Fr Thomas Plant, Tokyo-based Anglican priest and comparative theologian

Month: May 2021

宇宙は聖歌隊

音楽はどういう意味でしょうか?ただ、楽しむためだけですか?もちろん、音楽を楽しむことは良いですが、もっと深い意味があると思います。古代の哲学者プラトンによると、音楽の勉強は教育の基本とするはずです。音楽の調和を勉強する時、算数も勉強します。曲の歌詞を勉強する時、文学も勉強します。他の人と一緒に音楽を作る時、人との調和も習います。しかし、もう一つの意味があります。言葉は人間の全部の経験を表すには足りません。言葉より、音楽が人間の心に深く、直接に話します。心を貫いて、音楽は人間に宇宙を導く調和を教えることができます。詩篇の第148篇の作家はこの世を大きな聖歌隊と想像します。太陽、月、山、木は皆「主を讃えます」。今日一緒に集まることができず残念ですが、自宅でこのレインボー・コンサートを見て、謹聴して、音楽家に感謝して、この世を導く不思議な調和に参加しましょう。もちろん、楽しむことも忘れないで。

水の面を動いていた霊/The Spirit that hovered over the face of the waters

初めに神は天土地を創造された。地は混沌として、闇が深淵の面にあり、神の霊が水の面を動いていた。神は言われた「光あれ」。すると光があった。神は光を見て良しとされた。神は光と闇を分け、光を放ると呼び、闇を夜と呼ばれた。夕があり、朝があった。第一の日である。

創世記1:1〜

昨日は精霊降臨日だったので、なぜ私が特別にこの朗読を選んだのか?このテキストが何時、そしてなぜ書かられたかと考えたら良いと思います。

無名の弟子

そのとき、21・20ペトロが振り向くと、イエスの愛しておられた弟子がついて来るのが見えた。この弟子は、あの夕食のとき、イエスの胸もとに寄りかかったまま、「主よ、裏切るのはだれですか」と言った人である。21ペトロは彼を見て、「主よ、この人はどうなるのでしょうか」と言った。22イエスは言われた。「わたしの来るときまで彼が生きていることを、わたしが望んだとしても、あなたに何の関係があるか。あなたは、わたしに従いなさい。」23それで、この弟子は死なないといううわさが兄弟たちの間に広まった。しかし、イエスは、彼は死なないと言われたのではない。ただ、「わたしの来るときまで彼が生きていることを、わたしが望んだとしても、あなたに何の関係があるか」と言われたのである。

24これらのことについて証しをし、それを書いたのは、この弟子である。わたしたちは、彼の証しが真実であることを知っている。

25イエスのなさったことは、このほかにも、まだたくさんある。わたしは思う。その一つ一つを書くならば、世界もその書かれた書物を収めきれないであろう。

ヨハネ21・20-25

この「イエスの愛しておれれた弟子」は誰でしょうか?福音はその弟子の名前を表さない。聖ヨハネの福音の泣けで、この「愛しておられた弟子」は4回出るが、毎回無名です。

「真実の物語」

「スマスリク」という言葉をご存知ですか?ごん存じなら、私がびっくりします。自分で作った言葉だからです。「スマスリク」というのは、逆から書いた「クリスマス」です。それは先週お祭りした「昇天日」の意味です。すなわち、昇天日はクリスマスの逆です。簡単に説明すれば、クリスマスで、主イエスの生まれた日なので、神が天国から降って人間になったことで、昇天日はその反対に、人間になった神はまた天国に昇ったことです。

The Love that moves the Sun… Sermon for the 6th Sunday after Easter

“You are my friends – if you keep my commandments.” You can be my friend, as long as you do what I tell you. Is this what Our Lord is saying? If so, he sounds like the kind of friend you would tell your children to avoid.

And if, as Archbishop Michael Ramsay put it, there is nothing unChristlike in God – that is, if God is like this – then I can understand why people want to avoid God, too. In my favourite Irish comedy of the 1990s, Fr Ted, the eponymous protagonist is accused of fascism. “I’m a priest, not a fascist,” he retorts. “Fascists go around dressed in black telling people what to do.”

There’s a serious point here: are Christians the friends of a fascist God in the sky who tells us what to do? A lot of people do seem to think that the God of Christianity is basically an all-powerful dictator.

To define God primarily in terms of power is not new. Sceptics like Rousseau, Marx and more recently Foucault have conditioned the Western mind to see the world primarily in terms of the exercise of power. God, if he existed at all, would simply be the most powerful entity among many, dominating by sheer force of will. To be like God, on this view, is to exercise the greatest possible freedom of one’s own individual will.

Follow Rousseau’s thought to its conclusion, and any external impositions, anything like commandments, just get in the way, whether from God, the Church, our parents or our society. Following Rousseau, the Marquis de Sade and the murderous revolutionaries of France found God an unwelcome hypothesis; Napoleon, an unnecessary one. By the time of Sartre, God was not worthy of mention, and hell was other people.

