Showing items filed under “June 2017”

Sign Language

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I have to give Munger Place Church credit - they have a good ad company!  For a number of months, they had a sign in front of their Church that read “This Is a Sign.”  A simple tautology - of course it’s a sign! Or it could mean something more personal, that you know you should get back to Church, and God has put this sign on your path as you drive home to say “now’s the time and here’s the place.”  Or, thirdly, it could be a bit of theology, for the Church as a whole is a “sign,” that is, a symbolic reality, a coded message to the world. 

In post-World War II Germany there was a theologian named, Gerhard Ebeling who conceived of the whole of the Christian’s life, and of the Church’s life, as a “Word-event.”  By this he meant of course that the Bible is at the center of our life. But he also meant that hearing and speaking to the world and on behalf of the world, is at the most basic level what the Church is for. 

Sometimes people say something like “it was just a symbolic gesture,” as if that made it more real, and so was less than real.  But something is no less real for being symbolic. In fact one definition of “symbol” is a sign that in showing forth shares in the reality it attests.  Isn’t that what we mean, in a strong sense, when we say that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ?

I once wrote a book about the priesthood which claimed that the priest serves, in a flesh-and-blood way, to say something who the Church is, and therefore who God is. One could work out something similar for the other orders - the deacon is a sign of Christ’s identification with the least, and the bishop a sign of the one faith throughout time and space. One could work something similar out for most every area of the Church’s life. Saying something to the world about who Christ is, is actually who we are.

Peace

 +GRS

 

De Ira

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For various reasons practical and philosophical we divide ourselves, but at the same time we know how unrealistic this is. Our thinking is clouded by fear or passion; our feelings are expanded as we learn about the world around us. In traditional catholic theology our thought and judgment are steered by our virtues and vices. Dante built a spiritual world tiered according to these virtues and vices. In the case of the sixth circle of hell, the wrathful endlessly tear at each other, while the sullen are endlessly stuck in mud - their knowing and willing are connected, and both impede their relation to God.

I have been thinking in this regard, about our relation to “ira” known as the vice of anger. It seems ubiquitous these days - we see it better in our foes than our allies, much less ourselves, all of which is a symptom thereof. If our legislators are threatening to shoot each other, we have an “ira” issue. I suspect it is found in church relations too. Over the years I have concluded that unresolved anger is the greatest cause of conflict in the clergy and the parish.

All this may sound like Lent after its time, but the place to start is with ourselves, our own ocular logs. This seems all the harder in a culture of suspicion and wired isolation. Secondly we should remind ourselves that the end point of truth and reconciliation is forgiveness, which is directly opposed to anger. But everything in the spiritual life has to do with letting go, especially of things like anger, in thanksgiving for the non-score- settling, self-giving of God in Christ. Like everything hard, the crisis of anger in our self and in our culture is ultimately an occasion for the Gospel.

Peace

+GRS

 

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