not because real differences are increasing but because they are disappearing

Envy, jealousy, and hate render alike those they possess, but in our world people tend to misunderstand or ignore the resemblances and identities that these passions generate. They have ears only for the deceptive celebration of differences, which rages more than ever in our societies, not because real differences are increasing but because they are disappearing.

René Girard in I See Satan Fall Like Lightning.

it so brilliantly and penetratingly depicts the psychological conditions of those who condemn themselves to hell

I have always thought this the most fascinating aspect of C.S. Lewis’s sole genuine theological masterpiece, The Great Divorce: it so brilliantly and penetratingly depicts the psychological conditions of those who condemn themselves to hell that it inadvertently shows this self-condemnation to be as much a condition of unwilling slavery as of willing perversity—as much adventitiously imposed as internally cultivated. Indeed, the impersonal and personal here are one thoroughly interwoven fabric, a single hell already there before we were born, and from which a God of love alone can set us free.

“When Only Bad Arguments Are Possible: A Response to Diem (among others)” posted on 26 July 2020 by David Bentley Hart at Eclectic Orthodoxy.

it so brilliantly and penetratingly depicts the psychological conditions of those who condemn themselves to hell

I have always thought this the most fascinating aspect of C.S. Lewis’s sole genuine theological masterpiece, The Great Divorce: it so brilliantly and penetratingly depicts the psychological conditions of those who condemn themselves to hell that it inadvertently shows this self-condemnation to be as much a condition of unwilling slavery as of willing perversity—as much adventitiously imposed as internally cultivated. Indeed, the impersonal and personal here are one thoroughly interwoven fabric, a single hell already there before we were born, and from which a God of love alone can set us free.

From “When Only Bad Arguments Are Possible: A Response to Diem (among others)” posted on 26 July 2020 by David Bentley Hart at Eclectic Orthodoxy.

this genuine image for every human being is Christ

From Sergius Bulgakov’s The Bride of the Lamb:

It is necessary to understand that the parousia, the comíng of Christ in glory, that is, in the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, is, as such, already the judgment. The parousia cannot be an external and mutually indifferent encounter between God who has come into the world and man who remains in his isolated state of being, as he was before this encounter. On the contrary, man too is clothed in glory and incorruptibility, and the creaturely Sophia becomes transparent for the Divine Sophia. This changes man’s very being, This encounter with God, this entering into the realm of the divine fire, is not something optional for human beings. It is inevitable. For some this is the time of liberation (“look up, and lift up your heads” [Luke 21:28). For others it is a time of fear and horror: “then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30). No one can avoid this encounter, for it is not an outward encounter but an inward one. For many this will be an unexpected and undesired transformation of their being, for the transfiguration, the light of glory given to human beings, can do more than illuminate. It can also consume in fire.

What is this fire that burns the chaff? And how is the judgment accomplished? The Judge is the Son of man, to whom the Father has given the power to judge those whom “he is not ashamed to call…..brethren” (Heb. 2:11, 17; cf. P 82:1: “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods”). About this judgment, which is the baptism of the world by fire, the Forerunner of the Lord says: “He (Christ) shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16). This baptism by fire refers not only to the Pentecost of Zion, which opens up the kingdom of grace and serves as the precursor of the Pentecost of the world, the kingdom of glory in the parousia. This baptism is in fact the glory as the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Christ enters the world in an evident manner for every human being by the power of the Holy Spirit. The parousia manifestly clothes every human being in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

It is precisely in this sense that the parousia is also the judgment. And Christ, as the Judge (John 5:27), judges by the Holy Spirit. Human beings are clothed in Christ, who is the Truth and the Life, by the life giving Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth. This means that every human being is inwardly confronted with the truth about himself. Every human being sees himself in the truth, by a vision that is not abstract but living, like the consuming flame of a fire from whose light one cannot hide, for all will become visible: “for judgment I am come into this world” (John 9:39), says the Lord. “Now is the judgment of this world” (12:31). But this judgment will be accomplished by Christ through the Comforter: “when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (16:8, 11).

