Thursday, January 27, 2011

No Obligation to Explain, No Responsibility to Whitewash

In a blog posting entitled "and yet love happens," Orthodox Christian Molly Sabourin offers brief but profound reflections on giving up the need to feel obliged to explain or justify her Christian faith in the face of death and suffering, and on giving up attempts to make sense of injustice with pat answers. When Molly writes about coming to a place where one can "make peace with the Mystery that is God," I am reminded of the calm joy that exudes from the apostle Paul's letter to the Philipians, a letter written in the midst of imprisonment, failure, suffering, and the shadow of possible death. I continue to long for that joy and peace in my own life as a baptized Christian and as a priest serving during a time of great change, upheaval, and division within Anglicanism.

I feel no obligation anymore to explain God, or why I believe in the Resurrection of Christ despite the universality of death and suffering. I won't pretend that suicide bombers, plane crashes and children with cancer don't make my insides crawl with horror. The truth is I have no real answers to give, and that any I concocted would be speculative at best. Being confronted by tragedy is like a bucket of ice water to the head. Death and suffering, the way they breathe all hot and heavy down my neck, won't let me sleep, or forget that I am vulnerable - just as vulnerable as any and everyone else - to having my comfortable little existence shred to pieces in a heartbeat.

I feel no responsibility to whitewash the pain of being broken with glossy euphemisms proposing that sense can be made of injustice. Thirteen years ago I surrendered my opinions and dependence on reason to the ancient teachings of the Church - I retired my time consuming (wasting?) quest to figure things out (Who, what, where, when, why is God, exactly?) and learned through the sacraments to make peace with the Mystery that is God and His mercy, the Holy Trinity, salvation. And now I'm no longer in the mood for a debate about the peripherals, not when the end is all around me and my only real source of courage is, mysteriously enough, self-denial. No, I will not try and appease your anger, your disillusionment, your doubts, but God help me weep with you when you weep and love you, serve you, just exactly as you are, lest the monsters, pride and despair, sink their teeth into my soul.


Andrei said...

Are you moving towards Byzantine Christianity?

With Georgian Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic worship predominantly featuring in the past few days as well as this you are clearly drawing from the ancient Faith to en-richen your spiritual life

And immediately preceding this post a quote from the Serbian, St Justin Popovich is posted.

Is that post using a quotation from the Serbian St Justin Popovich a reaction to the ructions within your own Church? An a a way of responding to it by not tossing brickbats? - I must say that's what I felt on reading it.

There are Anglicans who have become Orthodox who use a modified Anglican/Roman Liturgy - the Western Rite. Never attended such a Service. Many who have transitioned from Anglican to Orthodox once acquainted with the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom feel at home with it and take to it.

I think that may be because it has a sense of "sacredness and holiness as well as an untimelyness that is often missing in modern churches with their music groups and big screens to display the words of the choruses etc. When I have encountered that I personally feel they are distractions from the job at hand, worshiping the Risen Christ

St Justin Popovich described Ecumenicalism as a 20th century heresy, In accomplishing it the ancient Faith would have to compromise and in so doing sacrifice the purity of the Faith as we have received it.

Ecumism and multi Faith worship are treated with caution by the Orthodox Faithful - it goes quite deep.

And dialogue with other Christian denominations by Orthodox Bishops has lead to loud protests from the faithful and occasionally even riots, fearful that we may water down some aspects of our Faith to accommodate others.

Bryan Owen said...

Hi Andrei. I appreciate your comments. And to answer your question: no, I am not moving towards Byzantine Christianity, although I do have a deep respect for Eastern Orthodoxy. As you can see from my recent postings, I've come across a number of things from the East lately that are quite profound and beautiful. And yes, they do enrich my spiritual life.

As to the quote from St. Popovich - I can see how one might interpret that as a response of sorts to things afoot within the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism more broadly. But actually, I was moved to share it on this blog because I found his take on sin to be so much more compassionate than the harshly legalistic portrayals of some in the West (as though God is a stern schoolteacher or police officer just waiting to jump our case if we break a rule or drive a few miles per hour over the speed limit).

And yes, I am aware of the caution taken by many of the Orthodox faithful when it comes to ecumenical dialogue. That can be difficult for folks like me, but I understand and respect the reasons for the caution.

Apis Melliflora said...

Bryan, I see the creative writing influence in this piece.. especially the last sentence.

I often get dragged into explain-your-faith debates. I think I need to adopt your approach.