August 6th, 1983, Serial No. 00383

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Monastic Theology Series Set 2 of 3




Well, I ought to say by way of introduction that this is really the fruit of Brother John's
having asked me various questions, which made me look at the Greek of Ignatius again. And
there is a diagram which goes with it, which I'm going to put stage by stage on the board
because it's easier to follow that way, but I will also number each section. It really
is an attempt to show why it is that Jesus Christ is so much the centre of Ignatius'
thought and it reveals, I think, very much how important it is to go back to the original
text because it never struck me so forcibly before, that if we call the inner circle
of Jesus Christ and the outer one, Ignatius and us, then we find the letter to the Ephesians,
which is the text that John began with, 72, saying that Jesus Christ is the gnosis of
God. And I think it's very important to see that obviously the natural meaning of this
is that he's the gnosis of God in his person.
So you mean a person without a living God?
Yes. I mean, that's to say, the simplest way of explaining it, I suppose in relation to
our own way of thinking about ourselves is that if we think about ourselves or we know
ourselves, it's an idea. But theologians are all going to say eventually, in the more developed
theology, that in fact what God knows of himself is a person. And this is made, I think, fairly
clear because earlier on in the same letter, namely Ephesians 3.2, he's also said to be
the nomaia, or thought of God. God's self-knowledge and God's thought, which is very nearly the
same. Of course he's saying, as Watson John is saying in the prologue, that he says that
Christ is the Logos.
Now, there's one supplementary idea to this, which I think this is number one. The first
thing is the concept of Jesus Christ as being God's own gnosis, it's God's self-knowledge
in person, and he's also God's thought in person. And an additional passage in the
Letter to the Philadelphians, 8.2, we've got him being referred to as the archaia. I don't
know if you've read it, but he is everything we know about God.
One passage in the Letter to the Philadelphians, 8.2, was he the testament of God?
Yes. I think last time you said testament, didn't you? Testament or testament of God.
Now, why is this important? We want to know really why this is very important for Ignatius.
This is the second thing, this is supplementary to the first one. This is important to Ignatius
because, like most philosophers of his time and most theologians of his time, he thinks
that God in himself is outside time, beyond time, and beyond suffering. Let's say, in
using the word suffer here, like the Latin word passio, which means anything you undergo,
it brings about a change in you. God can't be changed by external things, he changes
everything, he isn't himself changed. And so, in fact, this silent, unknown God is made
known in the person of Jesus Christ, and so this gives us the role of the Incarnation.
If you want a reference for this, that God is outside time, beyond sight, and beyond
suffering, then you've got the Edetic Polyclon, 3.2.
God the Father is beyond suffering?
Yes, actually, when generally in this undeveloped theology, the theologian or a philosopher
is talking, they're thinking about God not distinguished into persons, and you've only
got a very primitive Trinitarian theology in Ignatius. It's clearly there by implication,
but it's not explicit yet. We haven't attempted to introduce the use of the word pneuma for
spirit here, because this would have made it much more complicated to talk about. But
the Incarnation is absolutely central, because by becoming man, God puts himself, that's
a God's own self-knowledge, God's own thought, puts himself in a situation in which he becomes
capable of being, of living in time, becomes visible, and becomes above all things for
Ignatius, and of course also for the whole doctrine of the atonement, becomes capable
of suffering. Ephesians 19.2, Charlemagne's 9.1 and 2, and Smyrna's 1.1. It's a very
firm statement. It's by becoming incarnate that God gives us the possibility of knowing
about this unknown God, whose self-knowledge and whose thought Christ is. And so in this,
going back to Ephesians 17.2, what we can see is that if, this is what Ignatius is saying
in the sentence quoted in the translation of John Paul Stroud from Creston, if we come
into a relationship with the person of Christ, as if this becomes a mutual thing in the believer,
then we get phronesis, which means wisdom, and I think we understand it better in more,
this is also, besides Ephesians 17.2, you can put also Smyrna's 1.1, where these two are
brought together, let's say it's what we then become capable of, we become wise through
a relationship to Jesus Christ, and this is of course established by, on a two way basis,
by agape, love and pistis, faith. This is the Magnesians 1.1. And then of course we
get the most famous of all the passages in Ignatius, into focus, namely Romans 7.2, where
in fact because he loves Jesus Christ, he says that this transforms all his other desires,
so that his eros is transformed, we can say that really the fire of the eros, the desire
of the eros burns after things, becomes water, and this water of course comes back to the
Father. It's kind of an interesting development, if I may interrupt you for a moment. Yes.
