Noli foras ire
Listen on Spotify:
Listen on Mixcloud:
Listen on Youtube:
or, preferably read it below:
To be alone – to be isolated, especially at the time when others are celebrating, is considered to be one of those moments when one’s resilience to despair is being tested. It is reasonably well attested that the rate of suicides, outside of the times of crisis, tends to increase during the important holydays like Christmas. Apparently – so the explanation goes – the prevalence of public cheerfulness underlines the isolation of a man who for some reason cannot participate in it and can tip the scales of conscience towards the desperate act.
Yet, here we won’t spoil your Christmas with gloomy sociological explanations. Also we won’t employ the “positive attitude” towards the lonely, suffering people that should be somehow uplifted and delivered unto social acceptance.
We’ll attempt to treat the Incarnation of the Word, or birth of Jesus, in the light of its original meaning; light that made things clear, I might add, far before the Christmas was allowed to be celebrated in public and when no festivities were attached to it. This light, let us note in advance, pours from the inside out, and not the other way around, and its source is the One Who can never be alone.
Today, when number of people believing in the event celebrated is on the sharp decline, while all public festivities are forbidden, it seems to be the only feasible approach anyways.
As per usual, let us invest effort into momentarily suspending the pesky habit of critical thinking and let the authority speak:
St. Thomas Aquinas, when interpreting the sentence of Apostles’ Creed, “Who was conceived by Holly Spirit, born of Virgin Mary (qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine)”, notes that “It is clear that there is nothing more like the Word of God than the word which is conceived in our heart but not spoken (verbum in corde nostro conceptum, non prolatum).
Obviously, this part of the Creed concerns precisely the act of Incarnation which is being celebrated on Christmas day, when we, after shopping is done and belly is full, take a minute or two to recollect the historical moment of the birth of Jesus Christ and the inception of the redemption of cosmos.
It is immediately notable that Tradition – for Thomas is here just reiterating something established long time before his own age – observes the birth of God as an act that is originally – “in the beginning” (en arhe) – not to be understood primarily in analogy to the birth of a child. The Word that both proceeds and at the same instant remains in the heart of the Father is more akin to an act intimate to a single person, far removed from the conception of offspring that requires the presence of the person of opposite sex.
Indeed, the articulation of what might be considered as one’s most intimate thought – the act of understanding oneself, is in a certain sense predicated upon retreating from what is opposite of intimacy, i.e. from society with many roles it necessarily and naturally imposes on each of us.
To conceive the word in one’s heart and to say this word to the world could just mean to make a full circle from birth to death of a single man; in truth, between thought and expression there could lie a lifetime.
Even more, the human verbal expression, whose authenticity and/accuracy we today consider to be the sole criterion of truth, in the domain of Christian Tradition represents a diminishment of original perfection, because articulation of the word in communication necessarily moves away from its original intimacy and its intimate origin – the heart (cordis) as the centre of the human being the Christianity, after centuries of intellectual and political struggles, defined as the intellectual hypostasis or person.
St. Augustin summed this up in his dictum:
“Go not outside, step back into yourself. In inner man dwells the truth” (Noli foras ire, in te impsum redi. In interiore homine habitat veritas).
Christian Tradition understands the speech as an act of clothing the interior content, articulated in the center of the human person, with the perceivable garment of sounds and letters. Heart, however, is not to be understood as the origin of emotions, as is too often the case today, but as the point in which human being maintains the immediate touch with an act that brings him or her into existence. Namely, heart is the fundamental given that can be comprehended as a given in this life, because it can articulate, and thus disclose, the act of a Giver; once everything external is left behind, in order to concentrate into the centre of one’s own being, the essential insight that can be gained is that the Origin and Creator was, is and will be present in it.
Self knowledge in this sense is rather the knowledge of where the self comes from and in what it resolves into.
The first step over the threshold into intimacy is the realization that what was, still is, only in the mode of ‘was’; one’s life history is from that moment on observed in the light of Being: it is a continual act that doesn’t disappear in the past and point to the still non-existent future, but the meaningful whole that remains real despite the temporal change. Having or participating in Being, means to maintain the unity of ‘was’, ‘is’ and ‘will be’ which is impossible to man left to his own devices, because Being (in the sense of Esse, or the act of being) is not something man possesses of himself, but only participates in. If one was to employ the metaphor, the participation in Being would be akin to being immersed in the liquid, subtle and infinite substance like deep, yet translucent, water; one is at the same time contained, carried and imbibed with it.
The second step – or rather: the deeper plunge – would be the articulated, yet unspoken, knowledge of the truth that God is, because the medium in which one finds himself is obviously His act, where everything is one and every distinction only serves to express the greater unity. This is the articulation of the word in the heart and this word is the origin of the truth of knowledge and the substance of language, because while it unfolds in the intimacy of the centre of a person, it never leaves its origin, as human words so often do.
Finally, the third step is the affirmation that the God is Good and that every good is of God. If the striving towards giving birth (conceptio) to the word in the contracted, human, sense is at the same time Being-endowed and truth-articulating it is, obviously, pointed towards ultimate good of realizing or resolving one’s own person into its Origin.
The three steps are convertible, i.e. transcendental in the original sense of the word and as such reflect the unity of the inner structure of man: heart is convertible with memory, as understanding of Being is always a step back towards the past, because Being always was as an ever present original act in everything that exists; it is also convertible with intellect, because the articulation of the inner word is also the formulation of the truth that God is; and, finally, it is convertible with will, because the God or the Good is the end all personal beings deliberately seek.
On the Christmas day we celebrate the event that made all this possible for us.
The Incarnation of the Word is not merely a verbal articulation of what God has to say to men – after all He’s done that many times before the singular event at Bethlehem, as exemplified by the words from the Creed on Holly Spirit “Who spoke through prophets” – but bestowing of His divinity in the hearts of men literary, where Word assumed both spiritual and corporeal nature of man.
The difference between divine and human word lies in the inability of man to articulate himself naturally, without creating distance between thought and expression. Our words pour out in the range from expressing the deepest meaning to claptrap whereas the whole range of expression resolves back into inner sanctum of the heart, carrying with them blessing or condemnation. The Word of God, on the other hand, by stepping out of Father’s heart, even unto assuming the flesh, never leaves it and never changes because the Father and the Son remain one. Hence, even the aspects of the assumed flesh remain as holly as the aspects of the assumed spirit, as exemplified by traditional Catholic devotions to glorified body of Jesus, above all the devotion to his sacred heart understood literary as His own heart.
Let us therefore assume the social role play of the holyday with humility, because we cannot discard it as we are just men, neither gods nor beasts.
But let us also in the midst of it never forget who we are, because on the first Christmas day that’s what we, for all eternity, received.
From the heart KT wishes you merry Christmas in your own heart, where no mask can fit you anymore.
 De Vera Religione, 39, 72; Quoted from: Werner Beierwaltes, Catena Aurea. Vittorio Klosterman, Frankfurt an Main: 2017, ch. “Augustinus Metaphysik der Sprache”, pg. 159.
Kali Tribune runs on reader’s support. If you found the above informative and/or enlightening, consider supporting us.