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  Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

Essence

In philosophy, essence is the attribute or set of attributes that make an entity or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. Essence is contrasted with accident: a property that the entity or substance has contingency, without which the substance can still retain its identity. The concept originates with Aristotle, who used the Greek expression to ti ên einai (τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι, literally meaning “the what it was to be” and corresponding to the scholastic term quiddity) or sometimes the shorter phrase to ti esti (τὸ τί ἐστι, literally meaning “the what it is” and corresponding to the scholastic term haecceity) for the same idea. This phrase presented such difficulties for its Latin translators that they coined the word essentia (English “essence”) to represent the whole expression. For Aristotle and his scholastic followers, the notion of essence is closely linked to that of definition (ὁρισμός horismos).

In Plato’s philosophy (in particular, the Timaeus and the Philebus), things were said to come into being in this world by the action of a demiurge who works to form chaos into ordered entities. Many definitions of essence hark back to the ancient Greek hylomorphic understanding of the formation of the things of this world. According to that account, the structure and real existence of any thing can be understood by analogy to an artifact produced by a craftsman. The craftsman requires hyle (timber or wood) and a model, plan or idea in his own mind according to which the wood is worked to give it the indicated contour or form (morphe). Aristotle was the first to use the terms hyle and morphe. According to his explanation, all entities have two aspects, “matter” and “form”. It is the particular form imposed that gives some matter its identity, its quiddity or “whatness” (i.e., its “what it is”).

Although the Greek philosophers believed that the true nature of the universe was perfect, they attributed the observed imperfections to man’s limited perception. For Plato, this meant that there had to be two different realities: the “essential” and the “perceived”. Plato’s dialectical protégé Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) applied the term “essence” to the one common characteristic that all things belonging to a particular category have in common and without which they could not be members of that category; hence, the idea of rationality as the essence of man. This notion carried over into all facets of reality, including species of living creatures. For contemporary essentialists, however, the characteristic that all existents have in common is the power to exist, and this potentiality defines the “uncreated” Essence.

It was the Egyptian-born philosopher Plotinus [204–270 CE] who brought Idealism to the Roman Empire as Neo-Platonism, and with it the concept that not only do all existents emanate from a “primary essence” but that the mind plays an active role in shaping or ordering the objects of perception, rather than passively receiving empirical data. As the Roman Empire declined through the fourth and fifth centuries CE, Neo-Platonism intersected the spread of Christianity in the Western world. In particular, St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430 CE) was led by Platonic introspection to embrace Christianity. Late in life he abandoned Neo-Platonism for a more personal scriptural interpretation, but the gnostic impulse continued to remain an important, secondary current for essentialist belief.


  Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

Eric’s Song

Strange how you know inside me
I measure the time and I stand amazed
Strange how I know inside you
My hand is outstretched toward the damp of the haze

And of course I forgive
I’ve seen how you live
Like a phoenix you rise from the ashes
You pick up the pieces
And the ghosts in the attic
They never quite leave
And of course I forgive
You’ve seen how I live
I’ve got darkness and fears to appease
My voices and analogies
Ambitions like ribbons
Worn bright on my sleeve

Strange how we know each other

Strange how I fit into you
There’s a distance erased with the greatest of ease
Strange how you fit into me
A gentle warmth filling the deepest of needs

And with each passing day
The stories we say
Draw us tighter into our addiction
Confirm our conviction
That some kind of miracle
Passed on our heads
And how I am sure
Like never before
Of my reasons for defying reason
Embracing the seasons
We dance through the colors
Both followed and led

Strange how we fit each other

Strange how certain the journey
Time unfolds the petals
For our eyes to see
Strange how this journey’s hurting
In ways we accept as part of fate’s decree

So we just hold on fast
Acknowledge the past
As lessons exquisitely crafted
Painstakingly drafted
To carve us as instruments
That play the music of life
For we don’t realize
Our faith in the prize
Unless it’s been somehow elusive
How swiftly we choose it
The sacred simplicity
Of you at my side

