13 March 2022

Banning a penetrating truth: Theosis and the Light of Transfiguration

 On the Fourth Sunday After Easter, 1843 ... May 14 ... Edward Bouverie Pusey, Regius Professor of Hebrew in this University and Canon of Christ Church, preached a sermon for which he was suspended from preaching before the University. It was entitled The Holy Eucharist a Comfort to the Penitent. You can and should read it on your computer; here is an extract.

" ... His body being perfected, there shall be no check or hindrance to the full effluence of His Divine Nature, circulating through the whole Body, into which He shall have 'knit things in heaven and things in earth,' 'the innumerable company of the Angels,' and 'the just made perfect;' and the whole glorified Church shall be clothed and radiant with Him, the Sun of Righteousness.

"And of this we have the germs and first beginnings now. This is (if we may reverently so speak) the order of the Mystery of the Incarnation, that the Eternal Word so took our flesh into Himself, as to impart to it His own inherent life; so then, we partaking of It, that life is transmitted on to us also, and not to our souls only, but our bodies, since we become flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bone, and He Who is wholly life is imparted to us wholly. The Life which He is, spreads around, first giving Its own vitality to that sinless Flesh which He united indissolubly with Himself and in It encircling and vivifying our whole nature, and then, through that bread which is His Flesh, finding an entrance into us individually, penetrating us, soul and body, and spirit, and irradiating and transforming into His own light and life. ..."

Surely, here we have the entire entwined Mystery of Incarnation and Redemption and Theosis and the Eschaton. Not at all a bad sermon to consider on this Sunday when the West thinks about the Divine Light of the Transfiguration and Byzantine calendars celebrate S Gregory Palamas. How comfortable it feels when East and West stretch out reconciling hands to each other.

Surely, there is just a frisson of sexuality in Pusey's statement about His Flesh finding an entrance, penetrating, our bodies as well as our souls and spirits. Are we embarrassed by it?

I know few homilies, in any language, which have such a power to startle us with such an affirmation of the utterly fleshly reality of the Incarnation of God and our communion with Him.

Pusey was a blessed and very great Catholicae Fidei Magister

He is buried in the Cathedral here; may God bring on the day when a joyous pilgrimage Mass in the Authentic Use of the Roman Rite may be sung by his grave.

Not far away, in Cassington church, there are the Jacobean Stalls originally in Christ Church Cathedral ... Pusey's stall for 42 years is marked with a plaque ... if nobody is looking, you could even sit in it for a moment ...



Richard said...

Please explain why this got him into bother with the authorities.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

They didn't like his conviction that the Eucharistic loaf is the living Body of the living Christ.