The ideas in Circles of Thorns are being explored in Canterbury in the form of two lectures. If you would like to follow the themes and structure of Circles of Thorns in your own Lenten study, then please feel free to:
- listen to the podcasts. The Sunday evening sermons (c 20 mins) and the Tuesday lunchtime Lent lectures (c 40 mins) will appear the day (DV) after delivery.
- use this series of thoughts, readings, meditations and questions. A PDF can also be downloaded for easier printing and later reference.
Circle 5 / Week 5 / Quiddity
In Thief of Time Terry Pratchett satirises the usual human tendency to seek wisdom far away from home: Lu Tze finds wisdom in the “Way of Mrs Marietta Cosmopilite, 3 Quirm Street, Ankh-Morpork, Rooms for Rent, Very Reasonable.”
I was not born yesterday; It does you good to get out in the fresh air; You never know what’s going to turn up.
What “wisdom” in our culture is similarly banal, and only thought to be wise because it is exotic?
The Incarnation means that Christianity has oscillated between seeing God at work in everything and God at work only in the person of Jesus Christ:
Jesus eclipses all holy places and himself becomes the ultimate holy place. There is no place on earth which mediates God’s presence in an assured way: that alone can be found in Christ. Thus to be ‘in Christ’ is already to be in the holiest place. (Peter Walker)
Is there anything to be said for the other side of the oscillation?
Since everything was of divine creation, medieval intellectuals had no doubt that all the pieces would ultimately fit together in an idealistic, morally committed structure. Whatever they saw or experienced was part of a divine manifestation. (Rodney Stark)
Sometimes the Christian Gospel has been proclaimed as the fulfilment of the Jewish Law (for example, the Letter to the Hebrews); sometimes as an extension of pagan philosophy (for example Paul’s sermon in Acts 17); sometimes as a branch of Wisdom literature (for example, John 1). In the Gospels it is proclaimed as story, a form of narrative. What are the advantages / disadvantages of story? Which do you prefer?
Hieronymus Bosch properly and devoutly paints a sacred painting that showed no cross and no resurrection, and yet contained within it both Good Friday and Easter morn. The Crucifixion is depicted by the presence of the crown of thorns; the Resurrection is depicted by the seamless white robe (the lampros) Christ wears. Bosch includes a third biblical episode, which we see in the quizzical look Christ gives the viewer, the attention he pays us… the question Jesus asked of his disciples in Caesarea Philippi: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-21/ Mark 8:27-33 / Luke 9:18-22). Bosch has an answer: do we?
What is your answer to the question?
Human beings are unlike every other animal species; we are aware of both the fact and meaning of our impending deaths. Etty Hillesum said:
Living and dying, sorrow and joy, the blisters on my feet and the jasmine behind the house, the persecution and the unspeakable horrors— it is all as one in me, and I accept it all as one mighty whole… I wish I could live for a long time so that one day I may know how to explain it, and if I am not granted that wish, well, then somebody else will perhaps do it, carry on from where my life has been cut short. And that is why I must try to live a good and faithful life to my last breath: so that those who come after me do not have to start all over again.
Does this help?
Questions for further reflection
- Three modern artists, Mark Wallinger, Bill Viola and Brian Eno, have contemplated questions of trust and time. Which modern day artists express ideas important to your faith?
- “Quiddity” means “real nature or essence of a thing; that which makes a thing what it is”. What is the ‘quiddity’ of Jesus? What is the very thing that makes him the person he is?
- What form of time do you mostly live in? How important is the passing of time to you?
Lenten Study Guide for Circles of Thorns: Week 5 (45.6 KiB, 69 hits)
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