Primary emphasis

I’m not sure what brought this to mind, but I feel I might as well consider it for a bit. Back in 1997 I worked at the US Post Office in San Dimas, CA as a clerk. It payed the bills. Or really, it inspired me to get new bills. I bought some books, the 10 volume set of Ante-Nicene Fathers, and quit the job to read said books.

I had an Early Church history class a couple of years before this which awakened me to the world of the Apostolic Fathers and other early church writers. The professor was great as he had us actually read entire sections of the Fathers. Which seems natural… until one takes other classes on the subject. So we read through volume 1 in that class, and I read through volume 3 on my own over Spring Break for my paper on Tertullian.

I remember writing to a college friend about my insights, which now strike me a little funny. My sixteen week class had been an introduction but it still left me on my own afterwards to wade into what was really an obscure topic. I was an Evangelical and so such post Biblical writings have no place in the church, until we get so post Biblical as to get to this generation.

I note this because in quitting the job and reading those books I didn’t have a professor or guide to shape my reading. I went to a nearby park and read. What was my realization?

Love. I remember writing to this friend that I was shocked how much Love was a central theme in the early church. Of course it’s Biblical but that doesn’t mean it’s a hallmark of the Church in which I was raised. The essence and description of Love in what I read transformed my soul and shot me like a cannon into a renewed perception of Christ and his Church. The holiness and love and devotion I found stirred my heart in a way which still resonates.

I say this now because in re-reading other primary sources this morning I realize how sometimes we get bogged down by how others interpret the text for us. We learn to read as others want us to read rather than reading what is there for us to read. I’m curious how many folks have gone through a class on Early Church theology and been bowled over by the reality of Love within these texts? This morning it wasn’t early church, it was early American history. And, once again, I was ‘pastored’ in a way that no living person has ever reached me.

Reading on our own allows the work of the Spirit to help us interpret, I think, and in moments of importance or after interpretive experiences revisiting original texts can be quite the event. But, it’s really easier to have others tell us what is there. I again realize how good it is that I have been taught not to depend on that.

So, to my parents and professors who encouraged me to read, and read primary sources in their purity. Thanks.

Love is the consummation of all blessings, since all who walk in it love leads and guides towards God, the supreme blessing and cause of every blessing, and unites them with Him; for love is faithful and never fails (cf. 1 Cor. 13:8). Faith is the foundation of what comes after it, namely hope and love, since it provides a firm basis for truth. Hope is the strength of the two pre-eminent gifts of love and faith, since hope gives us glimpses both of that in which we believe and of that for which we long, and teaches us to make our way towards our goal. Love is the completion of the other two, embracing entirely the entire desire of all desires, and satisfying the yearning of our faith and hope for it; for that which we believe to be and which we hope will come to pass, love enables us to enjoy as a present reality.

–Maximos the Confessor

This entry was posted in history, spirituality, theology. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Primary emphasis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *