the story room

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Behold the man!

A friend and I were doing homework together today, and one of our assignments was to read a chapter of _Philosophical Fragments_ by Soren Kierkegaard. In this section, Kierkegaard writes about how God lowers Himself to reach His people (the 'learners'), to be unified with them. I didn't expect to encounter God like this in my philosophy homework, but this passage struck me.

It's a little long, I know, but it's worth the time to sit and read it. It reads a lot like a homily, actually. Anyway, I hope this will mean something for you as well:

"If, then, the unity [between God and a person] could not be brought about by an ascent, then it must be attempted by a descent. Let the learner be X, and this X must also include the lowliest, for if even Socrates did not keep company solely with brilliant minds, how then could the god make distinctions! In order for unity to be effected, the god must become like this one. He will appear, therefore, as equal of the lowliest of persons. But the lowliest of all is the one who must serve others - consequently, the god will appear in the form of a servant. But this form of a servant is not something put on like the king's plebian cloak, which just by flapping open would betray the king; it is not something put on like the light Socratic summer cloak, which, although woven from nothing, yet is concealing and revealing - but it is his true form . . .

" . . . Look, there he stands - the god. Where? There. Can you not see him? He is the god, and yet he has no place where he can lay his head, and he does not dare to turn to any person lest that person be offended at him. He is the god, and yet he walks more circumspectly than if angels were carrying him - not to keep him from stumbling, but so that he may not tread in the dust the people who are offended at him. He is the god, and yet his eyes rest with concern on the human race, for the individual's tender shoot can be crushed as readily as a blade of grass. Such a life - sheer love and sheer sorrow . . . Thus does the god stand upon the earth, like unto the lowliest through his omnipotent love . . .

" . . . But the form of the servant was not something put on. Therefore the god must suffer all things, endure all things, be tried in all things, hunger in the desert, thirst in his agonies, be forsaken in death, absolutely the equal of the lowliest of human beings - look, behold the man! The suffering of death is not in his suffering, but his whole life is a story of suffering, and it is love that suffers, love that gives all and is itself destitute. What wonderful self-denial to ask in concern, even though the learner is the lowliest of persons: Do you really love me? For he himself knows where the danger threatens, and yet he knows that for him any easier way would be deception, even though the learner would not understand it.

" . . . But the form of the servant was not something put on, and therefore he must expire in death and in turn leave the earth. Though my sorrow were deeper than the mother's sorrow when the sword pierces her heart, and though my situation were more terrible than the believer's when the power of faith fails, and though my misery were more moving than that of a person who crucifies his hope and retains only the cross - nevertheless, if I pleaded with him to spare himself and remain, I no doubt would see him grieved unto death, but grieved also for me, because this suffering must be for my benefit; but his sorrow would also be the sorrow that I could not understand him. O bitter cup - more bitter than wormwood is the ignominy of death for a mortal - how must it be, then, for the immortal one! O sour thirst-quencher, more sour than vinegar - to be refreshed by the beloved's misunderstanding! O consolation in distress to suffer as one guilty - what must it be, then, to suffer as one who is innocent!

" . . . And the learner - has he no share or part in this story of suffering, even though his lot is not that of the teacher? Yet it has to be this way, and it is love that gives rise to all this suffering, precisely because the god is not zealous for himself but in love wants to be the equal of the most lowly of the lowly . . . And the situation of understanding - how terrifying, for it is indeed less terrifying to fall upon one's face while the mountains tremble at the god's voice than to sit with him as his equal. And yet the god's concern is precisely to sit this way."

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Be Thou My Vision

This could very well be my favorite hymn of all time. I find myself resonating with it so much. Maybe part of it is the fact that I, like the song, have Gaelic roots. And in different seasons of my life, I find myself clinging to certain verses so tightly. For a few years now, this song has been a very important reminder of God's power and His love for me.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me save that Thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my Light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father and I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my Battle-shield, my strength for the fight
Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight
Thou my soul's shelter and Thou my high Tower
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise
Thou my Inheritance now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, the victory won
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.