“I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you” (Ps 22:22).
I was encouraged by this insight from Reinhold Hütter in the most recent issue of First Things:
To comprehend the spiritual roots of this crisis, we need to recall an all-too-forgotten vice, acedia, usually called ‘sloth’ but better rendered as ‘spiritual apathy.’ It is the very forgoing of friendship with God—which is the fulfillment of the transcendent dignity and calling of the human person—and the embrace of the self-indulgent deception that there never was and never will be friendship with God, that there never was and never will be a transcendent calling and dignity of the human person. Nothing matters much, because the one thing that really matters, God’s love and friendship, does not exist and therefore cannot be attained.
I could cavil with his implicit Thomism, but I thought this was a powerful way of articulating what is at stake – that relinquishment of hope in true, real friendship with God is at the roots of many a more superficial sin and malaise. But this is our impossible confession! God has befriended us in Jesus. It seemed to me, too, that friendship with God is a poignant biblical way of imagining our vis-à-vis with God that ought to be rescued from chintzy treatment (Isaiah 41:8; John 15:15).
I was encouraged to read in James Crenshaw’s book about Confessing church theologian and OT scholar Gerhard von Rad that in March 1944 he became a prisoner of war at Bad Kreusnach; he and the other prisoners struggled to stay warm and dry and suffered constant hunger. The effects of malnutrition harrowed him for years afterwards. But he preached regularly – and continued to teach and mentor theological students in the camp, expounding daily on the book of Genesis. This made me think, here was a man, a great scholar, but one genuinely persuaded that what he had to teach was of precious worth: that scripture offered lush, actual witness to God. A good word, a good testimony as I follow him into the tortuous human skein that is that scriptural witness.
I was encouraged to remember this (lengthy) quote by Ruth Burrows, Carmelite nun, on the actuality of knowledge of God (from her book Love Unknown, p 25):
We can, I think, gain in perception, reverence and gratitude if we stand back a little from the treasure we possess and ask ourselves a few questions. Can we really know God? Is not God inconceivable to us, utterly beyond the bounds of our human faculties, a horizon that is ever dissolving before our straining inward eyes? We are told in scripture that no one can see God and live. Is it not presumptuous as well as futile to attempt to soar to this light, to dare the dwelling of this death-dealing reality? Yes, it is – presumptuous and futile. Yet, to the question, ‘can we know God?’ the answer is yes, we can and we do, because God has chosen to reveal himself, has shown himself as wanting to be known. We know God through the human life of God: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ history, his life, his death are nothing less than the human life and death of God. Here lies our true vision of God. Here is revealed the living God, a Mystery of triune love, by whom, through whom, in whom everything exists. There is no ‘outside’ of this Mystery, no thing whatsoever of independent existence: this Mystery encompasses and penetrates all, and we learn that it is absolute, self-giving love. Rightly is it said that the Crucified One, stretched out on the cross, ‘emptied’ of all that we think of as human beauty and dignity, ‘a worm and no man,’ is our truest image of God.