Saturday, 28 March 2015

weary and disagreeable wisdom

My first guide in all things theological and the writer of the world's finest bibliography*, Adolphe "the Tank" Tanquerey, described the writings of  Fr Faber thus:

Faber, F. W (1814-1863) wrote very many ascetical works noteworthy for their unction and accurate psychology.

That about sums him up, I think.  Faber's near unparallelled understanding of the human condition and his genuine sympathy for his fellow creatures is what appeals so much to me in his writings.

It is a foul day outside and I thought this blog needed a new post, so for your edification, here are some exerts from the first chapter of Faber's "Creator and the Creature" in which he examines the grave errors that befall us when we forget we are creatures and we forget our Creator.

They [Christians in name only] have not taken pains to formulise a positive disbelief: but they do not see how progress, and perfectibility, and modern discovery, psychological or otherwise, comport with that collection of ancient dogmas which make up the Christian religion, and their instinct would be to give up the dogmas rather than the discoveries, and that with a promptitude worthy of the enlightenment.  With such persons the dignity of man is a matter of prime consideration, while in their view, his assent to the doctrines and practices of the Church is as degrading to his intellectual nobility, as his obedience to them is superstitious and debasing.

That was written in 1856 and goes a long way to prove that we are not creatures who make progress, not creatures who evolve in understanding and wisdom generation by generation, because it is sadly all too relevant today, especially with regard to the response of some to the upcoming Synod on the Family.

Here is some more....

This forgetfulness that we are creatures, which prevails in that energetically bad portion of the world which is scripturally called "the world", affects multiutdes of persons... It leads them to form a sort of religion for themselves which singularly falls in with all the most corrupt propensities of our hearts... such persons consider that religion has its own sphere and worldly interests their sphere also, and that one must not interfere with the other. .....  They enjoy all the practical laxity of unbelievers, without the responsibility of disbelieving; and besides that, they enjoy a certain good-humour of conscience of the outward respect they pay, in due season and fitting place, to the ceremonies of religion.

And perhaps as a warning to those of us who think we are OK but can see the faults in others....

Almost every popular fallacy has its representatives even among the children of faith; and when a pestilence is raging, many are feeble and languid though they have no plague-spot, so it is in matters of religion.  The contagion of the world does us a mischief in many ways of which we are hardly conscious; and we often injure ourselves in our best and highest interest by views and practices, to which we cling with fatal obstinacy, little suspecting the relationship in which they stand to widely spread evils, which we behold in their naked deformity in other sections of society, and hold up to constant reprobation.  The forgetfulness that we are creatures.... is an error which is less obviously hateful than a direct forgetfulness of God, and consequently it wins its way into holy places where the other would find no admittance, or scant hospitality.

And how to right the wrong ....

But whatever differences there may be in the amount done for God, or the manner of doing it, or the obligations under which it is done, there can be no difference in the principle on which it is done.  God must be served out of love.  This is the first and great commandment.  No one is condemned except for mortal sin; but any man who starts professedly on the principle that he will do no more than avoid mortal sin, and that God shall have no more out of him, will infallibly not succeed in his single object; that is to say he will not avoid mortal sin..... Love is the sole principle of the creature's service of his Creator, however remiss that love may be. ... the doctrines and practices of Christian perfection are simply based on God's love of us and our love of Him, that is the relation between the creature and the Creator.

And all this from a chapter that Faber himself calls "weary and disagreeable"...

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* The Bibliography at the front of Tanquerey's The Spiritual Life: A Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical Theology. (1923)

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