Monday, September 22, 2008

A Monday meditation.

Over the past few days, I've been rereading For the Life of the World, a wonderful little book by Father Alexander Schmemann that I first picked up while I was in the novitiate. An outstanding Orthodox theologian who produced important works on the Byzantine liturgy and on the seasons of the church year, Schmemann wrote For the Life of the World in the early 1960s as a kind of short primer on Christian living in a turbulent and ever-changing society. Arguing against an artificial separation between practicing believers and an ostensibly secular culture, Schmemann emphasized that the Christians must live out their faith in the real world. Near the end of the book, Schmemann summarizes his message as follows:
The Church is the sacrament of the Kingdom - not because she possesses divinely instituted acts called "sacraments," but because first of all she is the possibility given to man to see in and through this world the "world to come," to see and to "live" it in Christ. It is only when in the darkness of this world we discern that Christ has already "filled all things with Himself" that these things, whatever they be, are revealed and given to us full of meaning and beauty. A Christian is the one who, wherever he looks, finds Christ and rejoices in Him. And this joy transforms all his human plans and programs, decisions and actions, making all his mission the sacrament of the world's return to Him who is the life of the world.
Reading this passage again for the first time in nearly four years, I was most struck by the concise definition that Schmemann offers of what it means to be a Christian: "A Christian is the one who, wherever he [or she] looks, finds Christ and rejoices in Him." Even as one who reflects daily on my experience of God, I found these simple words very challenging. Jesuits often talk about "finding God in all things," but I very much realize that I - and we - often fail to recognize and rejoice in the presence of Christ.

As I make my daily examen each day over the coming week, I'll be praying over the words quoted above. If you're so inclined, I hope you'll join me in reflecting upon (and seeking to answer) these questions: Am I able to find Christ wherever I look? If so, am I able to rejoice in Him? AMDG.

2 Comments:

At 9/25/2008 12:27 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

The two questions at the end left me with much to meditate on, I'd framed the first for myself, but perhaps not the second - can I behold Christ around with joy?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece on the first questions for the Philadelphia archdiocesan newspaper -- there must be something in the air?

Thanks for give a nudge to my own meditations.

 
At 9/27/2008 2:11 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Michelle,

Thanks for the link to your column - I think the part about joy is what catches many of us up short. We're used to being told that we should try to find God in all things or see Christ all around us, and we try to do so even in times of challenge. But to rejoice in that presence once we've discovered it is, I think, an even greater challenge.

 

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