Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why do Christians pray? Oh, right.

The monastic literature of the fourth and early fifth centuries develops the pattern of a contemplative ascent through the moral life to the perception of reason and order in creation and thence to that openness to God as God which evades all conceptual definition and is true theologia.  In other words, the person who prays is the person who both in behaviour and in understanding restores order to a disordered world, a person who makes visible the effect of submission to logos; he or she is someone who vindicates the Christian faith as a scheme that unifies the world of experience rather than fragmenting it.  And the climax of the process is an acknowledgement of the absolute difference of God:  holiness is both living in an ordered universe and recognising that this order is derivative from a reality quite uncontainable within it.  It is as if the contemplative acts out in his or her life of prayer the relation between Christ's human and divine natures.  The mature life of contemplation is an embodiment of logos (just as it might have been for a certain kind of philosopher), but that logos emanates from a reality that cannot be encompassed by rational perception, only by love and radical detachment and the silencing of analytical and imaginative activity.  Just as in Christ, a human life is transfigured from within in function of an indwelling divine agency which is in loving relation with an infinite source.  In and with Christ, the believer represents both the unshakeable order of the universe and the utter freedom and mystery of the self-giving God.

Rowan Williams, Why Study the Past?, 45-6.

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