Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To become theology

True theology is not about doctrines, but doctrines can be a by-product of true theology. Doctrines can also be the product of human thinking, of philosophical speculation. But theology is not about doctrines. Theology is about struggle. It is the result of man struggling with God.

And what of ikons? For those unacquainted with struggle, they are merely pictures to be venerated, doctrinal statements in paint to be affirmed with a kiss. ‘The Bible says this and this, and we’ve painted a picture of it. Here it is. Prove you believe it, and kiss the picture.’

But ikons are images of true theology. They are images of struggle, of man’s encounter with the living God, of what happens when the finite meets the Infinite, the mortal meets the Immortal, the created meets the Uncreated. There is always struggle. There can be nothing else.

‘The hospitality of Abram’ is an example of this. Those depicted do not seem to be struggling, but the formula is there: Man woman and unearthly Triad, two serving Three as One. Where is the struggle? Invisible but not inaudible.
She laughed, He heard.
Doubt bears faith, but not without a fight.

An event so completely ikonic as the wrestling of Jacob with the angel of Yahweh, yet we rarely see it. And why not? Can theology so immediate be depicted visually? And if it could be, could we venerate the image without being drawn into its fiery heart? That would be a miraculous ikon.

There is always struggle. There can be nothing else. This is the meaning of our entire existence as humans, else there is no meaning. The very thought only hints at the reality, but if we run from it, we voluntarily commit ourselves to annihilation. We either face Him—look Him in the eyes—or vanish into His shadow.

A poem I once had memorized but after many years have mostly forgotten ended with the line, ‘for I am man so I must fight, but You are God so You must win.’ The author of this poem, Orthodox presbyter Ihor Kutash, a few years my senior, was the first priest I ever met. I am sure that He wrote what he knew.

There is a single purpose for every man and woman ever created, and that is to become theology. No, I did not say ‘to become a theologian.’ Nobody becomes that, except in name. Go to school and study theology, add letters after your names, and you are no wiser unto God than you were before.

To become theology, to struggle, to fight as befits your nature, to observe the Passover not in word only but in complete and perfect act, to expend yourself, to be consumed in the heat of battle, to be crushed and buried deep underground, to be sacrificed: that is what man is, else he is nothing at all.

‘For I am man so I must fight, but You are God so You must win.’

Glory to Jesus Christ!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Words, pictures, and silence: struggle with self and God, and trying to love one's neighbor.