—Vienna Teng

  Friday, May 22nd, 2015

The God Who is There

What does it mean to believe on, to cast oneself on, Christ? I would suggest that there are four crucial aspects to be considered. More detail could be considered but these are cruical. They are not slogans to be repeated by rote and they do not have to be said in these words, but the individual must have come to a positive conclusion and affirmation concerning them, if he is to believe in the biblical sense:

1. Do you believe that God exists and that he is a personal God, and that Jesus Christ is God—remembering that we are not talking of the word or idea god, but of the infinite-personal God who is there?

2. Do you acknowledge that you are guilty in the presence of this God—remembering that we are not talking about guilt feelings, but true moral guilt?

3. Do you believe that Jesus Christ died in space and time in history on the cross, and that when He died His substitutional work of bearing God’s punishment against sin was fully accomplished and complete?

4. On the basis of God’s promises in His written communication to us, the Bible, do you (or have you) cast yourself on this Christ as your personal Saviour—not trusting in anything you yourself have ever done or ever will do?

But note with care that God’s promise: “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life,” rests upon: God’s being there; Christ being the second person of the Trinity whose death therefore has infinite value; my not coming presumptuously in thinking I can save myself, but casting myself on the finished work of Christ and the written promises of God. My faith is simply the empty hands by which I accept God’s free gift.

—Francis Schaeffer

  Sunday, May 17th, 2015

Not Love Perhaps

This is not Love, perhaps,
Love that lays down its life,
that many waters cannot quench,
nor the floods drown,
But something written in lighter ink,
said in a lower tone, something, perhaps, especially our own.

A need, at times, to be together and talk,
And then the finding we can walk
More firmly through dark narrow places,
And meet more easily nightmare faces;
A need to reach out, sometimes, hand to hand,
And then find Earth less like an alien land;
A need for alliance to defeat
The whisperers at the corner of the street.

A need for inns on roads, islands in seas,
Halts for discoveries to be shared,
Maps checked, notes compared;
A need, at times, of each for each,
Direct as the need of throat and tongue for speech.

—Arthur Seymour John Tessimond

  Sunday, May 17th, 2015

Enchantment

Late Middle English (in the senses “put under a spell” and “delude” — formerly also as inchant): from French enchanter, from Latin incantare, from in- “in” + cantare “sing.”


  Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Kerygma

The term κήρυγμα, (Kerugma) is a Greek word meaning “proclamation.” The Greek word κηρύσσω, (kerusso) means “herald,” or one who proclaims. And thus the Kerygma is what is proclaimed.

As the apostles began the work of preaching and proclaiming Christ, they proclaimed a message that was rather basic and simple. More extended teaching or instruction (Διδαχή, (didache), in Greek) would come later, after baptism. But the initial proclamation of Christ was simple, and to the point. For example:

“That we are lost in our sins, that those deep drives are destroying us, and that God has sent the Savior, Jesus Christ, who died to set us free and offer us whole new life. It is he who calls to you now, who is drawing you to himself, that he might save you and give to you a whole new life. He died to give you this life, and having been raised from the dead, he ascended to the Father, where he is drawing you to himself even now, calling you by name, and offering you deliverance from every sinful and destructive drive, establishing you in a new, more glorious, and hopeful life. Come to him now, the repent of your sins, and let him begin the good work in you.”


  Monday, May 11th, 2015

Little Gidding (excerpt)

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

—T.S.Eliot

  Monday, May 11th, 2015

Julian of Norwich

In my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well. This impulse [of thought] was much to be avoided, but nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed because of it, without reason and discretion.

But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: “It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

These words were said most tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any who shall be saved.


  Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

Infinite Desire

If grace comes from God’s side, desire comes from ours. Thomas grants that if we were finite in every way God could not be our joy, for we cannot “reach out to more good” than we can hold. But there is, he contends, one way we are not finite: we have unlimited desire. We are limited in every way but one—we have unlimited desire, unlimited longing. Our desire is the one thing about us that is not restricted and we know this. We feel the ongoing hunger for something infinitely good, we are stalked by the longing for something perfectly blessed and precious. Though we are limited, we want unlimited good, though we are restricted, we want to love unrestrictedly. This is why Thomas says we “can reach out to the infinite.” We seek the infinite through the openness of desire, and only something indefectibly good will satisfy this desire.

—Paul Wadell

  Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

Caritas

Aquinas contends that unlike our other appetites—appetites for food, sex, wealth and so on—our appetite for God need not, indeed should not, be subjected to any moderation. Temperance is to love the sensory pleasures of taste and touch with moderation. Justice is to love the good for another with moderation. Courage is to love the goods of life and honor with moderation. But charity is to love God without moderation. In fact, the measureless love of God that is charity, since it rightly orders all other acts to its own end, has the quality of imposing measure on every other habit. If we love God without limit, Aquinas thinks, we will find that we love every other good proportionately. Charity, therefore, directs us toward an object that we are to pursue without restraint, and charity promises us that extremism in this one direction will translate into right action in every other direction.

—Kent Dunnington

  Friday, May 1st, 2015

The Spiritual Exercises

Ignatian prayer places great emphasis on the power of the imagination to deepen our relationship with God. One of the principal forms of prayer in the Spiritual Exercises is imaginative reflection on scenes from the Gospels. The praying retreatant becomes a participant in the event—the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus, for example. The retreatant feels the heat of the sun, smells the passing animals, hears the noise of the crowd. Above all, the retreatant watches and hears Jesus as he approaches the man, heals him, and disputes with the angry Pharisees.

This kind of imaginative prayer seeks the truth of the heart rather than the truth of facts. The person who prays this way notices the feelings and desires inspired by an encounter with Jesus. To deepen the encounter, Ignatius recommends savoring the experience, returning to it again and again to relish the details.

These imaginative prayer encounters with God stir the emotions. They provoke feelings of gratitude and evoke courage and humility. Their purpose is to call forth a heartfelt desire to know Jesus and to follow him. In the words of Hugo Rahner, Ignatius “uses pictures and images to present what is otherwise beyond all conceiving.”


  Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

i thank You God for most this amazing

day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

—e.e. cummings

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  Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

This is to Mother You

To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you

This is to be with you
To hold you and to kiss you too
For when you need me I will do
What your own mother didn’t do
Which is to mother you

All the pain that you have known
All the violence in your soul
All the wrong things you have done
I will take from you when I come

All mistakes made in distress
All your unhappiness
I will take away with my kiss, yes
I will give you tenderness

For child I am so glad I’ve found you
Although my arms have always been around you
Sweet bird although you did not see me
I saw you

And I’m here to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you

—Sinead O'Connor

  Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Wedding Song

I’ve been having dreams and visions
In them you are always standing
Right beside me
I reach out for your hand
To see your arms extending
outstretched towards me

For you I don the veil
By your light
Others pale by comparison
I place my faith in love
My fate in this communion

I’ve been having dreams and visions
In them you are always standing
Right beside me
I reach out for your hand
To see your arms extending
Outstretched towards me

To you I give my pledge
I honor all that’s good
In this life we’re living
To think not only of myself
But of the greater union

Can I get a witness
There is salvation and rapture for the lonely
Can I get a witness
Bless this day sacred and holy
Sacred and Holy

I’ve been having dreams and visions
In them you are always standing
Right beside me
I reach out for your hand
To see your arms extending
Outstretched towards me

With you I am revealed
All my shame all my faults and virtues
Behold body mind and spirit
Heart and soul devoted all to you

Can I get a witness
There is salvation and rapture for the lonely
Can I get a witness
Bless this day sacred and holy
Sacred and Holy

—Tracy Chapman

  Sunday, April 26th, 2015

The Place Where We Are Right

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

—Yehuda Amichai