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I’m not moving through Heavenly Participation very quickly because I don’t ever have time to read. Indeed, whenever I do sit down in a chair with a physical book in my hand, it is as though I have bought for myself an expensive sound system, perfectly calibrated it, and then taken a deep breath, leaning well in to the mic to say,

“Hey guys, I’m doing literally nothing of importance. I’d love it if you would each wander in, one by one, with about a minute and a half in between, basically, just enough time for me to glance at the page and find my place again. What I’d love would be if, then, you began to speak to me, in a tone slightly too loud, as if we both were in the epicenter of an ongoing, fascinating, and intelligible conversation. By which I mean, of course, that you need not name the teacher, or class, or friend as I have intuited all the necessary and interesting details by divination. I am sitting here, quiet, waiting with bated breath to hear you complain of yet one more assignment. That’s why I sat down and opened this—what’s it called? Oh never mind.”

Incidentally, or is it ironically, when I am scrolling through Twitter on my phone everyone gives me a wide berth.

What I’m saying is, I’ve been getting through Heavenly Participation in bits and bites. I have just finished chapter three, in which are some fantabulous one-liners. But let me just go back to chapter two for this one that I love, for example:

“I confess that I am a maximalist when it comes to this. As I see it, Christ is not just the climax of the covenant—though he certainly is that—but he is also the eternal anchor for all of created existence.”

Oh, and this wonderful paragraph:

“Today we are witnessing a fascinating resurgence in Irenaeus scholarship, and this is a most welcome development for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is the fact that Irenaeus was a theologian of unity, celebrating the unity of God, the unity of Jesus Christ, the unity of history, the unity of humanity, and—above all—the unity of salvation. Moreover, Irenaeus managed to weave this unified tapestry in such a way that he did not fall into the opposite extreme of a totalizing imposition of sameness that quashed all difference. Many today are wondering whether to embrace modernity’s violent imposition of sameness or to instead opt for postmodernity’s funky celebration of carnivalesque difference. In this context, Irenaeus’s theology provides us with a sane word of wisdom: the wisdom of the gospel, the wisdom that pleads for a unity that does not obliterate differences.”

Isn’t that fine? Really, you probably should pop out and buy yourself a copy. Anyway, there’s this bit in chapter Three. Discussing the work of one Chenu, Boersma writes:

“Chenu contrasts the Aristotelian ‘economy of an incarnate God’ with the Platonic ‘hieratic’ universe, and decidedly opts for the ‘naturalistic realism’ of the former. Chenu’s choice seems unfortunate to me. He realized that the decline of the Platonist-Christian synthesis led over time to the desacralizing or desacramentalizing of Western culture. Sounding typically modern, Chenu describes the twelfth-century revolt of nature with a degree of bravura: ‘Henceforth, the new homo artifex, maker of shapes and forms, distinguished between the animate and the mechanical, rid himself of the childish fancies of animism and of the habit of seeing divinity within the marvels of nature. The shared realm which he secularized by this process no longer processed any properly religious value for him.’ Chenu applauds the new inability to see divinity in nature. The ‘desacralizing,’ or ‘desacramentalizing,’ of nature, which coincided with the abandonment of the Platonist-Christian synthesis, was, to Chenu, a laudable development.”

So obviously, that’s disappointing. But what I liked, at a very base and dull level, was that Boersma gave me words for the misery and pique I felt two days ago on the long terrible walk I take with my husband every morning. We generally talk about all kinds of things, but on this particular morning, I finally understood why I so love autumn. It’s the light, I said. It’s not just the leaves changing, though that, of course, is its own poignant joy. It’s the light. Autumn is the only season where I am able to be hopeful about that terrifying line—“In him there is no darkness at all.” Is that a bible verse? Or only the refrain of that song. I hear it and worry that heaven will be an eternity of wandering around Walmart, trying to find butter, milk, and a rightsized board onto which I can hammer hooks for the keys of all the household.

And what I meant was that it is so extraordinary how God organizes the autumn light. How is it that he turns the leaves into jewels? How is it that he turns my living room, at 4pm, into a warm, strange elven world? I said all this, in the fullness of my heart.

And what my wretched husband said was, “I know right. In Texas, it was never like this because there’s barely any tilt. I love it too.”

We walked on in a great silence, and for two days whenever he asked me if I was angry with him, I always said no. Because what am I to say? It was my own fault. I didn’t mean how. What I wanted to know was why. Why did God do this? And what does it say about him that each leaf catches the light just so? The tilt of the earth–yes. But that is only one tiny bit of information. What is a person to say when, in discussing the very light of God, the person you love turns the subject away to the annual bitter complaint about Daylight Savings Time, when you were trying to understand about the Light?  

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

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