Searching for Our Human Face: The Nihilism of the Voluntarist Will

Eclectic Orthodoxy

by Brian C. Moore, Ph.D.

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One gets the sense from contemporary pedagogy that freedom and rights are the most precious things that a culture can bestow on its people. Young people know all about MLK and Rosa Parks and seem to think that western civilization is mainly a long history of oppression that is only slowly being altered by progressive, secular ideology. “Free at last, free at last” and they never think that their notion of freedom might be deeply inadequate.

Yes, you most likely.

Only there is something rather misty about all this freedom, if pressed just the slightest bit. Where is this freedom going? What is it for? If there is anything that is an unquestioned truism of modern education, it is that knowledge is power. The dimmest of bulbs will brighten up with the recitation of the fundamental axiom of the novum organum. (In the flyleaf…

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Sola Scriptura, Holy Tradition, and the Hermeneutics of Christ

by Robert F. Fortuin

It is not uncommon to hear Eastern Orthodox Christians assert that ‘holy tradition is the context of scripture’—by this is meant that the Bible cannot be separated from the practice and theology of the community of Christian believers. To consider the scriptures as pure text divorced from its situation in history, the situation which prompted the need for the writing and reception of the biblical text, is to commit a fundamental error. The Eastern Orthodox position is often asserted in response to claims of Sola Scriptura, the Protestant Reformation principle that the Bible is the sole and sufficient source for Christian faith and practice. While Sola Scriptura has been interpreted and applied in diverse and sundry ways by Protestants since the 500 years that expired Martin Luther’s complaints at Wittenberg, it will invariably favor placing authority and meaning in the text itself over (and against) contextual considerations. This implies some measure of textual auto-hermeneutic (self-interpretation based on perspicuity) and textual autonomy. This fits well with the Reformation narrative—the early Christian church with the passing of the apostles fell victim to compromise and corruption, the written scriptures excepted, until its renewal and recovery in the 16th century. The source of corruption, according to the Reformers, consists in the appeal to extra-biblical sources for knowledge, meaning, authority, and so forth. The only reliable and untainted connection available to post-Apostolic Christians whose existence is chronologically outside the historical authorship/reception setting is the biblical text itself. This narrative is not without problems, chief of which is that an appeal to the authority of the text implies an acknowledgement of divine inspiration of extra-textual factors, activities that took place long after the close of the apostolic period. The Sola Scriptura conundrum is its inability to provide an account of the developments which took place after the close of the apostolic period which were instrumental to the creation of the New Testament—not to speak of crucially important doctrinal decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. For instance, by what authority did the compilers, redactors and translators of manuscripts operate? Furthermore, how to explain the creation of the canon of the New Testament, the protracted decisions to include and exclude various competing texts—by what extra-textual authority was this done? In order to stay true to the Reformation narrative, Protestants are unable to situate authority and interpretation, divine inspiration and illumination, exterior to the text—it must reside these in the text itself. Privileging the biblical text with self-referential powers created theologies of ‘disembodied’ inspiration and interpretation: consequently, the context outside the text is marginalized to be of little or no significance.

In sharp contrast to the Reformers, the Eastern Orthodox churches insist that the extra-textual contexts—the entire coherent ‘framework’ of scripture, their transmission and reception—are a divinely inspired tradition. Taken together these are a ‘holy tradition’ which is believed to be the very life of the Holy Spirit in and for the church; it is a living tradition because successful reception requires divine illumination in every age. Holy tradition as the context of scripture: while this is a very bold and lofty claim, there is convincing evidence for this assertion in the faith and practice of the early Christian Church and in the New Testament itself. However, tradition as context can be, and is often, taken to mean that authority resides in tradition, an Orthodox ‘Soli Traditio’ in which tradition is ranked above scripture as the primary or sole source of meaning and authority. It is my contention that Soli Traditio is as misleading as Sola Scriptura for its failure to acknowledge Christ alone as hermeneutic principle; it is in Christ in whom the authority and meaning—of tradition and scripture—is properly situated. I am indebted to the groundwork of Fr John Behr on this subject in his book entitled The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death—this is a ‘must-read’ for anyone interested in the subject of the relation between scripture and tradition.

