Naivety for the Nativity.

UnityNaïvety for the Nativity.

 

How much Christology, how much Ecclesiology and how much Sacramental

Theology did Mary have as she brought Jesus into this world?

 

This nativity I want to be simple and naïve.  This child is born and the night before he died he prayed, 

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one.” John 17. 20-22

 

This was just after the institution of the Eucharist.

 

How is it then that we can sit down and share a meal with people who hold different beliefs from ourselves on politics or economics or gay marriage and, without aggression, talk and enjoy sharing the meal.  In our pluralistic society we do this frequently and we can do so in love, not confusing love with differences of opinion.  This is in the “world”: unbaptised and materialistic.

 

Why is it, then, that those who believe fully the fundamentally in

“the personal love of God who became man, who

gave himself up for us, who is living and who

offers us his salvation and his friendship. ”  [Evangelii Gaudium 99]

cannot share the same table and eat His body and drink His blood together as he asked us to do?    

                 

 

I want to let the child in me be naïve, to accept in love and trust my fellow Christian, whatever his/her colour, however they understand the Trinity or dislike statues, or think in their human heads that the bread and wine changes substantially or represents symbolically the body and blood of Jesus.  To the child in me these things make no sense, they are things which adults argue about and war over.

All I want is to love, to belong to this great family that God cares for, to give joy to the world, to let God live in me and me in Him and to celebrate this life I have, to take care of the world into which I have been born, to contribute what I can from where I am, to share the Good News and to eat at the same table as he told me to.

In my naïvety I listen to Francis saying,

“Spiritual worldliness leads some Christians to war with other Christians

who stand in the way of their quest for power, prestige, pleasure and economic security.

Some are even no longer content to live as part of the greater Church community but stoke

a spirit of exclusivity, creating an “inner circle”. Instead of belonging to the whole Church in

all its rich variety, they belong to this or that group which thinks itself different or special.” (Evangelii Gaudium 98)

In my naïvety, I went one summer to Iona.  Nobody asked me if I was a Catholic or Protestant, Episcopalian or Orthodox, or Calvinist or Lutheran.  The priest was a woman, the Eucharist full of love and unity, the preparation a work of the heart directed in compassion towards the needs of others throughout the world and, after a week gathered together, we left, scattered to America, Australia, Asia and Europe to continue by prayer and by example to share the Good News so that others might believe in Him.

In my naïvety I don’t see any need for more commissions, dialogue or debate before  we share the Eucharist.  We need to share the Eucharist first and around the table learn from each other the wonderful richness of our differences which in reality do not divide but complement.  Let us be one in all innocence.

 

 

 

Iona Abbey, ecumenism at work, hosted by the Church of Scotland.
Iona Abbey, ecumenism at work, hosted by the Church of Scotland.

 

Richard Rohr – Jesus most ignored statement.

Richard Rohr –  Jesus’  offensive and shocking teaching.

 

I’ve just begun to read “Wild man to Wise man” by Richard Rohr, the Fransiscan priest.  For us in the Rich “North” of the planet it does strike me as scandalous that we can have ignored Jesus’ teaching on wealth so comprehensively.  He was writing pre-Pope Francis.  There are signs that, at last, we may be listening to the gospel.
Here is the quote from ch5 “Wild man to Wise man”  – On Men’s Liberation:

 

 

x-god-of-prosperity-and-wealth

“No wonder Jesus made what is his most ignored statement, and is certainly one of the most offensive and shocking: ‘It is harder for a rich man to know what I am talking about, than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.’  Why don’t popes and priests ever make infallible and doctrinal statements about that?  Maybe because we are rich men ourselves, enjoying too much the fruits of the system that we are supposed to call into question.”

Secure in your faith?

Towards the end of his excellent little book, “Contemplative Prayer”, Thomas Merton warns, in the strongest of terms, against Mull from Iona, W.Scotland methods of meditation which don’t lead us face to face with our own emptiness and “dread”.  In the following passage the context ( in which Merton may have had in mind the popular meditation of the Beatles) gives way to a caution which is still relevant to us all today, especially those of us who desire to have a life based in contemplative prayer.

 

“…a form of contemplation that merely produces the illusion of “having arrived somewhere”, of having achieved security and preserved one’s familiar status by playing a part, will eventually have to be unlearned in dread – or else we will be confirmed in the arrogance, the impenetrable self-assurance of the Pharisee.  We will become impervious to the deepest truths.  We will be closed to all who do not paricipate in our illusion. We will live “good lives” that are basically inauthentic, “good” only as long as they permit us to remain established in our respectable and impermeable identities. The “goodness” of such lives depends on the security afforded by wealth, recreation, spiritual comfort, and a solid reputation for piety. Such “goodness” is preserved by routine and the habitual avoidance of serious risk – indeed of serious challenge.  In order to avoid apparent evil, this pseudo- goodness will ignore the summons of genuine good.   It will prefer routine duty to courage and creativity.  In the end it will be content with established procedures and safe formulas, while turning a blind-eye to the greatest enormities of injustice and uncharity.”

Thomas Merton.

Thomas Merton                                                                                                                                                       

Thomas Merton - from Seven Storey Mountain
Thomas Merton – from Seven Storey Mountain

“Contemplation is essentially a listening in silence, an expectancy. And yet in a certain sense, we must truly begin to hear God when we have ceased to listen.  What is the explanation of this paradox? Perhaps only that there is a higher kind of listening, which is not an attentiveness to some special wave length, a receptivity to a certain type of message, but a general emptiness that waits to realize the fullness of the message of God within its own apparent void. In other words the true contemplative is not the one who prepares his mind for a particular message that he wants or expects to hear, but remains empty because he knows he can never expect or anticipate the word that will transform his darkness into light.  He does not even anticipate a special kind of transformation.  He does not demand light instead of darkness. He waits on the Word of God in silence, and when he is “answered”, it is not so much by a word which bursts into his silence.  It is by his silence in itself suddenly, inexplicably revealing itself to him as a word of great power, the full voice of God.”

 

The great pre-requisite: Silence.

In my desire to learn about contemplative prayer I read and I pray and I wait.  There is no particular technique for contemplation  which “does the trick” although I’ve tried several and followed advice which I have always found useful until I begin to get used to one or other of the practices and then, like driving or walking, I develop my own style, not deliberately but more like wearing clothes till they fit, perhaps untidily but comfortably.  There is one condition for contemplation on which all agree, I think, and that is silence.

Thomas Merton, in the passage above from his classic book, “Contemplative Prayer” expands on the emptiness of true silence in a way which echoes his attraction to Zen Buddhism.  For me, as a novice in prayer, I am just learning about what silence actually feels like.  I have been greatly helped by finding myself attracted to walking long distances.  The routine and simplicity of walking and keeping walking on and on for hundreds of miles is one way of entering silence. Having a lot of time, some form of routine and the most basic simplicity are good conditions for incubating silence and stilling competing voices and urges within us.

When I have walked many days I become more silent within.  This means that I have few worries or fears or resentments or urges: in general I am not in reactive mode but rather responsive mode.  The more silent I become the more aware I am of what remains as noise within me because there is less and less of it.  The rhythm of footstep after footstep shakes down and out the junk accumulated in a world of competition, deceit and false promises with battles for power and money and influence which create conflicting desires and confuse my sense of inner direction.  My compass becomes fixed on the Way and with regular, continuous prayer I begin to know where I am heading.  Yes, I have to keep alert , to notice when I am off my track, but the conditions of not being rushed, repeating the same routine and having little baggage are liberating and free me to note the disturbances which interrupt my silence.  Silence grows.

As silence grows it is possible to start listening…………….