Friday, April 14, 2006

Semetipsum Exinanivit

Lately I've been reading Fr. Richard Neuhaus' new book, Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth (New York: Basic Books, 2006), with great interest and pleasure. His is a tale of conversion, and I am often struck by some of the similarities between his spiritual journey and my own. In discussing his background, he mentions a thought that I have myself blogged about many times, if only because the truth of it only recently struck me like a ton of bricks: "The Christian life is the abandonment of the self" (p. 53). If you are a mature Christian, this will seem too obvious to mention, but those who know me well know that I am anything but mature, though I hope someday to deserve the name Christian. The sentiment, however, will be familiar to anyone who has read Philippians 2.7. St. Paul writes that Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, but rather he "emptied himself", taking the form of a slave.

Christ's willingness to empty himself out to God (semetipsum exinanivit)--and his doing so on the Cross for our sake--has got to be the central and essential element of the Christian life. The Greek word in this verse is ekenĂ´sen which means literally to become as a void, the absence of anything. It can be difficult to live that sort of life sometimes, and Michael Liccione has a good post up about it at Sacramentum Vitae. Most of the time, when I find myself confronted with an opportunity of abandoning myself for God's sake, my awareness of the opportunity comes only in time for me to chastise myself for having missed it. Eventually, one hopes, one will learn to recognize the approach of such opportunities in time to act on them. We owe it to him in whom we live and move and have our being.
Cum invocarem, exaudivit me Deus iustitiae meae.
When he calls us, we should be listening, too.


Mike L said...

Thanks for the mention, Scott.

The point of self-emptying is to be filled with God and therefore to become by participation what Christ is by nature. Would that our faith in that prospect were strong enough to motivate our taking more opportunities!


The Sanity Inspector said...

I liked the way Henry Ward Beecher put it, in the 19th Century:

I would rather speak the truth to ten men than blandishments and lying to a million. Try it, ye who think there is nothing in it; try what it is to speak with God behind you--to speak so as to be only the arrow in the bow which the Almighty draws.

Homily for Requiem Mass of Michael Carson, 20 November 2021

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