The Cure for Futility

A Platonically inclined thinker like Saint Gregory of Nyssa is going to find a lot to nod at in the Book of Ecclesiastes, which we are now praying through during matins. 

But as one of the great Christian thinkers, Gregory will also know what to do with the fact of the historical diremption between the fullness of divine life and the vanity of worldly existence. For him, the dramatic resolution of the tragic dualism comes from our participation in Jesus Christ's self-sacrificial love, as we see in today's second matins reading.

This participation involves looking with love upon the face of Jesus through the eyes of faith. Faith means living by a different rationality than that of fallen man (this is something of a coda to my post of yesterday). Faith makes the faithful servant look like a fool to the sophisticated:

"People are often considered blind and useless when they make the supreme Good their aim and give themselves up to the contemplation of God, but Paul made a boast of this and proclaimed himself a fool for Christ's sake."

But the point is not some pernicious otherworldliness, some flight from the world. No, the point of looking up is to gain the strength to bear up below, as we carry out the mission of universal love:

"And so, without board or lodging, he traveled from place to place, destitute, naked, exhausted by hunger and thirst. When men saw him in captivity, flogged, shipwrecked, led about in chains, they could scarcely help thinking him a pitiable sight."

True greatness comes from the invisible, lives off of the invisible, and will always substantially remain within the invisibility of infinite wisdom and love. But invisibility wants only one thing: to be visible. As Balthasar says, "The end of all the ways of God is the flesh." So the dramatic dualism between Spirit and history must be bridged in flesh animated by a wisdom and love always transcending the self.

The crossing of the visible and the invisible happens in the tortured flesh of the servant of God. In Christ, the saint has shot his or her very person like a grappling hook into heaven and by an ever-increasing upward fervor strains to lift the whole world to God:

"Nevertheless, even while he suffered all this at the hands of men, he always looked toward the One Who is his head and he asked: 'What can separate us from the love of Christ, which is in Jesus? Can affliction or distress? Can persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger, or death?' In other words, 'What can force me to take my eyes from Him Who is my head and to turn them toward things that are contemptible?'"

By loving Jesus above all things, all things are saved and filled with the very fullness of God.