Monday, March 29, 2010

A Jesuit in Holy Week.

Detail of a 16th-century German woodcarving of Christ entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Museum Bojimans van Beuningen, Rotterdam (source).

For your reflection as we enter Holy Week, I would like to share some wise and provocative words from a book that has become one of my favorites, The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983. Writing on Tuesday, May 1, 1973, two days after the Feast of the Resurrection, Father Alexander reflects as follows:
Pascha. Holy Week. Essentially, bright days such as are needed. And truly that is all that is needed. I am convinced that if people would really hear Holy Week, Pascha, the Resurrection, Pentecost, the Dormition, there would be no need for theology. All of theology is there. All that is needed for one's spirit, heart, mind and soul. How could people spend centuries discussing justification and redemption? It is all in these services. Not only is it revealed, it simply flows from one's heart and mind. The more I live, the more I am convinced that most people love something else and expect something else from religion and in religion. For me this is idolatry, and it often makes contact with people so difficult.
My hope is that these words may help us to reflect on our own expectations of faith and religion, particularly as we prepare to celebrate the mystery at the heart of our faith. We who have chosen to follow Christ still need to ask ourselves what our faith means to us and why we seek to live it out as members of an organized community of believers. These questions have added poignancy for those of us who live in societies where disbelief or indifference prevails, where the rate of religious practice is declining, and where trust in religious institutions has been deeply eroded. To say the least, it's a good idea to reflect on these matters now and then, and Holy Week is an especially opportune time to do so.

My further (and perhaps greater) hope for each of us during Holy Week is that we can fully enter into the experience of these days so as to better recognize and appreciate the one thing needful. I may or may not have more to say before next Sunday. One way or another, please know of my prayers for all readers. AMDG.

2 Comments:

At 4/01/2010 2:30 PM, Blogger dpr1982 said...

Thanks for the wonderful words for reflection, Joe. I wish I had more time to devote to the topic, so I hope readers will give me the benefit of the doubt when I state my comment here. Joe spoke of the tragedy of the rise in unbelief and rejection of religion, as well as the erosion in public trust in religious institutions. My only reaction is one of caution: my take is that we shouldn't immediately conflate the two. I'm not at all suggesting that you're neglecting it, but we have to keep in mind the reality of the harm that took place due to the abusive priests and their enablers (witting or unwitting), so that our re-commitment to the Gospel this Lent and Triduum should include this need for contrition and cleansing within the Church, so that we can regain that part of public trust that was lost due to the tragedies that went on within Her. That's not at all to say we should not use all our efforts to held faith regain a place in public life or to reawaken people to God's call.

 
At 4/05/2010 5:34 PM, Blogger Joe said...

David,

"Joe spoke of the tragedy of the rise in unbelief and rejection of religion, as well as the erosion in public trust in religious institutions. My only reaction is one of caution: my take is that we shouldn't immediately conflate the two."

I did not conflate the two, and I don't see how one would think that I did so merely because I listed them together.

"... our re-commitment to the Gospel this Lent and Triduum should include this need for contrition and cleansing within the Church . . ."

Certainly, Lent is a time when we should all (individually and corporately) reflect upon our sins and failings and express our contrition for them. Still, we should avoid allowing others (most especially hostile critics) to seek to define the specific content of the "contrition and cleansing" that we all need to undergo. That's all that I'll say on point here - if you want to talk more about it, write to me privately.

 

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