Showing posts with label On Giving My Word. Show all posts
Showing posts with label On Giving My Word. Show all posts


Tanner and Poet


It is comic for an over-80 to be reading systematic theology, as it not likely to be on the final exam.  It has more to say to those who are responsible for the Christian witness to the world, pastors, preachers. Teachers and even poets.  Still, since the middle of the summer I have reading Tanner, and find myself in kind of rear-guard movement, wanting to witness to the importance of her systematic theology.  Thus, we have this Face Book page, “Tanner Talk of Omaha,” a sister page to “On Giving My Word Tancreti.”   The two pages might seem unrelated, but they do bare on one another.  Retrospectively, I recognize that the theology that underlies the poetic of On Giving My Word is similar to Tanner’s and gains clarity from it.  It is similar because my reading in the Seventies and Eighties, Rahner, Schleiermacher and Bart, was similar to Tanner’s.  Had I been aware of it at the timeing I was writing that poetry, it would have served as useful guide to the coherent God talk I was attempting, now can gain by being judged by it. 

I would illustrate this with a quick reference to a short poem you will find in On Giving My Word, page 248, “As God Will’s.”  One of Tanner’s principles of coherent God talk, is that God’s agency does not compete with human (creaturely) efficacy.   I wrote:

                               It is God’s will that I chose.

                                             I would like God to tell me

                                             If I should go to the right or the left.

                                             If God did, then I would not have to choose,

                                             Which is not God’s will for me.

                                . . . . 

                              So, I shall choose, which is God’s will for me,

                                             and if I prosper and live, I shall be a communion for God.

                                             And if I dimmish and die, God will be a communion for me.

                              As God wills.

 God’s will does not trump human will, because God’s will works in a different plane than human will. We might try to imagine that by drawing a line on a paper, make a diagonal from one side to another.  This line represents God will, agency.   Everywhere an act of human will is possible, God is will it.  So, at any point on the paper draw a short line.  That represents an act of human will.  Save for a parallel, line they will intersect, share a point, which the possibility of communion.

 For me “Tanner Talk” will not be so much a guide to the future, as a reflection of the past.


 On Giving My Word

Upon returning to this Blog, I am aware that the description in its head describing what I intend to do with the blog has been fulfilled with the publication of On Giving My Word which will soon be available on Amazon etc.   Much of what was published at time directly paved the way for the book.  It is therefore time to change course and make use of this blog to find and assists potential readers.  This is the first of a series of blogs which hope not only to explain and expand aspects of the book, but also to create a forum for discussion of its principal ideas.

I will begin with a tribute to the icon of the Angel of Silence which appears on the cover of the new book. 

The Angel of God’s Silence: Hesichia

On the cover of the book is an icon, The Angel of God’s Silence: Hesichia, written by my wife Jane, based to the prototype created by Vladislav Andrejev, founder to the Prosopn School of Iconology.  First poem in the book is “The Angel of God’s Silence” and the last poem is about the return to silence, “I am ready for the silence.”  On the cover you will also find a sentence which intends to give the reader a sense of how the book is to be read.  “Every journey begins with silence and ends with a silence.  Just as every word begins with silence and ends with a silence.” 

It might seem counter intuitive for a book about “giving a word” to set its content within the brackets of silence.   There is a tendency to think about silence as nothing more than the absence of words.   But consider what the word is without silence.  If a speaker, be he a preacher or a poet, does not fall silent, he is simply a drone.  The punctuation of silence gives the word to the listener and allows for the listener to reflect and speak back. 

This mystery is equally appropriate at the level of divinity.  The silence of God produces a kind of angst, “Why Lord are you silent?”  But the silence of God is not merely an absence of talk, for it becomes quite palpable.  If it weren’t so, why would it have occurred to us to ask God to speak? The simple insight is that silence indicates presence, a presence that is felt in the interior life.  It is the beginning and ending of our prayer.

The appreciation of the role of silence in spirituality has been particularly evident the spirituality of the Eastern Church, appearing as early as the Philokalia, the classic of the Egyptian desert fathers, and in later in the works such as St. Symeon the New Theologian and Gregory of Palamas both of whose works were so important to the development of icons.  The resulting spirituality goes by the name of Hesichasm, from the Greek word of silence. More recently, it has taken on a role in the Spirituality of the Western Church as in Thomas Keating’s centering pray.

Vladislav Andrejev was developing this icon in 2006, when Jan, because of our residency in Oxford, New York, was attending his studio in Whitney Point.  Since then, his version of the icon has continued to develop.  The version on which Jane's icon is based was broadly circulated in the Prosopon School in 2010.  In it, the Logos (Word) Immanuel is held in the angel's breast.  Silence is pregnant with the Logos.  The Logos is begotten in the silence of the Father.

When I think about "On Giving My Word," I am deeply grateful to the role that icon played in making it possible.

Michael Tan Creti   Nov. 20, 2022

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