Blogging from A to Z Challenge day 15: O is for Orthodoxy

Hear, O daughter, consider, and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house; and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him; the people of Tyre will sue your favor with gifts, the richest of the people with all kinds of wealth.

The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes; in many-colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions, her escort, in her train. With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.

Instead of your father shall be your sons; you will make them princes of the earth. I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you for ever and ever. (Psalm 45. 10-17)

Someone I know once said, with some bemusement, that the sort of morality Catholicism teaches has never really been found in any particular society. And I agree. Of course, the Church’s teachings, like any system of morality, shares much in common with others. But it remains sui generis and is not just a calcification of 1st century Jewish mores. The Greco-Roman world, for example, was well acquainted with the idea that respectable women should keep themselves chaste and pure; but the idea that the same standard should be applied to men was intolerable. It has always either caused offense in some manner or other, or (in the explicitly Christian nations) has found a blind eye turned towards one of its doctrines.

The psalm passage quoted above is frequently interpreted as an allegory for the experience of the Church. Here’s C.S. Lewis on it:

This of course has a plain, and to us painful, sense while we read the Psalm as the poet probably intended it. One thinks of home-sickness, of a girl (probably a mere child) secretly crying in a strange hareem, of all the miseries which may underlie any dynastic marriage, especially an Oriental one…But all this has also its poignant relevance when the Bride is the Church. A vocation is a terrible thing. To be called out of nature into this supernatural life is at first (or perhaps not quite at first – the wrench of the parting may be felt later) a costly honour. Even to be called from one natural level to another is loss as well as gain. Man has difficulties and sorrows which the other primates escape. But to be called up higher still costs still more. “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house”, said God to Abraham (Genesis 12, 1). It is a terrible command; turn your back on all you know. (Reflections on the Psalms. Harcourt. Pg. 131)

To enter into Christian orthodoxy is to find oneself in unfamiliar territory. Our old identities are surrendered in favor of a new one. A bit of the motivation for heresy, I think, is an attempt to avoid the alienation that this can cause; sanding the edges of the various doctrines in order to make them a bit more like home.

But this surrender also gives us a great freedom. Because we have been plucked out of the particular circumstances we were born into and grew up in, there’s some critical distance between us and our world. We become less determined by our surroundings and more stable in our identities. Everything about the world can be questioned because what is unquestionable is not of this world. As Chesterton said somewhere, “break the conventions; keep the commandments.”


(more info on the A to Z Challenge)


About Josh W

A Catholic. Likes to write stuff and draw pictures.
This entry was posted in Catholicism, fragments of culture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Blogging from A to Z Challenge day 15: O is for Orthodoxy

  1. I found this well written and very detailed. Some parts I read twice, just to let the words roll in my head … well done.

    I suppose what matters is that we find ourselves in the end … or we find what matters to us the most. Thank you for the thought-provoking read. I’d say it is probbaly one of the most detailed post I’ve read.

    Silvia @ Silvia Writes

  2. Pingback: Blogging From A to Z Challenge Day 25: Y is for You gotta believe/think | Res Studiorum et Ludorum

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