Three Turns of Thought. Of Bitterness. Of Oppression and Confession.

  1. Bitterness of soul arises from words, seeming too sharp for speech, that ferment in the mute dark. Would speech be the uncorking that releases thoughts to the open air and sweetens their effect? What if they are indeed poison—a cure for the speaker to pour yet new bitterness for the hearer to drink? Is there no one who can drink this cup to the dregs and still live?
  2. In “getting things off the chest,” one lays burdens on others. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ teaches that one must not seek healing at the expense of another, for one already has healing at the expense of this man who endured all burdens beyond death. Has he been crucified in vain? Has he overcome death without effect? One must confess without oppressing—that is, confess to this Wonderful Counselor who can bear and has already borne all burdens.
  3. Bitterness of soul arises in the absence of confession. The Father unwounded hears and in the wounding of his Son heals.

A Quote. Of Jesus Christ. Of Paradox.

unus ille in mortuis liber, potestatem habens ponendi animam suam et potestatem habens iterum sumendi eam, pro nobis tibi victor et victima, et ideo victor, quia victima, pro nobis tibi sacerdos et sacrificium, et ideo sacerdos, quia sacrificium, faciens tibi nos de servis filios de te nascendo, tibi serviendo.

Among the dead he [Jesus] alone is free, having the power of laying down his life and having the power of taking it up again. For you [God], on our behalf, he is victor and victim, and therefore the victor because the victim; for you, on our behalf, he is priest and sacrifice, and therefore the priest because the sacrifice; for you, he makes us from slaves into children by being begotten of you yet becoming your slave.

—Augustine, Confessions X.XLIII

Two Thoughts. Questions. Of Becoming Human.

  • What good is it to make a child ready for college and career yet not also—not foremost—for life? The child will become a worker but never a human.
  • It is a harsh judgment to say someone is not human or will not become a human. Any man or woman is surely human enough to be treated with dignity. Yes, but human enough to treat oneself and one’s neighbors with dignity? to face death with dignity? to awake again with dignity and not with a shred of shame?
  • Is this an unbearably stupid thought? Has the moral and spiritual education of youth fallen so far out of vogue that our whole society would scoff at it? Does it seem ridiculous to imagine an education that trains a child for the college of humanity and for a career in becoming human?

A Conjecture. Of Resurrection. For the Hermeneutic Shift.

“Liberal” and “conservative” politics dissolve if the concept of resurrection is rigorously applied. This concept precludes both progress (a category of liberalism) and the fear of death and annihilation (the force behind all conservatism)—two interpretive structures which seem responsible for this era’s peculiar anxiety, and which have made so wide the fissures between fellows in our society.

A Dialogue. Of Death. Of Self.

The DISCIPLE: You once said that your life is not your own.

The TEACHER: Yes, that is what I have said.

D: And you also said another time that the the defining characteristic of hell is belonging to oneself entirely, or owning oneself.

T: I am my own is the final cry, the last tear-choked sentence, of the rebel.

D: Are you and I doomed to hellfire if we call anything our own?

T: Well, now that you put it this way, there might be one thing that we still call “our own” while being sure of a safe death.

D: A safe death—what a phrase! But go on, what is the one thing we may own safely, without making death unsafe?

T: It seems to me that we may say—rightly, and without rebellion or despair—that our death is our own.

D: And once we die?

T: Well, we die without lying, unlike all others.

D: But when we die, would we still “own” our death?

T: Consider this. If we are not our own and all we own is our death, then in dying we have proven that we do indeed own this one thing. But if we claim to be our own and then die, then we have lied in that claim, and lying about that is lying about everything.

D: So if I am my own and then die, I lose myself. But if my death is all that belongs to me and then I die, I do not lose anything?

T: In the second case, there is nothing to lose, except death itself.

D: How could I lose that?

T: Well, when you are dead, obviously the only way to lose anything is if someone takes it from you. And suppose God takes death from you! When you rise, either you will say, “I am my own,” or you will remain silent in fear and trembling, with nothing to call your own.—But the one who says he is his own is raised as a liar, and the one who is fearfully silent and fearfully empty-handed is raised in the truth.

D: This is a strange teaching.

T: Stranger still is the application. Imagine the kind of person who might say that his death is his only possession. He might say other ludicrous things. “I deny myself daily.” “I die everyday.” Imagine how he would live who speaks these words in truth.

D: Would you even call it a life!

T: O child, yes. It is the life.