Friday, August 29, 2008


The Transfiguration or “Metamorphosis” of Jesus is also, no doubt, an anticipatory glimpse of something to come. He is seen conversing with two of the ancient dead. The change which His own human form had undergone is described as one to luminosity, to “shining whiteness.” A similar whiteness characterizes His appearances at the beginning of the book of Revelation…

We do not know to what phase or feature of the New Creation this episode points. It may reveal some special glorifying of Christ’s manhood at some phase of its history (since history it apparently has) or it may reveal the glory which that manhood always has in its New Creation: it may even reveal a glory which all risen men will inherit. We do not know… we know and can knew very little about the New Nature.

…We are therefore compelled to believe that nearly all we are told about the New Creation is metaphorical. But not quite all. That is just where the story of the Resurrection suddenly jerks us back like a tether. The local appearances, the eating, the touching, the claim to be corporeal, must be either reality or sheer illusion. The New Nature is, in the mast troublesome way, interlocked at some points with the Old. Because of its novelty we have to think of it, for the most part, metaphorically: but because of the partial interlocking, some facts about it come through into our present experience in all their literal facthood—just as some facts about an organism are inorganic facts, and some facts about a solid body are facts of linear geometry…

Every state of affairs in the New Nature will be the perfect expression of a spiritual state and every spiritual state the perfect informing of, and bloom upon, a state of affairs; one with it as the perfume with a flower or the “spirit” of great poetry with its form. There is thus in the history of human thought, as elsewhere, a pattern of death and rebirth… Those who attain the glorious resurrection will see the dry bones clothed again with flesh, the fact and the myth re-married, the literal and the metaphorical rushing together.

The remark so often made that “Heaven is a state of mind” bears witness to the wintry and deathlike phase of this process in which we are now living… That is what every great religion except Christianity would say. But Christian teaching by saying that God made the world and called it good teaches that Nature or environment cannot be simply irrelevant to spiritual beatitude in general, however far in one particular Nature, during the days of her bondage, they may have drawn apart. By teaching the resurrection of the body it teaches that Heaven is not merely a state of the spirit but a state of the body as well: and therefore a state of Nature as a whole.

Christ, it is true, told His hearers that the Kingdom of Heaven with “within” or “among” them. But His hearers were not merely in “a state of mind.” The planet He had created was beneath their feet, His sun above their heads; blood and lungs and guts were working in the bodies He had invented, photons and sound waves of His devising were blessing them with the sight of His human face and the sound of His voice. We are never merely in a state of mind

From this factor of environment Christianity does not teach us to desire a total release. We desire, like St. Paul, not to be un-clothed but to be re-clothed; to find not the formless Everywhere-and-Nowhere but the promised land, that Nature which will be always and perfectly—as present Nature is partially and intermittently—the instrument for that music which will then arise between Christ and us…

I suspect that our conception of "heaven" as merely a state of mind is not unconnected with the fact that the specifically Christian virtue of Hope has in our time grown so languid… The thought at the back of this negative spirituality is really one forbidden to Christians.

They, of all men, must not conceive spiritual joy and worth as things that need to be rescued or tenderly protected from time and place and matter and the senses. Their God is the God of corn and oil and wine. He is the glad Creator. He has become Himself incarnate. The sacraments have been instituted. Certain spiritual gifts are offered us only on condition that we perform certain bodily acts. After that we cannot really be in doubt of His intention…

These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else—since He has retained His own charger—should we accompany Him?

1 comment:

  1. Well that is certainly different from the usual take on the bible, I've never heard it spoken about like this.