The manifestation of God’s glory in the world is also the manifestation of the truth itself, as well as the abolition of falsehood and the power of the father of lies (John 8:44). No falsehood, no self-deception, no error will have a place in the kingdom of truth, and this “exposure” by the Spirit of truth is already the judgment. By virtue of the truth this judgment becomes for everyone a self-judgment, a shedding of the veils of falsehood and self-deception that cover emptiness. The enthronement of Christ in the world, the reign of God come in power, is the Holy Spirit that fully, without any kenosis, pours forth upon all flesh. Christ’s revelation in the Holy Spirit has an irresistible force, which is manifested both in the universal resurrection and in the transformation of the world, with a transfiguration and glorification that extend to all flesh. This illuminating and transfiguring power is expressed in the image of fire, not natural of course but “spiritual,” which will penetrate the “spiritual” body and the spirit itself. The fire of the future age consumes, but it also transfigures, illuminates, gladdens.

…The judgement and separation consist in the fact that every human being will be placed before his own eternal image in Christ, that is, before Christ. And in the light of this image, he will see his own reality, and this comparison will be the judgmnent. It is this that is the Last Judgment of Christ upon every human being. In this judgment, the “books” are opened, for the Holy Spirit gives the power to read them clearly. Human life in all its fullness and connectedness is manifested in the implacable, inwardly irrefutable light of justice. This is a global vista, referring to man not only as a personal being but also as a generic one. Both man’s life and his responsibility are conditioned by and linked with the destinies of the whole human race. He is judged or rather he judges himself in Christ as belonging to all humankind, to the whole history of “all the nations,” in the total concreteness of all-human, universal being. He now knows this being as the life of Christ’s humanity, which He assumed in His double nature

…The proper self-determination of every human being in his creaturely freedom presents itself here as a certain self-evident reality, and not only as an external judgment upon him. This means that the Father left the judgment to His Son, who Himself is the Son of man, and, in His humanity, every human being finds himself and the judgment upon himself. This judgment is therefore not transcendent but immanent. In every human being, his own unreality or nakedness, his failure to wear a wedding garment at the wedding feast, is clearly distinguished from Christ’s reality. Just as the Holy Spirit manifests Christ in glory, so it reveals Christ’s presence in every human being. The judgment is the theophany to the world of the Son sent by the Father in the Holy Spirit. Resurrection in incorruptibility and glorification is precisely the Last Judgment, in which creation appears before the face of God and sees itself in God. For the image of God, given to man at his creation, is also the judgment upon man in relation to his likeness, which is the realization of this image in creaturely freedom. The “likeness” is the book of life opened at the judgment. God’s image will be revealed to every human being by the Holy Spirit as inner justice and judgment for creaturely life. This judgment of Christ is also every human being’s own iudgment upon himself. It consists in each person seeing himself in the light of his own justice, in the light of his proto-image, which he perceives in his resurrection under illumination by the Holy Spirit. The Judgment is the judgment of every human being in his true image upon himself in his “likeness.” As such, the judgment is self-evidently persuasive. This genuine image for every human being is Christ: The judgment consists in the fact that the light has come into the world (see John 3:19). “For judgment I am come into the world” (9:39)

Is it possible to reject this ontological self-judgment upon oneself as inappropriate and unconvincing? No! It is not possible, for one is judged by one’s own being, by one’s own truth. St. Isaac the Syrian says that the torments of hell are the burning of love for God, the burning fire of this love (we will encounter this idea again when we consider the burning in hell). This idea is also applicable to man’s relation to his divine proto-image: being aware of how distant he is from his proto-image in his given state or likeness, a human being nevertheless recognizes himself in this image as he could and should be according to God’s thought. He loves this image of himself, judges himself by it, compares himself to it, does not and cannot retreat from it inwardly.

