Out of the Heart

Today in my CPE program at Christus Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio we had a helpful presentation on domestic violence in which the presenter quoted from the Tao Te Ching:

No peace in the world without peace in the nation.

No peace in the nation without peace in the city.

No peace in the city without peace in the home.

No peace in the home without peace in the heart.

This passage is particularly powerful when thinking about domestic violence, especially if you have ever experienced it or ministered to someone who has.

I was reminded, in our Christian tradition, of Proverbs 4:23 and James 4:1-4 (respectively):

Out of the heart flow the issues of life.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

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The Church’s Organ of Unity: Dioceses, not Provinces

During this sad time of division in the church, fundamental matters of ecclesiology come to the fore again with a new urgency.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams recently re-articulated one such fundamental matter: that the basic organ of the church which binds the catholic church together is the diocese, centered on the bishop, and not the province (or the congregation, for that matter). See here.

This catholic and patristic perspective is definitely shared by and elaborated on by the Windsor Report and the proposed covenant, as well as the theology (ie, the communion ecclesiology of John Zizioulas and others) and texts (ie, The Virginia Report as well as The Church of the Triune God: The Cypress Agreed Statement of the International Commission for Anglican – Orthodox Theological Dialogue) upon which they rest.

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Endagered Species: Iraqi Christians

Read here about how the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has virtually destroyed the Christian community in Iraq.

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Deep Therapy through Contemplative Prayer

One of my most important thoughts over the summer, during my CPE program, has to do with the word “subconscious.” (Even my sister Libby pointed out to me that this word occurs on my blog, no insignificant fact for a Boulter.)

Think about when you are just beginning to fall asleep. Have you ever noticed that all kinds of strange, expansive thoughts & images pop into your mind, apparently at random? For example as I am falling asleep I might sense such bizarre images in my mind as some acquaintance whom I have not seen for weeks walking past me, or perhaps a scenario in which I am talking before a crowd of people about some topic, say blogging or eating your vegetables, or I might have a scene in my mind which is an adaptation from some movie like Finding Nemo (all recent examples).

Where do these thoughts and images come from? It is not as if I consciously or intentionally constructed them. It seems like they just emerged on their own. But did they? No: they are all formed from the “raw material” of my experience. Whether it is a new acquaintance or some movie or some life theme or some group of people or some place, the content of these images comes from my experience. And this means that what I experience matters. It is not neutral. It is not insignificant. It affects me, and it affects me deeply.

Two implications flow from this realization:

1. Destructive habits damage the self very deeply.
2. We must engage in healing practices which will address this damage, whether self-inflicted from a destructive habit, or ways in which we have been abused or victimized by others. Contemplative prayer is just such a practice, and perhaps one of the most important ones.

Related here is Thomas Keating’s  identification (in his The Human Condition) of three areas which impact how we develop our false and / or true selves: survival and security; affection and esteem; power and control.

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Pickstock on Developing a Liturgical Worldview (IV)

Catherine Pickstock gives the word “liturgy” a wide resonance. But she also devotes many pages of her book AW to analyzing a specific liturgy: the celebration of the Christian Eucharist, in which the elements of bread and wine are said to become the body and blood of Christ. Drawing particularly on the writings of Thomas Aquinas, she asks how Christ is made present in the Mass.

I found that the understanding of presence that you get in Aquinas’ understanding of the Eucharist is not the kind of fetishized presence of modernity. It is not one that is somehow “enthronable” or “stockpileable.” It is a presence which is mysterious, and one which seems to bring the meanings of words together. One thing that stuck Aquinas about the Eucharist is that although it is perhaps the highest instance of God’s action through human action on earth, nevertheless it seems to use the most ordinary objects, it seems to use the most banal objects: bread and wine, grape and grain. Nothing could be more local and more summoning or ordinary labor – transport, commerce – all the things which ordinarily seem to take us away from “high piety” – and one of the things that A says about the choice of elements is precisely their ordinariness and their association with human conviviality – eating and drinking and the good smell of the bread and wine. Plus it was significant for him that bread and wine involve human trade and travel and commerce and so forth, and so the lowest and most basic elements of human survival and human operation are brought into the moment of heightened realization of divine presence. And so for all these different reasons you can see the ways in which we are being reminded in the Eucharist that there really isn’t an area of human operation which isn’t somehow preincluded in God’s gift. And we’re are reminded also that liturgy is something which all of human action and human operation leads toward and presupposes. If, even, in the manufacturing of bread we are being led toward the Eucharistic celebration, it helps us to reposition our understanding of all human labor as praise of the divine. And again this brings us back to the idea that liturgy isn’t something that we should think about only on Sundays or high feast days but its something that all our human labors might become, that human labor itself might be liturgy. And so there isn’t necessarily a separation between life and liturgy. Even washing up could be offered up as a sort of divine praise. All human actions could be.

