Saturday, 13 June 2015

Adventures in Grace by Raissa Maritain

I’m reading Adventures in Grace by Raissa Maritain (pub.1945) which I got for €1. The stamp on an inner page indicates that it came from the break up of a library of a Jesuit hall of residence. It was a popular book in its day in the category of light spiritual reading. I find it insipid and trite yet it it is interesting as an illustration of the halo effect. Jacques so loved her that he took her slight apercus to be on the same level as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. She would not have thought of herself like that. Was this the ‘amour fou’ that she was trying to avoid, an illusion that would come between them and the true, as she understood it, unitive vision? The crazy all consuming human love that might displace the love of God was Jacques’ attempt to understand Raissa’s journal entry which he read after her death in 1960. James Araj in
amour fou
explores what may have been a formative element in their decision as a couple to enter into a ‘celibate’ marriage. Araj who is steeped in the thought of Maritain wonders at the philosopher’s confused attempt to make sense of a spiritual stance he may not have been aware of at the time when she wrote it in April 1924. The treatment of the issue by Araj is sensitive yet firm.

When ‘Adventures’ came out in 1945 Raissa would have been 62 and yet she feels no differently about the deathbed conversion of her father in 1912 which she claims to have been presaged by:

As he often did with me, he would put it in a humorous way: “Who is a little girl three or four years old, knowing French, Russian and German, and who’s been married for 5 years?” It was naturally myself, and this meant that he understood that the life of the spirit begins from baptism.

Perhaps or maybe an echo of what he might have been hearing from her, ‘I feel my life has just begun’ etc. To me it seems ironic teasing.

Likewise her treatment of Bloy and Peguy the two writers who were so great a personal influence is bland and uninformative.

When, on reading Leon Bloy, one becomes aware of features which are thus typical of a particular period, one feels at first a certain disillusionment. But this impression passes, or at least, is seen in its merely relative value, and the essential, one might say the ontological value of Bloy’s work, appears in all its granduer.

I’ve always felt that ontology requires glue and screws, a few tacks won’t do.

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