This proto-image is Christ. Every human being sees himself in Christ and measures the extent of his difference from this proto-image. A human being cannot fail to love the Christ who is revealed in him, and he cannot fail to love himself revealed in Christ. The two things are the same. Such is human ontology. Love is the Holy Spirit, who sets the heart afire with this love. But this love, this blazing up of the Spirit, is also the judgment of the individual upon himself, his vision of himself outside himself, in conflict with himself, that is, outside Christ and far from Christ. And the measure and knowledge of this separation are determined by Love, that is, by the Holy Spirit. The same fire, the same love gladdens and burns, torments and gives joy. The judgment of love is the most terrible judgment, more terrilble than that of justice and wrath, than that of the law, for it includes all this but also transcends it. The judgment of love consists of a revolution in people’s hearts, in which, by the action of the Holy Spirit in the resurrection, the eternal source of love for Christ is revealed together with the torment caused by the failure to actualize this love in the life that has passed. It is impossible to appear before Christ and to see Him without loving him.

In the resurrection, there is no longer any place for anti-Christianity, for enmity toward Christ, for satanic hatred of Him, just as there is no place for fear of Him as the Judge terrible in His omnipotence and the fury of His wrath. The Lord will come as He was on earth: meek and humble in heart, though now in glory. But this meekness and humility will burn hearts by their love and their judgment. God-Love judges with love the sins against love.

Our Lord replied with a laugh, “You’re asking me for a difficult thing, my dear Kristos Samra!”

Material in this post is from “The Life and Visions of Krəstos Śämra, a Fifteenth-Century Ethiopian Woman Saint” by Wendy Laura Belcher from African Christian Biography: Stories, Lives, and Challenges edited by Dana Lee Robert (Cluster Publications, 2018), chapter 5, pp. 80-101. (Available online at wendybelcher.com.)

The autobiography of 16th-century Ethiopian nun and visionary, Saint Krestos Samra (meaning “Christ Delights in Her”), is likely the oldest account by any woman in Africa. Although dictated to a monk who wrote it down on the saint’s behalf, Gädlä Krəstos Śämra has strong claims for authenticity even from a secular historical standpoint. Saint Krestos Samra married into the imperial family, lived in extravagant wealth with hundreds of slaves attending her until about the age of forty, abandoned the last of her eleven children to enter the monastic life in penitence after killing a slave (who she raised from death by pleading with God), founded a renowned monastery after years of extreme asceticism, and is currently Ethiopia’s most beloved female saint. Despite its value, this work has never been translated into English.

Here are a few excerpts from the chapter that give a scholarly analysis of the document before the translated passages:

Gädlä Krəstos Śämra is an example of a distinctive Ethiopian genre called a gädl (spiritual struggle; plural: gädlat), used to tell the inspirational story of a saint’s life. This genre began to be written in the fourteenth century and flourished until the end of the seventeenth century.

…Her visions are not presented in abstract mystical language but are quite concrete, including clear stories about repentant magicians, fragments of consecrated bread that fly, abjecting the body by sucking Christ’s wounds, and meeting Satan in his guise as head of the church. In one, she demands that Christ forgive all the damned and then travels to hell to plead with Satan to accept Christ’s pardon so that human beings will no longer suffer due to their enmity (see Appendix 2 for an English translation of this section).

…Krəstos Śämra even debates with Christ, pressing him like a disobedient son to forgive humanity. In one of her miracles, a man was using a plant for magical protection. When Krǝstos Śämra prayed to Christ that the man be forgiven for practicing magic, Christ responded that he would not forgive him because the man had used the plant demonically. In a typical moment, she responded by arguing with Christ, pointing out, “You created the plants!” Christ bowed to this argument and forgave the man. It is for tactics like this that the scholar Ephraim Isaac has reportedly called her “the mother of peace” and an Ethiopian female philosopher.

Gädlä Krəstos Śämra is just one example of Ethiopia’s thousands of original texts, less than 5 percent of which are available in any European language.

This English translation of one portion of the autobiography Gädlä Krəstos Śämra is by Michael Kleiner and Wendy Laura Belcher:

Then my lord Jesus Christ came to me, in great glory. When I saw him, I fell at my Lord God’s feet. Immediately, however, he raised me up with his holy and blessed hands without blemish.

