As I have been reading Emma, I have been repeatedly struck by the importance of truth in Emma’s growth. I think this is one of the reasons why I like this novel so much.
One of my theologoumena (personal opinions about theology that are not a matter of dogma) is that all salvation, repentance and spiritual growth have to do with seeing and accepting the truth. Not particularly the truth about Jesus Christ, in the sense of accurate theological or historical knowledge of who Christ is and what he has done, that truth takes “ears to hear and eyes to see.” One does not know the Truth, even if one knows the facts. Knowledge of Christ the Truth comes only as we are able to see and accept truth in all aspects of life, and most particularly, the truth about ourselves. Accepting theological data does not save, but seeing and accepting the truth about ourselves may be the foundation of our salvation for it enables us to see Christ.
To know Christ, we have to begin first by knowing ourselves. We must know ourselves because we create our own lenses through which we see ourselves and see what is outside ourselves. Until those lenses begin to be corrected, we are lost in the world of our own delusions (even if we have the facts right). Both John the Baptist and Christ began their public ministry with these words, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Many say that Kingdom of Heaven refers to Christ Himself; however, I’m open to different ways to understand it. But regardless of what exactly Kingdom of Heaven means, one thing is certain: the imperative of the Kingdom of Heaven is repentance. And here we get to my point: in order to repent, I need to know myself, where I have failed, what I need to turn from, and what I need to turn toward. I need to know myself as I really am, the truth about myself; then I can repent, then I can grow in salvation, then I can begin to see Christ as He really is.
Emma finds freedom from her childish delusions in the course of the very rough first year of her majority. One might even say she is saved, although that may be stretching it too far for those who expect to find all spiritual transformation couched in religious terminology. Certainly we see Emma repent. And in my own stretch of typological fancy, I like to imagine that in her marriage to Mr. Knightly, the only one who ever tells her the truth, is an image of the Church’s marriage to Christ, and thus its final salvation.
[To be continued…]