Friday, May 30, 2014

Saint Anselm: Longing to see God

In the midst of the conflict within the Anglican Communion today we sometimes fail to drink from our own wells; the rich history and tradition of the Church.

St. Anselm followed Lanfranc as Abbot at Bec, and later followed Lanfranc as the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Lanfranc was the first Norman Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm the second.

In his excellent book, English Spirituality, Martin Thornton said of St. Anselm, "“Place any of his books anywhere you wish on the shelves of a religious bookshop and nothing could be out of place.  His prayers are meditative, his theology is prayer, his philosophy is devotion, his letters of counsel are pastoral theology; all is biblical, all is doctrine, all is praise.  That is the whole point”  [Thornton, p. 164].

You may be familiar with one of St. Anselm's basic principles, "Credo ut intelligam." "I believe in order to understand". Anselm wrote, “I seek not, O Lord, to search out Thy depth, but I desire in some measure to understand Thy truth, which my heart believeth and loveth.  Nor do I seek to understand  that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand.  For this too I believe, that unless I first believe, I shall not understand” [Proslogion, ch. 1].

One of my favourite quotes is also from the Proslogion:

Little man, rise up! Flee your preoccupations for a little while. Hide yourself for a time from your turbulent thoughts. Cast aside, now, your heavy responsibilities and put off your burdensome business. Make a little space free for God; and rest for a little time in him.

Enter the inner chamber of your mind; shut out all thoughts. Keep only thought of God, and thoughts that can aid you in seeking him. Close your door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, I seek your face; your face, Lord, will I seek.

And come you now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek you, where and how it may find you.

Lord, if you are not here, where shall I seek you when you are absent? But if you are everywhere, why do I not see you present? Truly you dwell in unapproachable light. But where is unapproachable light, or how shall I come to it? Or who shall lead me to that light and into it, that I may see you in it? Again, by what signs, under what form, shall I seek you? I have never seen you, O Lord, my God; I do not know your face.

What, O most high Lord, shall this man do, an exile far from you? What shall your servant do, anxious in his love of you, and cast out far from your presence? He is breathless with desire to see you, and your face is too far from him. He longs to come to you, and your dwelling-place is inaccessible. He is eager to find you, but does not know where. He desires to seek you, and does not know your face.

Lord, you are my God, and you are my Lord, and never have I seen you. You have made me and renewed me, you have given me all the good things that I have, and I have not yet met you. I was created to see you, and I have not yet done the thing for which I was made.

And as for you, Lord, how long? How long, O Lord, do you forget us; how long do you turn your face from us? When will you look upon us, and hear us? When will you enlighten our eyes, and show us your face? When will you restore yourself to us?
Look upon us, Lord; hear us, enlighten us, reveal yourself to us. Restore yourself to us, that it may be well with us, yourself, without whom it is so ill with us. Pity our toilings and strivings toward you since we can do nothing without you.

Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me when I seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor find you unless you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in longing, let me long for you in seeking; let me find you by loving you and love you in the act of finding you.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Rosa Mystica

Rosa Mystica:
in Outlines of Romantic Theology by Charles Williams

Charles Williams held that the principles of Romantic Theology can be reduced to a single formula: which is, the identification of love with Jesus Christ, and of marriage with his life. This again can be reduced to the single word—Immanuel.”[1] That is to say romantic love between a man and a woman carried out to its normal end in the rite of marriage and married life is a participation in Him who is Love himself. Such love is not the only incarnation of Love, but it is in our experience the most central one. In working the principle out he turns to the very act of the Incarnation and the enfleshment of Love in the womb of the young Virgin. Here he finds the root understanding of Love in human experience.

“We begin then with the Birth and with the Mother of God. And it is with her that the parallel becomes first apparent….It is in its earliest moments rather a delight of contemplation than a desire of union; being its own satisfaction and asking for nothing more. And though this desire is probably necessary, in order that contemplation may become ever more rich and full, the heart is often so shaken by the mere contemplation of the beloved that it is not conscious of anything beyond its own delight. The whole person of the lover is possessed by a new state of consciousness; love is born in him. “They have changed eyes,” says Shakespeare. But in this state of love he sees and contemplates the beloved as the perfection of living things: love is bestowed by her smile; she is its source and its mother. She appears to him, as it were, without human ties of any sort, for she is before humanity, the first-created of God. To her, for example, may be decently applied all the titles of the Litany of Loretto (and it is the business of Romantic Theology to urge and prove that they may justly be so applied).

She is the Mother of Love, purissima most pure, inviolata inviolate, admirablilis admirable; she is the Maid, virgo veneranda venerable virgin, potens powerful, Clemens merciful, she is the mirror of all mystical titles—speculum iustitiae mirror of justice, sedes sapientiae seat of wisdom, causa nostrae laetitiae cause of our joy, domus aurea house of gold, stella matutina morning star, salus infirmorum health of the sick: Unless the identification of marriage love with Christ be accepted, to press the similarity farther would seem profane. But any lover to whom the application of the titles we have quoted seems natural and right may believe from that in the Godhead of Incarnate Love, and may so dare to apply in a very real sense the titles which remain—Mater divinae gratiae Mother of divine grace, Mater Salvatoris Mother of our Savior, Rosa Mystica mystical Rose, Refugium peccatorum refuge of sinners, Regina Prophetarum Queen of Prophets. Not certainly in herself is she anything but as being glorious in the delight taken in her by the Divine Presence that accompanies her, and yet is born of her; which created her and is helpless as a child in her power. However in all other ways she may be full of error or deliberate evil, in the eyes of the lover, were it but for a moment, she recovers her glory, which is the glory that Love had with the Father before the world was. Immaculate she appears, Theotokos God-bearer, the Mother of God.”[2]

Williams presses the idea to its logical conclusion is saying that Dante, speaking of the beatific gaze of Beatrice that her eyes are “the eyes from which Love shot her earlier arrows, the eyes which … have the power to clear his blindness, the eyes which are in heaven so full of love for him, the eyes in which the two-natured Gryphon of Christ is reflected, the eyes of the Florentine girl—there are the eyes which in the end change only into the eyes of the Mother of God. This is the unique and lasting Mystery of the Way.”[3]

Williams carefully retains the humanity of Mary saying “in all other ways she may be full of error or deliberate evil, in the eyes of her lover, were it but for a moment, she recovers her glory which is the glory that Love had with the Father before the world was.” [4] This is in effect an acknowledgement both of her humanity and of the fact that her glory is a derivative glory that comes from Love Himself. The same theme is picked up in his discussion of Dante and Beatrice. Of Beatrice he says, “in the end it is he only at whom her eyes gaze before they plunge into the mystery of God himself. She is a divine thing, but she is also, still and always, the Florentine girl.” [5] It is important to bear in mind that when all is said and done that Beatrice is still and always the laughing Florentine girl. It is that understanding that reveals that this Love is Incarnate Love revealed in very human form. It is in fact Romantic Love enfleshed. Ultimately through the eyes of the Florentine girl Beatrice the eyes of the Mother of God looks, and in and through her the Divine Presence of Love Himself gazes. But this is not a distant, nor even a peculiar thing, but rather the heart experience of every lover who so beholds his love and marvels and the brilliance of her gaze. Through the gaze of my own true love, Mother Mary smiles on me, and through her eyes, the Christ in love beholds me.

[1] Charles Williams, Outlines of Romantic Theology, (Berkeley: The Apocryphile Press, 2005), p. 14
[2] Ibid. p. 15-17
[3] Ibid, “Religion and Love in Dante”, p. 111
[4] Ibid, p. 16-17
[5] Ibid, p. 99