Rousseau and his followers did not make this God up. The roots of this caricature can be found in Christian theology. Calvin, after all, was very much focussed on the sovereign will of God. Before him, the 14th century Franciscan Friar William of Ockham, famous for his razor, was so committed to the freedom of God’s will that he insisted God could have reversed any of his commandments: He could have said, “thou shalt murder,” “thou shalt commit adultery,” even “though shalt hate God and hate thy neighbour.” And if God said so, that would make it good. What is good is whatever God wills, and our intuitions and reason have nothing to do with it. Just think of Abraham and Isaac. For Ockham, being God’s friend really did mean doing what you’re told.

So yes, there is a tradition of what we call “divine command theory” in Christian theology – but it is only a fairly recent development, around 700 years ago, and one particular to Western European theology, at that. It is not without strengths, offering an uncompromising answer to the problem of evil: something may seem bad to us, but it is willed by God and for the greater good. Yet this raises more problems, not least the question of why God would imbue us with reason and the cosmos with the appearance of rationality if the truth were ultimately entirely inscrutable. It leaves us with that dictatorial God in whom, it seems, much of the world has lost trust, and with an ultimately incomprehensible and irrational world subject only to the strongest will. Much in the history of Western abuse of technology, the environment and empire is grounded in this conception of God – in my view, a misconception.

A god defined purely (or even mainly) in terms of power and command has little to do with the Triune God revealed in Our Lord. So: “you are my friends, if you keep my commandments.” What are we to make of those words? The mistake, in my view, is that our modern obsession with power dynamics leaves us so outraged by the condition of commandments, that we fail to look at what those commandments are. We focus so much on the fact that Our Lord wills something, that we ignore what it is he wills. The result is that, like Ockham, we separate the divine will from the divine nature: what God wills from what God is.

But if we look at what it is Our Lord commands, we will find in him a God very different from the whimsical dictator. The night before He died, at the Last Supper, Our Lord left two commandments: “love one another as I have loved you,” and “do this in remembrance of me.” Not just to keep commandments as a matter of principle, but to keep these specific commandments, is what makes a friend of God.

St John focuses, characteristically, on the first: “love one another,” and here is the emphasis: “as I have loved you.” Note the order of love here. God loves first. It’s not an arbitrary love, like the love proclaimed on the radio waves in pop songs. This love is a response to God’s prior love for us, made manifest in the self-gift of Christ on the Cross for our sakes.

It isn’t even freely chosen. As the icon in the chapel of my theological college professed, “you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” This could lead to big-headedness in some seminarians: “look, God chose me!” Its meaning is quite the opposite. It is not about me. It is not about my worthiness. It is not about my choices. It is not about my calculations of personal benefit. It is not about independence, but absolute dependence: on God, and on one another.

Mutual dependence is not something God merely commands. It is what God, as Trinity, is. The power of the Father, the Wisdom of the Son and the Love of the Spirit cannot be dissected. For God to will anything against love and reason would contradict his nature, the nature in which everything which comes from him shares.

At this point, we should consider Our Lord’s second commandment: “do this in remembrance of me.” Our remembrance of Christ is not merely a short-term memory of his death upon the Cross, which the Lord instituted to prevent mass amnesia. Rather, this remembrance is a recollection of the deep memory which lies in our hearts and in the heart of all things: the memory of God who is, as Dante writes in the final canto of the Paradise, the love which moves the sun and other stars. Through the Eucharist we celebrate here today, our high priest, Christ, pours out the love of the Holy Spirit not only into humans but into the entire cosmos. The sun and rain give growth to wheat and grapes, harvested and formed by human hands, and offered up by Christ through Holy Church to return to their source in God. Remembrance in the Eucharist is not just a mental image, but an action effected through material things to lift all creation up to its immaterial source. That source is the mind of God, which we know incarnate in Jesus Christ.

These two commandments of Christ, to love another as he loves us and to celebrate the Eucharist, are not whimsical directives of a despotic divine will. It is not out of loneliness or bossiness that he craves our friendship, but out of his divine nature as love: for, as Meister Eckhart neatly concludes, the divine will is the divine nature.

When we look at the Cross, and see God giving himself for the sake of the universe, we are not looking at something God happens to choose to do: we are looking, as far as our dim senses allow, at what God is. When we take part in the Eucharist, we are not just doing what God tells us: we are being lifted up, through and with one another, into the rhythm of the sacred heart which beats at the centre of reality. Through the Eucharist, God gives us the grace of forgiveness and thanksgiving which reinforces our dependence on one another, on our world, and on Him.

“Thy will be done” and “give us this day our daily bread” are not two prayers, but one: a prayer that God will perfect this world with his love. Let us make that prayer with all our hearts today.

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