To the early church, as to the Orthodox Church today, tradition as the context of Scripture implied that Scripture is not self-referential in that it is not its own interpretive principle: the meaning and authority of scripture is Christ who is its hermeneutic principle. Christ is himself the truth (cf. John 14:6). The first thing to note is that scripture’s meaning is profoundly personal, which is to say that the question is not what scripture means, so much as to whom it refers. Evidence for this can be found in Acts chapter 8 in Philip’s interaction with the Ethiopian eunuch, who asks not what scripture meant (this is how we moderns tend to pose the question) but rather asks ‘of whom does the prophet [Isaiah] say this, of himself or some other man?’ Secondly, this person of whom the prophet speaks is not only the subject of scripture but also its interpreter. How do we know this? The hermeneutic principle is established by Christ himself, as recorded in the Gospels of John and Luke. In John 5:39 Jesus counters the unbelieving Jews, saying ‘You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life, yet it is they that witness to Me,’ and in verse 46 John records Jesus to say, ‘if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.’ It is important to note that this was not at all clear to the disciples until after the resurrection, and not until after the risen Christ himself taught them the meaning of the scriptures. The entire collection of New Testament writings is written from post-resurrection revelation, an inspired reflection of what was witnessed—the meaning of events, the significance of encounters with Christ, his parables and miracles: all these were understood only after the resurrection. In the Gospel of Luke it was the crucified and risen Christ who opened the eyes of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, as recorded in Luke 24:27 ‘beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself,’ and in verse 44 Jesus said, ‘all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ The Old Testament remained a closed book until Jesus provided the hermeneutic key to unseal its meaning. The risen Christ reveals to his disciples that the scriptures are about him; and furthermore, it was necessary for the risen Christ himself to teach the disciples how to understand the scriptures. Jesus’ paideia demonstrates that interpretation and meaning resides neither in text nor in tradition. If it were otherwise, the disciples would not have required Christ’s instruction, as perspicuity of the text would have left no room for doubt and confusion; the meaning of the Mosaic tradition would have been self-evident to all. The disciples’ account, however, indicates that only after having been taught by Christ himself were they empowered by the Holy Spirit with divine authority to carry the good news to the ends of the world. We see this post-resurrection Pentecost transformation at work in the book of Acts, such as in Peter’s famous sermon as recorded in Acts chapter 2. In a surprise move the once timid and oblivious Peter by way of Christ’s hermeneutic boldly expounds Moses and the Prophets and proclaims that, ‘God has made this Jesus both Lord and Christ.’ There is ample evidence that the ‘Christ hermeneutic’ did not change after the close of the apostolic period; the same exposition of scripture is encountered as early as circa 110 AD in the writing of Ignatius of Antioch in the Epistle to the Philadelphians about the Prophets foretelling of Christ and the Gospel.

By far the most convincing exposition of what tradition constitutes and how it functioned in the early church is found in the work of Irenaeus of Lyon. Around the year 185 AD St Irenaeus explicated tradition as a coherent ‘framework’ consisting of scripture, canon of truth, apostolic tradition, and apostolic succession. The genius of Irenaeus’ vision is that he explicitly connects the various aspects of tradition by means of the risen Christ as its author, subject and the hermeneutic of the scriptures. This is quite significant (and fascinating) because Irenaeus’ work takes place in the formative years during which the New Testament canon was not yet established. It was St Irenaeus who referenced a canon of books which resembles very closely to what came to be known as the New Testament. He wrote, ‘we have learned from no others the plan of salvation than from those from whom the gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.’ According to Irenaeus, what the apostles preached was what Jesus taught them—their message is identical to what they wrote, and what was handed down by them to their successors. Irenaeus details the meaning of the canon (or rule) of truth, namely the baptismal confession—the rule by which scripture was read, in accord with the faith which was handed down from the apostles. This is worth quoting as it forms the basis for the Nicene creed. The canon of truth is the faith:

… in one God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth and all the seas and all things that are in them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was enfleshed for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who through the prophets preached the economies—the coming, the birth from a Virgin, the passion, the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Son, Christ Jesus our Lord, and his coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to recapitulate all things, and to raise up all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus our Lord and God, Savior and King, according to the invisible Father’s good pleasure, “every knee should bow in heaven and on earth.

For Irenaeus tradition then consists of the scriptures understood by Christ’s hermeneutic given and proclaimed by the apostles, together with the canon of truth in accord with the written testimony of the apostles. The tradition faithfully preserved the message and method in the handing down according to apostolic succession. All these mutually and coherently witness to Christ as the subject and meaning of the Old Testament and the Gospels.

