Sunday, January 28, 2007

Thomas Merton [remixed]

Obvious exchange of 'Jews/Jewish' for "xtian", Torah for lhvdl "Gospel"...mixed emphasis his and mine;

"The greatest temptation that assails Jews is that in effect, for most of us, the Torah has ceased to be news. And if it is not news it is not Torah; for the Torah is the proclamation of something absolutely new, everlastingly new, not a message that was once new but is now two [read four...] thousand years old. And yet for many of us the Torah is precisely the announcement of something that is not new: the truths of the Torah are old, deeply-rooted, firmly established, unchanging and in some sense a refuge against all that is disturbing because it is new. . . The message of the Torah when it was first preached was profoundly disturbing to those who wanted to cling to well-established religious patterns, the ancient and accepted ways, the ways that were not dangerous and which contained no surprises.

Repentence is at the same time a complete renewal, a discovery, a new life, and a return to the old, to that which is before everything else that is old. But the old and the new meet in the metanoia, the inner change, that is accomplished by the hearing of God's world and the keeping of it. That which is oldest is newest because it is the beginning [reminds me of Chesterton's counsel that "Obviously, it ought to be the oldest things that are taught to the youngest people]...The new is within the old because it is the perennial beginning of everything, and emerges from the old, transcending it...eternally renewing it's own life. The Torah is handed down from generation to generation but it must reach each one of us brand new, or not at all. If it is merely 'tradition' and not news, it has not been preached or not heard - it is not Torah.

Any word that comes from God is News!

But our ideas of news, the newspapers' idea of news, might lead us to believe that any world except what came from God was news. As if what was said by God had to be so fixed, so determined, so rigid in its set form that it could never be anything new, never unpredictable, never astonishing, never frightening. If there is no risk in revelation, if there is no fear in it, if there is no challenge in it, if it is not a world whicch creates whole worlds, and new beings, if it does not call into existence a new creature, our new self, then religion is dead and God is dead. Those for whom the Torah is old, and old only, have killed it for the rest of men. The life of the Torah is its newness.

Those who preach the Torah as if it were not and could not be news, as if it never could be news again, are saying in their own way, and much more terribly than Nietzsche, that 'God is dead'. They are declaring it officially, they are proclaiming it not just as the paradox of an eccentric, but as the doctrine of their church.

What makes the Torah news? [;]The faith, which is created in us by God and with which we hear it as news. This acceptance of faith, this new birth in the Spirit, opens up a new dimension in which time and eternity meet, in which all things are made new; eternity, time, our own self, the world around us.

But also the news of the Torah is more than a personal subjective discovery, my own individual realisation here and now of a universal message. It is true that what is known to all who have believed becomes known to me also [in Talmud Torah, engaging in dialogue with 'believers' of profound depth of belief and knowledge, etc], in praise [creativity?], in wonder [engagement in the world, the sciences, etc], in the creative light and peace of interior prayer. And my discovery must in some sense enrich the light and the joy of all. But more than that: the Torah looks to a future event that is still not fulfilled...Yet this brings with it another temptation: the false news of those who have too much of a message, too clear a message - 'lo, here is Moshiach [THE derech, etc], precisely here. And we are the ones who have found Him for you'. They have the date and the hour of His coming and they are themselves the main part of the news. A very important part, indeed. The ["second"] coming is their news.

Such news is not to be believed. The Torah itself is much simpler. [Back to Teshuvah...] Now is the judgement of the world, and the newest of all the news, because it is the simple and inscrutable heart of every now, the life and the heartbeat of every history of every man and every race and every nation.

The Torah is the news that, if I will, I can respond now in perfect freedom to the redemptive love of God for man... that I can now rise above the forces of necessity and evil in order to say 'yes' to the mysterious action of Spirit that is transforming the world even in the midst of the violence and confusion and destruction that seem to proclaim His absence and His 'death.'

Let us not underestimate our era, the era of disaster and fulfillment, by calling it 'interesting.'"
Confessions of A Guilty Bystander, p. 126-8


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