Edward. You are very succinct in stating clearly the basic orthodox Christian interpretation of Biblical themes including this one. All these images of scripture are meaningful to me and I take them much more symbolically than literal. Sometimes I'm sure I am taking them differently than the author meant them consciously. Let me explain. I think I , and others can also, am often hearing what is coming through the authors from the Collective Unconscious. Something is being said at a deeper level than the speaker is aware of. That is the nature of the process that has always been called revelation(something new and more is 'revealed' to the human.) One says more than she realizes at the time. All of us have such moments and we wonder , 'where did that come from?' of some unexpected but important statement from our own mouth. I'm confident this goes on with all humans, especially in our statements of faith and religion. There were times in human history, which lacked the critical thinking our culture puts everything through, when the level of human objectivity did not so easily prevent the Unconscious from presenting itself in symbols through the writing and art of inspired authors, including the Biblical authors. The unconscious symbols also are more likely to come through when individuals and cultures are going through horrific suffering or unwelcome changes, which is the case of Bible materials and now also in our own era. Such woundedness make us less guarded from the contents of the Unconscious. Because this is the language of the Collective Unconscious, and not of 'only' the individual speaking, is why most every non literal image or symbol found in scripture can also be found in other totally different times and cultures. The symbols of Christianity, its most central and lesser ones, fall into this category. I hear many of those symbols surfacing in these statements you quote from Paul. The last paragraph is not the way we actually speak or write in everyday conversation but it is the words of litany, ritual or symbol.
Psychologically so much of the Biblical language is referring to the process of possible human development that is referred to as 'salvation' and similar symbols. The Christ, the Savior represents the psychological Self which is the source and goal of natural human spiritual development. This process , called by Jung Individuation, can be more likely what the symbolic 'salvation' language is referring to. This implies that to seek salvation in a far-off heaven beyond our human life may take our eye off the actual goal right now that is implanted in our hearts by God. A goal we are to continually seek now, not later. And it is clear in John's gospel such salvation and eternal life are what we can expect to be realities and happenings in our mortal human life in this world that is now very much our only home. The emphasis is not on after life although there is no reason for one from these symbols to deny some kind of continued conscious existence. It is just not usually what the symbols and thus the language of much of the Bible, in my understanding, is referring to. I certainly used to think in such a way and see now that I was cheating myself of a much fuller point of view.
I think I am also well acquainted with illness, declining physical capacity and the darkness of death as you and others are. But I still get from Biblical and other expressions that rise from the unconscious, including modern dreams, that our focus as humans for the full meaning of life is to stay closely in touch with our true and only environment, 'this world.' It is possible for humans as they move through the process to become more and more at home 'in this world' for they are more and more experiencing the coming together of the 'other Sacred world' into and a part of our natural human lives. So I take that even the discouragements you describe here should not necessarily, and I say shouldn't, make us turn to the desire or need to 'get some place else' where we can finally have the fullest experience of God that is humanly possible. It is still in the here and now; wounds, loss, weakness and all, that our most profound experience of the Sacred is capable of happening with each of us.
I would hear the emphasis by Jesus and Paul on love as being the key in where we look for whatever the 'greatest' reality or experience for humans lies. It is staying open, curious and expecting love to still become more real and present and conscious in our lives where we should look for both our own mortal future and that of our whole race. Paul said it so clearly, that it is not visions of afterlife, hope or faith or 'somewhere else' that should excite us and keep us full of hope and belief but it is 'love only that is the greatest of all things' and nothing else, certainly not some other place even taken metaphorically. For it is only in the world that we humans can come to experience love to its fullest most conscious extent. It is our earthiness and not just our sacred aspect that makes the fullness of love possible. It is not just a heavenly reality but is necessarily for us an earthly one. We are way too quick to give up on our search for love and the mystery of how it can become fully developed and conscious in a human life and in our whole human culture. This all requires 'this world and its physicality' to be its fullest realization. For it has to do with the unity of 'heaven and earth', of ' flesh and spirit', of 'agape(unconditional loyalty), phileo(enjoyed friendship) and Eros(visceral bodily attraction).' We stray from our rightful place as humans when we surrender to one or the other of the opposites. Just as we seek to not abide only in the earth and the flesh, neither should we rush only toward heaven and the spirit. Love can only happen and become fully conscious when the opposites are united and balanced, neither overshadowing the other.
The experience of human love for another I have to conclude can be something 'in this world' that having experienced a human would have to confess, "There can be nothing anywhere anytime that can be more Sacred and God filled than this...love. Any attempt to seek something better or more than such love can only result in something that is less." Such love would cause one to have no desire to find anything sweeter, anything more ecstatic or anything more godly or heavenly than they know they have already found still in this world. This is what I believe is humanly possible and it is what I think most of the symbolic salvation language including the meaning of 'The Christ' and the life of Jesus are actually all about at the psychological/spiritual level.
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So the greatest goal in life becomes not to get somewhere else called heaven that is not possibly available here and now. But it is to take with us the highest conscious experience of 'love' that it lies within us to have as the gift of God. It stays all important for as long as we are mortal human to be 'looking for' and hopefully 'finding and seeing' love in this world which is our very special home. That means that the continued spiritual/psychological development process whose goal is the fullest consciousness of love is the only fully worthy goal of a human life. And I think this goal alone can prevent a human from mistakenly shifting to a goal of a 'there', another world and place, that is not our real home at all.
If your closing meditation sentence of symbols were taken to be a description of the Individuation process that takes place in this world and in our embodied spirits by uniting our mortal selves with what was once to us the 'other world of the Sacred', then it uplifts my spirit and encourages me to continue to not ever consider that anything is more important for a goal of life than the conscious happening of human/Sacred love. All of the symbols in that statement including Christ, Eternal Son, Reconciliation, God and Father are part of the symbolic language of the Collective Unconscious and they all refer to realities that wait to be discovered within ourselves and are aspects of the process that leads to a close approximation of consciously realized 'Infinite Love'
On Sun, 12 Dec 2010 06:51:38 -0500 "Edward Fudge" <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
THIS WORLD IS NOT MY HOME
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The larger truth, as we all know in our most serious moments, is that this world is preparatory to another, for which God is doing all that we will allow to get us ready. "Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil 3:20). "Those who buy something [should behave] as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away" (1 Cor 7:30--31). Bernard of Cluny was right--"Brief life is here our portion, the tearless life is there."
Immortality is Christ's accomplishment and the Christian's hope. Mortality is what I am encountering more and more frequently in daily experience. The notion that we don't have time to be sick, or that infirmity only comes to other people, quickly vanishes when illness actually strikes. The truth is that from the day we leave the womb, we are dying people living in broken bodies in a fallen world. Sickness is not the wonder -- wellness is the grace. Saying so is not yielding to morbidity but simply telling the truth.
We live, die, and, after the resurrection, meet our Maker. To the believer, that is a sweet promise, not a threat or a warning. The "good news" of the gospel is (as the contemporary communion meditation in the Book of Common Prayer reminds us), that God "in [his] infinite love made us for [himself], and when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, [he] in his mercy, sent Jesus Christ, [his] only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to [himself], the God and Father of us all." He will never leave us or forsake us now and nothing can separate us from his love. Hallelujah!