Those Boring Benedictines  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

Br Stephen, OCist, is a monk of the Cistercian abbey of Our Lady of Spring Bank in Sparta, Wisconsin. In this post on his blog Sub Tuum he contrasts the Benedictines, whose principal raison d'etre is communal prayer and personal contemplation, with other orders that have more visible (flashier?) ministries. Read the whole post for full effect. Written on August 8, the feast of St Dominic, it ends thus: "With apologies to St Dominic, not that he was particularly nice to us."

In short, we have no charism. We're not practicing the spirituality of X while doing work Y and wearing the habit of Z. We have no distinct spirituality though it can sometimes look as if we do since we have maintained the office while it has gone by the wayside to varying degrees elsewhere. We have no manuals or exercises. We have no distinctive apostolate. We wear a basic habit free of distinctive trinkets. In 1500 years the Benedictine family has produced preachers, teachers, mystics, and theologians, but the first task was always simply to seek God and try to save our own souls. A Benedictine monastery is just a place to try to live out the Christian life. It ultimately has no other purpose or mission.

...In summary, if you're looking for a rather pedestrian life, don't mind a boring outfit, think repetition is cool, and can't keep up with trends, the Benedictine charism may be just the thing for you.

Born-again Sacramentalism  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

My biggest problem with evangelicals is not homophobia or right-wing political extremism--although these are bad enough--but rather the low esteem in which many of them hold the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Apparently there are some evangelicals who feel the same way. Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, has a very interesting post called "Your Mission: Resacramentalize Evangelicalism". Very informative and eye-opening, especially for those of us who still labor under some stereotypes about what evangelicals are about. Read a sample of the comments as well.

What are evangelical sacraments?

  • We have sacramentalized technology.
  • We have sacramentalized the pastor and other leaders.
  • We have sacramentalized music (ie the songs themselves and the experience of singing).
  • We have sacramentalized leaders of musical worship.
  • We have sacramentalized events (God is here!)
  • We have sacramentalized the various forms of the altar call.
  • We have sacramentalized the creation of an emotional reaction.
We've done all of this, amazingly, while de-emphasizing and theologically gutting baptism. (I'm not buying everyone's baptismal theology here: I'm simply saying the standard approach now is nothing more than could be accomplished by having someone jump through a hoop.)

We've done this while reducing the Lord's Supper to a relatively meaningless, optional recollection (and being deeply suspicious of anyone making it more than a glorified sermon illustration).

We've done this while removing any aspects of sacramentalism from out worship and even our architecture...

What's the answer?

We need to resacramentalize our worldview in its entirety. Go read some Anglicans and Catholics about that. We're ridiculously secularist and modernist in so much of our thinking, and so selective and inconsistent in our idea of how God relates to physical things.

Anthony Bloom on the Transfiguration  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

Anthony Bloom (1914-2003, aka Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh) was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, of Russian parents (a maternal uncle was the composer Scriabin). He spent much of his early life in Paris, where he was educated as a physician. After successively serving as an army doctor and in the French resistance, he was ordained to the Russian Orthodox priesthood. Eventually he moved to England in order to serve the Orthodox community in that country. He wrote several books on prayer which became widely influential throughout the Christian world.

Today's feast of the Transfiguration is supremely important for Orthodox Christians, for they interpret it as pointing towards the eventual fate of us all. The light with which Jesus shone on Mt Tabor is the uncreated light of God himself, a manifestation of theosis or deification. Not only will all the just be deified at the end of time, but the entire physical cosmos will also be set free from corruption and decay.

The excerpt is from a sermon Anthony preached in 1973. A hat-tip to the Ora et Labora site.

Here, in a shrouded manner, is revealed to us all of the greatness, all the significance, not only of man, but of the material world itself, of its indescribable potential, not only earthly and transitory, but also eternal and Divine...

...And if we attentively and seriously accept what is revealed to us here, we must change as profoundly as we can our attitude toward everything visible, toward everything tangible; not only toward humanity, not only toward man, but toward his very flesh, and not only toward human flesh, but toward everything around him that is physically perceptible, tangible, and visible...Everything is called to become the place of indwelling of the Lord's grace; everything is called to be at some time, at the end of time, drawn into that glory and to shine forth with that glory.

And it is granted unto us people to know that; it is granted unto us people not only to know that, but to be co-workers with God in the illuminating of that Creation which the Lord created...We perform the blessing of the fruits, the blessing of the waters, the blessing of the grains, the bread, we perform the blessing of bread and wine, changing them into the Body and Blood of the Lord; the source of the miracles of Transfiguration and Theophany is within the confines of the Church. Through human faith, the matter of this world is separated out, matter which through man's lack of faith, through human perfidy, had been handed over to corruption, death and destruction, is set apart by the miracle of Transfiguration and Theophany. Through our faith, it is separated from this corruption and death, and is given over to God Himself, is accepted by God, and in God fundamentally becomes a new creation...

Let us think about this; we are not called to enslave nature, but rather to free it from the prison of corruption and death and sin, to free it and to bring it back into harmony with the Kingdom of God. Therefore let us begin to treat all created matter, all of the visible world, thoughtfully, with respect, and let us be in the world Christ's co-workers, so that the world might achieve its glory and so that, through us, all of creation might enter into the joy of the Lord.