Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I don't drink and I don't chew and I don't go with Lords who do

Simon Carey Holt has posted a typically thoughtful rumination on a somewhat worrying current trend, the idea of 'dating Jesus'. His thinking on the issue grows out of a Christianity Today article, which explains the concept more fully. Go and check them out.

Holt's greatest move in his post is his response to the claim "you are running away with your Lover, not confining yourself to a convent." He begins talking about St. Teresa of Avila, who ran away with her Lover by confining herself to a convent. But more than that, he observes, significantly, that her 'running away with her Lover' was not a self-indulgent, private retreat inward (accompanied by proper consumption), but issued in action in the world, specifically reform of her order, the Carmelites. He summarises:
Her encounter with God resulted in the pursuit of a new kind of community in
which prayer, simplicity and poverty were central and daily disciplines for
those involved. Her subsequent impact upon the Church and its spirituality was
nothing short of extraordinary.

I've already summarised far more of his point than any permission through fair-use would allow, so let me say again that the above is not my own original thinking (although it mirrors what I would say), but that of Simon Carey Holt. (Go check out the rest of his great blog, which I will refrain from summarising, here.)

One of the particular upshots of this that I really appreciate, though, is the underlying insistence that spirituality is not something 'private' or 'interior' or 'apolitical', but something which is observable, with public real world results. That is not how it is commonly imagined, of course, and most books on the topic, even many putatively Christian works, will not say so. I'm not one who will cavil much about traditional patristic language about 'ascent' or mystical union*, but it seems to me that when this is understood in context, it does not imply escaping this world (or our bodies, etc.) but rather a more fitting engagement with this world, characterised by love and holiness, the shape of which can be described as glorious.

(R.W.L. Moberly, in his superlative book Prophecy and Discernment, has helped me greatly in seeing this point, albeit by analogy with his work on prophecy.)

*Interestingly, my sense is that those who endorse the 'dating Jesus' stuff wouldn't be so comfortable with talk about 'mystical union': if my hunch is correct, I wonder why that would be?

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Blogger Marshall said...

As an Associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, I was recently reminded that when James Otis Sargent Huntington started the Order it was specifically to work in the slums of New York. So many orders have begun that way: the Spirit calls to be concerned about the world, not departed from it; whether that concern is expressed in prayer or worship or social ministry.

Friday, December 15, 2006 3:14:00 AM  

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