Sunday, September 15, 2019

Were all the kings on earth to show | their greatest pomp and power | the smallest leaf they could not grow, | nor graft it on a flower.


Gik alle konger frem på rad
i deres magt og vælde,
de mægted ej det mindste blad
at sætte på en nælde.

     Hans Adolph Brorson, Salme 15, "Op, al den ting, som Gud har gjort" (1734), trans. Edward Broadbridge, for (supposedly) Hymns in English:  a selection of hymns from The Danish hymnbook (Copenhagen:  Det Kgl. Vajsenhus; [Frederiksberg]:  I samarbejde med Folkekirkens mellemkirkelige Råd, 2009).

The superficiality of the forgiveness of self


"The 'pagans' know the examination of conscience, [which] consists in scrutinizing oneself in the light of norms, [an] exercise that permits, in fact, a correction and a therapy of the passions of the soul (anger, pride, . . .).  But that 'practice of self' is envisaged by Basil of Caesarea through a parable of Scripture, which imparts a new dimension to the examination of conscience:  'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'  The appeal to the divine mercy is unknown in such spiritual exercises among the pagans, the 'me' of whom is, in a sense, the seat of salvation, of self-justification, [the seat] of a pardon that one offers oneself [(pardon auto-addressé)].  One would do well to compare the paragraph from Basil [(above)] with another from Seneca:  'I avail myself of this privilege, and every day I plead my cause before the bar of self.  When the light has been removed from sight, and my wife . . . has become silent, I scan the whole of my day and retrace all my deeds and words.  I conceal nothing from myself, I omit nothing.  For why should I shrink from any of my mistakes, when I may commune thus with myself?  "See that you never do that again; I will pardon you this time"' (De ira III.36.3-4[, trans. Basore]).  The Christian here takes leave of the habits of the [pagan] philosopher, in order to take up those of the publican of the Gospel, who awaits the pardon of a God who transcends the 'self'.  For, for Basil and his coreligionists, the tribunal of conscience is no longer the temporary jurisdiction of this world, which has not in itself the means of salvation.  If the orator [of the Basilean homily on Dt 15:9] is [a] debtor to the culture of the schools, and to its modes of discourse, one cannot for that reason neglect the important inflections imparted by him to this motif of profane origin.  The prosochè is integrated by Basil of Caesarea into a new context, which is no longer at all that of Stoic self-transfiguration.  This effort of the soul to be in conformity with itself, to compel itself [(se laisser)] to be guided by norms, takes on a renewed meaning in [the context of] a life conceived of and experienced henceforth as [one] fought over between God and the devil.  The prosuchè takes the shape of [a] technique of moral survival in fear of the [Last] Judgment and the hope of salvation. . . .  One has therefore to do with an assimilation on many levels:  Deuteronomy is read through profane philosophy to be sure, but profane philosophy is itself recontextualized within the framework of the Christian drama and eschatology.
     ". . . In the ethical order as in the gnoseological, Basil of Caesarea de-centers the prescription of the narrow frame of the little theatre of the 'self' by [means of] a superior comprehension of what the self is:  a creature who owes himself to [(se doit à)] God, whom he can know and love as his Creator and Benefactor, and whom he must fear [(redouter)] as his Judge."

     Arnaud Perrot, "L'attention à soi-même chez Basile de Césarée," Communio:  revue catholique internationale 40, no. 5 (sep-oct 2015):  35-37 (27-37).