Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The place He has prepared

The use and abuse of history, an enormous topic, too large for an essay, maybe too small for a book, or maybe just too fast—it’s happening all around us, right now as I write, I can’t keep up with it.

There’s a right use of history. If we don’t learn from it, the human race keeps making the same mistakes. Why is it that history must remain the preserve of historians like myself? Why can’t it be for all?

Surely, it’s interesting enough, but it takes commitment, you must make time for it, yes, make time to study… time! And to make that time, and to study, you have to step outside of history’s flow.

But history used, that is, for positive purposes, to learn from it how not to repeat our mistakes, that is a good thing. It can fuel the drive for progress, for improvement, for liberty, good citizenship, peace.

But history abused—I hate to think of it!—but I see it going around me every day, everywhere in the media, in the realm of personal relationships, in politics, and, worst of all, in the Church.

I am an Eastern Orthodox—at least, that’s what the world calls me. I am a member of, and live in, the Greek Orthodox, or Byzantine Christian faith. I have a lot of connexions in many places as a result.

By many places I mean, my faith connects or ties or joins me to many people, institutions, ideologies, and practices, all of which give structure to my daily life and thought, and shape my view of history.

But central to my view of history is the person of Jesus Christ, who has entered not only the history of the world and my personal history, but has divided both into a BC/AD split, and transformed both.

Now, the most important event in the history of the human world, perhaps of the whole world, is the incarnation of God, in Christ, and in the Church. God has entered the universe, both Head and Body.

This entrance transcends natural thought: it is unthinkable, and inexpressible except by being what it is. In Christ Jesus the human race was elevated to participation in God, all of the race, not just a part.

The man Jesus of Nazareth is the Head, and everyone else who has lived, lives now, or ever shall live, comprise in our totality the Body. We are a single, cosmic organism, greater than the natural universe.

It should be no surprise what we are capable of—I mean, on the positive side—if we are, in fact, a divine race, again, all of us. We have ample evidence from history what we’re capable of, on the negative side.

That evidence against us, against our restoration in Christ, is the primary theme of history, which can be used in either of two ways: to educate and elevate us, or to drag us down, and the universe with us.

This is where use and abuse enter the picture. Though ‘history is written by the victors,’ that does not let us off the hook, whether victors or victims, from using history as a corrective to our human condition.

Just in the field of ‘religion’ we have a potent example. We can perpetuate our failures, or we can overturn them, by the way we teach and study history. Wrongs can further sicken us, or be an antidote.

Shall we teach a class, ‘The Great Schism of 1054,’ and proceed to list and analyze the historical events that produced it? And if we do, is it to remind ourselves why we are still justified to perpetuate this ill?

Or do we examine the topic, study the historical sources, attempt to understand what went wrong, and search out how this defect in the Church may be removed, knowing that we are part of the solution?

If I were a teacher—or lecturer, since we have only one Teacher, the Christ—of history, and if the topic was the so-called Great Schism, whatever I called the class, I would endeavor to lecture on ‘unschism.’

Yes, maybe even the ‘Great Unschism of 2016’ since I have heard there is to be a Pan-Orthodox Council next year. Lecturing from this angle is not to deny the past, however written, but to conjure the future.

For it is never by the remembrance of past evils that any present or future good is realized. Whether one is Christian or not the word of Jesus is true, ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Revelation 21:5).

That is why He came, why He comes now, and why He is to come forever. That is why He is the Head of that pan-human organism which is His Body, and which we, too narrowly defining it, call the Church.

The use and abuse of history, how does it escape us that we abuse it so often without recognizing that as a sin? We celebrate ourselves and our victory over others while abjectly ignorant of our own defeat.

This is not the time, brothers, for plundering the tombs of our deadly past, but to bring history to the life-giving tomb of Christ, who has taken captivity captive, and enter the place He has prepared for us.

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