Friday, 21 February 2014

Sparklings of the Divine Light

The Pantheon in Rome, now the Church of All Saints.
"The door of the human being is the spiracle* of life through which we spirate and breathe the Divine Being, eternal light and life. Now what is an opening if not a hole, an interruption of closure. In other words, ‘in’ this hole of the human being, which is the spiracle of Genesis, the human being ceases; it is interrupted. But there where man ceases God begins. Man is enclosed in his own nature as in a carapace (and this also includes, in a certain way, all of creation). Beyond this carapace suddenly begins the ocean of Divine Light. God pierces a hole in this carapace that is immediately invaded by Divine Light. Insofar as this light comes from elsewhere, it is Divine; insofar as it wholly occupies the place of the orifice, it is part of human nature. 

From this point of view there is profound analogy between microcosm and macrocosm, as is sometimes represented by medieval iconography: the stars are not so much luminous bodies fixed to the celestial vault, as openings in the firmament through which the sparklings of the Divine Light is [sic] glimpsed. Once we know what a close relationship there is, for Plato and Aristotle, between the stars and the essences of the intelligible world, this analogy is seen in all its profundity. Are Plato’s essences intelligible ‘things’? In a certain sense, yes. But, in another, they are holes in the sensory cosmos which, by their very notchings, delineate or cut out distinct luminous unities in that ocean of infinite light that is Divine Reality; how else could we withstand its brightness?

"To conclude let us add that, if the immutable essences are macrocosmic doorways to the divine, if neshamah is the microcosmic doorway, the Most Holy Virgin is its spiritual doorway, the Janua Coeli, which makes of her ‘the Mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope’ (Eccles. 24:24). Yes, spiritual intelligence comes into us through the doorway of Heaven."

"Spiracle" = "breathing hole.
The text is from Jean Borella, The Secret of the Christian Way, ed. and trans. G. John Champoux (SUNY Press, 2001), p. 110. See also Borella's Sense of the Supernatural, which I was proud to publish at T&T Clark some years ago. Secret of the Christian Way is included in my list of DESERT ISLAND BOOKS (i.e. indispensable metaphysics and theology) which you can find below.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Praying to the Trinity

There are three special prayers in the Christian tradition: The Lord’s Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, and the Hail Mary. These prayers are directed especially to the members of the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

This is easy to see in the case of the first two, which are explicitly addressed to the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in the third, although we know that he is the Spouse of the Mother of God, and St Maximilian Kolbe even refers to Our Lady as the “quasi-incarnation” of the Holy Spirit. These two – The Spirit and Our Lady – are closely entwined at the deepest level.

What we normally mean by “prayer” is talking to God (albeit silently) about things we need or things that worry us – or praising him and thanking him for this and that. Much of that kind of prayer involves thinking, imagining, conceptualizing. It is takes place in a mind full of echoes and mumblings of conversation, memories of things that have happened or fears of what may be about to, or simply random