Were not our hearts burning within us?

The Inner Fire


EOS, the goddess of dawn, was a daughter of the Sun. The primary object of her affections was a handsome young Trojan named Tithonus. The problem came when Eos realized that Tithonus, being mortal, would grow old. So Tithonus begged Eos for immortality, and Eos in turn begged Zeus, who granted her wish. Tithonus was indeed granted immortality – but the couple did not live happily ever after. Tithonus had been granted eternal life but not eternal youth. So Tithonus grew older and older and more and more unattractive. When he got really old, he begged Eos for death. But once immortal, there can be no changing things back, so Eos turned him into a grasshopper instead.

Like Tithonus, human beings long for immortality. They pine, they yearn, their hearts burn for it. They are never completely satisfied. It is always the winter of their discontent. They are as if touched with the hunger for a lost paradise and they will search for it until their dying breath. If ever this flame within them should die, the tree of life would bear no fruit, the sap of passion never flow again. There would remain only a figment of life, a stark and lifeless sign. If this inner fire dies, humanity would perish, according to Teilhard de Chardin, either through nausea or revolt.

The emergent universe has given rise to emergent beings, described by Nietzsche as the not-yet-finished animals. Karl Rahner, a German theologian, understood the human person as the being that is always already beyond. With their transcendence in an evolving cosmos, human beings question every aspect of reality, including themselves, and ask burning questions of meaning and purpose.

Since human freedom is a transcendental dynamism toward the Infinite, no finite object is ever able to fill up the limitless dynamism that a human being is. In recognizing the limits of finite goods, human beings in the restlessness of their heart reach out to God, the absolute value. Ultimately, because of who we are, we can only love what is indestructible.

Thus human beings are in the depths of their humanity oriented towards ultimate value.

Without this orientation to the Infinite, human beings cannot grasp their life as a totality.

Every person bears the mystery of the God within. The yearning of every human being is to complete  and perfect his or her icon of the Infinite.

Programmed to love the Indestructible

Jesus of Nazareth is God’s self-communication to the cosmos. In his life, death and resurrection, the universe reaches the climax of its history of self-transcendence towards God. Dying, he destroyed our death. Rising, he restored our life. And so our hearts burn within us when we hear of his triumph over death and eternal darkness.

Our hearts continually burn for the good news since who we are as a person is in a constant state of becoming. Our adhika points to the teleological structure of our humanity—we can only define our humanity in language involving a sense of purpose or “end.” This purposive and end-driven structure is an image of the dynamic aspect of faith—we burn with the desire for a world without end. And that is why our hearts will always be restless, according to St. Augustine.

Our adhika evokes in us a sense of the incompleteness of the present and grounds our desire for a closure to history. Dialogue about the goal of human life should take this into consideration—the need for creativity to bridge the gap between who we ought to be and who we actually are. This creativity is what sets us apart from the other animals—we can envision and imagine alternative futures, conjure images of what ought to be, and bring this vision to reality.

We take responsibility for the future by giving direction to the evolution of human structures by creative action towards greater freedom, openness and possibility. Our fundamental openness to the Infinite and our ability to communicate with this Infinite is the essence of what it means to be human. We express our relationship to this Infinite when we recognize the Risen Lord in the breaking of the bread (Lk. 24:30-32).

Disappointment as fount of creativity

The disappointment of the disciples from Emmaus has a profound message to all those who are utterly dismayed by the stink of the PDAF and DAP scandals, by the fact that we have the highest rate of unemployment and the largest gap between rich and poor, together with the endless litany of woes that bedevil our Eden lost.

The disciples’ disappointment tells us that a person who has not experienced being wretched in the literal meaning of the term—overwhelmed by misery, darkness, looming menace – has only scratched the surface of what it means to be human. It is solely by risking life that freedom is obtained. Only if there are empty graves can there be a Resurrection, Nietszche wrote. If God did not choose to work in ways that confound us, grace would not be amazing.
We are stewards of the mystery but we have to bear our cross. The Russian monk Macarius of Optino remarked: “In order for people to recognize their spiritual wounds, they must undergo bitter sorrows, which purify the heart and restores to health the stricken soul.” We can make our weakness and our pain a source of creativity if our hearts are burning within us.

And so, we should continue to burn. Being on fire sets the capacity for initiative, exploration, and endurance aflame. We have to understand the significance of our faith in the evolutionary and processive movement of a universe on fire. This sense of Presence in an evolving cosmos nurtures both contemplation and energizes action. It fosters a mindfulness that balances silence and activity, personal holiness and social transformation through compassion and creativity.

Being on fire provides us with the opportunity of experiencing beauty, truth and goodness in their purest forms. Being on fire inflames the imagination about what it means to be a passionate human being in an evolving cosmos. We can create the future if it is imagined and realized by burnt men and women who work and sacrifice for a human future, who will make a stand for timeless human values like love, integrity, solidarity, creativity, respect for the dignity of every human being, and caring for the weak and disadvantaged.

We have a chance to create a future we want to live in with these timeless values only if we have been set on fire to struggle for the good, the true, the beautiful. Beauty, truth and goodness are the keys to unlocking the secrets of the evolving universe but we have to be set on fire— pure, hard, demanding fire.



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