Talking about the gnosis of God as Jesus Christ, and then moving around the circle, we see
different characteristics of Jesus. Yes. Up there in that one corner we see wisdom, over
there we see testament, down there we see incarnation of man, at number three we see
God, and then at number five we see love and faith, so we see all these different characteristics
that compose Jesus or compose the knowledge of God. Yes, at least they show us why the
result becomes what it does, because in fact it draws us up into the other God who otherwise
would be mysterious, a complete mystery to us. Is that plausible, Peter? Would you like
to battle with it? Any questions or comments, Peter? No. I think it's pretty watertight.
I certainly have never seen any book say this, and I'd never seen it myself before John began
to put his questions. But it does come as rather a shock when you look at the Greek,
where of course nearly all translations have to paraphrase a bit because this is very tight.
In a way, I keep on thinking of St. John in this, because it's very, very challenging
in its way of talking. The language is very simple indeed, and so generally it has to
be paraphrased in a rather elaborate way. I suppose if you want two New Testament references
which are very close to this kind of thought, you could put Hebrews 1.1, which is the opening
sentence of Hebrews. God who is spoken by the prophets is now spoken to us by his Son.
This is the same conception of the word as either archaia or gnosis or logos. It's all
those things. And Colossians 1.19 in relation to this particular, because in him the fullness
of Godhead is found bodily. Do you remember Colossians 1.19? So this is very, very close
to the New Testament, but it is a very tight thing arising out of the experience that Ignatius
finds that by being related in faith and love to Jesus Christ, his whole inner dynamism
is transformed in such a way that it moves back into the mystery of God who is known
as Father.
You can also tie in with John, because at some point John says, I'm the one who's ever
seen the Father, he's the Father.
Exactly, yes. Those quotations are so numerous that it's hardly possible to put down a list
of them, I think, isn't it? Our Lord is very insistent in a great number of passages, as
quoted at least in St John's Gospel, as you say, that we can't know the Father except
through the Son. And this is really an acceptance of that position.
And one of the things which I didn't put on this map, which I ought to find the reference
for before we make a fair copy of this plan, I think, is something I've never forgotten,
a very wonderful little essay done by a little-known scholar who wrote in German, a man called
Eric Peterson, who wrote a little essay, Was ist ein Mensch, what is a man, on the basis
of a sentence of Ignatius in which, I think it must come from the Letter to the Romans,
in which Ignatius says one of the reasons why he doesn't want to get let off his martyrdom
is because, when I come there, then shall I be a man. In other words, he's going to
realise the fullness of his manhood in union with Christ in his martyrdom.
When I become Christ, then I become a man, and I become Christ in my own way.
The fullness of Christ, isn't it? I think this is what it is. I think I'm not misleading
any of you, and I think if you test it against the quotations I put up there, you will find
that it works beyond all doubt, because it's rather surprising to find there are two clear
passages in the Letter to the Ephesians where Ignatius does simply say quite plain and blunt
that Christ is Gnosis and he is Noma. He is both knowledge and the thought of God.
And then, of course, this is inevitably the repository, the place where all the testimony,
all the things we could say about God is kept. We know that this God is mysterious beyond
our comprehension, beyond our sight, and also cannot be touched by the world, because all
Orthodox theology after Ignatius is going to go on saying that God doesn't create the
world by necessity, doesn't do things because he's pushed to do it.
What if we could say he can be touched, but he can't be changed, like we have in the
healing. It cannot be moved. He has fixed the universe and it cannot be moved. I think
we can touch God, but I don't know if we can change God.
Well, this is really what is meant by saying he can't suffer. In other words, he can't
undergo a passio. Let's say a passio is the light falling on my body, for instance. It's
something to which I am subject. God is not subject to anything like that, except in
the incoherent person of Christ.
And to be drawn up into this mystery is to reach the fullness of one's possibility, because
then, as it were, this is going to be much later, the kind of thought, of course. It
hasn't worked out any further than one fundamental intuition here, in Ignatius' feeling that
his ear-loss is now just becoming water which is springing up to the Father.
As soon as the people are going to develop a more elaborate theology of the image of
God, then sometimes they're going to say, like Dreyfus of Nyssa, that the soul becomes
like a mirror in which God can be seen. Or sometimes, as in Augustine or in the developed
thought of Thomas Aquinas, then the image is going to be when the object of thought
and love within the soul is God himself. And then the soul, as it were, becomes like a
glass through which one can see only God. So that if we could see all the saints in
heaven now, although they would all be different, we'd see God in them.
What about the fire becomes water, is that in other words?
Well, that was only my attempt to talk about ear-loss in the broadest sense of the word,
which is clearly what Ignatius is doing. And let's say, in modern English, all words derived
from ear-loss, like the ordinary adjective erotic, means sexual love, but it means certainly
something much broader than that. It means any kind of desiring. So we say desire for
food or material things and so on, all those things are crucified, because the sun is being
The fire becomes water would be a poetic way of saying sin is forgiven? Sin is purified?
Passion is purified? Sin is forgiven?
Well, I expect so. Ignatius isn't actually directly talking about sin, unlike John, John's
little letter. He isn't really talking about the grist of sin, as far as I can remember,
in a very memorable way. So I don't think... I think he's much more concerned with the
fundamental forces of his being. It's the whole dynamism of the personality which is
transformed in this love and faith. So although you may be right in saying that forgiveness
of sin is on the way to that, it's the end term which he's experiencing at this particular
moment. And so that's why he reaches the fullness of a perfect man when he is controlled
to the crucified Christ.
I wonder if I can even find this by reference to the book. I don't want to take too long
because Isaiah has got something that he wants to present. Let's just see whether we can
find here...
What has he got?
Of course, in the Greek index, which Percambulo says at the beginning is not exhaustive anyway.
So I will try to find, before we do the... before we do something we can zero up, so
I'll try to find this other thing which I was putting back at the moment.
When I get there, then shall I be a man?
He's not saying, of course, that he isn't a man now, but he'll be a man in his fullness.
Have you got anything you can find him with, Father?
I came across it this morning.
As I say, I suspect it must be the Romans because it's the obvious context in which
he would...
That's the only time when he's arguing that argument.
I think so, yes, but I guess it must come in the letter to the Romans because there
he's putting forward all these reasons why he doesn't want them to get him off the martyrdom.
And his idea is that when he's a martyr, when he's been eaten up, when he's become
the bread of Christ, when he's been eaten by the lions, then he'll be a man.
It's Romans 6.2.
Oh, thank you.
Here it's translated, let me get into the clear light and manhood of the holy mind.
Yes, Romans 6.2.
So just before the paradox about the heroes.
Well, I suppose that's really his confidence that the martyrdom is going to lead to something
that leads him back to the Father by its own dialogues.
He's like a theological volcano.
Yes, he is.
He is.
It's extraordinary.
It's extraordinary.
This is really why it's so exciting to talk about.
And I think, as I say, I was so delighted when John began to ask about these things because
I've never forgotten the very first time I talked about Ignatius in public, the young
man who said this wasn't very practical on the parish.
I think it was simply because it is so very dynamic, so very...
Ignatius' longing for martyrdom does seem for most people to be so exaggerated a kind
of love, they can't even take it very seriously.
Everyone was talking on the telephone, they were talking about Ignatius in class.
The students were saying, well, that's masochistic.
But of course, that's all those kinds of things.
And then St. Basil's is talking about being born.
Yes, exactly.
So to be born is to be into the resurrection of Christ through the Passion.
And that's to be the bread of Christ.
Yes, it's one image upon another, really.
But it all comes out like a little bubble.
So to take it apart is really quite difficult.
Well, I hope that's intelligible on the microphone anyway.
As I say, we'll try to make it more intelligible with an accompanying diagram when we pass it
on to the sisters.
That's all I've got to say anyway.
I'm interested to hear about the Didache now.
Come along.
