slow pilgrim.hints, guesses and fragments, passed on by benjamin ekman. i tweet. we can talk there.
By the time Milton reaches Book VII he has come to a kind of accord with his own frustration. All right, he says: I can’t get up to heaven, and if I try I “fall/Erroneous”. Writing purely about God, he comments, is like being an amateur rider on a particularly frisky winged horse. Humanity is the proper perspective for poetic endeavour; so he asks the Christian muse, Urania, to carry him downwards and deposit him safe in his “Native Element”. He will write now about the earth: about its nature, its making; about its creatures; about relationships and sex and intellectual curiosity and mistakes and sorrow and “the human face divine”.
This is most deeply God’s place to speak through his poet, he points out; singing amid violence; taking love into hell; readying himself for sacrifice, to be destroyed by the blind desires of an angry mob. The figure with whom he identifies in connection with this role is Orpheus, the prototype poet of myth. But, of course, he is thinking about Christ too, who in Christian theology is God suffering all that humans inflict on each other. There won’t be much explicit scope for Christ in Paradise Lost. But Milton sees his own position – surrounded by rabid Royalists, “fall’n on evil dayes”, slandered by “evil tongues” – as Christlike. In the face of violence, Milton too will sing."
"At the first session I attended I witnessed a meeting which included every kind of group: Sunnī Muslims and heretics, and all kinds of infidels: Majūs, materialists, atheists, Jews and Christians. Each group had a leader who would speak on its doctrine and debate about it. Whenever one of the leaders arrived, from whichever of the groups he came, the assembly rose up for him, standing on their feet until he would sit down, then they would take their seats after he was seated. When the meeting was jammed with its participants, and they saw that no one else was expected, one of the infidels said: ‘You have all agreed to the debate, so the Muslims should not argue against us on the basis of their scripture, nor on the basis of the sayings of their prophet, since we put no credence in these things, and we do not acknowledge him. Let us dispute with one another only on the basis of arguments from reason, and what observation and deduction will support.’ Then they would all say, ‘Agreed.’ Abū ‘Umar said, ‘When I heard that, I did not return to that meeting. Later someone told me there was to be another meeting for discussion, so I went to it and I found them engaging in the same practice as their colleagues. So I stopped going to the meetings of the disputants, and I never went back."
"So. The love of God teaches us to see; it teaches us to see God in the face of Jesus Christ. It teaches us to see ourselves in the light of that love; it teaches us to see our neighbour as the object of that same love and that is when the whole face of the earth is transfigured and enlightened by the love of God. And that brings me to the first reading that we had this morning; God has saved Noah and his family from the flood and, as they go back to cover the face of the earth afresh, a new light appears in the sky; God sets in heaven the promise that his love will endure. The rainbow in the sky tells us that God has promised not to destroy the earth, tells us that God has promised to be faithful to his own nature.
And so we Christians who seek to make the love of God, let the love of God be real in our lives; we look for signs that remind us; signs of the covenant. We are here this morning to celebrate Holy Communion and through the history of the church, Holy Communion has been seen among many other things, as a sign of God’s promise. When the bread and the wine are lifted up at this table this morning, it is as if there is a rainbow in the sky. Here as the bread and the wine of Christ’s body and blood are shared, here is the promise of God’s faithfulness. Here the face of Jesus is turned towards us once again. Jesus tells us to do this in memory of him. We are to remember who he is and remember what his love is, and if we can speak like this it is as if God, seeing the face of Jesus, remembers who he is. As the Bible sometimes puts it, he remembers, he brings to mind his promises. And so we learn yet again what is the love that has opened our eyes, what is the love that has set us free."