Monday, August 07, 2017

Praying Sub Specie Aeternitatis

Lake Michigan, from Holland State Park

Sub specie aeternitatis - lit., "under the aspect of eternity." 

When Jesus calmed the storm on the Lake of Galilee, the reason he was calm is that he was seeing the storm in a non-earthly way. Medieval theologians would say Jesus saw the earthly storm sub specie aeternitatis; i.e., from the perspective of eternity. 

The Quaker theologian Thomas Kelly wrote, in his exquisitely beautiful book A Testament of Devotion, this prayer: God, let me "see earth, through heaven." When we, as Jesus-followers, see the things of earth through the lens of God's heaven, fears and doubts would dissolve because we would see how, in life's circumstances, God is working all things together for good. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: "From all this it now follows that the content of ethical problems can never be discussed in a Christian light; the possibility of erecting generally valid principles simply does not exist, because each moment, lived in God’s sight, can bring an unexpected decision. Thus only one thing can be repeated again and again, also in our time: in ethical decisions a man must consider his action sub specie aeternitatis and then, no matter how it proceeds, it will proceed rightly." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Vol. 10, p. 368)

Pray like this: "God, let me see the things of earth through the lens of heaven."