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Preface Perhaps there is nothing new to be said about the nature and significance of suffering. Nonetheless, we stand urgently in need of illumination when we find ourselves confronted by suffering . Our situation in the contemporary world in this regard is typical of the modern condition: as heirs of great intellectual and cultural traditions throughout the world, we find ourselves with storehouses richly stocked with treatises and works of art that explore the depths ofhuman suffering, yet our own pockets seem nearly empty when we reach for understanding to meet the intellectual and spiritual challenge posed by the suffering we find all around us. An interdisciplinary journal of Catholic thought and culture should be well-positioned to respond to this need for illumination by drawing upon the depths of Christian wisdom and by gathering together the complementary modes of thought of several academic disciplines. The religion that reveals redemption through the sacrifice of the cross offers a profound understanding of the Logos 2:1 Winter 1999 Preface meaning of suffering, and the many faces of suffering can best be recognized when we draw upon the multiple resources of philosophy , theology, and the arts. This issue of Logos seeks to serve its readers by reminding them of the insight available to us through all of these sources. Philosopher Max Scheler writing in the years afterWorldWar I expresses the special insight into suffering offered by Christianity: There have been, in history, many ways of encountering suffering: suffering has been objectified, resigned to, tolerated, escaped from, dulled to the point ofapathy, heroically struggled against, justified as deserved punishment , and denied. There is, finally, the remarkably intricate Christian doctrine of suffering: to achieve redemption from suffering through suffering by the merciful love of God—the "royal way of the cross."1 Scheler carefully demonstrates how these many ways of encountering suffering have been developed in various times and cultures and in this light emphasizes the distinctive understanding of suffering achieved in Christianity. Although the essays in this issue of Logos will not provide a comprehensive historical account of approaches to suffering, they do explore the many faces of suffering and together they help us reach a renewed understanding of the redemptive power of suffering in the Christian tradition. What is the face of suffering when it is detached from Christian hope for redemption? Patrick Reilly in this issue demonstrates that many works of modern literature deliberately impose such a view of suffering upon readers, an imposition motivated by the desire to live without what the authors regard as the illusion of hope. Reilly takes his keynote from the malicious words of a character in Dante's Inferno, Vanni Fucci, who deliberately attempts to cause pain to Dante by showing him the suffering that awaits him in the years ahead. It is not coincidental that this keynote to some modern literature can be found in the Inferno. I had Reilly's article in Logos the back of my mind as I held a discussion of the Inferno with my students recently. We were struggling to understand why Dante's guide Virgil insists that Dante renounce undue pity for the inhabitants ofhell as the descent through the underworld proceeds. Does this not contradict the Christian teaching that calls upon us to hate the sin but love the sinner? We reached this resolution: to separate the sinner from the sin is to exercise the Christian virtue of hope, since hope holds out the prospect that the sinner might yet cooperate with grace and renounce the sin. Such hope is precisely what has been forever abandoned in hell, where the sinner and the sin are forever horribly entwined. Reilly shows that some modern writers seek to reproduce in our world the condition of life without hope, and a view of suffering as unredemptive misery is an indispensable element of this effort. Joseph Schwartz shows us thatT. S. Eliot in his late works breaks from many ofhis contemporaries in exactly this respect. Schwartz examines the ways in which Eliot structures his Four Quartets on the basis of a Christian understanding ofhistory, and demonstrates that a deep understanding ofhistory as an extensive process ofsuffering through which redemption can be found...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-791X
Print ISSN
1091-6687
Pages
pp. 4-10
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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