I am having one of those days. But this picture makes me smile (a little).
I have been reading Devotio Moderna: Basic Writings by John Van Engen. I have been waiting for it to arrive for over a month. There is a collection of “Resolutions and Intentions” by the founder of the Brethren of the Common life, Geert Groote, in the book. There is a decisive fell that this is not a set of vows or a rule of life but rather a way to live. I like the idea of religious life without vows beyond those of all the baptised. We are all called to “love God and love our neighbour as ourselves”. The religious life is not for the “spiritual elite” so why ask any more of the religious than of all the baptised?
So I thought I would follow that through a little. What does the noun “resolution” mean?
noun: resolution; plural noun: resolutions
1. a firm decision to do or not to do something.
Similar: intention, resolve, decision, intent, aim, aspiration, design, purpose, object, plan, commitment, pledge, promise, undertaking
A resolution is connected to an intention. Both are a decision to set a path and walk it. There is no certainty in the resolution – no end result. But rather it is for the moment. A resolution needs renewing every new moment – it is a way of life rather than a point in time. And there is no room for doubt – I am either going to do it or not.
So vow to love, be resolved to live for Jesus only?
“Contemplata aliis tradere” is a Latin phrase which translates into English as “to hand down to others the fruits of contemplation.”Contemplata aliis tradere
I am not a great advocate for St Thomas. In fact, the scholastic thing is very foreign to me. But the above has always torn at my heart. In the books about anchorite spirituality and life I have been reading, there is agreement that it is about contemplation. But what then? Just sit in the warm glow of a job well done?
Last night, while driving home, I had a long think about the above. And I came to the conclusion (or should that be resolution) that it is less important what it meant to people of the past than what it means for me today. Yes, I think I have a moral duty to share those fruits of future possible contemplation. And whether that is through a blog like this, a podcast, or some other way, there is a duty to make that available to people.
So a life set apart to pray and read, to think and contemplate, and to share. Not to have the answers but to be present with people and witness to the transforming power of Jesus. Maybe the word “witness” puts it better than share? It is not a treasure I have within me but rather a Person.
I heard this song in the car on the way home from youth last night. I remember listening to it on repeat about this time last year. I was thinking it was a good(ish) Easter song!
I was thinking (in the car) that it is one thing to say you desire only Jesus (for the exclusion of others) and actually living it. I guess that is why it is a “sacrifice” in the Romans 12 sense?! And, in being alone for Jesus only, to love people for themselves and not for their usefulness.
I think it is Cassian who talks about the motivation behind people joining religious communities. Some for fear of the past (penitence), some waiting for a future (salvation), and a small number for the love of God now.
I was thinking that the desire to be alone can come from very selfish motivation. Either I am so bad that no one wants to be with me or I am so good that no one can come close to me. I often do things for completely wrong motives, even the good ones. How do I desire Jesus alone in a real sense in reality?
I am happiest alone: reading, praying, thinking. I have really discovered that in the last month or so. It makes me act different around people. (Ok, even more awkward than usual!) But is that self-defence because of chemicals in my brain or is it a spiritual calling?
Christianly, struggling is always done by single individuals, because spirit is precisely this, that everyone is an individual before God, that “fellowship” is a lower category than “the single individual,” which everyone can and should be. And even if the individuals were in the thousands and as such struggled jointly, Christianly understood each individual is struggling, besides jointly with the others, also within himself, and must as a single individual give an accounting on judgment day, when his life as an individual will be examined.Practice in Christianity
I have been thinking about the above quote, especially, ”fellowship” is a lower category than “the single individual”. A number of the books I have been reading speak of monasticism in terms of “community”. I feel community is important but is it the “prime category”? It is the paradox of faith in Jesus: I learn from the community but I am alone before God.
The conclusion of belief is no conclusion but a resolution, and thus doubt is excluded.Philosophical Fragments
I woke in the night and the above quote came to mind. A little on the weird side, I agree, but it all came together.