Then he said to me, “Don’t be afraid, my dear Kristos Samra. Rather, tell me your heart’s desire.”

I replied, “If you permit your maidservant [to ask], tell me why you created our father Adam in your image and likeness, and why you were crucified on the wood of the cross. Was it not for the sake of Adam and his offspring?”

Christ replied, “Yes, I was crucified for their sake.”

So I said to him, “If your crucifixion happened for their sake, pardon [all] those who have died, from Abel up to now and in eternity, O Lord! Truly, you are merciful, slow to be angered, given to compassion, and righteous. There is no other God than you, you are all-powerful, and nothing is impossible for you; the entire earth does not [even] fill your hands.”

Now Christ replied to me with these words, “Please judge [for yourself], my dear Kristos Samra. [Weigh] the sins that Adam and his offspring have committed [against] the cross that I, your creator, carried in the court of Caiaphas and Annas with Pontius Pilate as their superior: If they are weighed on the scales, which one is heavier? Does not my suffering [in human hands], which I received on [Good] Friday, weigh heavier?”

When Christ said this to me, I trembled and fell to the ground.

Immediately, he raised me up again with his holy hands and asked me, “All the tribulation that I suffered, for whom do you think it was? As the prophet Isaiah says, ‘He came to be slaughtered like a sheep, and like a sheep that does not give a sound before him who shears it, he too did not open his mouth despite his suffering.’ As scripture said, I was crucified on a wooden cross—a wicked servant slapped my face, impure people spat on me, and Pilate, sitting on his throne, ordered me to be whipped. Thus was I treated: Shall I show humanity mercy or shall I punish them? Please judge [for yourself], my dear Kristos Samra.”

When Christ had said these things to me, I fell on my face and said to him, “Why do you tell me all the time: ‘Judge [for yourself]?’ You judge, please! Can a servant pass judgment together with his master, or a maidservant together with her mistress? Don’t treat me in this way, O lord! [I merely ask,] Is there any wood that doesn’t smoke [when burned], are there humans who don’t sin? So, pardon them, without questions.”

So Christ replied, “Please tell me your heart’s desire, my dear Kristos Samra, that which is in your heart.”

At that point I replied to him as follows, “My lord, I would like you to pardon the devil, and for all humanity to be saved from being condemned to [eternal] suffering. Truly, you don’t desire the sinner’s death, but rather his turning back [from sin]! This is why I say to you: ‘Pardon the devil!’ Don’t think that I like to say all these things to you. Rather, [I do it] for the sake of Adam and his offspring, because their flesh is my flesh.”

After I had said these things to Christ, our Lord replied with a laugh, “You’re asking me for a difficult thing, my dear Kristos Samra! Many saints who were before you have not asked me for this.”

After saying this, Christ summoned Saint Michael, the head of the angels. He said to him, “Go and take her to Sheol, because she has asked me to liberate the devil from the [realm of] punishment with [eternal] suffering.”

Immediately, Saint Michael, the head of the angels, took me with him to Sheol. As we were on our way, I said to Saint Michael, head of the angels, “From now on, all humanity shall find rest because I believe that the devil wants to be pardoned and not to be Lord God.”

Then we arrived in hell. My brothers, what can I tell you about the suffering that is found there? I saw people biting each other as if they were dogs.

Then Saint Michael, the head of the angels, said to me, “Summon the devil [and find out] if he wants to be saved.”

So I called out for him, in the language of the angels, “Satan!”

Instantly, Satan shouted [back], in a loud voice, “Who calls out for me, in the place where I am Lord God of many hosts?”

After Satan had said this, he came to me and told me, “I‘ve been looking for you for a long time. Today you have finally come to my home.”

At this point, I replied to him, “Come out quickly! Our Lord has pardoned you, as well as those who are yours.”

When I said this to him, he became enraged. He seized my left hand and dragged me down to the lowest level of She‘ol. However, Saint Michael came to my [aid], following me with his sword of fire in his hands. [With it,] he then struck that abominable [creature] who knows no mercy.