The entire context of revelation, referred to as holy tradition, depends on the inspiration and illumination of the risen Christ through the Holy Spirit to bring about the faithful transmission and reception of revelation. This complete context of Christian revelation which together constitute holy tradition can be represented in the following graphic:

Note the mutuality of scripture, canon of truth, apostolic tradition and succession. The only ranking consists between Christ and tradition. The Eastern Orthodox Church has by and large retained this understanding of tradition based on St Irenaeus’ seminal work in the late second century.

What may this mean to the concerns of Martin Luther, the theology of the Reformation, Sola Scriptura, the formative principle of the Reformers? From the Orthodox perspective if Sola Scriptura is pushed to the extreme to take scripture outside the context or framework of tradition, three things are likely to occur:

  • The construal of a false dichotomy whereby scripture is deemed to be above tradition, or tradition is altogether removed. Alternatively, the false dichotomy can also give rise to the opposite situation in which tradition is placed above scripture. This false dichotomy is often viewed as outright opposition, a primal incompatibility between tradition and scripture. The dichotomy invariably results in the privileging of one over the other.
  • The scriptures will function as its own reference, containing within the text its interpretative principle. Meaning and authority reside solely in the text itself. While this is contrary to Christ’s hermeneutic (as has been shown above), it confuses the word of God with the Word of God, a conflation of the text with Christ. The meaning of scripture risks becoming unanchored from Christ, divorcing it from the canon of truth, apostolic tradition and succession—this lends credibility to rival hermeneutics and novel innovations. The context of holy tradition is collapsed, marginalizing the entire theological framework in which the Scriptures came to be and function; this reductive text-only approach ‘short circuits’ the successful transmission and reception of God’s self-revelation. The Christ hermeneutic resides extra-textually in the person of Christ who is present by the Holy Spirit in the instruction and illumination of the ecclesia.
  • Inspiration and illumination divorced from its place in the larger context of the holy tradition of the community of the faithful risks devolving Christianity into a text-based religion; intellectual assent to propositions is favored over participation in the church.

From the perspective of the Orthodox Church following the New Testament and the practice of the early Church, scripture must be situated in the coherent context of the canon of truth, the faith received and practiced by the community which is illumined by the risen Christ in accord with the apostolic teaching that was passed down. Sola Scriptura: yes, the scriptures are the preeminent, infallible, written source of revelation—the Bible is the word of God to and for and in his church. This must always, the Orthodox insist, include the entire divinely inspired process of authorship, compilation, redaction, canonization, proclamation, and reception. There exists then no dichotomy nor ranking between the written scriptures and the lived confession of the church. Holy tradition constitutes a unified and coherent mutuality together bearing witness to the risen Christ.

The Eastern Orthodox Holy Tradition informs another aspect of Protestant Reformation theology as well: Solus Christus—by Christ alone. The worry of the Reformers was the placement of mediators between God and the believer, specifically the priesthood and other hierarchs. Christ is the only mediator between God and humanity which is explicitly stated in 1 Timothy 2:5, ‘For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus’. This is a legitimate concern, which was evident to Martin Luther in 1517 with the burdensome layers of mediation of the medieval Catholic Church, particularly in the practice of indulgences and the abuse of clericalism. If we look once again to the visual representation of holy tradition we can see the Eastern Orthodox perspective on this. The hierarchy of apostles, bishops, priests and deacons is on a horizontal plane, affirming the priesthood of all believers; notably absent is a layer of mediation between Christ and the church. The Christ hermeneutic as taught by Christ to the disciples unseals scripture and is faithfully traditioned to their successors. Solus Christus understood this way does not preclude the ordained hierarchy which functions in a specific role dedicated and entrusted to lead the church. While Solus Christus is a powerful reminder of the dangers of clericalism, and we do well to heed such reminders, if taken to abolish the ancient and unbroken chain of successors of bishops appointed by the apostles, it would contradict Christ’s command given to his apostles and passed down to their episcopal successors.

