Eerste zondag van de Veertigdagentijd - jaar B
Vastentijd: de woestijn in gaan om Gods trouw aan de lijve te ondervinden.
Hieronder kunt u de preek van pater Thomas beluisteren.
Our brother, Fr. Marie-Dominique Goutierre's latest book is on the first letter of Saint John. Here is the introduction, translated to English. How is it possible for what John writes about God to be given to us as the Word of God? While the Gospels offer us the words and gestures of Christ Himself, the letters come to us from the Church's first theologians. How does the Holy Spirit, given to us by Jesus that we might enter more fully into His Revelation, enable us to unfold and truly discover, beyond a modern perspective on interpretation, the mysteries of what God said and who He is?
Thank you, father!
God is light, God is love
A theological reading of the first letter of St. John
By Marie-Dominique Goutierre
(Editions Parole et Silence, 2012)
After the Last Supper Jesus promised to His Apostles that He would send them the Paraclete. And He does so through the Cross, by fully becoming the Lamb of God: “I am telling you the truth: it is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16,7); Jesus’ departure, the offering of His life in love, is the sine qua non condition for sending the Paraclete. Now, Jesus surrenders His life, lays down His soul, at the Cross. Because He had promised, and because it was a promise of love, Jesus could not delay in sending the Paraclete to those He had said He would send Him to, and first of all, in love’s haste, to His Mother and His beloved disciple.
The last priestly act of Christ is to entrust His soul into the hands of the Father, an offering of love of His human life, performed in this ultimate initiative: “After Jesus had taken the wine he said, 'It is fulfilled'; and bowing his head he gave up His spirit.” (Jn 19,30) What Jesus had taught when He revealed Himself as the Good Shepherd is fully accomplished here: “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again; and this is the command I have received from my Father.” (Jn 10,17-18) And Jesus becomes the instrument for the sending of the Holy Spirit Paraclete after His death, after He has become the Lamb who was as though slain (Ap. 5,6), the victim of love par excellence.
The sense of hearing and the passions (continued)
Sensible knowledge and the passions
We observe first of all that all forms of sensible knowledge give rise to affective tendencies or emotions in us. We experience emotion when we see someone we love; the smell of baking bread or brewing coffee gives rise to a desire in us. These affective tendencies are a certain tension in us whereby we are turned towards, inclined to the sensible reality that attracts us, or on the other hand we are repelled by it and want to flee it if it is an evil rather than a good for us. These emotions I experience necessarily presuppose a sensitive knowledge of the reality, obviously, and yet sensible knowledge of itself does not involve my being drawn towards the object known. The sensible knowledge I have of a reality comes from the reality itself, but the emotion I experience comes from within me; it links me to the reality that attracts me, in a link that is not a physical corporal link (implied in my being drawn towards it is precisely a distance between myself and the reality) but is an intentional, affective link – a spiritual and sensible link.
If we consider very carefully, we see that the reality I am drawn towards is not desired for its particular qualities – its colours, its shape, etc. – but is desired in as much as it is a good for me, i.e. capable of bringing me a certain perfection, a certain fullness, a pleasure. (It is thanks to the internal sense we call the cogitative faculty that a reality is grasped in as much as it suits me, is good for me, is connatural to me.) And thus we see that whereas sensible knowledge is an intentional assimilation of a reality’s qualities, and that the presence of that reality is thus a necessary condition for that assimilation, these affective tendencies or emotions are not an assimilation but a tendency towards a reality in as much as it is good for us, and therefore do not require the physical presence of the reality in question; just thinking of the person we love is enough to experience the affective link whereby we are drawn towards him. Indeed we ‘suffer’ under sensible realities more profoundly in our affective tendencies than in our sensible knowledge because in these affective tendencies we are drawn to realities as they exist in themselves which is not the case with sensible knowledge, where it is only the sensible qualities of a reality that we ‘suffer’ or receive.