My brothers, what can I tell you about the wailing that arose in that hour! All the [captive] souls swarmed me like bees. [Fortunately], the number of souls who escaped from [hell] on the wings of Saint Michael and on my own wings was something like 100,000. I was delighted when I saw how happy those souls were. I frolicked among them just like a young calf; I was like a horse that races in the king’s presence.

After that, I went to [Christ] my creator, and prostrated myself to the glory of his rule. I said to him, “Is this how you have judged, O Lord?”

He replied, “Have you taken some booty from the hands of the devil?”

I replied, “Yes, my lord, I have, through your power.”

Now he summoned Saint Michael, the head of the angels, and said to him, “Go, take those souls to the home of my dear Kristos Samra.”

At that point I asked him, “Where is that home of mine, my lord?”

He replied, “Your home shall be with my mother [in heaven]. I hereby give you the name of Batra Maryam and commission you as my mother’s shoes and adorn you with great grace and majesty. Blessed are all who love you.”

able to keep us born aloft above an abyss of immense historical oblivion …capable of becoming just about anything, and that may amount to a kind of cultural genius

[15:32] This kind of abrupt but total adoption of another cultural identity—even if little more at times than a sort of fantastic version of that identity—is something of which Americans are sometimes uniquely capable. Perhaps this is because to be American is to be the deracinated child of some other land or people or several other lands and peoples. Our own national identity is quite often a sort of bright, garish, fabulous surface that we spread thinly over forgotten depths. Our national narrative is essentially an idea, never fully realized, of course, but able to keep us born aloft above an abyss of immense historical oblivion. To be truly American in the most extreme way would be to be a kind of Proteus, capable of becoming just about anything. And that may amount to a kind of cultural genius. I’m not criticizing it. [16:37]

[20:56] This is after all a chief danger America poses to all cultures alongside the promises it makes. It is not merely a place but also an ideology. It’s not just a physical landscape much less an ensemble of shared memories and legends. It’s a nation, more constructed than cultivated, built around a political and social project always somewhat in flux but also more or less relentlessly oriented toward a future generated out of its own native ideals and values rather than out of any traditions it might have inherited from the past lines that its peoples left behind in coming here. Moreover, it intends the future not only for itself but also, in a distant and inevitable sense, for peoples everywhere. This is the great experiment of a democratic Republic. And in that sense American is not only an ideology but something, at times, for some, approaching a religion with its own sacred writ, its founding fathers, its radiant escatolgocial visions, its hymns and prayers and benedictions. And it has its special national values, many of which, …being essentially Libertarian in form (in the American sense of Libertarian), are at times rather hard to reconcile with aspects of the gospel that seem fairly foundational. But it’s a stupendous and beguiling reality as well—enormous and seductively grand and gloriously improbable. [22:28]

[34:19] America has a singular power for refashioning things in its own image and to do so with an almost irresistible energy. It’s part of the appeal and, for much of the world, part of the terror that America represents. [34:34]

[35:10] For good, America’s admirable and wonderful ethnic diversity and pluralism. …On the bad side, America’s idolatrous adoration and sanctification of free markets, the really disgraceful dereliction of responsibility for social welfare that this does perpetuate to the justifiable distaste of the rest of the developed world. One really does have to live in an American bubble not to see how bad it is. [36:04]

[36:27] In a sense the great dream or romance of America is the prospect of a people without a history. A humanity that has, as none before it ever did, escaped the prison of memory. Hence, though there is nothing like a distinctive American civilization, perhaps. There definitely is a distinctive American Christianity. It tends to be something fluid, scattered, fragmentary, fissile, either mildly or exorbitantly heretical. But it can nevertheless justly be called the American religion, and it’s a powerful creed. It’s for one thing a style of faith lacking admittedly in beautiful material forms or coherent institutional structures not by accident but essentially. Its inexpressiveness in the civic form, I mean of just beautiful civic spaces, is a consequence not simply of cultural privation or frontier simplicity, of modern utilitarianism or some lingering Puritan reserve toward ecclesial rank and architectural ostentation but also a profound and radical resistance to outward forms. It is in its purest form—which we’ve seen flare up at various times in the history of the country—its Great Awakenings so to speak—a religion of the book, private revelation, oracular wisdom, even emotional rapture, sometimes wonderful emotional rapture. It’s not one of tradition, hierarchy or public creeds.

