Easter Day, Robert Browning (Poem)

Here are the opening lines of Browning’s awesome “Easter Day“.  Although my primary intent is eventually to say something about the relationship between Browning’s dramatis personae and Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms, I thought it might be useful to preface that with a bit of Browning speaking, as it were, in propria persona, and speaking in a way that, to anyone who knows Kierkegaard, will sound remarkably familiar.  The poem is a dialectical tour de force, a deep and deepening investigation of all the ways in which faith is denatured, each a way of making it easy or easier to be a Christian.

Easter Day

HOW very hard it is to be
A Christian! Hard for you and me,
—Not the mere task of making real
That duty up to its ideal,
Effecting thus complete and whole,
A purpose or the human soul—
For that is always hard to do;
But hard, I mean, for me and you
To realise it, more or less,
With even the moderate success
Which commonly repays our strife
To carry out the aims of life.
“This aim is greater,” you may say,
“And so more arduous every way.”
—But the importance of the fruits
Still proves to man, in all pursuits,
Proportional encouragement.
“Then, what if it be God’s intent
“That labour to this one result
“Shall seem unduly difficult?”
—Ah, that’s a question in the dark—
And the sole thing that I remark
Upon the difficulty, this;
We do not see it where it is,
At the beginning of the race:
As we proceed, it shifts its place,
And where we looked for palms to fall,
We find the tug’s to come,—that’s all.

Edith Stein on Sister Clara and Husserl

Edith Stein writes from beside the death-bed of her Sister Clara to her Sister Adelgundis, who was herself beside the death-bed of their teacher, Husserl:

Pax Christi!

Dear Sister Adelgundis,

Our greetings go from one death-bed to the other.  Our Sister Clara departed today for eternity, very gently, after a year of suffering.  I commended our dear Master [Husserl] to her often, and will do so again tonight at the wake.  I believe one is well taken care of in her company.  She was our eldest lay sister, tireless in the lowliest of tasks, but a strong and manly character who had grasped and lived the Carmelite ideal with complete determination.  So faith turned it into a completely spiritual life.  I am not at all worried about our dear Master.  It has always been far from me to think that God’s mercy allows itself to be circumscribed by the visible church’s boundaries.  God is truth.  All who seek truth seek God, whether this is clear to them or not…

Most cordially, your

Teresa Benedicta a Cruce

Faith–Kirsopp Lake

After all, Faith is not belief in spite of evidence, but life in scorn of consequence–a courageous trust in the great purpose of all things and pressing forward to finish the work which is in sight, whatever the price may be.  Who knows whether the ‘personality’ of which men talk so much and know so little may not prove to be the temporary limitation rather than the necessary expression of Life?

Faith Seeking Understanding?

What happens when faith seeks understanding?  Is it an attempt by faith to change, to become something new, higher–say, knowledge?  Is it an attempt to understand something that is held by faith but held in, say, incomplete understanding, but where complete or at any rate more complete understanding would not change my relationship to what is understood (it would remain faith)?  Or is it an attempt to secure knowledge that could be somehow ranged alongside faith without turning that faith into knowledge?  Or is it an attempt to come to know something that could only be known by first having faith in it, so that the subsequent knowledge has to be regarded as faith-having-molted-into-knowledge, not as faith-replaced-by-knowledge?  (I take it that not all knowledge is required to begin in faith.  But how would we understand the distinction between knowledge that is so required to begin, and knowledge that is not?)  Or should understanding here be juxtaposed with knowledge (say, in a Cavellian way) so that faith seeking understanding cannot be taken to put faith in relationship to knowledge (at least not straightforwardly)?  Would the sense of ‘understanding’ here be factive or quasi-factive?  If so, how far could we keep it from knowledge?  If not, what then is understanding?  (A set of propositions expressed, a la Frege, in the That p form–showing that the propositions are entertained but not asserted?  Something else?)  –Questions, questions, questions.

You knew it was coming:  What is Anselm doing?

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