How the Logos changed my view of Christianity-- a personal account

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How the Logos changed my view of Christianity-- a personal account

Post by Admin on Tue Sep 12, 2017 2:24 pm

How a Term from Greek Philosophy Invited a Second Look at Christianity

by Joe Conti, Ph.D.


Imagine Sandro Botticelli applying a final stroke of greenish-blue to “Birth of Venus.” But as he lifts his brush off the canvas-- his art work disappears. Or think of him at the end of his life. As he dies, all his work --all his sculptures, oils, sketches-- all instantly dissolve.

Surely there is an intimate connection between the artist and his work, but it is not so intimate that, minus his attention or presence, it evaporates.

Ironically, not so with God. God is so intimately, neccesarily linked to what God creates, that creation has no existence whatsoever apart from divine Existence.

Of course this view is basic to Christian monotheism, and a part of standard Christian instruction. I learned it in my Catholic youth. Yet only years later, when I had become student of meditative Hindu yoga, did a deep yearning to know God as OMNIPRESENT arise in me. A slumbering potential to know God in this way had been activated by the spiritual lore of Hinduism.

As said, I had been instructed in God’s omnipresence as a child, in classes which prepared us for First Communion. “Question: Where is God?” asked asked the cathechism; “Answer: God is everywhere”. Quite to the point and a grand Truth indeed. But however grand this Truth, it only assumed personal meaning for me when in my teens, when I found God omnipresent strikingly expressed in Eastern texts, such as this passage from the thirteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita. A passage characteristic of this accent in the Gita, from chapter thirteen:

“That Brahman [Sanskrit, the divine] is beginingless, transcendent, eternal...
Everywhere are His hands, eyes, feet; His heads and his faces...
Subtle beyond the mind’s grasp; no near us, so utterly distant:
Undivided, He seems to divide into objects and creatures;
Sending creation forth from Himself, He upholds and withdraws it...”

Passages on the theme of divine omnipresence were my favorites in the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Yoga Vasistha. I hunted for them as I read, and I re-read them often for inspiration. Enamoured on the Hindu view of omnipresence, I became indifferent to Christianity as I knew it.

But then, a decade-plus into a yogic spiritual journey, I stumbled on a experiential account of God Omnipresent written by a Christian contemplative. In it I discovered the term “Logos” and its breath-taking meaning. A little more research disclosed that Stoicism, of all ancient schools, was most acutely centered on the Logos, and that Logos entered the New Testament literature by way of Stoicism. Stoics and the Christians commonly held the Logos to be the divine Intelligence and the divine Omnipresent. Logos had been central to Christian mystical theology since the earliest centuries, a little more research disclosed; without the principle of the Logos, the Church fathers would have found Trinity and Christ unintelligible.

Given that, I found particularly ironic that I and probably around 98 percent of Christians worldwide were unaquainted with the reality of “Logos”.

It has been right under our noses all the time, the Logos, in the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel. To restore the Greek term to the original willl help us see It more clearly:

In the beginning was the Logos ,
and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.
Through [the Logos] all things were made;
without [the Logos] nothing has come into being.
-John 1:1, 3

The renowned Oxford scholar R.C. Zaehner called “Word” a “mistranslation”, so narrowly does it render the term “Logos” relative to its enchanting ontological richness. Other prominent scholars of Christian theology, such as Jaroslav Pelikan, concur: Logos is inaptly translated “Word”, unfortunately obscuring a from readers of the New Testament a most magnificent Truth known to pre-Christian Greek philosophers.

The Stoics were awed by Logos. As they reflected on the colossal architecture of the universe, they found the Logos as the burning summit of created being, its incandencent Ground, the divine Super-Intelligence generating the cosmos moment by moment. For the Stoics, Logos was...

- the divine principle that suffuses and directs the cosmos.

- the Source of cosmic complexity, as well as the orchestrator of its unity

-the Creative Mind behind all beauty

The Prologue of John’s Gospel is a hymn to that very Logos, illumined by John’s experience of the Mysteries of Christ. But we readrs miss it wholly in the translation, “Word.”

Reflecting on the Trinity according to standard patristic vision, Olivier Clement writes in “The Roots of Christian Mysticism”:

“The Father is the God beyond all...
...the LOGOS.....gives form to the world...
The Spirit is God in us, the Breath, the Pneuma,
who gives life to all and brings every object
to its proper perfection.”

Clement is hardly reciting an arcane formula for the Trinity, but simply rendering a commonplace of the Church fathers.

In brief, the Triune mystery affirms that by the Will of the Father, God Transcendent; through the Divine Intelligence of the Logos, God omnipresent;
and by Divine Power of the Holy Spirit-- the universe was created, and is continually being created.

The Logos is the hidden rhapsody of all created being:

That Light whose Smile kindles the universe,
That Beauty in which all things work and move...
-Percey Bysshe Shelley, “Adonais,” LIV

As said, years ago I was introduced to the principle of Logos fortuitously in a book written by a Christian contemplative-- a book found while leisurely browsing a bookstore. So my return to the Catholic faith was by the same door as its exit: the notion of divine omnipresence, now as Logos, but in post-Stoical conception in the Gospel of John, as refracted through the the Mysteries of Christ known to the author of that Gospel.



What if that afternoon I had chosen another book on the shelf next it? Would I have given Christianity second look? I don’t know. It has been more than thirty years since my re-version to Catholicism, and I have yet to hear the word “Logos” pronounced and reflected on --not once-- at Mass, in a homily.

How long will the Logos remain an ‘open Secret’ in Christianity, rather than a ringing proclamation of God Omnipresent, a Truth not only integral to reflections on Trinity but to Christology, for the mystery of Christ is inseparable from Trinity?

Aren’t presentations of Christianity without Logos as deficient as the tome “Gray's Anatomy” without charts of the circulatory system?


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