Even where it creates intricate institutions of its own, creates large temples tends to do so on its own terms in a void, in a cultural and ideally physical desert at a fantastic remove from all traditional sources of authority or historical validity or sometimes even good taste. Probably, Mormonism is an example. It just couldn’t happen anywhere else. New religions begin, they don’t begin like that, except in America: I mean, just overturn the entire universe and start again from the beginning.

In one sense, this isn’t at all surprising. American was born in a flight from the Old World’s thrones and altars, the corrupt accommodations between spiritual authority and worldly power, and the confusion of reverence for God with servility before princes. As a political project in its own right, the United States was the first Western nation explicitly founded on principles requiring no official allegiance between religious confession and secular government. We tend to forget, we’re the first layiscist nation.

Even if this had not been so, the ever great religious heterogeneity of America over the course of its history would surely sooner or later have made such an alliance absurdly impractical, and so in fact America was established as the first truly modern nation, consciously the first to dissociate its constitutional order from the political mythologies of a long and disintegrating Christendom and the first predominantly Christian country to place itself under, at most, God general providential supervision but not under the command of any of His officially recognized lieutenants. The nation began, one could be argued, from a place that other nations had not yet reached, and yet, when one considers the results of this odd apocalyptic liberty from history, it’s rather astonishing because, though it arose out of the end of Christendom, it somehow avoided the religious and cultural fate of the rest of the modern West. Far from blazing the trail into the post-Christian future, American went quite a different way, down paths that no other Western society would even tread or even know how to find. Whereas European society, in a varying speed but fairly uniformly, experienced the end of Christendom simultaneously as the decline of faith—as the church went, so one’s belief—in American the opposite happened. And here the paucity of institutional mediations between the transcendent and the imminent went hand in hand with the general, largely formless, and yet utterly irrepressible intensification of faith: rather than an exhaustion of religious longing, it’s revival, rather than a long nocturnal descent into disenchantment, a new dawning of early Christianity’s elated expectation of the Kingdom.

Now admittedly, I’m being overly general again. Just about every living religion has found some kind of home here bringing along with whatever institutional supports it could fit into its luggage. Many such creeds have managed to preserve the better parts of their integrity, and I’m not doubting that. …Still, I would argue, with a little timeridy perhaps, such communities exist here as displaced fragments of other spiritual worlds, embassies from more homogeneous religious cultures, and it is from those cultures that they derive their cogency. They’re beneficiaries of the hospitable and capacious indeterminacy of American spirituality but not its direct expressions. The form of Christianity most indigeous to America is one simultaneously peculiarly disembodied and indomidably vigorous. And its unity is one of temperament rather than of confession. At its purest, in fact, it strives to be free of memory and so of anxiety, towards a state of almost perfect timelessness apart from human affairs where God and the soul can meet and speak and affirm one another. Evangelicalism, for both good and ill, is the purest expression of this faith. It can lead to an absolutely invincible faith. It can lead also to absolutely invincible intellectual narrowness. Both things have to be taken into account.

Moreover, some forms of American Evangelical culture were not lacking tradition so much as cordially opposed to it on principal. What is tradition, after all, but man made history, and what is history other than exile from paradise? What need does one have of tradition when one has the Bible, that eternal love letter from Jeus to the soul, inerrant, unambiguous, uncorrupted by the vicissitudes of human affairs.

I actually have a great admiration for this, strange to say, at times. Not always—as I say, that’s a matter of taste. Joel Osteen would try the patience of anyone. But I mean in its most natural, organic and genuinely Christian expression, and with the great generosity of soul that accompanies it, still it assumes at times extreme emotive forms of total and unsullied reverie—a pure present of a beautiful world in which ingenious outcries and gestures bring forth instantly succor and substance. At its most intensely fundamentalist, so precipitous is its flight from the gravity of history into that Edenic eschatological rapture that it reduces all of cosmic history to a few thousand years of terrestrial existence and the whole of the present to a collection of signs urgently pointing towards the world’s imminent ending. [44:25]

[49:34] America …is a tireless and uncontainable engine of cultural transformation.

