Change of plans. I was going to write about Mr Yannaras next essay. But on reflection I ended my remarks on his essay prematurely last night. What were some of the points he made (discussion below the fold):
- His first point was that you cannot understand the meaning of life without first loving it. One might continue that reflection on whether one can truly understand anything without first loving it.
- He is connecting (the obvious but unstated) love of life with a desire for immortality, which if you come to believe in the Christian God has implications of the “what then shall I do” (which for Alyosha meant … become a monk to devote oneself entirely to becoming the person that God meant him to be).
- Alyosha doesn’t deny is passionate (Karamazov) nature, it is indeed a thing one cannot disconnect from his love of life. Passions, our desires and needs, are part of human nature.
- Alyosha when he compares himself to his brother offers that he sees his brother as further “up the ladder” than he is. The ladder reference is to Jacob’s Ladder from Genesis which is commonly used in Orthodoxy, as it is used here by Dostoevsky, to mean the ascent to God in one’s spiritual life.
- Yannaras points out that it is common for modern speakers and thought to consider the Church primarily as a moral structure. This is missing the point. Lest you be dissuaded of this point, the message that Jesus was the perfect moral man and is a model for emulation as the goal of Christianity (be good and you will be saved is indeed a common misconception for example) … wasn’t the reason the Word was made flesh and rose on the third day (hint: so that we too might be saved).
Point #2 is the first (and continuing) question for the Christian. You are a believer in a bunch of thing (for example) but what then shall you do is not answered obviously by what you believe … but what you do will reflect on those beliefs (you may say you believe, but if you don’t act on them, … well lot’s of Jesus’ parables deal with that).
There is a notion common among Christians to view those outside the church as “worse” regarding sin than ourselves. “Those” gays, “those” who abort children, “those” who drink, and on and on. Here’s the thing. The Church is a place not fore the righteous but for sinners. We are a funny hospital that way (sin is the disease, the goal is health which is to say salvation). We are striving up that ladder, working against our sins, our passions &c. We help each others, each to his own talents. This isn’t a hospital where the doctors and nurses are well, we are all ailing. We each say, “Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am first.” We all (should) recognize that that log in my eye needs servicing by me. We shouldn’t be moralistically scolding those whom we see as sinners outside the church (sin-hospital) we should be bringing them in, always cognizant that they are steps above us on that ladder.