Maximum Christ, Maximum Ambition, Maximum Repentance

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The Best of Jonathan's Corner: An Anthology of Orthodox Christian Theology
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Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near!
That is how the way was paved,
For the coming of the Son of God,
Perfect God and Perfect Man:
Maximum God and Maximum Man,
Maximally united,
Yet the Divine and human natures,
Maximally unconfused:
This is what the Church proclaims,
In her maximum Christology,
Proclaiming the Maximum Christ.

Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near!
Repent, and believe the Gospel.
The Revelation to St. John tells,
Words that bear hard truth in hard times:
And I heard the altar cry,
“Yea, Lord God the Almighty,
True and just are thy judgments!”
The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun,
And it was allowed to scorch men with fire;
Men were scorched by the fierce heat,
And they cursed the name of God,
Who had power over these plagues,
And they did not repent and give him glory.
The fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast,
And its kingdom was in darkness;
Men gnawed their tongues in anguish,
And cursed the God of heaven
For their pain and sores,
And did not repent of their deeds.

If our time looks like a time of plagues,
Do not be like these.
Repentance is not intended,
For a more ideal time:
Do not pray as the Blessed Augustine:
“O Lord, give me chastity and continence,
But not yet,”
Do not seek to repent later,
But keep on struggling to repent now.
Do you live in tough times,
And do you fear for even worse disasters?
Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Do you not see?
Are your eyes closed?
God is not gone in a global financial crisis:
Do you not see,
The hand of God,
Working to give in hard times,
What we overlooked in a comfortable age?
Can you not see a God
Who whispers in our pleasures,
Shouts in our pains,
Whispers also, in times of comfort and ease,
And shouts in a time of crisis,
Crisis,
Κρισις,
A Greek word meaning,
“Judgment.”
If we experience judgment,
Do we need to assume the Judge has abandoned his post?
Do we really need to try and escape him?
Make friends quickly with your accuser!

Would you rather know God as your friend or accuser?
It hurts you to kick against the goads.
Are you terrified to face what you have to repent of?
Take courage:
Repentance terrifies like nothing else,
An unconditional surrender,
Terrifying to a saint as much as to either of us,
Only afterwards does it show its true nature,
As an awakening and more:
As Heaven’s best-kept secret.

God has ambitions for you,
Beyond your wildest dreams,
And commands you to want the best for yourself.
And if it seems that God only gives you,
Things that areharder and worse,
Then you do not understand this:
God’s desires for you are beyond your wildest dreams:
Your wildest dreams are yet not wild enough,
To see the true good that God holds in store for you.

And if you say,
“Beautiful words, but I have a tough life,”
Know that words like these come from tough lives,
Hard realities where something great shines so brightly:
The Light of God in Heaven.
Do you fear the loss of your treasures on earth,
Are you afraid you do not have enough to survive?
Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust consumes,
and where thieves do not break in and steal,

Nor do global economic meltdown or hyperinflation
Do anything but strip away a mask,
That makes it look as if we can live by bread alone,
Or comfort ourselves with a “rising standard of living,”
Like as to moving from an ancient, rounded, nourishing diet,
To “upgrade” to cotton candy,
Seeking a Utopia of spoiled children,
Because what we need is not what a child wants to spoil him,
But to grow to be men:
And this crisis, κρισις, may do much more,
Than separate the men from the boys:
It will help some boys learn to be men,
Learning under the iron yoke of law,
What we kept putting off under the freedom of grace,
As we curse the cruel judgment of a Judge,
Who “cruelly” shouts,

“Sorry, son, it is time for you now,
To move on to better things.
I have real ambitions for you,
And I want what is truly good as you cannot,
And I know what is truly good as you cannot.
Try again.
Try again about what you really want.
I want you to taste the River of Life,
And you keep on trying to drink filth,
Like your dog drinking from your toilet:
Please try again.
I want you to have real treasure,
And if what it takes is my taking away every treasure on earth,
Everything that you want,
And everything you turn to for security,
So that you lose your job,
And your possessions begin to wear out,
And some of your technologies come to fail,
In ways you had never even imagined,
And your investments become worthless,
And your luxuries vanish one by one,
And the government does everything people want it to,
But the results get worse and worse,
And maybe you even pray,
Give us this day our daily bread,
Because you do not know,
Where your next meal is coming from,
Who knows?
Perhaps you will listen to me shout,
When you found my whisper easy to ignore,
Perhaps you will stop chasing after shadows.
Perhaps you will grasp reality:
Perhaps you will know real treasure,
Real treasure,
Next to which a bull market,
Is but mist, vapor, and shadow.”

Repent, and believe the Gospel.
Our entire understanding of what it means to be God,
And our entire understanding of what it means to be man,
Is the Maximum Christ.
For man is created for maximum glory,
And God ever beckons us to reach higher,
When we in confusion reach far below,
Far less than the glory we were made for.
Every sin does this,
Even pride.
What do we want in pride?
Inevitably something that sparkles and shimmers,
But is cotton candy and mirage,
Next to the humble things we turn our nose up at.
In pride we turn up our nose,
At abundant health,
And do not want the freedom of movement,
Of a body in health,
But clingingly cherish,
Our “extra-special” movement of broken bone,
And yet we wonder why we hurt,
And why we are not satisfied,
Even though we have what we clingingly cherish,
Not knowing it is the seed of Hell.
You do not understand the measure of man,
Until you know in Christ,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
Did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
But emptied himself,
Taking the form of a servant,
Being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form,
He humbled himself,
And became obedient unto death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him,
And bestowed on him the name which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