Isaiah, the floor is yours.
All right.
Can I go first?
The floor is yours.
The blackboard is yours.
The blackboard is mine, but I don't have anything so interesting to draw on it.
Well, let's get some rocks on it.
Our teacher taught you in case you do.
At least you're probably going to put up a reference for us, aren't you, son of a man?
Well, I might.
I think I'll have more to say about Justin when that time comes, but there's really not
a great deal in the Didache.
I'll write what Bach wrote on all his manuscripts.
Would you also be able to tell us whether you were studying the Didi in the Didache?
I don't know.
There are only a few key references to knowledge in the Didache, but they are very important.
At least two of them are, because they come right at the heart of the Eucharistic prayer.
Let me first touch on the fringe references to knowledge that come up in the Didache.
One is in 11.2.
He's talking about the teachers that come, and he's saying,
Watch out for those who ask for money, who pass through and ask for money.
But if he's one who promotes holiness and knowledge of the Lord,
welcome him as the Lord.
And we see a reference to knowledge there.
And then, as I was saying before class began,
Bouyer brings up a passage of the Didache which has been restored to the original, I guess,
which is not in this version, in the ancient Christian writer's version,
but in which Gnosis is mentioned.
And he says,
This places us still more directly in the immediate context, as restored to it by Dom Dupont,
of the first epistle of the Corinthians.
For here we read that the proper task of Christian didescalia
is to increase in the Church, quote, justice and gnosis of the Lord.
That's very important.
He says, Here therefore gnosis is connected with justice,
that is, in the pregnant sense familiar to Israel,
the complete practice of a life of fidelity to God.
But for some reason that didn't find its way into this version of the Didache.
Perhaps they didn't quite care that it was authentic in the text.
There's no even reference to a possible inclusion here, no footnote.
11.1 is much shorter here.
No, what?
So where does, where do we say that it comes?
Does he give a reference?
Yes, it would be at the very beginning of the,
of the 11th chapter, 11.1 it would be.
11.1, I see.
There are all these textual problems about it, anyway.
But it's a very important idea because this is really a more theoretical
way of looking at the thing than gnosis.
Gnosis is talking out of experience.
And this is a theoretical thing saying that the process of didescalia,
I suppose we could say, well, can we, is the ascetic training of a Christian
water-leading, I should say.
Is that right to say, do you think?
It's okay by me.
It doesn't, I mean, what I mean to say, it doesn't just mean
catechism in the abstract, it means when you really are learning
in your own being.
I see, I see.
Life itself being...
The Christian initiation is what people like to call it nowadays.
The more central references to gnosis in the Didache come up in the
9, chapter 9 and chapter 10 of the Didache.
And here it's clearly this knowledge isn't just something that one learns
It's not simply an idea.
It's connected with the heart of the life itself.
And it's associated with words like, linked with words like life and words
like faith and immortality.
Comes up in 9.
We give thee thanks, our father.
This is regarding the Eucharist.
We give thee thanks, our father, for the life and knowledge which thou hast
made known to us through Jesus, thy servant.
And then earlier, we give thee thanks, oh father, for the holy vine of David,
thy servant, which thou hast made known to us through Jesus, thy servant.
And it seems like there it's very clear that this knowledge or this thing being
made known isn't simply an idea, but it's something.
It's a thing itself.
The vine of David, which can be Christ the Eucharistic wine or Christ the vine
referred to in John 15.
You've made known the vine.
You've made known something.
Christ is something.
The vine is said over the cup.
That's actually because the vine and then over the bread is the life and knowledge
which is kind of a parallel thing.
Yeah, yeah.
Life and knowledge having something to do with bread.
What's the word used for life there, father?
Let's see.
Oh yeah, it's just Zoe.
Zoe and Gnosis.
But then it comes up once more in the thanksgiving, which I suppose there's some
controversy about this, but which follows the prayer.
It says, after if you have taken your fill of food, this is chapter 10, give thanks
as follows.
We give thee thanks, oh Holy Father, for thy holy name, which thou hast enshrined
in our hearts and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which thou has made
known to us through Jesus, thy servant.
But again, it's knowledge there is connected with whatever is central in the faith.
And linked with it.