The sense of hearing and the passions
Auditive sensible knowledge
Each of the five senses gives me a different knowledge of any given reality. Thanks to each sense I have a knowledge of certain sensible qualities of a reality, qualities that no other sense perceives. The reality itself remains completely unaffected by my reception of its sensible qualities; it is I who am changed by the qualities of that reality. The knowledge I have is thanks to an intentional assimilation of the reality’s sensible qualities. In a certain way, I become the qualities that I receive through my senses, as I know them. It is clear that a certain physical change occurs in the organ that receives sensitive qualities: light touches and acts upon the retina of the eye, sound on the inner ear etc. But, except in the case of touch, I am not conscious of this physical change and alone it does not explain how this physical contact becomes a knowledge I possess. It is the vital power of, for example, seeing or hearing, linked to the relevant physical sensory organ, that makes those sensible qualities I receive a knowledge that I can live of.
What, then, is the particular sensible quality of a reality that I know from the sense of hearing? My sense of hearing lets me know the sound that a reality makes, and here we must make a distinction: I know the sound that a reality makes when in contact with another reality, but in the case of living realities, I know the sound that it is capable of making alone, either bringing different parts of its body into contact with each other, or by an internal movement which produces a ‘voice’. This being the case, it is still true, strictly speaking, that a sound always involves two realities; it is one reality coming into contact with another that produces sound; water splashing onto rocks, the soles of my shoes touching the ground, the air passing over the vocal chords etc. Aristotle affirms this when he says:
‘Actual sound is always of something in relation to something and in something; for it is a blow which produces it. For this reason it is impossible for there to be sound when there is only one thing; for the striker and the thing struck are different. Hence the thing which makes the sound does so in relation to something; and a blow cannot occur without movement.’ (De Anima II, 8, 419 b 9 ff.)
So the sensible quality of sound gives me a knowledge in fact, either of two realities, or of a living reality.
"If music be the food of love, play on" - William Shakespeare
What is this power that music has to ‘move’ us? Why should music affect how we feel? What is the link between music and our emotions? We set out to answer these questions with a basic grasp of the rudiments of music theory and a lifelong and progressively more attentive experience of listening to music. There will be many questions left unanswered, but we hope at least to glimpse something of what constitutes this relation that we observe between music and the human passions, and to start to understand it.
The experience of being ‘moved’ by music
We do not have to look far in our experience to see that the power of music to move our emotions is both well and universally recognised, and even exploited. The lullaby is perhaps one of the most universal and time honoured examples of music’s power to play on the emotions; why should the particular qualities of a melody or rhythm so affect us as to send us to sleep? The twentieth century has seen the arrival of the rock genre, music which specialises in communicating feelings of angst and violence to the listener. Why should music have the power to do this with such effect? In the same century we have also observed that the same series of visual images accompanied by different music produces very different emotions in the viewer (we think of the importance accorded to the soundtrack by film directors). Why should it be the music that affects our emotions more than the image?
In all cultures, different types of music have always been considered appropriate for different occasions – for a funeral, for example, or a coronation. How is it that particular music can suit the feelings of a specific occasion? Or even of a time of day? Grieg’s Morning Suite, for example, is well named for the sense of freshness and burgeoning hope it conveys, whereas a Chopin Nocturne creates an atmosphere of pensive solitude and calm. How do they manage to do this? We think also of how different types of music have been developed in different cultures – the particular musical modes adopted in China or India for example, or the highly developed rhythms and harmonies on the African continent; what is the link between the temperament or character of a people and its music?
I'd like to recomend the following book, The Silent Struggle. A remarkable story of triumph over abuse and anorexia, by Sr Marie-Therese of the Cross. (Redemptorist Publications, 2008)
Sister also offers powerful explanations of why the last recovery program she tried worked and the personal steps that preceded it and paved the way to it. Through her narrative and her insightful observations and reflexions the reader learns much about the human person in the complexity of heavily damaged conditioning and how a human understanding of that is needed. One also sees how her Faith in Christ was the deepest answer to the suffering and the ultimate reason to recover her true self, though she experienced no miracle cure (rather, the love and intelligence of a few people who helped her). It's an easily readable book, written in a very personal style, and the author remains discreet in her explanations of the abuse she suffered.
