Sunday, 31 January 2010

I feel a presence …

I feel a presence of delight and fear,
Of love and majesty far off and near;
Go where I will its absence cannot be,
And solitude and God are one with me;
A presence that one's gloomiest cares caress
And fills up every place to guard and bless.   

John Clare (1793-1864)

The midsummer cushion, by John Clare, edited Anne Tibble and Ronald Thornton. Published in 1978, Carcanet Press [for] Mid Northumberland Arts Group (Manchester), p473

Forgiving earth for not being heaven

The prayer of forgiveness is precisely for preventing such impoverishment of one's life. But it involves the recognition that we are not proficients at loving and that where we cannot organise our aggression productively, by faith or with the help of others, we shall just have to be angry.

Some of our unwillingness to forgive is due to our unreadiness to accept this, to see that we have feet of clay like everyone else. It is created and fed by unacknowledged perfectionism. For various reasons (a pietistic upbringing, an inability to take failure, a need to be above criticism) we expect too much of our selves and consequently too much of other people, too much of life altogether so that it kicks back in one disappointment after another. It would be good if we could make a pact with our selves not to blame ourselves or others or life for not meeting the obsessional hunger for the absolute that God has planted in us. It would be an agreement to forgive earth for not being heaven. Every relationship, pleasure, ambition, piece of work done, must have its core of discontent, must at some point fail us, because we are made to want something always just beyond it. What it is God alone knows. All we know is that if we had not this infinite want we would settle for the here and now, and, loving it, necessarily hate death, or else disapprove of it all.

J Neville Ward, Friday Afternoon (London, 1976), pp31-2

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Importance of the Truth

John 8:31—46; 14:1—6

'What's the worst thing about being in a prison camp in Siberia?' Irina Ratushinskaya put this question to one of her fellow inmates who had experienced severe cold, near starvation, forced labour, various punishments and much more. Her companion replied without a moment's hesitation, 'The perpetual lies' (Grey is the Colour of Hope, Hodder & Stoughton, 1989, p. 156). She comments, 'It's impossible to tolerate brazen lies, told straight to your face. Human nature rebels against it.'

Mike Butterworth, Deceit in God's Service BRF Guidelines Jan-Apr 2010

Friday, 29 January 2010

Violence & Activism

Jesus promises rest for our souls. Often we priests are consumed by a destructive activism in our service of the people. Indeed, this crisis of sexual abuse may aggravate the temptation to show that we at least are wonderful priests incessantly devoted to our work, always available on our mobile phones. That is salvation by works and not by grace.
Thomas Merton believed that this hyper-activism was a collusion with the violence of our society: "The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate 'violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence."

Timothy Radcliffe, Tablet 2 Jan 2010 Towards a Humble Church

Professor Edward Schillebeeckx

It was, however, only in the 1970s with his companion volumes Jesus: An experiment in Christology and Christ: The Christian experience in the modern world that the full extent of his radicalism was made apparent. Although he was prepared also to offer his own metaphysical account of Christ's divinity, dogma and doctrine are made strictly subordinate to experience, both in respect of how biblical revelation should be interpreted and what it means for us today. So what sets Christ apart, he suggests, is his unparalleled intimacy with his Father ("Abba"), and the experience of vibrant new life that he gives to all around him ("the kingdom of God").
In similar fashion, he contends that to look to the empty tomb or even visionary experience on the part of the disciples is to look in the wrong place. With both of these, experience has already been transmogrified into doctrinal story. The real heart of those first encounters was an overwhelming conviction among the disciples of Jesus's forgiveness of their desertion stretching out to them from beyond the grave, and thus empowering them to live anew.
David Brown, CT 22 Jan 2010

Love and Duty

COPENHAGEN's most famous philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, argued in his Works of Love that Christianity is the world's greatest philosophy because it makes of love the supreme duty, the "royal law" of the philosopher king Jesus Christ.
No other philosophy -pagan or rationalist -marries love and law, and so turns desire into duty, in this way. By so doing, Christianity secures love as humanity's end; for "only when it is a duty to love, only then is love eternally secured against every change:'
Michael Northcott CT 22 Jan 2010