So. In the next few essay’s I’m going to begin a small series commenting on my reading the book (of essays coincidentally enough) by Christos Yannaras titled “The Meaning of Reality: Essays on Existence and Communion, Eros and History”. My plan is to go through this book essay by essay. Some essay’s I’ll separate a precis post (summary) and follow that with one or more posts with remarks refering back to that post. What follows (below the fold) is the remarks on the first essay titled, “A Reference to Alyosha Karamazov”. This is short (3 1/2 pages) and I’ll perhaps to combine summary and remarks in one post. This opens with a quote from the Brothers’ Karamazov (from which, obviously, the character Alyosha is drawn).
- I understand it only too well: it’s the innards and the belly that long to love. You put it wonderfully, and I am terribly glad you have such an appetite for life,” Alyosha cried. “I have always thought that, before anything else, people should learn to love life in this world”
- “To love life more than the meaning of life?”
- “Yes that’s right. That’s the way it should be; love should come before logic, just as you said. Only then will man be able to understand the meaning of life.”
And so we begin (below the fold)
Mr Yannaras tells us that this is the prophecy that is being conveyed by Alyosha, and that is a message for all of us (not just the “wise men” who are the only ones speaking of Alyosha today, and all this reflection is rational and intellectual, which reading the quote, seems unfortunate). The Karamazov’s, if you remember, were in brief, passionate men in slave to appetite and sensation, to lust and love. Alyosha doesn’t deny being one of them, but at 19 had joined a monastery, for being convinced of God’s existence and of immortality, said to himself, “I want to live to achieve immortality and will accept no compromise.”
When Alyosha is comparing himself to his brother, he exclaims (in an allusion very common in Orthodoxy alluding to the spiritual life and its struggle to Jacob’s ladder rising to heaven) that he is on the first step and his brother on the 13th, but once you start to climb, there you are. You must continue.
Yannaras then points to a problem in the modern view of the church and of morality. We are as he writes, “We use examples of objective moralism and samples of our good deeds to build our self-admiration” and “Our moralistic achievements flatter us so much that we believe them to be our true selves.”
Under these circumstances we have acquired innumerable idols and leaders, of whom society demands perfection and sinlessness according to the masses’ standards of morality. Our world today seeks moral models, people consistent with the principles of the prevailing moral system.
“Christianity is not, however, as people of our day think, only morality.”
Two points are being driven home, the Christian church is not primarily about morality and that God did not become man to save the righteous but to save sinners, of whom I am first.
(tomorrow the essay)