And so, equally, if we think of the tree which I referred to earlier as fulfilling its “tree-ness” by worshipping God – and this is the way in which Aquinas saw the world around us, where everything is worshipping God in its own way – and so when the tree fulfills its telos as a tree, that moment of fulfillment is the tree’s worshipping God, or copying God in its own manner. And so a Eucharistic sensibility is one in which one sees everything as participating in praise of the divine.” — Catherine Pickstock in an interview which one can listen to here.

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Pickstock on Developing a Liturgical Worldview (III)

Liturgy, as Catheine Pickstock explains it, signifies an underlying attitude and not just a specific order of celebration. It is, as she says, “a way of being on the way.” A way of receiving, and releasing, what is only ever present in passing.

Liturgy isn’t just going to church on a Sunday. When I was analyzing what a liturgical worldview might be like, I tried to conceive it as a way of life, rather than as a text or as something we did every now and then. And this is something I found in Plato again, when he is looking at the life of the philosopher and the philosopher’s desire to recollect the highest principles of the good and to communicate them to his pupils. He was trying to show that philosophy isn’t a decadent pursuit which occurs on the ancient Greek version of a high table at a college, but rather is a way of life, where everything must be orientated toward a vision of the good, and if one can Christianize that vision…. Well, in a way that is what I’ve been doing in my analysis of liturgy: trying to show how a way of life might help us to unsettle all the dichotomies and pernicious categories that I analyzed in secular modernity.” — Catherine Pickstock, in an interview one can listen to here.

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Pickstock on Developing a Liturgical Worldview (II)

John Milbank sees the church as an encompassing an ultimately cosmic community. And this view is complemented by the emphasis in Catherine Pickstock’s work on liturgy. Liturgy, in its most basic meaning, refers to the order of words and actions that is prescribed for public worship. but in her book After Writing, CP has given the term a much wider meaning. She argues that he muddles and uncertainties in which modern philosophy has ended up can only be overcome by recognizing that language only finally fulfills itself in praise and celebration. That is, in liturgy. And so she she subtitled her book “On the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy.”

In my subtitle I was trying to hint at the ultimate argument of my book which is that the spatialization of modernity as I have described it can only be shattered or in some way challenged by a liturgical worldview where one is no longer trying to enthrone one’s own constructs but is now trying to reposition one’s self in that broader context which sees  the whole of reality as arriving from a divine creative source, and that we can only undo these dichotomies by some kind of liturgical enactment. One of the things I did in my book when I was analyzing secular reason is to show that the human self is by definition a divided self when it is trying to enthrone its own constructs. It starts to lead an almost duplicitous life. But a liturgical self is one which acknowledges fully its own dependence on a divine transcendent reality and is so committed to that reality that it can’t admit any divisions or internal contradictions. There is something completely simple about liturgical language. It simply says “I am nothing, and I worship you and I depend on you.” And along with this liturgical worldview comes the recognition that everything around us is in the mode of gift and is a gift from God. And so not only does it affect our relationship with our self and with God, but also our relationship to the world around us, and how we receive it.” — Catherine Pickstock in an interview which one can listen to here.

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Pickstock on Developing a Liturgical Worldview (I)

Catherine Pickstock gives liturgy a much broader sense. She argues that the muddles and uncertainties in which modern philosophy has ended up can only be overcome by recognizing that language only fulfills itself in praise and celebration, that is, in liturgy.

The spatialization of modernity can only really be shattered or in some way challenged by a liturgical world view in which one is no longer trying to enthrone its own constructs but to reposition ones self in that broader context which sees the whole of reality as arriving from a divine creative source. We can only really undo all of these dichotomies by some kind of liturgical enactment. One of the things I did in my book when I was analyzing secular reason is to show how the human self, by its self, is a divided self, and when it is trying to enthrone its own constructs it starts to lead an almost duplicitous existence, but the liturgical self is one which acknowledges freely its complete dependence upon another being, a divine, transcendent reality, and is so committed to that reality that it can’t admit to any kind of internal divisions or contradictions. There is something completely simple about liturgical language. It simply says, “I am nothing, and I depend upon you and I worship you, and along with that liturgical worldview comes the realization that everything around us is in the mode of gift and arrives as a gift from God. And so not only does it affect our relationship with ourself and to God himself, but also to our relationship with the world around us, and how we receive it.” — Catherine Pickstock, in an interview which one can listen to here.

