Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Homo Viator

         Humanity, is on the way, always moving towards something. At least, we should be. The classic theological concept for this is "Homo Viator", or Man on the Way. For life is a journey, an adventure that we are always a part of. We do not choose to be on the way, it is our existential situation. We are not at home, we are are on the way home.

       We long to be at home, in a place of comfort, yet we are not. For there is "an inherent 'not-yet' of finite being" (Josef Pieper, Faith, Hope, Love, pg. 93) As finite beings, we are cursed and blessed with statu viatoris, or the status of being on the way. The blessing of this is that we are not made to be stagnant, but to always be on the way to finding rest. This is the inherent curse also. We feel as we are called to suffer, to not be at peace, instead of to be at home and prosper. According to the German theologian Jurgen Moltmann, (in his book, Theology of Hope (SCM classics)) we are kept in "that unreolved openness to the world" which will only be resolved when the "God that promises fulfills His promises."
     This means that not only are we journeying, but we are waiting. We cannot create the rest and the home that we long for. We need to keep moving, but we are not the ones that create the end (τέλοϛ). However, we often ignore this, and indulge in Presumptio, the idea that we can create the end, and call where we are, and take refuge in our ideals, in what we think is rest. Due to the fact we live in the 'not-yet' of fulfillment, we try to make fulfillment happen through our actions. By positing this false fulfillment, we pervert what we really want, what it really means to be at rest, and give into a watered down version of life.

       To put it another way, Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon talk about life as an adventure in their book, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony. According to them, "Jesus invited ordinary people to come out and be part of an adventure, a journey that kept surprising them at every turn in the road." (Pg. 49) They continue that "The church exists today as resident aliens, an adventurous colony in a society of unbelief. As a society of unbelief, Western culture is devoid of a sense of journey, of adventure, because it lacks belief in much more than the cultivation of an ever-shrinking horizon of self-preservation and self-expression." (Pg. 49) As a member of the Church, I must confess that I have lost the sense of journey and adventure that they speak of. I feel at times that my journey has ended. I have read the story of Scripture, and I intellectually comprehend the gist, thus, why go further? Yet, that is not the point of Scripture, to just have a basic outline of life. (The motif of Creation, Fall, Redemption is a good heuristic tool, yet I find myself being satisfied with this simple formula.) Hauerwas and Willimon continue that "The Bible is fundamentally a story of a people's journey with God. Scripture is an account of human existence as told by God. In scripture, we see that God is taking the disconnected elements of our lives and pulling them together into a coherent story that means something" (pg. 53), not just for the individual, but for the community.

      What I am trying to do through this blog is invite you on a journey with me through works of philosophy and theology that keep us on the way, in statu viatoris. For we do not journey alone, and we need faithful companions with us to keep us moving and to help us resist becoming complacent in this life.  I invite you to comment on the posts, to email me, to talk to me, to correct me as I make my journey. I do not have the answers, nor do you, yet together we can move towards them. My Lenten project is not just for self-betterment, but for the betterment of the community, of the Church. Please join me in trying to understand the coherent story of Scripture and how my life fits into it. It is false to think that Scripture should fit into my life, and I hope to avoid this error with your help.

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