Annorexia is a powerful illness and one which is often overlooked or misunderstood... this book has for me been an essential deepening of my understanding of it and what one can sometimes do to help those suffering with it. Above all, it's a rare witness to a very real and full recovery from such a devastating condition and the suffering that it veils; a recovery she made with her fellow sisters, priests and doctors... a powerful exemple of how Faith and intelligence need to work together in the setting of friendship - friendship with Christ and with brothers and sisters on the Way!
An excerpt from the book L'homme face a sa mort, by Fr. Marie-Dominique Goutierre.
...When we look at the question of man's ultimate destiny we immediately touch upon the problem of the relation between myth and philosophy. The religious traditions constantly convey three types of myth: the myths about the gods; the myths about Creation and the origins of the world; and lastly, the myths about man's destiny beyond death. Philosophy was born and developed in Greece within the context of religious traditions and of art, and by emerging progressively from these myths through a search for the truth1: the search for a truth about God beyond the imaginative representations already present with Hesiodus in Theogony, then in Xenophane of Colophon's works; the search for the origine of things, in particular with the philosophers from Milet's school whom Aristotle was to call the “physicians”: Thales, Anaximandre, Anaximene; the search for destiny and meaning, for the finality of human life, first of all with the pythagorian school.
From a historical point of view it is a fact that the mythical discourse preceded the philosophical. Yet is it not the same search, the same concern in man's heart that presides over these two realisations? One is symbolic, closer to our human sensibility and psychology, keeping all the freshness of an artist’s spontaneous sketch. The other is more refined, more precise, closer to the finality which it touches in a way proper to itself and true when it reaches wisdom. But in both cases it is a question of man evoking or saying something about a reality which he does not immediately experience. Either he imagines it and represents it to himself through a myth, or he actually manages to discover it, asserting its existence as something that is evident and saying something true about it through wisdom. Aristotle thus considered that “the love of myth is in a certain way philosophical, since a myth is composed of wonders2” and provokes the surprise and questioning of the intelligence.
In a very particular way man's confrontation with death and with the unknown that the beyond represents, gives rise within him to the search for the truth, or at least to the search for something to hold on to in order to confront it, if not serenely, then at least with the encouragement offered by a glimpse of light in the midst of darkness. It is therefore not surprising that the problem of death and of immortality lies at the heart of all the arts, of all the religious traditions and of all cultures.
1 On this topic see, among others, W. Jaeger, The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers
2 Metaphysics, A, 2, 982 b 18.
An extract from A Question of Life and Death, by Marie-Dominique Goutierre, ch.1, “Man and Wisdom”
Zulke vriendschappen zijn natuurlijk maar zeldzaam; zulke mensen zijn immers niet talrijk. Bovendien vergt zo’n vriendschap tijd en wederzijdse vertrouwdheid. Want zoals het spreekwoord zegt is het onmogelijk ‘met elkaar bekend te worden’ voordat men de bekende ‘schepel zout’ met elkaar gegeten heeft. Twee mensen kunnen elkaar dus ook niet accepteren of echte vrienden zijn voordat elk van beide heeft aangetoond dat hij de vriendschap van de ander waard is en zij elkaars vertrouwen gewonnen hebben. Mensen die elkaar vlug blijken van vriendschap geven hebben zeker de wens vrienden te zijn, maar zijn het daardoor nog niet: zij moeten elkaars vriendschap ook waard zijn en elkaars gevoelens kennen. De wil tot vriendschap komt snel maar vriendschap zelf niet.
Ethica Nicomachea, VIII, 4, 1156 a 6 – 1156 b 30