In the last installment I elaborated on my re-embracing of contemplative spirituality, especially Benedictine, but also Celtic, Franciscan, Dominican, Eastern Orthodox, Desert Spirituality and even Jesuit (!) I say "Jesuit" like that because I remember joking around in seminary (my very evangelical seminary) with a classmate and saying that I was doing a paper on Ignatius. He said, "Of Antioch, right?" And I said, just to mess with him, "No, Loyola" (the counter-reformation mystic and founder of the Jesuits). He clutched his chest in mock horror as he said, "God forbid!" Ironically, it was a baptist evangelical who re-awakened me to the Ancient Path of contemplative spirituality. Peter Scazzero, author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, writes of the disservice that many churches, especially evangelical ones, do to congregants by unwittingly withholding knowledge of healthy ancient practices such as lectio divina, meditation and contemplation, St. Benedict's Ladder of Humility, the Prayer of Examen, etc. In large part, these things have simply not been on the Evangelicals' radar screen. I wonder how many cursillistas would be surprised to realize that the Cursillo movement is chock full of elements of Ignatius of Loyola's 30-day Spiritual Retreat!
But I digress. I promised a look at Jesus' High-Priestly Prayer, as it is called, in John Chapter 17.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me."
And earlier on the same night he said to his disciples...
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13)
The importance of being "one" and "loving one another as I have loved you", i.e. sacrificially, bearing injustice and even laying aside personal "rights" cannot be over-stressed. As the world watches us tear at one another over doctrine and belief, particularly with regard to who's "in" and who's "out", it remains terribly unconvinced of our message of Love, Grace and Good News. And I don't care who started it, either. All I can manage is myself, and I refuse to take part in any more splitting, tearing, separating, leaving or dividing.
Many words have been used in vain to describe completely the Holy Trinity. Every analogy that we try to use for it turns out to be some form of heresy: modalism, adoptionism or arianism. So, how can the three Persons of the Trinity be distinct and yet One? The simpler answer has a lot to do with Love. Mutual submission to one another in love is how three Persons can be most one. And if that's who created us, and we are created in His image, are we not also, then, to be mutually submitted to one another in love? But each time we divide, especially because we forget that we are to be God's followers, not His defenders, we hack at His body, like Peter hacked at Malchus' ear.
Teenagers don't like to hear, when asking permission of their Mom, "What did your Father say?" It is a united, impenetrable front, built on love and mutual submission. It is a foundation that will be appreciated later, after the teen has grown up. "If you've spoken to Mom, you've spoken to Dad" sounds a lot like Jesus saying, "If you've seen me you've seen the Father." Even if Jesus did have a mind of His own, He speaks only what the Father says. It was a conscious, voluntary act of trust, love and submission. We are not modeling that in the church very well. Divorce might sometimes bring relief to Mom and Dad, but the damage done to the kids can be incalculable.
I used to belong to a quite active deanery group. Many of my colleagues in that group and I go back a long way (with some of them over 25 years), share a lively devotion to Jesus, and have supported one another through much trial and challenge, both professionally and personally. But because I did not choose to leave with them, but chose instead to remain affiliated with the Episcopal Church, I am no longer invited to this group. Oh we can stay in contact through facebook, or extra-denominational events, etc., but the regular meeting together with these men and women is no more for me. This is because of something that none of us in that group did. A separation and a decision and a division was imposed upon us. I wonder whether those in the former Diocese who pushed this on us ever considered consequences like this. And if they did consider these consequences, then I must seek forgiveness in my heart toward them for the damage caused to such precious relationships.
So when someone suggests that we purify the faith by leaving the Episcopal Church (a sad part of our heritage, by the way), I see it as a counter-productive and, I would dare say, an ego-driven strategy. It leaves no possibility for modeling grace. It short-circuits the possibilities for reconciliation. It fosters division. And what's worse, it is a scandal on the less-learned, worse than the "perverted doctrine(s)" we would hope to clarify, for by doing so we are modeling for them a culture of disdain, hatred and finger-pointing, precisely opposite of what Jesus commanded us.
At the end of the day, let it be said of me that I kept the vow that I made to the Body, cost what it may.
Next installment....What Finally Tore it for Me.