A MONASTIC DEBATE
Paul writes to Church members who were debating an issue of moral practice …“Now about [the issue which is dividing you]. We are well aware that ALL of us have knowledge; but while knowledge puffs up, love is what builds up. Someone may think that he has full understanding of the matter and yet not know it as well as he or she should; but someone who loves God is known by God.” – I Corinthians 8:1-3
Brother Justin the Merciful, a Brother from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a one-time factory worker and later history professor and now retired, living his monastic vocation here at Saint Gregory’s, during pre-dawn prayers repeated a simple prayer over and over …”Lord, may Your Light chase away the darkness within me.” “Lord, may Your Light chase away the darkness within me.” “Lord, may Your Light chase away the darkness within me.”
Sir Isaac Newton wrote the book on the laws of Physics, the authoritative voice for generations. His genius, his knowledge, his brilliance laid the foundation for our knowledge of how the universe works. Yet … yet … in a later century, Albert Einstein showed the world where even Sir Isaac Newton’s knowledge, as vast and as rigorous as it was, was found to be ...insufficient. Was Newton wrong? I think not … Newton was right … up to a certain frontier of knowledge … but then Einstein reminded us that that there is always more to come to know … there is always more to the matter than yet our own knowledge possesses. [At any contemporary moment in history, we tend to forget this humble truth and delude ourselves into thinking that NOW we fully understand … when time will one day remind us of how much we had yet to understand.]
Each Tuesday evening, here St. Gregory Palamas, the scholarly monks hold a formal debate on a moral, ethical or spiritual issue. For the first half of the debate, one Brother presents the issue from one perspective while the other Brother presents the issue from the other perspective. Questions are asked, answers are attempted, and then we all enter a time of quiet reflection. Then in the second half of the debate, the presenters switch sides and argue from the opposite perspective. I found this to be such a fascinating and productive methodology, that I believe this format ought to be put to far, more extensive use … But, the most significant moment of the night came when the debaters embraced each other in reassuring love and respect at the close. I have never – ever – experienced a more enlightening discourse on an issue!
Central to Orthodox monastic spirituality is the understanding that the greater darkness, the darkness we are first accountable for, is the darkness within ourselves. While many Christians go through life shining the moral spotlight on other souls, in Orthodox spirituality the Light of God first shines on one’s own soul. And as the Light diminishes the darkness within ourselves, our vision of the darkness beyond ourselves is made clearer – and what we thought we fully understood, now is more fully and accurately understood.. And that Light of God that shines within the chambers of our souls is the merciful Love of God, the Loving Light of the Divine that embraces our very human souls. And in the experience of the Merciful Love, wisdom is gained.
This should not surprise us … I would venture to say that the advances of both Newton and Einstein came by way of their passionate Love of physics and mathematics. And in a somewhat similar manner, why wouldn’t our further understanding of the human condition comes by way of our Merciful Love for the human creature and for the divine image placed within that human creature.
Paul states it this way …”“Now about [the issue which is dividing you]. We are well aware that ALL of us have knowledge; but while knowledge puffs up, love is what builds up. Someone may think that he has full understanding of the matter and yet not know it as well as he or she should; but someone who loves God is known by God.”
I do believe that throughout His ministry Christ confronted many a knowledgeable scribe and priest, saying to them in one way or another …:If only your knowledge were graced with the wisdom of Love.
“Lord, may Your Light chase away the darkness within me.”
May the Lord bless thee,
Brother Anthony of the Cross
— For the latest installment of the ongoing story, The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, just click … https://greyfriarsabbey.wordpress.com/the-mystic-reams-of-shadow-fox/ … The installments are separated by ********* with the latest being at the end (obviously).