The name is made synonymous with Jesus.
I don't know whether it's true or not.
I found it when I read a Bible study.
It referred to that.
You know, I was Muslim in the beginning.
It's kind of different.
It's a certain location.
In Jesus.
Regarding Jesus in the heart, it seems in that passage that he was trying to suggest
that Jesus is placed in our hearts.
Mm hmm.
Mm hmm.
Bouyer sums it up, sums up the centrality of this Gnosis theme in the dedicate.
It says.
Against the traditionally Jewish background of the knowledge of God, which
is life in him, it is remarkable that Gnosis appears in these texts as being
the primordial gift which Christ brings us.
But that's really that's all.
So the connection of the knowledge with the Eucharistic bread and wine, especially
the bread is fascinating.
Because it comes up again and again.
It comes up in chronological order.
It's much stronger than Gnosis.
At one point he says that faith is the flesh of Christ and love is the blood of Christ.
It seems to me.
Faith is the wine that loves the blood.
Is that what you said?
Yes, that's what he said.
He says faith is the flesh of Christ and love is the blood of Christ.
And you don't know what you're dealing with metaphor, but you're dealing with
some kind of a continuity.
No, I suppose the only thing that keeps one anchored is the fact that he's
constantly recalling this entirety of the image.
You have a picture of the bishop and the presbyters are all sitting around in a
circle, in a kind of anvil, behind the altars.
And so he's continually emphasizing unity.
One bread and one doctrine.
Yes, the one doctrine.
He says at one point, you don't need the strange bread.
But also the continual connection of Gnosis with the Eucharist, it seems to me,
keeps making one think that it's not simply an idea.
It's always something.
It's a thing being given.
God himself.
Yes, I think that Jesus Christ, we bring Jesus Christ into our life when we
partake of the Eucharist.
But it seems that the relation between the symbol of the sake of the bread,
the Eucharistic symbol, and whatever the Eucharist left for them experientially,
and the knowledge of Christ, is so close that they almost merge into one.
That's the thing that fascinates me.
It's kind of moving over the boundary between one and the other.
So the different levels of the symbol and reality are intercommunicating
very, very quickly.
And something you seem to find near the beginning of the Christian tradition,
things are still all in a molten state, and all in solution together, sort of.
And then they set the crystal in isolation.
Peter, do you want to take it from there?
I don't have a watch.
Where is it?
It was on St. Cloud.
Do you want to use the camera?
I can find something.
Well, I have a small quotation.
The idea of passage.
I picked five passages in the clinical rooms of the Episcopal Church,
and I just thought I'd read them.
The first one is 1-2.
Now, these aren't... I didn't quote the whole sentence.
It's just parts of the number.
So, 1-2.
Was there ever a visitor in your midst that did not congratulate you
on your perfect and secure fund of knowledge?
So, notice there was knowledge.
And this is reminiscent to me of Paul's letter to the Corinthians,
where he always talks about their gifts,
and knowledge was one of the gifts.
He mentioned about Paul.
I think he said something to the effect that,
knowledge pulls something, but love...
I forget how it goes.
So, the girl congratulated the Corinthians, too.
Yes, that's right.
So, the same thing continued.
I didn't have any comment on most of it, actually.
It's more or less...
She ends here, in fact.
In the Latin translation.
She ends here, in fact.
It builds up, anyway.
But if they're in, and they're not in,
they're trapped in here somehow.
And they don't get it.
Then, in 36-2,
he was talking about Jesus Christ,
the High Priest.
He says,
Through him the Master was pleased,
so let us take the knowledge that never fades.
And 41...
We have explored the depths of the divine knowledge.
And 41.4.
Excuse me.
How did they do that?
Well, I don't know.
I'll have to look it up.
By what means do they explore the depths?
I don't quite remember.
By living in Christian community,
we begin to explore the...
What is it?
The divine depths of...
How does the quote go again, Peter?
Well, I'll read the whole thing.
Let's see.
He's referring to the previous chapter.
He's talking about...
Christian virtues, wisdom, haughtiness.
See, apparently the whole point of the
Epistle to the Virgin is that
they had sort of rebelled against their priest,
their presbyter, in some way.
Tried to expel them from the community.