We do not understand greatness except in Christ,
And in Christ we understand that greatness is humble,
For there is something missing in our lives,
Until they are oriented by Christ,
And we know that pride cannot be enough:
God summons us to the heights of humility.
Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Repent, and live real life in a virtual world.
Industrial food is not like the food of ancient times:
It is tasty on the outside,
Manipulated like plastic on the inside,
A cherry flavored drink engineered that the palate may reminisce of cherry taste,
While holding nothing of the nourishment and sustenance,
That comes with cherry sweetness in nature,
Almost like eating an “apple” molded of styrofoam,
Injected with Splenda,
Sprayed with petroleum-based fragrance,
And sprinkled with vitamin extract,
So it may be marketed as health food.
Do not think that this be isolated as a phenomenon:
It is a microcosm of our virtual world,
Where so much of our reality is virtual,
That “virtual reality” neither begins nor ends with SecondLife.
Christ knew a life of technologies,
The son of a carpenter with tools and wood,
But never like techno-pagans,
Was his technology
The technology of molding nature to man’s every whim,
Seeking HumanLife version 2.0:
Or if you believe that Christ’s technology was exactly that,
But less advanced,
At least know that it is different,
As a pint of beer,
From a pint of rum:
As today we mold nature to our whims,
Graduating from pint of rum to pint of absinthe,
Our TV’s always on, and stronger brew,
Placing before our souls, our mind’s eyes,
The strange brew of HumanLife 2.0… 3.0… 4.0…
Trying to improve on timeless reality,
And failing,
And failing.
Entranced by technology with its flickering screens,
Twice imprisoned in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,”
The gate to the timeless way of human life,
Lies open, and if the path be narrow and hard,
It has always been narrow and hard:
Our hindrances may be our aids,
If we use them rightly,
In ascesis,
If we go against the flow,
Of technologies ever more brittle,
From appliances, cookware, and clothing built to last,
To possessions that keep wearing out,
To more and more disposable possessions,
When we abandon glass plates for the convenience of paper.
From computers discarded because they are obsolete,
To computers whose solid state drives become something you use up,
From physical computers that are in your control,
To virtual cloud computers,
That you may easily use now,
But can be taken away by any number of human actions,
Or system failures:
“Systems integration is when your computer will not work,
Because of a problem on a computer you’ve never heard of;”
“If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs,
The first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.”
Use technology but don’t trust it.
We are digging a pit,
In how we use technology,
And the progress we embrace,
Is digging ourselves in deeper.
And what is true of technology,
Is also true of much more:
The story of our culture, our world, our economy,
Is as a game of chess against a demonic adversary,
Where we have greedily captured:
An unguarded pawn here, and a bishop there,
Never heedful of the trap we were stepping into,
Taking seeming advantage of our opponent’s cunning bait,
All the way to sealing his checkmate against us,
Until our world and society have lost the game,
And yet still redemption is open to us,
Redemption open to every one who repents,
Living real life even in a virtual world.
But if we repent, the Kingdom of God ever remains nigh.

You have already met Christ.
So have I,
Both of us many times,
And yet we forget this central fact.
Wonder when you have met him?
Hear Christ’s own words,
Hear Christ’s own Christology unfold:
When the Son of man comes in his glory,
And all the angels with him,
Then he will sit on his glorious throne.
Before him will be gathered all the nations,
And he will separate them one from another,
As a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
And he will place the sheep at his right hand,
But the goats at the left.
Then the King will say to those at his right hand,
“Come, O blessed of my Father,
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you,
From the foundation of the world;
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you clothed me,
I was sick and you visited me,
I was in prison and you came to me.”
Then the righteous will answer him,
“Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee,
Or thirsty and give thee drink?
And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee,
Or naked and clothe thee?
and when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’
And the King will answer them,
“Truly, I say to you,
As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren,
You did it to me.”
Then he will say to those at his left hand,
“Depart from me, you who are damned,
Into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was a stranger and you did not welcome me,
naked and you did not clothe me,
sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”
Then they also will answer,
“Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty,
Or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison,
And did not minister to thee?”
Then he will answer them,
“Truly, I say to you,
as you did it not to one of the least of these,
you did it not to me.”

Could this be irrelevant to survival?
People survived the Great Depression by sharing:
If you don’t share because you have little,
You simply don’t get it.
The less you have,
The more you need to be generous, and believe,
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death.

If you want to survive,
Help others survive:
Lend to the Lord and he will repay you,
In his time:
He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
And he will repay him for his deed.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,
saith our God:

Fear not: for, behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people:

Christ wills to be incarnate in us,
Not in some other circumstance, but now.
The Son of God became a man,
That men might become the sons of God:
The Incarnation,
Is for us today.
If our earthly hope is stripped away,
Our heavenly hope beams brighter:
The mighty arm of God in divine providence,
Rippling with muscle such as easy times rarely know.
If our cherished neighborhood frisbee is shut down,
Perhaps it is because we are summoned,
To reach for gold at spiritual Olympics,
To become men,
And as in the great hymn to love,
Put childish ways behind us.

Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near!
Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,
and Christ shall give you light.

Awaken to God’s maximum ambitions for you.
But the door to the heart can only be opened from the inside,
And the door of the heart that opens to God,
Is called repentance,
The door we are terrified to open:
The door we must open:
Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;

Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near!

The Arena

Death

God the Spiritual Father

Why This Waste?