Radical Transformation: Part One

Transformation In Christ by Dietrich Von Hildebrand (Chapter One: Readiness to Change)

“Put off the old man who is corrupted according to the desire of error, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind:  and put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth.” (Eph. 4: 22-24)

Dam.  I am stumped by Dietrich Hildebrand’s first line of Chapter one, Readiness to Change.  How many times have I been through a spirit of renewal?  At this age, can I really expect any more significant change?  What affections and desire for error that I still possess can I not just keep these rather normal human affections!   

What is wrong with a little self-righteous anger, a little self-centered pride and ego, employing sarcasm from time to time given how hard I have worked and how much I have done for people!  It is only human, it is me.  Am I not justified?

put-off

If it were only that simple.  Behind every thought and action phrase lies deeper motivations that can bring us closer or farther away from spiritual peace.  Dietrich immediately validates our human condition with a generalization of the old testament theme that man is flawed by original sin and his own sins, we are in need of redemption from the Redeemer, and only the Redeemer can “bridge the gulf that separates the human race” from the true face of God.  If we are redeemed by God, in the Old Testament, if we are purified, we will be able to appear before the unspeakable Holy One whose name we are not even fit to utter!

What a simple definition of the Old Testament:  man’s pursuit to bridge the gulf between God and the Human Race.   That pursuit led to many religious rituals and attempts at purification through sacrifices and religious laws and practices as the Jewish people sought and still seek to live a holy life and seek God.

For us Christians we are introduced to being active players by being called by Jesus Christ to actively be conscious of our need for redemption and a readiness to surrender ourselves to the power of Jesus Christ to not only redeem our sins (as he died on the cross) but to live and “modify our nature” to live a holy life now.  Jesus Christ bought spirituality to present moment.  It is not nearly the end of times that we are preparing for, it is living the sanctified life in the moment.

Oh hell.   We are not saints!  We cannot abandon our human lives and live up to the superiority of God’s virtues.  Heck, relative to our understanding of the Ten Commandments and our agreed consensus on what is morally right we are all doing probably pretty well.    Only a very small percentage of us fall into the category of heavy hitter sinners (mass murderers, rapist, and other high profile evil doers).

Let me define what I can and cannot do as I aim for “self-perfection” within what I define as the limits or lack of limits of my capacity!  To do otherwise would put me in constant despair (as I will never reach God’s measure of sainthood).  By man’s measure I am doing pretty damn well relatively if I don’t say so myself.  Look at all my activity and all that I do and have done.  Sure I could have done better – but look at the cards I was dealt.  There you have it.  I have escaped radical change by defining my life by “exclusively human standards” and probably choosing points of reference that by contrast make me feel pretty good about myself (or if I am into being a martyr) choosing reference points that make me the worst of the human lot.

Dietrich offers you an out here.  He writes not all are called or possess the radical readiness to change.  In fact he hints at many believe they have no need for radical change – which they have arrived at what they are and have reached the apex of their spiritual lives.  The dye is set and they hope they have lived a good enough life to pass the litmus test at the heavenly gates with a mixture of their own good deeds, a confession or two, and ultimately God’s grace.  A pervasive inertia has settled into their hearts.  Recollection and Contemplation[i] recede and are replaced by the mundane activities of human life, which are necessary in and of themselves, but deflated and alienated from divine inspiration.

At the heart of this first chapter is a message that our spiritual reformation is continual and always fluid and changing while God’s immutability is always constant.  Your skin regenerates itself every 27 days!  Why would we not expect our spirituality to keep pace!  In essence life is a series of dying and being reborn again with each waking day:

“Unless thou follow the call of dying and becoming, thou are but a sad guest on this dark earth.”  (Goethe)

Dietrich spends the next fifteen pages providing theological and spiritual guidance on the arduous task of navigating spiritual transformation versus our own limited version of packaged self-directed transformation that may have the very same errors and omissions that sparked our journey for spiritual attainment in the beginning:

“This tendency to self-affirmation and petrification, as contrasted to the readiness for being transformed in all these points and for receiving the imprint of the face of Christ instead of the old features, is the antithesis to what we have meant here in speaking of fluidity.”

Self-affirmation and petrification!  What a slap in the face!

Have you ever read an article seeking information to reaffirm your existing belief rather than to openly read the article with intent to truly and objectively see if your existing belief can withstand the test of external validation or at least contrast?   Too often in politics and religion we read and accept what validates our sense of identity and truth and disregard the rest (by omission or outright hostility!).

The first chapter also addresses concepts of continuity and that “supernatural readiness to change” should grow with age!  The idea of our spiritual arcs having continuity and revelations of the past connecting to our moments today and our future challenges is refreshing.  Transformation in Christ is not a negation of self – but a celebration and renewal of self with a daunting freedom that is tirelessly expansive.  Dietrich concludes the first chapter with this verse:

lord

“Lord, what will thou have me do?” (Acts 9:6)

Next up:  Contrition and Self-Knowledge?

Disclaimer:  The impossibility of sharing my journey of sanctification has hit an impasse.  I often have motivation drawn from at least three sources (I hope) before my fingers hit the key board.  In this entry I credit the first chapter of Dietrich Von Hilderbrand’s “Transformation in Christ,”[ii] other recently read literature on faith and confession, scriptures, and the guiding hand of God.

I am not proclaiming here that God is directing my writing and that “I am” a messenger of God!  On the contrary my writings attest to my desire to seek God and my immense shortcomings and fragility with living a sanctified life.  That being said, anything I write is heavily shaped and influenced not only by the inspiration provided by readings and prayer but by a life long journey of seeking God punctuated by periods of alienation from God.    The use of the term “I” just seems terribly inadequate.   If I have any modicum of success in spiritual ascension my journey is not driven by me!

Anything you read here that has higher spiritual reverence credit to God.  Anything you read here that rings of human folly credit to me.  Everything in between give credit to the all the mentors and people in my life that serve as constant guides by which I can draw wisdom and relative contrast by which we can jointly measure ourselves against a truly divine life.

Anecdotal Co-incidence:  I asked “Alexa” to call God for me this morning at 8:36 and she was sorry to inform me that I had no number listed for God.  Returning to music the very next song was “Oh come to the Alter” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYQ5yXCc_CA) by Elevation.

Are you hurting and broken within?
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin?
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well?
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Oh what a savior
Isn’t He wonderful?
Sing hallelujah,…

eph

[i] https://www.ewtn.com/library/SPIRIT/SIPTRANS.HTM

[ii] Transformation in Christ, Chapter One, by Dietrich Von Hildebrand

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