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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I don't know if anyone is reading this blog, but if you have, you'll figure out the meaning of this next poem quickly. I have a little more free time these past couple weeks, and so, it has been taken up with much prayer, discussion, and struggle. Anyway, when too many words tire oneself and one's closest mates, (and you still have something to say) poetry can sum things up. And I'm plain scared, though I'm excited, and I believe the Lord, the God of Israel, will give me rest. And yet here it is:

The Darkness
Who will peer with me
Into the Darkness?
Who will stand by me
As I look into what cannot be seen?
Who is my friend?
Who will hear my words,
"I know very little"
And still say,
"You are loved"?
Are You the one?
We say, "These are notions which must not be spoken"
Our tribes, each one different
Placing Another Outside
While we vainly say,
"Our Shepherd is the same."
And He is.
Praise what I do know, He is!
And curse it all I would,
But for this:
Jesus is the Christ.
Dear Lord, I must find You.
Not content with a 'mere' You,
But with all of You,
In whom the fulness of God
Dwells.
It is not the Valley of Death,
Nor even its shadow.
But surely You are with me,
As You have been
This many years.
It is quite dark
And scary here,
Quite enough
To reduce me
To unsettled tears.
In loving men I trusted,
Seeing their Charity
And Purity of heart,
But this indeed leads me here,
Where I know little.
Some say, "This is the place,
you needn't go elsewhere"
But men like every other,
If I settle quick,
I may be wrong again.
Where are You, Lord?
Why do You delay?
Do You see
The mess Your children
Have made?
Perhaps I am a fool
To think this Love
Which I have seen
Has a resting-place
I have yet to find.
But You have promised
That it would be so.
So, I press on,
Knowing the Answer
But not the question.
One thing I refuse, this I deny:
That I will decide
When the Quest is over.
This we all have done, satisfied,
While we love not one another.
"My peace I give you,
My peace I leave with you"
But not here, not now.
The only thing left to say,
"Come, Prince of Peace, come!"

Wrestling

"Toward A New Theology" (Continued)
Proceeding from the hopefully obvious assumption that Christians could, and should, do everything we can to maintain visible unity (such as it is, with the Church in a million pieces), I came across this. (The writer, Bryan Cross, is a new friend. Be charitable in the comments, whether you agree or disagree, for my sake and for the Lord's.) Up to this point in my explorations, I have been "thinking like a Protestant" as he describes with regard to these matters, because frankly, I don't know what else to do. Whether I can accept a doctrine as formulated and defended by the Catholic Church is of no minor importance to me. I'm a theologian; it matters that something of God be intellectually defensible in my own mind. Still, talking with Mrs. Cross the other day, I realized that the central question of my whole quest is whether the Roman Catholic Church is the one that Christ founded. Interestingly, I've had an e-mail exchange with a friend who, after having reaffirmed that our brotherhood in Christ would be unaffected should I have a 'Romecoming,' curiously offered that he could make a better case for going East (to the Orthodox) if he had to choose. (I should note that my friend is an author and teacher of some note in the Reformed and/or Presbyterian tradition, and wishes to remain so.) Which only reaffirms a certain validity in Bryan's point--that breaking the visible unity of Christ's body is at least as bad as contradicting some point of faith we must all hold. He might be taking it a step further (and you can safely assume that he is) that the lack of submission to the visible expression of Christ's true Church necessarily leads to heresies in doctrine. Let us be fair on that point and call them "disputes" for the time being. Though what he writes there is oddly persuasive, I want to object on certain grounds.
First, the kind of faith he speaks of--the opposite of "thinking like a Protestant"--is childlike faith indeed, but I wonder if that was how the Lord meant it. To believe what the Church teaches, because it is the Church, particularly invested with the authority to teach in Christ's name and the Holy Spirit's power to teach infallibly, well, I would call that many things, but 'rational' isn't one of them. The deep irony of that stance is that, for today's Catholic, (such as Bryan) who waxes so eloquently about the marriage between faith and reason (and I find something true and noble and useful in their so-called "natural law" tradition each new time I explore it) to be a "true Catholic" appears to be an abandonment of all reason, if I understand him. Let us take two examples: Suppose I live in the time of the "bad popes." Shall I obey an order from such a one, knowing that he is bad, or, more than that, knowing that the nature of the evil he asks me to participate in is connected to the fact that he has departed from the truth? Suppose I am a Catholic in France right around St. Bartholomew's Day in 1572. It's easy to see the problem here, I hope. The point is this: How far does my submission extend? At what point is the individual permitted to question even that authority which he believes--though duly ordained by Christ--violates his conscience? (Or frankly, that which should have violated his conscience, if it did not) Is there some point of infallibility that I miss, granting all the qualifications that have been made? Which, we must grant, are easier to make in seemingly a more tranquil and plualistic age.