Christ the Interpreter is the principle of tradition as the context of scripture. The practice of tradition by the Eastern Orthodox constitutes a radical shift of perspective—neither placing authority in text nor in tradition. The authoritative hermeneutic is provided by, and is, the enfleshed Son of God, the crucified and risen Christ. The apostolic Christ provides inspiration, meaning, and illumination; only in Christ resides the authority to bring an end to the false dichotomies of ‘scripture vs tradition’, ‘faith vs works’, ‘clergy vs laity’. These dichotomies are theological and spiritual dead-ends, needless disputes which have embroiled the western Christian churches for far too long. The Orthodox do not dismiss the Protestant Reformers’ concerns—Christians from the orient direct our gaze to the risen Christ of ‘the faith that was passed down to the saints once and for all’ (Jude 1:3) and in whom alone resides all meaning and authority.

Copyright © 2017 Robert F. Fortuin. All rights reserved.

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Robert F. Fortuin is Adjunct Professor of Orthodox Theology at St Katherine College in San Diego, California. He holds an MLitt Divinity from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and a BA in Religious Studies from Vanguard University. He is currently hacking away at the theology of Gregory of Nyssa for his Ph.D. in Philosophical Theology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

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“But our true Mother Jesus, he alone bears us for joy and for endless life, blessed may he be”

Our Mother in nature, our Mother in grace, because he wanted altogether to become our Mother in all things, made the foundation of his work most humbly and most mildly in the maiden’s womb. And he revealed that in the first revelation, when he brought that meek maiden before the eye of my understanding in the simple stature which she had when she conceived; that is to say that our great God, the supreme wisdom of all things, arrayed and prepared himself in this humble place, all ready in our poor flesh, himself to do the service and the office of mother hood in everything. The mother’s service is nearest, readiest and surest: nearest because it is most natural, readiest because it is most loving, and surest because it is truest. No one ever might or could perform this office fully, except only him. We know that all our mothers bear us for pain and for death. O, what is that? But our true Mother Jesus, he alone bears us for joy and for endless life, blessed may he be. So he carries us within him in love and travail, until the full time when he wanted to suffer the sharpest thorns and cruel pains that ever were or will be, and at the last he died. And when he had finished, and had borne us so for bliss, still all this could not satisfy his wonderful love. And he revealed this in these great surpassing words of love: If I could suffer more, I would suffer more. He could not die any more, but he did not want to cease working; therefore he must needs nourish us, for the precious love of motherhood has made him our debtor.

The mother can give her child to suck of her milk, but our precious Mother Jesus can feed us with himself, and does, most courteously and most tenderly, with the blessed sacrament, which is the most precious food of true life; and with all the sweet sacraments he sustains us most mercifully and graciously, and so he meant in these blessed words, where he said: I am he whom Holy Church preaches and teaches to you. That is to say: All the health and the life of the sacraments, all the power and the grace of my word, all the goodness which is ordained in Holy Church for you, I am he.

The mother can lay her child tenderly to her breast, but our tender Mother Jesus can lead us easily into his blessed breast through his sweet open side, and show us there a part of the godhead and of the joys of heaven, with inner certainty of endless bliss. And that he revealed in the tenth revelation, giving us the same understanding in these sweet words which he says: See, how I love you, looking into his blessed side, rejoicing.

Dame Julian of Norwich

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“For when our love for this present world dies, its sufferings increase”

Dearly beloved, the reading from the holy gospel about the sower requires no explanation, but only a word of warning. In fact the explanation has been given by Truth himself, and it cannot be disputed by a frail human being. However, there is one point in our Lord’s exposition which you ought to weigh well. It is this. If I told you that the seed represented the word, the field the world, the birds the demons, and the thorns riches, you would perhaps be in two minds as to whether to believe me. Therefore the Lord himself deigned to explain what he had said, so that you would know that a hidden meaning is to be sought also in those passages which he did not wish to interpret himself.

Would anyone have believed me if I had said that thorns stood for riches? After all, thorns are piercing and riches pleasurable. And yet riches are thorns because thoughts of them pierce the mind and torture it. When finally they lure a person into sin, it is as though they were drawing blood from the wound they have inflicted.

According to another evangelist, the Lord spoke in this parable not simply of riches but of deceptive riches, and with good reason. Riches are deceptive because they cannot stay with us for long; they are deceptive because they are incapable of relieving our spiritual poverty.

The only true riches are those that make us rich in virtue.

Therefore, if you want to be rich, beloved, love true riches. If you aspire to the heights of real honor, strive to reach the kingdom of heaven. If you value rank and renown, hasten to be enrolled in the heavenly court of the angels.

