Monday, April 29, 2013

Totaliter Aliter

Two German monks enjoyed a great friendship over their years in the monastery. Their favorite topic of conversation was heaven. One, a gardener, believed that the most beautiful flowers would constantly bloom. The other, the organist, thought that heaven would be filled with the most beautiful melodies. They decided that the first to die would return a year after his death and tell the other what heaven was really like with a single word. If it was as he imagined he would say taliter (“exactly”); if it was as the other thought, he would say aliter (“the other one”).
The organist died suddenly, and his friend sent many prayers to heaven in the year that followed. On his death anniversary, he appeared to the gardener in his cell. “Taliter?” the gardener asked. After a moment of silence, he tried the other response. “Aliter?”
The organist breathed forth two words: “Totaliter Aliter! (Totally Other!)”
Adapted from Fr. Rainero Cantalamessa, Contemplating the Trinity, p.117-118

1 comment:

  1. When I first heard this anecdote, I thought it meant simply that everything we think about the afterlife was completely wrong. Then, as I thought more about it, something struck me. The organist DID return, and he DID convey a message. In other words, there IS an afterlife, but it is not as we imagine (picture) it. This is true of all religious “knowledge”. It is true, but metaphorical; and this is true of all of it – including the very existence of God. This is the essence of what is known as apophatic theology.