Saturday, June 1, 2013

The source

Foundation, by Grace Carol Bomer
Soli Deo Gloria Studio
We all have this experience. There is something that we could do, something that we think we really want to do, something we’ve never done before but thought about, that we know, if we did it, something would change irreversibly forever.

In most cases, these are probably good things, but sometimes they are things that are not good (we know they deviate from the true north of our moral compass), but in either case, if we did them, we know for sure that something would change irreversibly forever.

The moment of decision and the moment of action are usually so close, when we choose to act, that we can almost justifiably look back and say, “it was done in a fit of passion,” and thereby try to alleviate the blame, if the act was an bad one, or if it seemed good at the time but later produced bad fruits.

On a micro scale, this process of choice-decision-act is happening to us all the time, and we scarcely notice the effects. As the scale of cause and effect increases, we become more aware of the intentionalism and realism of the process. At the top of the scale, though few are aware of it, there is going to be one action which, if we take it, will change one thing irreversibly forever, and catastrophically.

The irony of this one action is that, in the desiring of it resides the source of all the moral energy that we have, all the energy that is in us for good, to achieve good things, to desire good acts, ultimately to do the one truly good act, to believe in God and in Jesus Christ whom He has sent. To refrain from committing this one act makes all other acts possible; to commit it, renders all other acts useless.

For all its other meanings, the account in Genesis 2 and 3 has this meaning. Our first parents Adam and Eve were given as food the fruit of every tree in the garden of paradise which God created, except for the fruit of one of two very special trees.

The tree of life, whose fruit they were permitted, of all the other trees in the garden, not only nourished them physically, but also spiritually—by eating the fruit of this tree, they would never die. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, its twin in being specially created, was the only tree in paradise the fruit of which was absolutely forbidden to them as food. They must not eat of its fruit. They could see it, they might touch it (though they probably dare not), but of its fruit they must not eat.

Though they might desire it, with or without the help of the tempter, they must not eat of it, else they would die. Something would change irreversibly forever. It was in the desiring of it, while not partaking of it—in the single-hearted obedience to the word spoken in their ears by their Creator—that resided the source of all the moral energy that they had, all the energy that was in them for good.

That was how He had created them. Nothing He created was meaningless or just for show. No word of His spoken to them, or to us, at any time, has ever been only to dominate us or to rule over us, to show us who is in charge. He does not need to do that. We know who we are, who He is, instinctively, just as we instinctively know wrong from right, darkness from light. We are not blind.

No, He created Adam and Eve this way, and paradise with its two special trees, and spoke the one commandment, to reveal to them and to us how reality works, and what our part in reality is. It’s not merely a story, but the revelation of the nature of all that is, against the learning of all that is not.

In the children’s book by C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, there is a parallel story that alludes to this very same idea, that which I am trying to describe here. There is no need to recount the story from this book, but perhaps to quote a short poem from it will add some hint of meaning that I have may have missed.

Come in by the gold gates or not at all.
Take of my fruit for others or forbear,
for those who steal or those who climb my wall
shall find their heart’s desire, and find despair.

* * *

“…the source of all the moral energy that they had, all the energy that was in them for good,” I wrote a few paragraphs above. This post is about the mystery and the problem of what empowers us for good as human beings.

Well, of course I know the simple, easy answer from most Christians would simply be “God” or “Christ” empowers us, but that’s the obvious answer. I wanted to know how does He empower us?
What is the spiritual mechanism of this empowerment?

I believe this mechanism to be our deepest desire, not what we admit to others or even to ourselves is our deepest desire, for that is often the answer that’s expected. Instead, it’s the deepest desire which may not seem to have a direct bearing on “religion” or even on “spirituality,” and yet it is the thing we were born desiring.

It is the thing we were born desiring but know, by the light of Christ when we accept Him, that it is impossible to obtain in this life without forfeiting Him.

This seems so unfair when we first encounter it in all its dreadful majesty. We are not forbidden to desire, but we are to obey the one commandment that prevents its fulfillment, and by that obedience become instruments of God in this world, and finally fit rulers in the next.

The ban will be lifted. The Throne of God and of the Lamb will be in its place in the City; His servants will worship Him, they will see Him face to face, and His Name will be written on their foreheads. It will never be night again and they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever.
Revelation 22:3-5 Jerusalem Bible


Joel said...

Hi Romanos,

I've been enjoying your blog for a while now through Orthodox Collective.

I have a question about this post: is this thing that we are all born desiring something different for everyone, or one thing that's common to everyone? Could you please elaborate?


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Joel, thanks for your comments and question.

Yes, what we are born desiring is, on the surface of it, different, even unique, for every person. It can only be talked about, I think, if at all, between two very good friends who know and love each other. Even one's father confessor could be misled, or even deceived, by listening to one trying to describe it. A spiritual father, or mother, who is a 'lover of mankind' would be able to supply by love what one might not be able to express in words, and thus be able to counsel, to help somewhat, but no one can be delivered from this, but by Christ Himself, and in a way just as unique as the desire itself.

Another angle on this topic can be found in my post What we were born wanting,