Thesis 16: Practice
This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.
16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.
I really love the parallel here between heaven and "the assurance of safety." We could take this further and say, then, that hell is akin to being in danger.
Perhaps the key here, though, is that they "seem to differ." How often do we make choices that feel like we've entered heaven, only to realize that we've actually taken a step towards hell? How often can the same decision vacillate between heaven and hell depending on our temporal (and temporary) point of view?
This is what makes careful, faithful praxis so crucial. Action without reflection is baseless, as is the other way around. Note how often Jesus pulled away from the crowds to pray, sometimes at unexpected moments. Somehow, we convince ourselves that we can reason or act our way through something quickly and logically.
The difficulty is in remembering that these two sides of true praxis are not exclusive of one another, but point to a third way of being in which they exist side by side, or one inside the other, or both inside each. What might it look like to always be acting prayerfully, or praying actively? What does it look like after years of taking an old monastic view of prayer seriously, praying once per hour, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner"? Then every half hour. Then every quarter hour. And so forth, until we are moving about our lives floating on our conversation with God and with others. Until our actions and our prayers are indistinguishable from one another. Until flesh and spirit have become one. This is another way of describing Jesus.