Store up in your minds the Lord’s words which you receive through your ears, for the word of the Lord is the nourishment of the mind. When his word is heard but not stored away in the memory, it is like food which has been eaten and then rejected by an upset stomach. A person’s life is despaired of if he cannot retain his food; so if you receive the food of holy exhortations, but fail to store in your memory those words of life which nurture righteousness, you have good reason to fear the danger of everlasting death.

Be careful, then, that the word you have received through your ears remains in your heart.

Be careful that the seed does not fall along the path, for fear that the evil spirit may come and take it from your memory.

Be careful that the seed is not received in stony ground, so that it produces a harvest of good works without the roots of perseverance.

Many people are pleased with what they hear and resolve to undertake some good work, but as soon as difficulties begin to arise and hinder them they leave the work unfinished. The stony ground lacked the necessary moisture for the sprouting seed to yield the fruit of perseverance. Good earth, on the other hand, brings forth fruit by patience. The reason for this is that nothing we do is good unless we also bear with equanimity the injuries done us by our neighbors. In fact, the more we progress, the more hardships we shall have to endure in this world; for when our love for this present world dies, its sufferings increase. This is why we see many people doing good works and at the same time struggling under a heavy burden of afflictions. They now shun earthly desires, and yet they are tormented by greater sufferings

But, as the Lord said, they bring forth fruit by patience, because, since they humbly endure misfortunes, they are welcomed when these are over into a place of rest in heaven.

St Gregory the Great

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“For in our Mother Christ we profit and increase, and in mercy he reforms and restores us”

God the blessed Trinity, who is everlasting being, just as he is eternal from without beginning, just so was it in his eternal purpose to create human nature, which fair nature was fist prepared for his own Son, the second person; and when he wished, by full agreement of the whole Trinity he created us all once. And in our creating he joined and united us to himself, and through this union we are kept as pure and as noble as we were created. By the power of that same precious union we love our Creator and delight in him, praise him and thank him and endlessly rejoice in him. And this is the work which is constantly performed in every soul which will be saved, and this is the godly will mentioned before.

And so in our making, God almighty is our loving Father, and God all wisdom is our loving Mother, with the love and the goodness of the Holy Spirit, which is all one God, one Lord. And in the joining and the union he is our very true spouse and we his beloved wife and his fair maiden, with which wife he was never displeased; for he says: I love you and you love me, and our love will never divide in two.

I contemplated the work of all the blessed Trinity, in which contemplation I saw and understood these three properties: the property of the fatherhood, and the property of the motherhood, and the property of the lordship in one God. In our almighty Father we have our protection and our bless, as regards our natural substance, which is ours by our creation from without beginning; and in the second person, in knowledge and wisdom we have our perfection, as regards our sensuality, our restoration and our salvation, for he is our Mother, brother and saviour; and in our good Lord the Holy Spirit we have our reward and our gift for our living and our labour, endlessly surpassing all that we desire in his marvellous courtesy, out of his great plentiful grace. For all our life consists of three: In the first we have our being, and in the second we have our increasing, and in the third we have our fulfillment. The first is nature, the second is mercy, the third is grace.

As to the first, I saw and understood that the high might of the Trinity is our Father, and the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother, and the great love of the Trinity is our Lord; and all these we have in nature and in our substantial creation. And furthermore I saw that the second person, who is our Mother, substantially the same beloved person, has now become our mother sensually, because we are double by God’s creating, that is to say substantial and sensual. Our substance is the higher part, which we have in our Father, God almighty; and the second person of the Trinity is our Mother in nature in our substantial creation in whom we are founded and rooted, and he is our Mother of mercy in taking our sensuality. And so our Mother is working on us in various ways, in whom our parts are kept undivided; for in our Mother Christ we profit and increase, and in mercy he reforms and restores us, and by the power of his Passion, his death and his Resurrection he unites us to our substance. So our Mother works in mercy on all his beloved children who are docile and obedient to him, and grace works with mercy, and especially in two properties, as it was shown, which working belongs to the third person, the Holy Spirit. He works, rewarding and giving. Rewarding is a gift for our confidence which our Lord makes those who have laboured; and giving is a courteous act which he does freely, by grace, fulfilling and surpassing all that creatures deserve.

