Faith, Reason, and Imagination

Faith, Reason, and Imaginationfeatured

October struck me by surprise with a full schedule of doctor appointments, school schedules, and several Church feasts. When I looked at the calendar, my heart dropped to realize that I had been absent for over a month from the blog. If you are interested in what I was doing, you can visit The Classical Homeschool Podcast. What a blessing to be exploring and discussing with Jennifer!  As a welcome back, I put together a mini-series for the month of November. Last week, I opened up the series with an introduction to Liturgy, the Liberal Arts, and the Whole Man explaining some definitions and purpose of the series.

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What does an integrated whole man look like? What does an ordering of the souls look like? The answer isn’t a simple or quick picture; however, the answer is found in how our faith, reason, and imagination are integrated and to what degree are they integrated in our person. Ideally, the whole man has healed his organ of truth perception and is able to remember who he was created to be, to think about the Truth, and to be in communion with God’s created world. However, this world is fallen; man is broken. So, it’s not as easy as convicting ourselves to be saints, whole men.

Man needs a form or path in which he can follow in order to integrate. “The public and shared act of worship, especially the Mass, is where we learn the ethos. . .” Stratford Caldecott continues, “. . . Faith, reason, and imagination come together in liturgy” (96). The Holy Mass/Divine Liturgy, the feasts, the fasts, the gestures, the prayers, etc. are constantly calling us back to remembering who we are, who we were created to be, and whom we are supposed to love. Moreover, we are called to think, to wrestle with the Truth being presented. We are called to repent for our sins. We are called to assess where we have failed to become whole, and lay it before our Father to heal. Then, we are called to become who we were made. We are transformed by the actual grace gifted to us from God in order to heal, change desires, and order our faith, reason, and imagination to His will.

Liturgy, especially religious liturgy, hearkens man back to the beginning Truth, our creation and the world God gave to us. Liturgy proceeds to nourish our imaginations with story and myth which is the foundation in building our moral imaginations. “Imagination both expresses and trains the reason and the will” (Guroian 53). The moral imagination supports what liturgy upholds, that man was created to be united with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. The Good, True, and Beautiful are transcendentals meaning these three concepts relate to the spiritual realm. In this case, the three transcendentals lead men to integrate their faith, reason, and imagination by offering man examples of a stainless soul, the whole man. Goodness is the universal principle which relates to God the Father or the sun in the cave as in Plato’s analogy. The Truth is the true knowledge of the world and an understanding of how all things participate in and derive nature from the Good. Jesus Christ is the Logos; the incarnate word. Truth made man. Beauty awakens desire/ momentum to move towards Goodness and Beauty which connects it to the Holy spirit. An ordered liturgy has all three transcendentals present engaging men, encouraging men, and training men to be more than they are currently.

 

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But what does that have to do with the liberal arts?  The liberal arts are skills that require the moral imagination, as well as calibrate the moral imagination. The Trivium (grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric) focuses on the skills pertaining to communicating language. It is in developing the skill of grammar that a child hears fairy stories imbued with virtue, beautiful language, and explorations of dark fears that are conquered. Dialectic skills lead men to ask the nominative questions. “The dialectical learning awakens him to the ‘quarrelsome’ inner life he must have if he is to preserve and enlarge his frail humanity. . .Dialectic alone teaches man what he must know to achieve full humanity: his obligations to himself, to others, and to God” (Hicks 70). The moral imagination has the purpose to take the skills of grammar and dialectic and meld them together in order to connect the virtue, the why with the ordered action. In other words, this melding leads to developing the skill of rhetoric. The moral imagination is formed by exposure to a liturgy steeped in Truth, Goodness, and Beauty and the Trivium.

However, integration requires more than just the moral imagination; it requires faith and reason to be present, together. Faith and reason do not exist separately or at odds. They exist together; they bolster and support each other so that man can live out his God-given role. Faith encourages reason to continue the search and aspiration of the greater truth present in our world. Man is reassured that there is an order. In fact, the Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, harmony, and astronomy) is a great example of learning order in the cosmos. God is constant. He gave us examples in His creation and the Quadrivium helps man to justify those examples when looking the stars, when solving a math equation. Man can hear the echos of God’s voice, “Let there be light”, when he learns mathematics, the language of God. Faith needs reason in order to enter into the mysteries more deeply. Reason allows man to toil “at the imperfect fringes of God’s handiwork” (Hicks 9).  A great example of faith and reason working together is St. Thomas Aquinas and his massive theological work, Summa Theologiae. St. Thomas Aquinas had to have faith and reason working together to come to such a clear understanding of God’s handiwork as well as honed moral imagination. It is through liturgy that the moral imagination which is formed by engaging in the Trivium is able to connect with faith and reason both of which are formed by engaging in the Quadrivium. Man was made to become whole. He was made to reconcile his broken nature, his lusts, and his desires to the Incarnate Truth, Jesus Christ.

Next week, I continue the discussion on how liturgy demands a participation in the mystical and physical communities.

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