Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Good Day In Hell


A brief, dashed off blast. I have no idea whether any of this is strictly orthodox, so go easy. Most of it is from beyond (or possibly beneath) my praygrade, so I'm not to blame.

It seems that most Christians proceed directly from Good Friday to the even gooder Sunday, forgetting all about Holy Saturday. But not Balthasar, who felt that Holy Saturday was the Master key to the metacosmic meaning of the Incarnation, for it is the missing link between Crucifixion and Resurrection, dis-memberment and re-union.

For when the Word became flesh, he didn't just became a man, nor did he become only mankind. Rather, because man contains within him all the vertical degrees of existence, Christ also became existence as such, in all its diverse modes and possibilities, both manifest and hidden, gross and subtle, local and nonlocal.

It is said that Christ is the second Adam who done undid what the first done did. That being the case, it was necessary to get to the very "bottom" of existence, both horizontally and vertically. If he hadn't done that, then the situation would have been analogous -- in a manner of speaking, of course -- to taking an antibiotic for only a few days instead of the full course. In such a case, there is a danger that the infection will just hide out or mutate and return in an even more virulent form. Rather, you have to take the full course in order to kill every last trace of the parasite in your whole system.

Balthasar's views on this subject are apparently controversial, but for me, they necessarily follow from the very nature and purpose of the Incarnation. For if the purpose of the Incarnation is to heal man's alienation from God by taking it on and reversing it, then Christ must again follow this alienation all the way down to the roots, which would include not just terrestrial abandonment, but the post-biological abandonment of hell; or, one might say both temporal and eternal forsakenness.

If you imagine the Logos dropping into time and history, this descent was "arrested," so to speak, for the 33 years Jesus assumed the human form and walked the earth. But then, at the point of death, with no physical form to support him, he continued his vertical plunge to the very bottom of all cosmic possibility, into the darkest nescience at the extreme periphery of being, where it shades off into the hopeless and helpless non-being of hell.

Picture the sun, then imagine one of its rays striking the earth. But remove the earth, and the ray goes on and on, gradually diminishing in strength until it becomes undetectable and merges with the Dark. Only then can Darkness itself be subsumed into the saving grace of the cosmic theo-drama.

Or, to turn it around, in the absence of this total descent into darkness, it is as if there is an autonomous, far corner of the cosmos, a misspelled underword existing outside the circle of the Trinity.

To say with the Fathers that "God became man so that man might become God," is equally to affirm that God incarnates in the cosmos so that the cosmos itself might be sanctified and divinized: cosmotheosis, the reinstatement of the primordial unity of existence.

Time itself as we know it must go into suspension on Holy Saturday. It is not as if there is an unbroken linear thread between Crucifixion and Resurrection, but a true hiatus, or ontological fissure, in which not just Jesus, but the cosmos itself is abandoned and in ruins.

Why? "Because only in this way can God display the divine freedom to embrace completely what is not divine, and thus display what divinity completely, triumphantly, and unalterably is. God's 'hiding' of God in the dereliction of the Cross and the silence of Holy Saturday is in fact the definitive revelation" (in Oakes; emphasis mine).

Another way of saying it is that the transcendent became immanent so that the immanent might become transcendent. The source of transcendence is beyond the created order, and the latter can no more "contain" it than a circle can contain a sphere. It is as if the transcendent God plunges to the limits of immanent godlessness, paradoxically assuming what is not God into God. God in-corporates his own negation, so to speak.

For better or worse, I take seriously our theomorphic clueprint, i.e., that we are created in God's image. Therefore, the best analogy I can think of at the moment is a psychoanalytic one -- of the person plunging into the darkness of his own unconscious recesses in order to shine a light on his own subversive mind parasites and save them from their self-sufficient activity beyond the reach of the central self.

In fact, there is frankly nothing new in psychoanalysis per se; rather, it was simply a secularization of the spiritual adventure that had always been known by the great mystics, cf. Dante and his journey to the ends of hell prior to the ascent to paradise (or quintessentially in the Dark Night of St. John of the Cross).

"The emptiness of Holy Saturday is precisely the fullness, the actual fullness, of God.... God must be such as to make it possible for divine life to be victorious simply by 'sustaining' itself in hell.... God is God in or even as what is other than God (a dead man, a lost soul)." And "if we are serious in regarding God as intrinsically loving, this otherness must be something to do with divine love" (ibid).

The creation is not God, just as your child is not you. In abandoning himself to his own creation, it is as if God pours out his life for the sake of his children. For you will only know infinite love when you are aware of your love for an infinitely precious object, and equally know that this victorious love is stronger than death.

14 Comments:

Blogger Rick said...

Wow. Powerful, Bob.
Top-Tenor today.
Thank you.

4/03/2010 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Warren said...

>> I have no idea whether any of this is strictly orthodox, so go easy

Well, you'll get no grief from me on that score. Sure seemed pretty orthodox to me, for whatever that's worth.

I think people who start to get a deep, existential grasp of what Christianity's all about always start to sound a bit unorthodox to many "ordinary" (but perfectly devout) Christians.

I've had the strangest feeling that your posts the last few days have been building some kind of momentum and intensity, towards.... whatever. Is that just my imagination?

4/03/2010 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

the person plunging into the darkness of his own unconscious recesses in order to shine a light on his own subversive mind parasites and save them from their self-sufficient activity beyond the reach of the central self.
haaa...the other night an uneasy dream fragment: heading out to sea from NYCity in a speedboat at night in quest of another vessel there; i saw a flashlight floating below the waves....waking, thought the image implied 'exploring the unconscious'

4/03/2010 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Gloria said...

