitates leaving behind, cutting off all creaturely cares. They interpret that experience as indicating that there is no cosmos: that no finite creature exists. And while this interpretation is self-refuting – for, if it were correct, it could not happen – it is natural enough. Being the basic form of reality, upon which all other modes of being supervene, eternity naturally appears to the sage to be the only really true sort of reality. Other modes of being are less; are infinitely less, infinitely smaller. And eternity being utterly simple, all complex beings supervenient thereto appear to be relatively unreal and illusory by comparison. They are not in fact unreal; it is just that temporality:eternality::1:∞.

This all goes, ditto, for the Beatific Vision. Of course it blasts temporality to smithereens, and thus ipso facto temporal beings. Not that they are destroyed, but that, as mere smithereens, they disappear from view (even their own view), subsumed into their matrix, overwhelmed as to nothingness (although not absolutely thereto) by its infinite actuality; as a mote of dust at the foot of the mountain disappears into the mountain when we look at the mountain, rather than at the mote.

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The mote, too, of course, is subject to that same impression of its own infinitesimality, its own virtual non-existence, in respect to the mountain upon whom it supervenes. This is why the beauty of the Real Presence is terrifying. It is why we motes find that the hairs on our arms and necks rise up in dread at its approach. It is why so many of us, stiff-necked, refuse to turn toward it.

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Creatures must all be historical. They have to be a part of some causal order, because they cannot be simply eternal. This for the same reason that they cannot be simple, or pure act, &c.: namely, that they are contingent and must be caused.

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There is indeed a transcendent unity of religions, as Frithjof Schuon argues, in the same way and for the same reason that there is transcendent unity of every sort of creature in God – and, indeed, in the same way and for the same reason that there is transcendent unity of disparate creatures in and as a coherent, integral cosmos. The integrity of the cosmos follows inexorably upon the omnipotence of God – how, pray, could it be otherwise?

This does not mean that all religions are equally true, any more than the transcendent unity of all men in God means that all men are equally good.

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Cut away all your worldly, historically terminated intentions, and all that will be left is your basic, eternally terminated intention. At that point your heart will be pure, and you will see God in eternity. Not just in heaven, for heaven is a causal order with a history, just like ours except without sin or defect. Heaven is not quite the BV. It is the vestibule of the throne room.

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Any religion, even a false one, that provides its adherents a method for ceasing their idolatry – i.e., their historically terminated intentions – is going to be effective in promoting their ascesis and pointing them toward the Good, and eventually toward the BV. In other words, effective ascesis just is putting on the mind of Christ, and following Him to the Throne Room, whether the ascetic understands himself as a Christian, or not.

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Nulla salus extra ecclesiam; but this just means that there are a lot of people who are going to be very surprised, upon opening their eyes after they attain satori, to find themselves Christians inside the Church; to find that they have been Christians inside the Church the whole time.

This will be thanks to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit; but also to the fact that the Church, like the Temple of which it is an elaboration and fructification, is a synecdoche of the whole created order. The Temple is an image of the cosmos; so that the cosmos is a more perfect Temple than the Temple at Mount Zion that is its image. Thus our real nave is the world, as Jacob discovered when he called it Bethel, the House of the Lord; one tradition has it that Jacob had his dream on Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount.

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The Temple, and the body of Jesus of Nazareth, are procedures of the whole created order. Everything that surrounds them in space and time contributed to them, and vice versa. A body – not just a human body, but any physical body – is a process of the whole world, and cannot be extricated from its environment without ripping it to pieces (think of the gravitational shear alone).

So when Jesus rose from the dead, the whole world rose with him. Or, rather, began to rise with him. In the order of time, the rising of such a vast and massive system is bound to take a while. The Atonement redeemed the whole shooting match; it is just that the effects of that redemption are taking a while, naturally enough, to percolate through all the cosmos. Eventually Christ will be all in all; but for that project to be completed, all the members of this world will need to take salvation, and own it as and for themselves, make it their own, adopt it as their mode of being; will have to take up their crosses and take on their resurrection bodies, and live toward God. This taking is not easy. It is a matter of dying to the world, and living to God.

All that needs to happen, then, in order for the world to enjoy the salvation from death his sacrifice has provided, is for the world to agree with his resurrection. Bit by bit, parts of it will. Some won’t. That’s why this world will have to end. The ending of the world will happen when the damned are at last ejected from it, into the outer darkness. The rupture of that event will destroy the world for the blessed, as well (think of the gravitational shear alone). But to an infinite creative power, new worlds are cheap; are child’s play.

We see this in the resurrection of our own world, in each new moment, from the ashes of its past.

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When Jesus rose from the dead, the whole created order rose with him, in general, and at least potentially. But also, in particular, Man rose with him, too. The body of Jesus was indeed a process of, and integral to, the whole physical created order. But it was also a process of, and integral to, humanity. When Jesus rose, men and women were enabled to rise in his train. Lewis compares the spread of resurrection through the whole species to an epidemic. But really Jesus gave us the best metaphor for the process, in giving us at the same time its physical vector: the eucharist. When we eat the body of Jesus, we make his body part of our own. Jesus enters into and participates in the life of each of our cells. This is how our bodies become synecdoches of the Temple.

So the Body of Christ is the whole Church, in Heaven and on Earth; and it is the created order of all the worlds (in secula seculorum, a world of worlds); and it is the Temple; and it is the House of the Lord – i.e., the Children of Jesus (as the Children of Israel are the House of Israel); and it is the Host; and it is the body of the Christian, the one who has become “of Christ,” who with Christ has been anointed with the chrism a priest forever of the Order of Melchizedek.

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Satori is, among other things, the discovery that the world is sanctified, is a temple. It is the discovery that the world that had seemed profane is actually sacred. This is what makes satori blissful.

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But NB that a religion that promotes in its adherents an attention to historical intentions – as sorcery does, or Cadillac Christianity – is leading them away from God.

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4 thoughts on “O Gladsome Light: Thoughts at Epiphany

  1. Still no comments I see. Probably because Kristor’s posts contain such philosophical depth and spiritual toothsomeness that mere ‘comments’ are rendered superfluous. Many thanks for these reflections – they reach further than any others I know on the net.

    • I absolutely agree. Kristor’s essays are truly incredible, and the experience of reading them extremely enriching and nearly transcedental. You’d notice that most of his essays of the sort have not much of a response in the comments, but I don’t think this is because no one is reading them, but because the only thing that can be said about them, the only thing that they deserve, is all-round praise, something that would be somewhat inane given the frequency with which he publishes these brilliant gems of wisdom.

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