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  • Writer's pictureMichael Martin

In the Season of This Our Exile

Praying amid the ruins. France, 1915

Notes on chronos and kairos:

I. I am not under the impression that Christians realize the import of the words “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” Christians are too devoted to politics for that to be possible, or so it seems from the timbre of much of what currently passes for Christian discourse. Not the Kingdom we were looking for. The Parousia is not to come, but is. Perhaps this is too much to bear. Perhaps we prefer deferral.

II. Considering Margaret Barker’s argument that the canon of the Hebrew Bible (the Masoretic text) has been compromised by the political machinations of King Josiah and his scribes, who, she asserts, among other things excised the veneration of Lady Wisdom from Jewish religion and the Bible, and also considering the recent discovery that the importance of Mary Magdalene may likewise have been edited from the New Testament (particularly from John’s Gospel), it’s getting to be more and more of a challenge to accept the integrity of Scripture (forgive me my past sins against you, Bart Ehrman) at least in the sacrosanct way it has been delivered to us. Luther was not the first to project his wishes into Holy Writ.

III. Perhaps Joachim of Fiore was onto something. Only, maybe it was the Age of Sophia he anticipated, and not that of the Holy Spirit. Without a proper vocabulary available to him, he could only work with what he had.

IV. An Age of Sophia would be synonymous with the recognition of the Kingdom of Heaven within us; that is, within the Creation itself as well as within the human heart. This is the parousaic moment, the parousaic movement.

V. The problem, for Christian theologians and philosophers at least, is that these discoveries unsettle what has been long thought to have been settled. People have commitments, obligations, to their own conversion stories, to their training, to this or that tradition into which they landed. To appropriate the language of Pierre Duhem, they wish to “save the phenomena.”1 It can only last so long. Then follows an unraveling.

VI. In the Christian telling of history, the Chosen People forfeited their birthright (Esau usurped by Jacob). Don’t think it can’t happen again.

V. “The history of humanity – or, more precisely, all the horrors of the history of humanity – is, by one word of the Almighty, ‘annulled’; it ceases to exist, and becomes transformed into phantoms or mirages: Peter did not deny; David cut off Goliath’s head but was not an adulterer; the robber did not kill; Adam did not taste the forbidden fruit; Socrates was never poisoned by anyone. The ‘fact,’ the ‘given,’ the ‘real,’ do not dominate us; they do not determine our fate, either in the present, in the future or in the past. What has been becomes what has not been; man returns to the state of innocence and finds that divine freedom, that freedom for good, in contrast with which the freedom that we have to choose between good and evil is extinguished and disappears, or more exactly, in contrast with which our freedom reveals itself to be a pitiful and shameful enslavement. The original sin – that is to say, the knowledge that what is is necessarily – is radically uprooted and torn out of existence. Faith, only the faith that looks to the Creator and that He inspires, radiates from itself the supreme and decisive truths condemning what is and what is not. Reality is transfigured.” ~ Lev Shestov2

VI. We live as exiles in our native land, and know it not.

1 To Save the Phenomena: An Essay on the Idea of Physical Theory from Plato to Galileo, trans. Edmund Doland and Chaniniah Maschler (University of Chicago Press, 1969).

2 Athens and Jerusalem, trans. Bernard Martin (Ohio University Press, 1966), 18-19.

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