And so...
Clement is really exhorting them
to Christian behavior, to meekness,
He talks about their haughtiness.
Knowledge seems to carry some obligation
and order with it.
And obedience also.
It's another important theme, I think,
in this letter.
Obedience to the rightful authorities.
So in the previous chapter, he says,
witless, unintelligent, foolish,
and unconstructive persons mock and snare us
because they have an overwhelming opinion
of themselves.
And so...
And so, in the next chapter, 41,
he says,
Which chapter are we in?
And what he says is...
That's nice.
In fact, the word translated for depths
which I guess could be translated
as deep things.
Deep things.
It sounds just like it.
The other one was 41.4.
And it says...
Also, the greater the responsibility.
Yeah, these really don't make too much sense
once you take them out of their context.
And it's according then to...
Well, he says in 41,
So it's a nice repetition, too.
In the previous one of that?
In the previous one.
There's no mention of the spirit.
He uses the word theos,
which could mean he's God.
Because this goes on being the judge's problem
and also positioning.
If people claim special kind of knowledge
which shows signs of putting them outside
or beyond,
they're almost judges of the institution.
Their kind of knowledge is being not suspect.
I'm sure.
Yeah, the last one.
It's about the astronomy.
It says...
And then he goes on from there and says...
Surely he must think of the lesson himself
that I have to be fairly honest
and seek to become aware of his personal advantage.
It says...
I don't know.
And the connection with discernment
is very important there, isn't it?
The connection with discernment seems to be very important
in persecution.
So it seems to me...
Because that really does bring you back to a very much
a much more interior kind of experience.
Knowledge here seems to be a gift.
It's like he says...
So apparently that's a...
It seems to be a valuable thing,
as I said before.
That's an important lesson.
In that earlier lesson, in chapter 36,
the context is very rich.
In fact, even the gnosis of it sort of overflows.
It says...
This is in Christ.
And this...
And this...
So the knowledge there really shines.
What he's doing there,
he's saying that it all comes from Jesus.
He's pointing out the splendor of the gift of Christ.
Really, he says,
he must march on there as he approaches the Lord,
as he uses it.
Once again,
the same...
Thank you.
There's something about this part...
One of us is kind of...
kind of complicated when you try to talk about gnosis,
because there's so much of it.
Because the letter is all about this.
Mainly the ephedra, I think.
Also, let's come on to Justin after that.
Isaiah is where the parents have been invested.
And after Justin,
we're going to go to Jeremiah's,
which will be a little longer,
but I think that we'll all be able to get into the afternoon.
The problem there will be to find the right text for us to focus on.
What I really want to do,
though, is to look at the text,
because I think you've been familiar with it.
Well, I don't think I should ever dare to say that.
And every paragraph is so very concentrated.
Like in nature's field,
it's very difficult to take pieces.
So, one of the five books that you think would be particularly appropriate?
More than the others?
Well, I suppose I've had to look at book four more than any other.
It's very, very rich indeed.
It's an absolutely marvellous book.
And it's a very, very concentrated piece of writing.
And this is one of the ways where I think,
a writer like Justin Rothenberg,
when he's done, he says a bit of a thing.
You know, and he has to do it much too difficultly.
Might make a head or tail of it.
I can't remember the exact words he used,
but something very like that.
And I don't think the trouble is really,
on the other hand,
is that it is an obscure writing.
So, what he does write is the same kind of concentration
as Ignatius.
It gets very...
Often it's not complexity,
it's the opposite of simplicity.
And that's why the idea is important.
So, we have to sort of look at them
and try to cope with all the opposites.
And sometimes you've got to look through a whole section
in order to discover what the link of the thought is.
Because there always is a bit of case.
He's got several strands,
which we've all been pulling out.
One thing I think he did think was very important
is that, I just skimmed a couple of books a bit,
was the continuity of the Old Testament
into the New Testament.
That they were connected.
That the God of the Old Testament
is the God of the New Testament.
And that the prophets of the Old Testament
foreshadow Jesus Christ.
And how they're very much connected.
The one God.
The one Testament.
And I imagine we're going to find that
one of the ways in which
we get the Gnosis theme coming in
is connected with what you're saying there,
namely that