Thus in our Father, God Almighty, we have our being, and in our Mother of mercy we have our reforming and our restoring, in whom our parts are united and all made perfect man, and through the rewards and the gifts of grace of the Holy Spirit we are fulfilled. And our substance is in our Father, God almighty, and our substance is in our Mother, God all wisdom, and our substance is in our Lord God, the Holy Spirit, all goodness, for our substance is whole in each person of the Trinity, who is one God. And our sensuality is only in the second person, Christ Jesus, in whom is the Father and the Holy Spirit; and in him and by him we are powerfully taken out of hell and out of the wretchedness on earth, and gloriously brought up into heaven, and blessedly united to our substance, increased in riches and nobility by all the power of Christ and by the grace and operation of the Holy Spirit.

Dame Julian of Norwich

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Searching for Our Human Face: The False Selves of Modernity

Eclectic Orthodoxy

by Brian C. Moore, Ph.D.

In A Secular Age, Charles Taylor draws a distinction between the modern and pre-modern self. Here is how he describes a possible experience of falling in love for the pre-modern self:

Say someone falls in love. And this has an impact, good or ill, on his life. An “internal” event, we think, albeit susceptible to pressures from outside . . . But now let’s say that we see this whole side of life as under the aegis of a goddess, Aphrodite. That means that its going well is its being smiled on by Aphrodite. This means not only that she is keeping the external dangers at bay; like a human patron, she is in this aspect causally responsible for the conditions being propitious. It also means that the blooming of the right internal motivation is a gift from her. In other words, my being…

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“Our Lord God cannot in his own judgment forgive, because he cannot be angry—that would be impossible”

For it was a great marvel, constantly shown to the soul in all the revelations, and the soul was contemplating with great diligence that our Lord God cannot in his own judgment forgive, because he cannot be angry—that would be impossible. For this was revealed, that our life is all founded and rooted in love, and without love we cannot live. And therefore to the soul which by God’s special grace sees so much of his great and wonderful goodness as that we are endlessly united to him in love, it is the most impossible thing which could be that God might be angry, for anger and friendship are two contraries; for he dispels and destroys our wrath and makes us meek and mild—we must necessarily believe that he is always one in love, meek and mild, which is contrary to wrath. For I saw most truly that where our Lord appears, peace is received and wrath has no place; for I saw no kind of wrath in God, neither briefly nor for long. For truly, as I see it, if God could be angry for any time, we should neither have life nor place nor being; for as truly as we have our being from the endless power of God just as truly we have our preservation in the endless power of God and in his endless wisdom and in his endless goodness. For though we may feel in ourselves anger, contention and strife, still we are all mercifully enclosed in God’s mildness and in his meekness, in his benignity and in his accessibility.

For I saw very truly that all our endless friendship, our place, our life and our being are in God. For that same endless goodness which protects us when we sin so that we do not perish, that same endless goodness constantly draws into us a peace, opposing our wrath and our perverse falling, and makes us see our need with true fear, and urgently to beseech God we may have forgiveness, with a grace-given desire for our salvation. For we cannot be blessedly saved until we are truly in peace and in love, for that is our salvation.

And though we may be angry, and the contrariness which is in us be now in tribulation, distress and woe, as we fall victims to our blindness and our evil propensities, still we are sure and safe by God’s merciful protection, so that we do not perish. But we are not blessedly safe, possessing our endless joy, until we are all in peace and in love, that is to say wholly contented with God and with all his works and with all his judgments, and loving and content with ourselves and with our fellow Christians and with everything which God loves, as is pleasing to love. And God’s goodness does this in us.

So I saw that God is our true peace; and he is our safe protector when we ourselves are in disquiet, and he constantly works to bring us into endless peace. And so when by the operation of mercy and grace we are made meek and mild, then we are wholly safe. Suddenly the soul is united to God, when she is truly pacified in herself, for in him is found no wrath. And so I saw that when we are wholly in peace and in love, we find no contrariness in any kind of hindrance, and our Lord God in his goodness makes the contrariness which is in us now very profitable for us. For contrariness is the case of all our tribulation and all our woe; and our Lord Jesus takes more and sends them up to heaven, and then they are made more sweet and delectable than heart can think or tongue can tell. And when we come there, we shall find them ready, all turned into true beauty and endless honour.

God is God our steadfast foundation, and he will be our whole joy, and he will make us as unchangeable as he is when we are there.

Dame Julian of Norwich

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