Monday, July 23, 2007

VIII The Human Experience of God at Turning Points: A Theological Expose of Spiritual Counterfeits

I have come across too many truly puzzled people, both inside and outside the Church, who are leading lives of great holiness, and yet are made to feel that they are somehow inferior, incomplete beings because they are not academic theologians, ordained, monastics, or solitaries of a particular type. While I do not have time to do the sort of debunking I would like on this topic, anyone can aspire to holiness. In fact, there is absolutely no reason that people who are married, have three kids and a job can’t be consecrated in some way if they so desire. Such special consecrations shouldn’t be necessary for any of us, but we have so devalued baptism that the number of people who see their baptism in terms of the consecration of their very being in willing kenosis are in a tiny minority, and the baptised community provides them with little support for their vocation beyond perhaps labelling them a little weird.

I speak as one who has had years in community, years in solitude, and a brief marriage of convenience that included four stepchildren, a vineyard and a winery; a marriage made when I despaired that it would ever be possible to live the life I have now professed. Looking back, I know that solitude never left me; that, ironically, it was during the brief marriage with time cooking and organizing and counselling, balanced with time amongst the vines and gurgling barrels in the silent winery that I began to discover the depths of solitude, the truth and reality of solitude. And I personally know several hundred other people—think how many there must be in the wider community—who have received the same shattering knowledge and are bewildered because they don’t fit or can’t be forced into the traditional system of uniformity and expediency that is the killing field of the aesthetic fallacy.

The problem is that today’s society, especially today’s religious culture, refuses to let us be simple, to get on with it, to let God work on what is given. This is particularly a problem in contemporary society where we do not know appropriately how to leave each other alone at any level. The minute one uses the word solitary, listeners seem to shift into hyperreality: they have visions of pseudo-gothic follies, or, dare I say it, caravans in North Wales. Solitude, as Isaac the Syrian and others show us, is rather a matter of the heart. It is supremely a matter of staying politically unentangled and uncompromised, for it is only from an uncompromised position that we can undertake true action as agents of transfiguration.

To live in today’s world and today’s church, and within them offer the solitary witness of staying uncompromised by their power struggles, unviolated by their attempts to corrupt yet remaining vulnerable and compassionate, is what will, in fact, change the world. The resonances of the kenotic power of transformation are just as potent from those in the marketplace who rise in the night and pray in the dark, as from those who have made some sort formal profession, live in monasteries, rise in the night and pray in the dark. It is simply a matter of becoming willing.


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