East and West In Christ

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I am the Vine and You Are the Branches

I just read an excellent post on Pontifications the text of "Petrine Offices and Particular Churches" by Henri Lubac, S.J. , on Collegiality and the Petrine Office. I love the image Lubac gives of the collegiality as the connection of the Bishops to the Universal Church, with the Pope communicating the essence of this collegiality. I'm so accustomed to reading about collegiality as a concept opposing the Petrine office. This makes much more sense: the Church as one organismic whole, each Bishop revealing the Truth from the Church to his diocese, and the Pope making conscious the Truth of the whole through his Teaching. This reminds me of the Jungian concept of the "collective unconscious" and the idea that an individual could focus it and communicate it. Thus, the Pope is not some elected leader promulgating his platform; he collects and reflects the Truth back to the Church through the Bishops. An interesting point of Lubac's is that the Bishops that ignore the Pope's teachings are disconnecting their diocese from the heart of the Church. Breathtaking!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Anarchical Freedom and the Loss of Mystery

I have been reading the Pope's work from 1996: Truth and Freedom. It contains an explanation of his term "anarchical freedom" which he used recently referring to relationships outside of marriage in Christ. He is wrestling with the very heart of the Enlightenment and secular relativism from a perspective that is new to me. Yes, I understand that the Enlightenment required the banishment of the possibility of mystery. This was necessary for the enthronement of reason and the progress of science and technology by simplifying our view of the world.

In limiting our world view to reduce complexity, however,we also constricted our perceptual fields to our selves (I no longer think because I exist; I exist because I think). This limitation was not a one-time event but a steady march of "progress", as we simplified steadily and relentlessly what we allowed as "real". The benefit was that we developed a power-full model of the material world. The cost was that we became more and more unable to perceive the Truth. The paradox, of course, is that this depravity made some people much more aware of Mystery (Carl Jung comes to mind) because those whose perceptual fields were less limited noticed that others were missing something!

The Pope points out that now we have so simplified our world view that we have excluded the Truth and, thus, find ourselves bewildered. Like Alice in Wonderland, we are lost in anarchy, wanting to go somewhere and not caring where in particular, lost in a world with no reliable guides. This is the meaning of Anarchical Freedom. We find our way (as Lewis Carroll so curiously illustrates via the Chesire cat) by encountering Mystery. However, we have to put up with apparent madness in this encounter as we extend our perceptual fields, opening ourselves progressively to the Truth. It is only through the Truth that we find the reliable external guides that bring us Freedom.

It seems that through our Enlightenment we have marched into Hell while searching for individual power and now must widen our perceptual fields (open our eyes) to Mystery so that wecan find the Truth and be free. Hmmm--sounds familiar.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Knowing God

I think that we spend an awful lot of time discussing God, theology, spirituality, etc. I have long grown weary of such speech and consider it a Gnostic fault of mine. I found this quote of St. Columbanus (6th Century Celtic Saint) that spoke so eloquently to that point. He was a monk in Ireland, who with 12 of his brothers, went to evangelize the Franks in Gaul in the late 6th century. My guess is that he too struggled with communicating the good news using words.


Who, I ask, will search out the Most High in his own being, for he is beyond words or understanding? Who will penetrate the secrets of God? Who will boast that he knows the infinite God, who fills all things, yet encompasses all things, who pervades all things, yet reaches beyond all things, who holds all things in his hand, yet escapes the grasp of all things? “No one has ever seen him as he is.”

No one must then presume to search for the unsearchable things of God: his nature, the manner of his existence, his selfhood. These are beyond telling, beyond scrutiny, beyond investigation. With simplicity, but also with fortitude, only believe that this is how God is and this is how he will be, for God is incapable of change.

Who then is God? He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God. Do not look for any further answers concerning God. Those who want to understand the unfathomable depths of God must first consider the world of nature. Knowledge of the Trinity is rightly compared with the depth of the sea. Wisdom asks: “Who will find out what is so very deep?” As the depths of the sea are invisible to human sight, so the godhead of the Trinity is found to be beyond the grasp of human understanding.

If any one, I say, wants to know what you should believe, you must not imagine that you understand better through speech than through belief; the knowledge of God that you seek will be all the further off than it was before.

Seek then the highest wisdom, not by arguments in words but by the perfection of your heart, not by speech but by the faith that comes from simplicity of heart, not from the learned speculations of the unrighteous.

If you search by means of discussions for the God who cannot be defined in words, he will depart further from you than he was before. If you search for him by faith, wisdom will stand where wisdom lives, “at the gates.” Where wisdom is, wisdom will be seen, at least in part.

But wisdom is also to some extent truly attained when the invisible God is the object of faith, in a way beyond our understanding, for we must believe in God, invisible as he is, though he is partially seen by a heart that is pure.

St Columbanus