Trois histoires spirituelles de Pierre Maury, 1931 (Three spiritual stories)

 

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Augustin, Luther, Pascal.

De la préface de Jacques de Senarclens.

Trois tempéraments, trois races, trois siècles, trois lignes de vie qu’on aurait peine à imaginer plus dissemblables. Et pourtant, entre ces trois hommes, une mystérieuse et profonde unité: celle de la foi au même Seigneur attesté par saint Paul. Augustin, Luther, Pascal, trois angoissés qui ont trouvé la paix qui surpasse toute intelligence. Trois hommes de Dieu, tendus vers Dieu. Trois dogmaticiens de la grâce absolue. Trois prédicateurs de conversion. C’est leur messages, c’est leur témoignage que nous fait entendre Pierre Maury. Car souvent nous entendons directement leur voix, en ces longues citations plus lumineuses qu’aucun commentaire, et si judicieusement choisies qu’on a envie de remonter aux sources. Je ne sais vraiment ce qu’il faut admirer le plus dans ce volume: la beauté de la langue souple et précies, le génie de l’évocation historique basée sur une information solide, la finesse et la richesse de l’analyse psychologique ou encore la substance et la profondeur du message spirituel.

Published by Labor et fides (1962)

Bernard Reymond says “When you read the text of the ten conferences that Maury gave in Geneva in 1931 and which were published by Faith and Life in a special edition, in 1932, under the title of Three Spiritual Stories, you discern more easily the theological maturity which Maury had already attained before being influenced by Barth, and what was then the orientation of his thinking. The fact that he chose Augustine, Luther and Pascal presenting them in their diversity, but above all in their profound spiritual pedigree, shows a specific and avowed choice: Maury leaned toward the way of experience and internal quests, in contrast with the way that followed St Thomas Aquinas whose legitimacy he recognized amongst those preoccupations that he prioritized, but in which he did not find a direct line to the evangelical revelation as he understood it. Maury was determined above all to show that these three witnesses and thinkers of the faith all had a common experience of grace. It was still not the God who is wholly other “totaliter aliter” of Karl Barth, but a profound conviction that a Christianity worthy of its name would not be known without being the sole result of the grace of God.

When one compares more rigorously Maury’s treatment of Augustine, Luther and Pascal, with that of Barth (whom he was in the process of discovering at just about the same time), two other characteristics of his theological proposal still hold our attention: firstly Maury’s profound humanity, then his bias in locating grace at work in well-defined individual destinies; further the absence in his writing of any paradox or any verbal acrobatics which would be susceptible of putting off his readers, i.e. disconcert them unnecessarily. At a pinch, one could be tempted to place the Maury of The Three Spiritual Stories amongst experiential theologians. However, this is at a pinch only: the spiritual and theological experiences through which he openly expressed his own thought only had some value and significance in his eyes in as much as they pointed directly to grace and thus went back radically to giving priority to the inductive approach of the so-called theologians of ‘experience’: “All three, daring to open their eyes, not resigning themselves to misfortune nor to death, had to become preachers of conversion. Let others imagine an evolution without sacrifice, a subtle mixture where nature is fulfilled without renunciation, let others believe in natural revelation, and in a movement of human progress, let others teach morality and be content with their human limitations, they know very well that there is nothing we can do about ourselves, we have missed out inexplicably, everything comes to nothing. There is nothing, except the miracle of being apprehended by the living God.” (Three Spiritual Stories, 1962, Labor et Fides, Geneva, pp 14-15.)

from Reymond, B. 1985, Theologian or Prophet, French speakers and Karl Barth before 1945, Symbolon, L’Age d’Homme, Lausanne pp 51-5, Translation © Simon Hattrell 2014.

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