On the nature of truth in the midst of dialogue between Christians

[This is an excerpt from Patriarch Athenagoras I who led the Orthodox church in its steps toward dialogue with the Roman Catholic church in 1964:]

I am trying to change the spiritual atmosphere. The restoration of mutual love will enable us to see the questions in a totally different light. We must express the truth which is dear to us – because it protects and celebrates the immensity of the life which is in Christ – we must express it, not so as to repulse the other, so as to force him to admit that he is beaten, but so as to share it with him; and also for its own sake, for its beauty, as a celebration of truth to which we invite our brothers. At the same time we must be ready to listen. For Christians, truth is not opposed to life or love; it expresses their fullness. First of all, we must free these words, these words which tend to collide, from the evil past, from all political, national and cultural hatreds which have nothing to do with Christ. Then we must root them in the deep life of the Church, in the experience of the Resurrection which it is their mission to serve. We must always weigh our words in the balance of life and death and Resurrection.

Those who accuse me of sacrificing Orthodoxy to a blind obsession with love, have a very poor conception of the truth. They make it into a system which they possess, which reassures them, when what it really is, is the living glorification of the living God, with all the risks involved in creative life. And we don’t possess God; it is He who holds us and fills us with His presence in proportion to our humility and love. Only by love can we glorify the God of love, only by giving and sharing and sacrificing oneself can one glorify the God who, to save us, sacrificed himself and went to death, the death of the cross.

But I would go further. Those who reproach me with sacrificing truth to love have no confidence in the truth. They shut it up, they lock it up like an unfaithful woman. But I say, if the truth is the truth, we must not be afraid for it; let us give it, let us share it, let us show it in its fullness, let us welcome all that there is of light and love in the experience of our brethren. If we continue in this attitude, then truth will become clear of itself, it will conquer all limitations and inadequacies from within, on the basis of the common mystery of the Church. Let us enlarge our hearts, “let each one of us, as the apostle says, look not to our own things, but rather to the things of others” (Phil. 2:4). We have a sure criterion – life in Christ. Faced with a partial expression of the truth, let us ask in what measure it conveys the life in Christ, or in what measure it is liable to compromise it.

– Athenagoras, Patriarch of Constantinople

(You can read more here.)

The Examen

[In the SSU community, one of the most widely used prayer exercises from Ignatian spirituality is the Examen. In the prayer book, Lorna suggests one approach to the Awareness Examen:]

1. In a quiet, private place…

  • light a candle
  • or imagine yourself in a favorite peaceful setting

2. Image yourself in the presence of God…

Take a few deep breaths… as you do this, allow yourself to feel the breath of life filling your whole body… Breathe in all of God’s unconditional love for you. Breathe out any
anxiety or negativity… Be aware now of this loving Presence that surrounds you… Remain centered in this Love for a few moments.

3. Ask the Spirit to bring to your awareness the moment today for which you are most grateful…

If you could relive one moment today, which would it be? Where were you? What was said or done that is drawing forth gratitude in you right now?… Ask God if there is

anything else He wants to say to you about this experience… Is there any way in which God might be calling you through this particular event in your day?

4. Now ask the Spirit to bring to your awareness the moment for which you are the least grateful…

Ask to see what was said or done in that moment that was so difficult for you… Be with this moment without trying to change it or fix it in any way. Invite God’s love into this
struggle place within you… Wait and ask God to show you how He is present in this experience too… how God is labouring for you there… perhaps inviting you to grow in
some way, to change, to forgive, to let go, to accept something about yourself or another… Be with God who never condemns, but reveals truth only to lead us to more life. Express sorrow if this seems called for – express your desire for saving love…

5. Give thanks for this time of awareness in the presence of God…

Because of what emerged, ask God for what you need or desire for tomorrow… perhaps to bring the meaning of this awareness Examen into your next prayer period… perhaps the need to celebrate someone in some way… perhaps to deal with some issue in your life…
perhaps the grace to discern a particular choice that will help you bring God’s love into a situation…

The Myth of Redemptive Violence

[After a long holiday break, our readings continue. In January, the prayer book introduces Walter Wink’s concept of the “myth of redemptive violence.” Here is one excerpt:]

The myth of redemptive violence does not seek God in order to change; it
embraces God in order to prevent change. Its God is not the impartial ruler
of all nations but a tribal god worshiped as an idol. Its metaphor is not the
journey but the fortress. Its symbol is not the cross but the crosshairs of a
gun. Its offer is not forgiveness but victory.

– Walter Wink, The Powers That Be

Some Advent thoughts from Jean Vanier

[these words from Jean Vanier were not particularly addressed to the advent season, but they seemed very relevant to me]

Do we understand God’s vision for humanity or are we just closed up in our own little worlds? Can peace come? Is there hope for Kosovo, Israel, Palestine, Iraq or Northern Ireland? Is there hope in this world where the gap between the rich and the poor is growing daily? Is there hope? Yes, there is hope! There is hope because God is. God is! And though there is the silence of God, there is also the mystery of God working in the hearts of people doing beautiful things. They don’t hit the headlines. The headlines are frequently things of pain – catastrophes, death. We don’t see all the peace-loving people breaking down the barriers to work together and to love each other. All of us can understand the reaction of Peter. Maybe if we found Jesus kneeling at our feet we would react in the same way. We want a big God who fixes our problems. We don’t want a little God saying, ‘I need you and I’ll come and live in you. I’ll give you a new strength, a new spirit and you shall work so people become free and loving and peace-making: We always want a God who is going to fix our problems, but God is saying, ‘I’ll give you the strength so you become one of those who work with others to bring peace to our world.’

– Jean Vanier, Encountering ‘the Other’

Social change and the inner life

In the din of the capitalistic, technological society, which bombs abroad and consumes at home, the basis for a way of liberation can be found in solitude. In solitude, in the depths of a man’s own aloneness, lie the resources for resistance to injustice. Resistance arises first from a perception of man’s suffering and from the assumption of one’s own responsibility to seek the transformation of a murderous system into a human society. The resister recognizes injustice and inhumanity for what they are and concludes, “I am responsible for either condoning their existence or struggling for change.” But for a man to take responsibility in public for his society, he must have the deeper integrity to take responsibility in solitude for his own inner life. Otherwise the only basis for social change will be personal alienation, and one’s act of resistance will be less a response to injustice than a flight from solitude.

– James Douglass, Resistance and Contemplation(1972)