Monday, April 14, 2008


"What is constant [in the relations made possible by God]... is a love that can be called 'ecstatic.' * We must take leave of ourselves in order to approach the other and all the more so in order to welcome the other. The more spiritual the encounter with the other, the more complete the 'ecstasy'. By that, Christian faith means that 'God is love.' Of course God is infinite being, but only insofar as God totally gives away the divine being within Godself. Here is the most profound justification for the Trinitarian faith, a faith that confesses that the 'infinite' is 'exchange.' Moreover, not only is God 'self-exchange,' but God has willed a communication outside Godself (if one is permitted to speak this way). This communication can only be the offer of a covenant such that what exists between God and humanity will be the realization of what already exists in God." - Ghislain Lafont, A Theological Journey

"The call to renounce * doesn't negate the value of flourishing; it is rather a call to centre everything on God, even if it be at the cost of sustaining this unsubstitutable good; and the fruit of this forgoing is that it become on one level the source of flourishing for others, and on another level, a collaboration with the restoration of a fuller flourishing by God." - Charles Taylor, A Secular Age

These wonderful reflections come from Artur Rosman's florilegium on T.S. Eliot's Little Gidding - IV, which I cited the other day. A couple of further comments. First, I think Lafont means by 'ecstasy' (life beyond stasis) what Taylor means by 'the call to renounce' (reminding us of Jesus' challenging dictum that those who grasp at life will lose it, and only those who abandon such grasping will gain it - as gift). In this sense ecstasy, which like love is a condition of relation, not a "feeling" (as our superficially emotive culture designates it), also requires - or, rather, evokes - 'eccentricity', the capacity for existence beyond self-centredness. All of these things, Lafont points out, are embraced in the life of God, which is life-beyond-life creating the conditions for the liberation of our own living. This is what is at stake in a Christian theological account of God grounded in generative love, reciprocal love and disruptive love. Divine vocation is in this sense the action of calling into relationship that which resists, wounds or defies it, the hidden work of the 'constant garnerer'.

Second, I think it is more helpful (in the sense of 'less inaccurate'!) to talk of God as 'beyond being' (in the spirit of Jean Luc Marion's hors texte and Merlod Westphal's 'Divine Excess: The God Who Comes After' than it is to talk of God as 'infinite being', as if infinitising one of our most expansive categories gives us a handle on the divine. In this sense, to invoke God in prayer and action (which is all we humans can do, since we have no theory powerful enough to get anywhere near God, however much ardent believers and equally ardent disbelievers may wish otherwise) is to receive the reverberation of the transcendent in the midst (John V. Taylor). This reverberation looks 'for all the world' like unmerited grace, sacrificial love, unplanned forgiveness and life beyond measure - in case you were wondering. It is an overflowing, an excess of excesses. "God totally gives away the divine being within Godself [and beyond]" as Lafont puts it. This is what the Gospel of Jesus' undergoing God, at the point where we might go under, is all about.

[Pic: Mat Stapleton, 'paintbrush in cheek': A Slightly Transcendent Moment]

No comments: