Sunday, October 28, 2012

enlightenment (according to lax)

Robert Lax, Photo by Hartmut Geerken
to be "enlightened" is not to shine; nor to bring multitudes to the hill where one sits cross-legged, to listen.

it is rather to know what one is doing (& even, perhaps, to enjoy it.)

- robert lax, from "love had a compass, journals and poetry", page 209

Saturday, October 20, 2012

to be fully human

From Archbishop Rowan Williams' lecture to the Synod in Rome, October 10, 2012.  The full text is HERE.

" ... In his autobiography Thomas Merton describes an experience not long after he had entered the monastery where he was to spend the rest of his life (Elected Silence, p.303). He had contracted flu, and was confined to the infirmary for a few days, and, he says, he felt a ‘secret joy’ at the opportunity this gave him for prayer – and ‘to do everything that I want to do, without having to run all over the place answering bells.’ He is forced to recognise that this attitude reveals that ‘All my bad habits … had sneaked into the monastery with me and had received the religious vesture along with me: spiritual gluttony, spiritual sensuality, spiritual pride.’ In other words, he is trying to live the Christian life with the emotional equipment of someone still deeply wedded to the search for individual satisfaction. It is a powerful warning: we have to be every careful in our evangelisation not simply to persuade people to apply to God and the life of the spirit all the longings for drama, excitement and self-congratulation that we so often indulge in our daily lives. It was expressed even more forcefully some decades ago by the American scholar of religion, Jacob Needleman, in a controversial and challenging book called Lost Christianity: the words of the Gospel, he says, are addressed to human beings who ‘do not yet exist’. That is to say, responding in a life-giving way to what the Gospel requires of us means a transforming of our whole self, our feelings and thoughts and imaginings. To be converted to the faith does not mean simply acquiring a new set of beliefs, but becoming a new person, a person in communion with God and others through Jesus Christ.

"Contemplation is an intrinsic element in this transforming process. To learn to look to God without regard to my own instant satisfaction, to learn to scrutinise and to relativise the cravings and fantasies that arise in me – this is to allow God to be God, and thus to allow the prayer of Christ, God’s own relation to God, to come alive in me. Invoking the Holy Spirit is a matter of asking the third person of the Trinity to enter my spirit and bring the clarity I need to see where I am in slavery to cravings and fantasies and to give me patience and stillness as God’s light and love penetrate my inner life. Only as this begins to happen will I be delivered from treating the gifts of God as yet another set of things I may acquire to make me happy, or to dominate other people. And as this process unfolds, I become more free—to borrow a phrase of St Augustine (Confessions IV.7)—to ‘love human beings in a human way’, to love them not for what they may promise me, to love them not as if they were there to provide me with lasting safety and comfort, but as fragile fellow-creatures held in the love of God. I discover (as we noted earlier) how to see other persons and things for what they are in relation to God, not to me. And it is here that true justice as well as true love has its roots."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

what the word "answer" means

Karl Barth
Someone sent this little snippet to me the other day.  It seems to intuit the profoundly intimate and deeply mysterious way in which our own lives are united with, and even mutually dependent, upon God.  (Although I'm sure that there are plenty of theologians who would insist that God does not need us in order to be God.  I'm not so sure.)

Let us approach the subject of prayer from the given fact that God answers.

God is not deaf, but listens; more than that, he acts.

God does not act in the same way whether we pray or not.

Prayer exerts an influence upon God's action, even upon his existence.

This is what the word 'answer' means.

- Karl Barth
From Prayer