If the opposite of Divine Love is not hate, but is Nothing, then Holy Saturday is silent because Christ, as an Exemplar of Becoming has temporarily, on Holy Saturday, become Nothing.

We humans represent Nothing to ourselves as darkness because we cannot ever understand Nothing, whereas we can come to some sort of understanding of Being--human being or Divine Being.

Nothing has no meaning to us, so we can't even incorporate it into our meaningful systems of understanding. Yet Nothing is also important because it demonstrates the finiteness of our cognitive capacities. I think the function of Holy Saturday is to remind us of our finiteness of mind.

4/03/2010 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Bob was born for this the way Sandy Koufax was born to pitch.

It often gets to the point where one is staring at the screen thinking how did he do that?

4/03/2010 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Time itself as we know it must come to an end on Holy Saturday. It is not as if there is an unbroken linear thread between Crucifixion and Resurrection, but a true hiatus, in which not just Jesus, but the cosmos itself is abandoned and in ruins.

Why? "Because only in this way can God display the divine freedom to embrace completely what is not divine, and thus display what divinity completely, triumphantly, and unalterably is. God's 'hiding' of God in the dereliction of the Cross and the silence of Holy Saturday is in fact the definitive revelation" (in Oakes; emphasis mine).

Another way of saying it is that the transcendent became immanent so that the immanent might become transcendent. The source of transcendence is beyond the created order, and the latter can no more "contain" it than a circle can contain a sphere. It is as if the transcendent God plunges to the limits of immanent godlessness, paradoxically assuming what is not God into God. God in-corporates his own negation, so to speak."

I hope you all will excuse this and not see too much of a profane spin on this, but it's something that really struck me... and maybe it will strike me again with the embarrassment stick later, but....

Have you ever believed some deeply held idea to be true... and after a period of some rising doubts, you reached that point where you really begin to confront it... and you finally reach that point where you realize that it is not true, and that all the things you had said or done in support of it were in error and wrong... is that not a point where you feel as if you are in complete psychic freefall? No support, no excuse, just wrong?

And at some point when you grasp what is true, you realize that in fact that you only discovered that what you had believed, was wrong, because of the Truth... and as you grasp that, the pieces begin to come together and you rise up in awareness and seeing what is True and joining with it....

Reaching too far for a parallel? Doesn't seem that way from here.

Happy Easter.

wv:truff
Yethhh

4/03/2010 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

NB:

That's blasphemy. I'm a lifelong Dodger fan.

4/03/2010 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

Thank you, Bob.

today has been a wonderful Gift. Two many iterations of Grace,. .. Time slows.

National Post opens other doors:
http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2010/04/03/national-post-editorial-board-holy-saturday.aspx

& George Jonas: Show trials, then and now

Also, ¨Ian Hunter: A crisis of faith, and a golden opportunity¨

love, brothers and sisters

4/03/2010 01:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Krenshaw Melonhead said...

Off topic, but a question:

What do you do for your country?

4/03/2010 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Christianity is a slap in the head.

The Easter Week story is so outrageously beyond the bounds of daily human existence that when you confront it with all your reason and intellect that you must either run screaming from the room despaired of any hope that other human beings can ever be worthy of even the tiniest amount of trust, or, heaven forbid, that something so strange and wonderful happened 2,000 years ago that you are irrevocably bound to pledge the limits of your existence to understanding it and incorporating it into the core of your life.

It's easy to understand why the Romans tried several times to kill off the early Christians. Other than the fact that they wore clothes and got dust on their feet these Christians were not part of this world. They couldn't have cared less for emperors or eagles.

That defiance of the secular order scared the hell out of the Romans much as it does anonymous today.

The God of Abraham, extant outside of space and time, creator of heaven and earth, became human to suffer the most vile humiliation to make the point that the fullness of humanity is to love God and your neighbor as yourself.

What a Story! Even the bit actors gets awards. And those who choose not to attend? That's another story.

4/04/2010 02:42:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Jesus descent may have been slowed during his incarnation, but it certainly did not stop. People may think that there was an ascending phase in his life, when he was doing miracles, when thousands of people gathered to hear his words. But at that time, Jesus continued to humble himself in his heart, more so the more he saw himself influencing other people. This is what any sane person would do, but there have not been all that many sane people in the world.

The natural reaction when you begin to have an impact is to bounce upward. "Guess I really am that cool." "People better show me respect." This is a far cry from each day picking up the cross and drag yourself a bit further toward Calvary.

(Or that's what the voice in my head tells me...)

4/04/2010 02:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Bulletproof Monk said...

A blessed Pascha/Easter to all Christians everywhere. Today, we should remember the universal gift given to all humanity, "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down Death by death, and upon those in tombs bestowing life!"

The Paschal sermon by St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, is apropo:

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived therefor. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior's death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

To all racoons everywhere, Christ is Risen! Glory be to God.

4/04/2010 03:55:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Bulletproof Monk: That calls for Hallelujahs!

4/04/2010 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous godfrey said...

"It was embittered, for it was mocked."

The Devil can't stand us laughing at him. He tries to make existence horizontal, but we see the holy irony and laugh. Laugh! Not out of pride in ourselves, but out of confidence in Him who transcends and transfigures us.

The Lake of Fire is flat, and that idiotic Devil tries to make it the very vaults of Heaven. Let us laugh, and let him rage.

4/04/2010 05:19:00 PM  

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