Monday, December 29, 2008

What we do not see

This is Christmas time, the part of the church year focusing on the incarnation of the Word of God in Jesus Christ. Yet an Orthodox presbyter who has a wonderful blog has posted some remarkable insights on—the Resurrection.

In an old book that I have in my library (Early Christian Prayers) which was a discard from Mount Angel Abbey, and which I picked up for a buck at a used book store in Albany, Oregon in 1975, occurs these words quoting the paschal homily of John Chrysostom:

Isaias knew it would be so,
The world of shadows mourned, he cried,
when it met you,

mourned at its bringing low, wept at its deluding.
The shadows seized a body
and found it was God;

they reached for earth
and what they held was heaven;

they took what they could see:
it was what no one sees…

This is the passage I thought of when I read the title of Fr Stephen's post.

Here are a few passages from What we do not see. If you want to read the whole post (which is perhaps only twice as long as this excerpt), just click on the link at the end. You will not regret it.

There are many who want to speak about the resurrection as if it were a car wreck down at the corner drugstore. Whatever it was (is), it is very much more, even, indeed, something completely different - not like anything else.

And it is here, that the continuing problem of vision is made manifest. Orthodox Christian writers are wont to utter things like, “God will save the world through beauty” (Dostoevsky), or “Icons will save the world” (recently in First Things) all of which makes some people want to run out and complain. But at their heart, such statements are trying to say something about the nature of the resurrection and its action in our world.

The resurrection of Christ is something completely new. It is a manifestation of God unlike anything we have ever known. It is Truth made manifest in the flesh - not the truth to be found in an average living man. I am 55 and I look very unlike what I did at 10. I look decidedly unlike what I will in another 100 years (you probably wouldn’t like to see that). Thus we never see anything in an eternal state. But the resurrection is just that. It does not belong exactly to the classification of “things created,” for it is the “uncreated” before our eyes.

And thus the Church paints the things that pertain to the resurrection (including the saints) in an iconic fashion - not like portraiture or the “truth” that generally lies before our eyes. Icons paint the Truth as it appears to eyes that behold the resurrection. By the same token, the Church does not write about the resurrection in the way we write about other things, for the resurrection is not one of the other things but a thing that is unlike anything else. Thus the Fathers of the Church said that “icons do with color what Scripture does with words.”
And both have something to do with vision…

Read everything from start to finish here.

Axios, Father Stephen, áxios!

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