[51:25] So often the case within American religious movements, [they are] largely constituted by an imagined history in place of real history and a religious ideology in place of a living tradition.

Note: transcription of my own from portions of David Bentley Hart’s “Orthodoxy in America and America’s Orthodoxies.” This lecture was posted 2 Oct 2017 by The Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University (The 2017 Orthodoxy in America Lecture, Fordham University). This lecture was also printed as an essay in the book Theological Territories.

they will say that this structure was held together politically, which it was

I do not believe or hope in this as the last word on our dear country, but this does describer our sad empire rather well in several ways.

Of The Empire

We will be known as a culture that feared death
and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity
for the few and cared little for the penury of the
many. We will be known as a culture that taught
and rewarded the amassing of things, that spoke
little if at all about the quality of life for
people (other people), for dogs, for rivers. All
the world, in our eyes, they will say, was a
commodity. And they will say that this structure
was held together politically, which it was, and
they will say also that our politics was no more
than an apparatus to accommodate the feelings of
the heart, and that the heart, in those days,
was small, and hard, and full of meanness.

© 2008 by Mary Oliver from her 2008 collection, Red Bird, p. 46, published by Beacon Press 2008.

inscribed deep within the Earth

This passage comes after a description of the noetic pursuit of transcendent truth by all of the Greek philosophers, upward and away from the earth. This central theme of noetic ascent is summarized (with appreciation) from the Presocratics through Aristotle, before Foltz turns to incarnation:

Into this trajectory of restless, almost obsessive, transcendence comes the peaceful image (eikon) of the Nativity, a different face of being. That God has really entered into creation—not appeared by proxy like some ephemeral projection, but come into being within the earthly—is visually rendered in the iconographic tradition of the Christian East through subterranean imagery. The Eternal Logos enters substantially into creation kenotically, innocently, as a little child, represented by Mary tending to her child while inscribed deep within the Earth, in a cave, a birthplace written into the essential materiality of the Earth: Incarnation or embodiment itself is taking place within the earth, the principle of all embodiment. Home and inhabitation and immanence on the one hand, and divinity and transcendence and longing on the other, are no longer in incommensurable ends of meaning, metaphysical oil and water, but are held in a serene balance.

The Noetics of Nature: Environmental Philosophy and the Holy Beauty of the Visible by Bruce Foltz.

those who know how to conquer invisibly

S.O.S. 1995

Leonard Cohen

Take a long time with your anger,
sleepy head.
Don’t waste it in riots.
Don’t tangle it with ideas.
The Devil won’t let me speak,
will only let me hint
that you are a slave,
your misery a deliberate policy
of those in whose thrall you suffer,
and who are sustained
by your misfortune.
The atrocities over there,
the interior paralysis over here—
Pleased with the better deal?
You are clamped down.
You are being bred for pain.
The Devil ties my tongue.
I’m speaking to you,
‘friend of my scribbled life’.
You have been conquered by those
who know how to conquer invisibly.
The curtains move so beautifully,
lace curtains of some 
sweet old intrigue:
the Devil tempting me
to turn away from alarming you.
So I must say it quickly.
Whoever is in your life,
those who harm you,
those who help you;
those whom you know
and those whom you do not know—
let them off the hook,
help them off the hook.
Recognize the hook.
You are listening to Radio Resistance.

perceiving and embracing our finitude

Loving God means standing naked in the truth of what we are, and that means perceiving and embracing our finitude, our contingency, and our absolute dependency upon God who calls us into being ‘ex nihilo’. That truth of that ‘nothingness’ (the Void) has to be acknowledged before God. It’s an essential aspect of who and what we are.

Tom Belt from a conversation in an online “David B. Hart Reading Group.”