I have been reading a book about Thomas a Kempis. In this book, there is a discussion on the origins of the Brethren of the Common Life and, especially, the founder, Geert Groote. Groote wrote “Resolutions and Intentions” which was like a Rule of Life but without any vows. And it was common practice in the Brethren for individuals to write such a document and not take religious vows in the traditional way.
The above now makes even more sense to me. Live life without vows or a Rule but live with a clear resolution. Allow life to be shaped by this resolution but make no show of it or put yourself under vows.
So, in the history of the church, there is a way to live a converted (religious) life as a layperson without entering a monastery.
And, as an aside, I really like SK’s side-step on doubt in the above quote!
The formula that describes the state of the self when despair is completely rooted out is this: in relating itself to itself and in willing to be itself, the self rests transparently in the power that established it.Sickness unto Death
So Lent starts tomorrow. I have been thinking about it a lot in the last couple of days. Not because I have huge plans but rather I have been wondering what it means to me. Why bother with Lent?
I think the issues I have raised before – living in the past or anticipation of the future – are real issues in my spiritual life. So I am not surprised that they would come to mind when I think about Lent. But Lent cannot be about my past sins or my future reward! It must be about my relationship with Jesus now. So should I give up on Lenten disciplines? No! But I am going to look at them from a different angle.
Living for Jesus now! Sometimes I overbalance one way, sometimes another. Lent is a season for balance: to see what things draw me away from my centre. Or, to put it in a slightly Kierkegaardian fashion, what is stopping me from becoming a self – to become transparent before God.
So this Lent is about balance. It is also about prayer and silence. And it is about reading and sharing.
Therefore Christ also first and foremost wants to help every human being to become a self, requires this of [them] first and foremost, requires that [they], by repenting, become a self, in order then to draw [them] to himself. He wants to draw the human being to himself, but in order truly to draw [them] to himself he wants to draw [them] only as a free being to himself, that is, through a choice.Practice in Christianity
I woke in the middle of the night and that quote came to mind. Besides the fact that I dream of Kierkegaard quotes, and talk to him in English in a coffee shop, which is super-weird, I think the above has something very important to say.
What is Jesus all about? Or, to put it another way, what is “salvation”? As I wrote yesterday, it is not about the past or the future. It is a right-now thing. So what is Jesus’ deepest desire for me right now?
Ok, I cannot work out what my deepest desire right now is so I doubt I can of another person. And I would not dare to say what Jesus desires. But if we take Kierkegaard’s quote seriously, and I think we should, it is about becoming a self – it is about becoming me. Yes, I cannot be a self without him! And that is the central proclamation of the community we call the Church. But becoming a self in Jesus involves my freedom and choices.
I am having issues with “me” at the moment. The above gives shape to come of my issues. And it points me back to Jesus. Jesus now for becoming “me”.
In relation to the absolute, there is only one time, the present; for the person who is not contemporary with the absolute, it does not exist at all. And since Christ is the absolute it is easy to see that in relation to him there is only one situation, the situation of contemporaneity; the three, the seven, the fifteen, the seventeen, the eighteen hundred years make no difference at all; they do not change him, but neither do they reveal who he was, for who he is is revealed only to faith.Practice in Christianity
I have been thinking about some of the monastic rules I have been reading. There is often a strong note of pentitence. And sometimes some talk of reward. The asceticism described in these rules is often in terms of “soul good, body evil” dualism. Or “suffering good because it wins forgiveness”.
Of course, all that is an oversimplification. But I have wondered how to live a rule of life in a monastic way without falling into those traps. Penitence (the past) or reward (the future) are nice but it is about living for Jesus now. The present moment! So it is about balance in the now to be fully open to Jesus.
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.Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
The above is from the Foreword to the Anglican Religious Life Year Book, 2016-17. I suspect I have quoted it before.
I have been thinking about risk and paradox. Maybe we live in a world that tries to remove both? But both are required for faith. Unless we make faith simply a way of knowing without evidence, a religious epistemology that places knowledge above faith, faith needs risk and paradox.