Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sacrament of Our Brokenness

This quote really intrigues me.:
The kenotic sense of Christ on the cross sharing the suffering of everyone as they face the moral dilemmas of life could help to develop a more adequate moral compass if it could be better understood and elaborated philosophically and theologically.

I wish I could flesh out the "moral compass" the writer calls for.

There is another quote of his that perhaps provides a further clue:
The image of the self-emptying Christ (Philippians 2:6-11) helps to strip away what may now be counterproductive remnants from the past in our sacred symbol system.
"To strip away... counterproductive remnants." I suspect there would be big controversy over what exactly is "counterproductive" - and I'm not sure myself if the problem is with the "symbol system" - as the writer suggests.  Though I suppose it depends on how one understands those words, that conceptual system.  But stripping away - leaving oneself open to a kenosis, a self-emptying.  Now that makes sense to me.

It reminds me of Andre Louf's book, The Way of HumilityHow our broken hearts are themselves the opening for God's work in us.  How our puffed up selves run so counter to God's unceasing efforts to reach and transform us.  How it is in our darkest moments, when we turn ... from within our own emptiness ... with a pinpoint yearning, stretching out with every fiber of our being, then letting go.  And simply falling into the outstretched, already waiting arms of God ...

And I wonder if the act of allowing ourselves to really endure the suffering of remaining, resting, within the fiery furnace of an ethical conflict or a spiritual struggle isn't what's called for here.  Not an intellectual exercise.  Not necessarily yielding a rational argument one could articulate.  But it seems to me that if one can endure the suffering of the various sides of any conflict - resting within that sacrament where we meet God who, even now, suffers with and for us...  that perhaps a transformation may come to pass.  Or a transfiguration.  Where we find ourselves in a new and promised land.  Able to take the path unfolding before us.  Or follow the footprints suddenly appearing.  Or accept a hidden doorway beckoning.

As we pray.  From a place.  Of utter extremity:
       [Psalm 130: 1]              
[Psalm 119: 126]            

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why Orthodoxy?

About a year ago, on occasion, there appeared a young man in our small parish.  So tiny is our little church that the presence of a visitor never goes unnoticed.  And always is appreciated.  I had occasion to speak with him.  I miss him.  For he was a genuine seeker.  And longed to convert.  Yet his wife was, for reasons I won't go into, securely wedded to the roman catholic tradition. 

This young man was studying for a Master's Degree in Religious Education.  At a nearby catholic institution of higher learning.  He was in a quandary.  For when he compared the tenets and scaffolding of the roman church to those of the eastern church, he found the former full of such conflicting doctrines that he was at a loss for how to present them in succinct and convincing form.  Even to himself!  And this, of course, was the subject of his studies, his future career as an educator.  On the other hand, he found Orthodoxy simple and coherent in terms of both his own understanding and his ability to present and explain.  I believe he was doing a paper on this - to make matters more pressing.  A stark comparisonSeveral times he made this clear to me.  Along with his dilemma.  What to do?

Now at the time I was a mere babe within Orthodoxy.  Whereas now I might be considered a toddler, I suppose.  At 67.  But his words and his conviction have stayed with me.  I am saddened at his departure.  I might have learned a great deal more from this young man.  Torn between communions.  Torn as a husband.  And father.  And future teacher.  One of life's mysteries is to lose touch with people.  And maybe never know....  (One can only imagine how his dilemma has been magnified by recent events.)

God works in mysterious ways.   It's evident in scripture.  It's evident in one's own life.  So much of the spiritual path occurs in darkness.  The daily humdrum.   But every once in a while things fall together.   And when that happens it seems like an illumination across one's life, across scripture - into the heart of Holy Mystery.  Like a glimmer of certainty.  Like a sign or a mark that yes, this is the path.  And yes, the same path whose markers have been glimpsed before.  Such an event discloses meaning - personal meaning for one's life, together with cosmic meaning - Life as inner and outer.   A rapid succession of insights as more and more falls into place.  A sense of God's Guiding Presence.  Across a lifetime.  Across so many dimensions.  

One book has clarified this.  And I've hardly started it.  A book on Origin, the early Christian writerSpirit and FireHis method of biblical theology so familiar.  So close to my own inclinations.  Even his themes as set out by von Balthasar.  And the astonishing connection to themes and writers we studied in college.  During the time of Vatican II.  Resurfacing in the past few years through my new connections to Orthodoxy.  But also evident in Cistercian writers influenced by Orthodoxy.  Or converted to Orthodoxy.   The confluence of authentic catholic spirituality (in the widest and deepest sense).  This book's introduction speaking of tents and wells - images I've used in past and recent posts.   Origin's method of asking questions on the basis of anomalies, then searching scripture guided by the rule of faith, so in tune with my own approach.

It's like finding an archeological site and recognizing your own deepest yearnings mapped out already long ago.  Waiting to be rediscovered.  Laid out like a kind of blueprint for spiritual writings read and pondered over the years.  

It's kind of scary when this happens.  "Holy Fear" a man of holiness used to tell me.  For my signpost signals:  Go ahead.  You're on the right path.  I am with you.  Do not fear.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Nearly half a century on... I have not forgotten.

One priest influenced me most deeply during my college years.  Someone I never took a course from.  But somehow his homilies from daily Mass - our last two years - must have sunk into me.

Over the years I was sad to see that the Vatican deprived him of his job.  Though he never ceased teaching and writing.

It is good to see Charles Curran weighing in on the crisis of our day - as he did during Vatican II in my college long ago.

I honestly can't describe how or in what way he influenced me.  It must have seeped in, like gentle rain falling on ground which I didn't even know was thirsty for the influence of a catholic thinker in my young life - in a catholic college, which encouraged us to THINK!

Having recently returned from a reunion with many of my classmates, I am struck by the beautiful women we have become - women now the exact age of the year of our graduation.  Women who think for themselves.  Women who have grown far beyond the uniformity of the current hierarchy, which ironically terms itself catholic.  Women grown into the same kind of spirit-filled heart-giving souls which LCWR sisters embody today and encouraged in our youth.

Charles Curran, I never forgot your name.  I have no idea how your presence and homilies seeped into me.  You never knew my name.  In your humility you came and went.  And left your presence in my heart.