Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pondering: I'm Not a Two-Part Invention

I've begun a beautiful book, Endless Life: poems of the mystics by Scott Cairns. I'm reading "slowly, / and thoroughly, tasting / each word's trouble."

from the Preface:

Noetic prayer is the heart of our matter; if it is acquired and sustained, it becomes the means by which we apprehend God's presence and His will. Nous is a tasty noun from which the adjective noetic springs--a word found throughout the Greek New Testament and throughout the writings of the fathers and mothers of the Church. In translation its spot as, say, the intellective aptitude of the heart is almost invariably lost. It is the center of the human person, where mind and matter meet most profoundly, and where the human person is mystically united to others and to God.

...the word is most often rendered as mind or reason or intellect, and these curious choices have become complicit in one of our unfortunate dichotomies, that of the human person into a two-part invention: a relatively deplorable vehicle (the body) and its somewhat more laudable and worthy passenger (the soul or spirit)...You might recognize its legacy as an ongoing, body-bashing error among a good bit of the Western Church, both high and low. A rediscovery of nous, therefore, would be a very good thing.

And this first poem from Saint Paul the Apostle, you may recognize.

Beyond Knowing
translated by Scott Cairns

I'll bet your wits won't let you
quite believe any of this; it is, however,
precisely so.

I know a man, a follower of Christ,
who, some fourteen years ago
was lifted clean

to the third heaven--whether this
occurred in the body or out of it,
I could not say,

though God knows. And this same man--
whether in the body or out of it,
I do not know,

though God surely knows--was lifted
(hear me!) clean to Paradise, and there
he heard such words

--so marvelous and grave--that no
human tongue could repeat them,
nor think to try.

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