O’Malley on Blessed John Henry Newman, part 2

O’Malley comments further on Newman (in “The Thinker in the Church: The Spirit of Newman,” Review of Politics, Jan. 1959, reprinted in John Henry Newman, edited by Joseph Houppert (B. Herder Books, St Louis, nd):

“Newman wished to reunite the mind and spirit, the mind and man’s complete being, a unity destroyed by the rationalistic and aridly academic domination of modern thought.” He sought to do this, O’Malley explains, by renewing the “importance of the intuitive, the knowledge of the heart in an age in which knowledge by logic made men sceptical.” O’Malley says curiously that Newman “lived in the mind entirely,” yet “his thought was alive with love and feeling: his whole being animated his mind and his utterance.” Is such a thing found or tolerated in academia today? Is such a thing even thought possible in the world today? So Newman wrote as more than a “demonstrator” but as a “communicator” — “with pulsating power and wondrous style, of the truth of existence.” He struggled “valiantly to redeem the time of man and to restore the world of the fallen to the purity of its creation by God.”

Thus Newman’s thought is thoroughly “humanistic” O’Malley claims, but according to the theocentric humanism of a Maritain, or the “Intelligence in service to Christ the King,” a la Gilson. Both are cited by O’Malley as ways to approach Newman.

Here is one of Newman’s descriptions of man, natural man (From Idea of a University, §9):

Man is a being of genius, passion, intellect, conscience, power. He exercises these {230} various gifts in various ways, in great deeds, in great thoughts, in heroic acts, in hateful crimes. He founds states, he fights battles, he builds cities, he ploughs the forest, he subdues the elements, he rules his kind. He creates vast ideas, and influences many generations. He takes a thousand shapes, and undergoes a thousand fortunes. Literature records them all to the life . . . .He pours out his fervid soul in poetry; he sways to and fro, he soars, he dives, in his restless speculations; his lips drop eloquence; he touches the canvas, and it glows with beauty; he sweeps the strings, and they thrill with an ecstatic meaning. He looks back into himself, and he reads his own thoughts, and notes them down; he looks out into the universe, and tells over and celebrates the elements and principles of which it is the product. Such is man: put him aside, keep him before you; but, whatever you do, do not take him for what he is not, for something more divine and sacred, for man regenerate.

And such a man can be redeemed, and regenerate through Christ. The wounds of nature, O’Malley says, and “the mortalities of time,” can be restored by the grace of Christ. O’Malley refers us to one of the single best sermons of all, “The greatness and littleness of human life,” a long and pulsating passage, for the grand finale:

The regenerate soul is taken into communion with Saints and Angels, and its “life is hid with Christ in God;” [Col. iii. 3.] it has a place in God’s court, and is not of this world,—looking into this world as a spectator might look at some show or pageant, except when called from time to time to take a part. And while it obeys the instinct of the senses, it does so for God’s sake, and it submits itself to things of time so far as to be brought to perfection by them, that, when the veil is withdrawn and it sees itself to be, where it ever has been, in God’s kingdom, it may be found worthy to enjoy it. It is this view of life, which removes from us all surprise and disappointment that it is so incomplete: as well might we expect any chance event which happens in the course of it to be complete, any casual conversation with a stranger, or the toil or amusement of an hour.

Let us then thus account of our present state: it is precious as revealing to us, amid shadows and figures, the existence and attributes of Almighty God and His elect people: it is precious, because it enables us to hold intercourse with immortal souls who are on their trial, as we are. It is momentous, as being the scene and means of our trial; but beyond this it has no claims upon us. . . .

Why should we be anxious for a long life, or wealth, or credit, or comfort, who know that the next world will be every thing which our hearts can wish, and that not in appearance only, but truly and everlastingly? Why should we rest in this world, when it is the token and promise of another? Why should we be content with its surface, instead of appropriating what is stored beneath it? To those who live by faith, every thing they see speaks of that future world; the very glories of nature, the sun, moon, and stars, and the richness and the beauty of the earth, are as types and figures witnessing and teaching the invisible things of God. All that we see is destined one day to burst forth into a heavenly bloom, and to be transfigured into immortal glory. Heaven at present is out of sight, but in due time, as snow melts and discovers what it lay upon, so will this visible creation fade away before those greater splendors which are behind it, and on which at present it depends. In that day shadows will retire, and the substance show itself. The sun will grow pale and be lost in the sky, but it will be before the radiance of Him whom it does but image, the Sun of Righteousness, with healing on His wings, who will come forth in visible form, as a bridegroom out of his chamber, as His perishable type decays. The stars which surround it will be replaced by Saints and Angels circling His throne. Above and below, the clouds of the air, the trees of the field, the waters of the great deep will be found impregnated with the forms of everlasting spirits, the servants of God which do His pleasure. And our own mortal bodies will then be found in like manner to contain within them an inner man, which will then receive its due proportions, as the soul’s harmonious organ, instead of that gross mass of flesh and blood which sight and touch are sensible of. For this glorious manifestation the whole creation is at present in travail, earnestly desiring that it may be accomplished in its season.

These are thoughts to make us eagerly and devoutly say, “Come, Lord Jesus, to end the time of waiting, of darkness, of turbulence, of disputing, of sorrow, of care.” These are thoughts to lead us to rejoice in every day and hour that passes, as bringing us nearer the time of His appearing, and the termination of sin and misery. 


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