13 December 2007

Taste and See

When I was in college, the main criticism leveled at Christianity (and let's keep in mind, we're talking Western Christianity here; I doubt many of my professors could even have named the Orthodox Church, much less given you some idea of its beliefs) was that it had done violence to the body. In other words, postmodernity has picked up on the strain of neo-gnosticism that seeks to drive a wedge between the body and the immaterial mind and/or spirit that runs right through the heart of Western Christendom these days. Sadly, most think, as I myself once did, that this swill is what Christianity is, and therefore it is rejected.

When I was floundering about in Western mysticism (I'll need to talk about that more at a later date), I dismissed such people; after all, if they weren't looking for the Transcendent Divine Will, and actually were concerned for the body! then they clearly were not on the same spiritual plane that I was--and therefore, not worth my time. Well, this is insanely arrogant, but that's what I thought.

Notice, though, that I believed, essentially, the same thing they did. The body and the spirit are separated; and, while postmoderns want to toss out the mind and/or spirit (we're not sure which we're talking about) in favor of the body only--and, Orthodox Christians take note, when a postmodern talks about "reclaiming the body" they mean giving in wholesale to the passions of the flesh--I had taken the opposite approach and disregarded the body in favor of the mind/spirit. What Orthodoxy taught me, however, is that this is the same error, just a different expression.

The beauty of Orthodox theology is wrapped up in a simple phrase that you'll often hear Orthodox people say to those who inquire about the Church: Come and See. This is a variation of the theme of Psalm 33 (LXX), that says "Taste and see that the Lord is good; his praise shall continually be in my mouth." Come and see--taste and see. We tell people that the best way to experience God is to taste him. This sensual remark is totally out of place in Western Christianity, where it would at best be seen as a metaphor. In the East, we literally mean that the best way to get to know God is to eat him, which we have the opportunity to do at every divine liturgy.

The Lord is good, because he came to save our bodies as well as our souls. He came to restore material creation to the beauty that God intended for it, not to annihilate it in favor of some "pure" disincarnate reality. The Transcendent God has become incarnate; God has a physical, material body in the person of Jesus Christ. The unknowable God has willing chosen to partake in our nature, so that our humanity might be deified! How does this not excite you? How can this self-revelation of God fail to incite you to want to tell everyone: Come! Taste, touch, smell, see, and hear the Word of God made flesh for our sake!

This understanding of who God is, and how we come to know him, is Orthodoxy's cure for the dangerous disease of modernity (and her child, postmodernity).

+Pax vobiscum

5 comments:

Petronia said...

"while postmoderns want to toss out the mind and/or spirit (we're not sure which we're talking about) in favor of the body only--and, Orthodox Christians take note, when a postmodern talks about "reclaiming the body" they mean giving in wholesale to the passions of the flesh"

How so? I am only a bit familiar with the postmodern movement, but I didn't realize this was such a big part of it. It does seem, though, that they focus on stimulating the senses during worship and borrowing ways of worship from other religions (primarily eastern).

Petronia said...

btw, hope my comment doesn't make it sound like I support the postmodern movement in any way. I sincerely asked b/c I realize that there is much I don't know/understand about it. I hope your fast has been blessed thus far.

The Hermit said...

Hah! The fast has been what is has been :( I can't say I've been especially good at keeping it. This one is always the hardest for me.

At any rate, I know I am normally johnny-on-the-spot with responses, but your question sort of pushed me into needing make another post, which I haven't quite had time for at the moment (especially because there is, as yet, not 'net access at my new house!). Rest assured, though, I'm going to respond.

And there's no way I'd think you a postmodern, Petra. You're way classier than that ;)

Petronia said...

thanks:) glad to get you thinking and writing :)

Chocolatesa said...

"How does this not excite you? How can this self-revelation of God fail to incite you to want to tell everyone: Come! Taste, touch, smell, see, and hear the Word of God made flesh for our sake!"

Yes! I want to tell my friends, have wanted to for a long time, but although they know I'm Christian, I wouldn't be surprised if any talk of Christianity would fall on deaf ears. I've never invited anyone to a Liturgy before, I might have to try someday.