I have been reading The Cloud of Unknowing. And I wanted to share the prayer it starts with, which is also the Collect for Purity that starts the Anglican Eucharist:
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. All Amen.
The second requirement is that in order to see yourself in the mirror when you read God’s Word you must (so that you actually do come to see yourself in the mirror) remember to say to yourself incessantly: It is I to whom it is speaking; it is I about whom it is speaking.
I have been following the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia. A little more like a spectator than a person who is involved. It is the community I call home but I am also somewhat distanced from it.
One of the things that struck me was the attempt to regulate how Scripture is read. Making statements about what Scripture does or does not say is difficult. But what worries me more is summed up in the quote above: Scripture is a mirror for me. I can take the Bible seriously without taking it literally. But above all else, it is always speaking to me and not to someone else.
And, morality is not a relationship with Jesus – the absolute telos and all that!?
Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
I was thinking about the story of the woman caught in adultery. I was thinking about how the story ends with Jesus not condemning the woman. Compassion over law!
I very rarely discuss “church politics”. In fact, I have very little interest in it and find it somewhat confusing. It also makes me anxious and angry.
That being said, here is a motion to be discussed at the Anglican Church in Australia General Synod:
Of course, it is in a much wider context and really needs to be understood in that context. But I am somewhat pleased that singleness gets a mention. It is also interesting that it is seen as a state in the church rather than a negation.
Anyway, it is to be discussed today along with some other issues.
The past is like the internet: there is always someone who agrees with you.
I escape into books. I prefer people of old (in books) to most modern people. But books can also frustrate and annoy me.
So I have been reading: Anglicanism: A Reformed Catholic Tradition. The book may have many merits. Yet it has illustrated for me that the way we see today influences the way we see the past.
The book tries to trace some of the theological seeds to Anglicanism in the pre-Reformation period. Not an uncommon way to see Anglicanism. Yet, the book does not mention any of the people who not only formed English spirituality but also the English language. The book does not mention Julian of Norwich, Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton, or Margery Kempe. It does not mention The Cloud of Unknowning or the monastic tradition. It certainly does not mention the involvement of the Carthusian in English spirituality and theology. It mentions Anselm of Canterbury who, while he did work in England as Archbishop of Canterbury, knew no English and was an Italian by birth.
I just wanted to share Psalm 62 again. It was set for Morning Prayer and it always speaks to me. So here is the whole Psalm with Refrain as found in Common Worship:
Refrain: Wait on God alone in stillness, O my soul.
1 On God alone my soul in stillness waits; ♦ from him comes my salvation. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, ♦ my stronghold, so that I shall never be shaken. 3 How long will all of you assail me to destroy me, ♦ as you would a tottering wall or a leaning fence? 4 They plot only to thrust me down from my place of honour; lies are their chief delight; ♦ they bless with their mouth, but in their heart they curse. 5 Wait on God alone in stillness, O my soul; ♦ for in him is my hope. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, ♦ my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken. [R] 7 In God is my strength and my glory; ♦ God is my strong rock; in him is my refuge. 8 Put your trust in him always, my people; ♦ pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge. 9 The peoples are but a breath, the whole human race a deceit; ♦ on the scales they are altogether lighter than air. 10 Put no trust in oppression; in robbery take no empty pride; ♦ though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it. 11 God spoke once, and twice have I heard the same, ♦ that power belongs to God. 12 Steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord, ♦ for you repay everyone according to their deeds.
Refrain: Wait on God alone in stillness, O my soul.
O God, teach us to seek security, not in money or theft, not in human ambition or malice, not in our own ability or power, but in you, the only God, our rock and our salvation.
… I have not mentioned it: I have started using Common Prayer: Daily Prayer as my office book. And I must admit I absolutely love it. It is physically a very nice book. And the offices are within the Anglican tradition and solidly traditional in their shape. It provides Morning Prayer, Prayer During the Day, Evening Prayer, and Prayer at the end of the day. I like the four-fold office as it is doable for me in my current context. And, to be honest, I do not want more at the moment!
I will admit that sometimes I feel some anxiety about not using the Australian prayer book that my parish uses. But that is for another day to consider!
I have been returning to an older theme: religious life. And I have been thinking about two quotes in particular that, I think, say the same thing.
Life in Religion is the ultimate wager on the existence of God. The Church should always be engaged in doing things that make no sense if God does not exist. This is the reason why I hold the Religious life in the highest esteem … the monastic life models for all Christians what it means to live fully and abundantly, with and for Christ.
The Most Rev’d Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury Foreword to: Anglican Religious Life 2016-17
Of this there is no doubt, our age and Protestantism in general may need the monastery again, or wish it were there. The “monastery” is an essential dialectical element in Christianity. We therefore need it out there like a navigation buoy at sea in order to see where we are, even though I myself would not enter it. But if there really is true Christianity in every generation, there must also be individuals who have this need.
Kierkegaard, Nov 1847
I am always amazed that Kierkegaard, living in 1800s Lutheran Denmark, writes at length about “the monastery” in his journals. What experience would he have had of religious life? What books would he have read? And, in some ways, his very life is an example of what he said above – even if he does not want to enter a monastery.
To put it another way: people need to take the “single individual” to the extreme to show other people what it means to be the “single individual” – “dare to desire Jesus alone”. I am seeing that reality more and more. Like yeast in the dough, individuals need to place all their eggs in the one basket (sorry!) and say, “what if all of this stuff about God is true?”. And much more: let’s take Jesus seriously and actually follow Him alone, pick up our cross and live a life of love.
I think both of these quotes call us to “new monasticism” (to introduce yet another person’s quote). Not looking to the past alone but using the past to live today for Jesus alone. Yes, the church as a community and especially individuals within the Church need to do things that make no sense if God does not exist. Individuals need to take Jesus seriously.
So today I move from “wannabe Anglican” to a member of the Anglican Church of Australia. I guess I am really only becoming a member of the parish which is part of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. With the numerous lockdowns, this has been some time in coming. I am anxious about the physical side of things – getting there, setting up, meeting people. I am meeting a person, a bishop of the diocese, whom I have not met before. I have worn masks for so long I sometimes forget the real me.
This is the first religious decision I have made on my own. The previous ones have been made with a community (family) around me to support me. This one is me alone before God. So I am extremely anxious about it all. I guess I feel quite silly for doing this again. And I worry that this is yet another temporary fix for the problem that is “me”. I guess (lots of guessing) that, in the end, I belong nowhere. People will wake up to me and that will be the end of another chapter,
It is bringing up the same monologue that I struggled with earlier in the year. My counsellor calls it the “monster within”. To be honest, the “monster” has simply become not as loud but it is always there. The last two weeks have been full of instances where I feel like an “alien in this world”. I simply do not connect and, to be honest, do not have the energy to connect. Conversations have become exhausting and people are wearisome. I have become more aware of my own emotions and how I basically run on them. I love the people in my life but my darkside wonders if that is enough. (And whether loving Jesus is enough.)
Sorry, that is a very depressing post! I rejoice in the small glimpses of love I feel from others and from Jesus. But the monster simply double guesses everything and everybody. I am just going to try to not overthink today. Go with the flow. But I know that will be hard! Life is such a balancing act.
I am going to try to say the various offices in the car at their normal time. I am hoping that some rhythm to the day will help, And, of course, that the prayer itself will change me – bring light to the darkness.