JMC : The Christian Mind / by Dom Anscar Vonier, O.S.B.

Chapter IV.
The Necessity of Possessing the Christian Mind.

It was to be expected that a great philosophy of life would be built up on the fundamental facts of the Incarnation.

I do not pretend here that there actually exists in the history of Christian literature a complete and organic essay of that kind, undertaken specially with a view of evolving all the practical conclusions directly derived from the central fact of the Incarnation.

To my knowledge there is no such book. But the life-philosophy of the Incarnation is none the less clear, none the less complete.

It was apprehended intuitively by the Christian intellect, it was taken for granted at once, and it is stated by the Christian writers more as an obvious truth than as a theory of life.

St. Paul especially takes it all for granted, and because he takes it for granted he is our best authority on the subject.

He sees at a glance how a practical question of life finds its solution in this main fact, that Christ, the Son of God, lived, died, and rose again from the dead.

According to St. Paul, the work of building ud practically Christian life on the great foundation of the Incarnation is a work to be done by every Christian teacher, and a work in which one man is more successful than another.

"According to the grace of God, that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation: and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: every man's work shall be manifest: for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire" (i Cor. iii. 10-14).

But although the elements of the Christian mind are thus scattered through all the pages of Christian literature, practicality having been invariably responsible for the utterance of the writers, nevertheless it might not be outside the power of man to construct it all into one homogeneous whole.

In fact, if anything can be expected of the belief in the Incarnation, it is a philosophy of life, an attitude of the mind entirely and exclusively based on it. Both from its intrinsic principles, and from the utterances of those that have best experienced the powerful vitalities of the Incarnation, we ought to be able to construct a rule of life and thought so high, so comprehensive, and at the same time so workable, as to throw into the background all other human philosophies.

God was made man for the sake of man: such are our wonderful premises.

"And I live, now not I: but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. ii. 20), is one of the many a posteriori axioms of the same verity.

Who does not see at a glance what a magnificent theory of life could be built on such principles?

Say there were a man of great intellectual acumen, holding such truths only provisionally, what capital he could make out of them for a treatise on life! How much more we, to whom such phrases are the very truth of the eternal God!

In our own days thinking men have soared high in their efforts to put great distances between themselves and the soul killing miasmas of modern materialism. They have elaborated all kinds of etherial philosophies. There are the philosophies of the Mind, the philosophies of the Infinite, the philosophies of the Divine in man, the philosophies of the Absolute and so on.

They are pathetic efforts indeed, and a very good sign of the times in which we live; but one of their most interesting features is this, that many of them are ready to receive Christ, are houses that seem built just for such a guest as the Incarnate Son of God. What they call Mind, Infinite, Divine in man, Absolute, is an empty thing by itself, a house without an inhabitant, without any life in it. They are mere expressions of unlimited, undefined and indefinable longings.

But let Jesus of Nazareth be called Mind, as He is the Word of God; let Him be called Infinite, as in Him all fulness dwells; let Him be the Divine in man, being the Word made flesh; let Him be the Absolute, as He is the Alpha and the Omega; and you have a most perfect, a most heavenly philosophy, besides having a philosophy that is as true, as practical, as real, as a living person can be.

It would be a bad day, indeed, for Christianity, if, besides its divine depositum of dogmas, it could not create in man a mental attitude, if it were barren of all philosophy, if it were not such as to enable the mind of man to read life, and the world, and the world's history in the light of the Incarnation, if the Christian doctrines had to be deposited as precious things in the very top storey of the human mind, as ancient family heirlooms, whilst all the life, all the activity, all the practicality of the more active sections of our mental being were under the influence of systems of thought not begotten of the Incarnation.

Such a state of mind is a most dangerous limitation of the Kingdom of Christ. Christianity without a Christ philosophy of life, with the Son of God relegated to the upper chamber, while intellectual feasts and doings are going on below, is clearly a perilous state of tepidity for the baptised.

A Christian mind that could not move with the greatest ease "in Christ", finding Him a world of infinite interests and boundless perspectives, is indeed in a sorry plight.

Whatever may be such a mind's reverence for the God Incarnate, it never knows exactly where to place Him, and what to make of Him, in the world-scheme.

It might well be objected that a living and practical philosophy of the Incarnation, as here postulated, could hardly be the achievement of the mind, even of a sincere Christian, without a special illumination, without a kind of personal revelation, which it is the lot of very few to possess. All our mind could possibly aspire to, it might be said, is a reverent acceptance of the mystery of the Incarnation, bowing before it, blindfolded and obedient. Is it not presumption to hope that one could train one's mind to think in terms of the Incarnation?

My answer is, that the acquisition of so glorious a mental attitude is a comparatively easy thing, and that it is an achievement possible with the ordinary graces given by God to His faithful.

There is first of all the Christian Mind au fait, in St. Paul, who is known and read in all the churches.

To conform our minds to his, is not so much a process of mental deduction, as a direct influence, a direct contact of mind upon mind, as when we receive the warm effulgence of a great fire.

It is not a reasoning, but a living participation of our minds in St. Paul's mind.

No doubt, in the case of St. Paul the mental illumination was entirely the gift of the Holy Ghost directly. But like all other productions of grace and genius once they are put forth, it becomes the natural dwelling place of all men's minds.

Who could write a Shakespearian tragedy? Yet how many millions of minds have to be trained to think the thoughts and to assimilate the language of the great poet!

I do not admit that it is outside our range of progress to acquire the mental attitude here described, by an unceasing exercise of the mind and a constant contemplation of the principles of the Incarnation.

Granted our faith in the Incarnation, and granted our knowledge of the more obvious axioms of theology, why should it be beyond us to think habitually in terms of the Incarnation?

God's grace is as ready to help our thinking, as it is prompt to support our acting.

And if it ought to be every Christian's effort to do all things in Christ, why should we be debarred from thinking all our thoughts in Christ?

Surely so great a phenomenon as the Incarnation is meant to modify deeply all human thinking under every possible aspect.

Christ is the Logos, the Word of God, the Wisdom of God. Through His very nature. He is meant to be the source of a mentality that is all His own.

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