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Milbank on Church (and Worship) as Politics (II)

“I’m very much in a tradition of Anglican thinkers going back to John Neville Figgis who have insisted that the church is the purpose of salvation, it’s not just the collection of believers or the saved. The church is the realization of salvation, because the church is the realization of reconciliation, ultimately b/t everybody. Ultimately the church is, as the Eastern Orthodox stress, bigger than the cosmos, because it’s the cosmos linked to God and returned to God. So church for me is a very big reality. It’s the site of the true human sociality. So, again, very much in the tradition of Anglican socialism I tend to see the church itself as the political vehicle. You don’t need a political party, b/c the church has a social purpose that goes beyond the political understood in the normal sense, because it’s not just about equal sharing and punishing wrongdoers. It’s about forgiveness and reconciliation and restoring and giving superabundantly to each other. So it involves some kind of social purpose that can’t be fully realized in this world but can to some extant and goes beyond the social purpose and the political purpose of the state, so much so that even ideally state functions should be minimalized in relation to ecclesiastical functions. The more we had real church in our economic practices, in our social practices … the less you would need these state functions. Liturgy also is crucial here: the sense that worshipping God is the true social purpose and that everything, all our economic activities are ultimately oriented to making the true worship of God in the kind of ritual patterns of the daily life that come to a head in what happens in a church. Without a sense of what binds us together you don’t have a real society.” — John Milbank, in an invterview which you can listen to here.

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Milbank on Church (and Worship) as Politics (I)

“The Church is at once very very spiritual and very very concrete. The Church continues that sense of the Incarnation, and I mean that quite literally, that the church is a communion of souls, it extends to another world, but it also is the material practices, it’s also physical churches, it’s also sacred sites, it’s also the continual sacralization of space, its also parish boundaries. I mean, I believe in all this fantastic stuff. I’m really bitterly opposed to this kind of disenchantment in the modern churches, including I think among most modern evangelicals. I mean recently in the Notthingham diocese they wanted to do a show about angels, and so the clergy – and this is a very evangelical diocese – sent around a circular saying, “Is there anyone around who still believes in angels enough to talk about this?” Now, in my view this is scandalous. They shouldn’t even be ordained if they can’t give a cogent account of the angelic and its place in the divine economy. I want everything put back again, in one sense. I believe in the lot. Pilgrimages, you know, everything. The importance of sacred sites, the traditions about the unseen, even about there being other creatures hidden within the dimensions of this world. These are things which I think we should take seriously that exist in many dif traditions. And I think that one of the problems we have is that we have the wrong idea about monotheism, you know, that of course there are gods and angels and spirits, and what have you, in incredible plurality. The point about the divine unity is that it’s beyond all that. Monotheism is not denying the gods. The most radical monotheists have always seen that. There are many spiritual powers, and there may be some place between the good and the bad among them like the early Irish theologians acknowledged. Who knows? The point is that he supreme God is one who transcends any of that kind of thing, so for me, the church is supremely concrete and supremely spiritual and I think that there is a sense in which, in a fallen world corporeality can lead us into despair, it’s a site of decay. And we can only not despair if corporeality is restored. So without the Incarnation and without the resurrection, we are not really going fully to value embodiment as glorious.” — John Milbank, in an interview which can be listened to here.

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Pray for Lambeth

Please be in prayer for this week’s global gathering of bishops at the Lambeth Conference, and that you might do so in an informed way, see this article by Ephraim Radner.

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On the Irrelevance of ++Rowan

Rowan Williams consistently gets a bad rap from all directions, especially in light of the controversies swirling in Anglican Communion. But before sizing him up, consider this essay (on the Covenant Communion website), which I greatly appreciate.

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Signing the Cross

As a part of my journey into deeper catholicity, I have begun to sign the cross in worship. I had a pivotal conversation a few months ago about this with a close and knowledgeable friend, which I have been thinking much about.

In addition to it being ancient tradition, there are many theological reasons why we make the sign of the cross on our bodies at certain times during the liturgy, but I want to focus on one in particular: the participatory nature of the Christian life.

Christian theology teaches that humanity’s ultimate end is participation in the triune God of Scripture. Ultimately, this refers to Thomas’ mysterious beatific vision on the last day, in the new heavens and the new earth. And yet we begin to participate in God in this life as well, bringing the eschaton into the now.

Like the eucharistic liturgical actions performed by the priest, to make the sign of the cross on one’s body is a symbolic movement through time and in this sense it consecrates time. It is symbolically to say to God and to others not just “I want my life to be marked by the cross,” but also “My body, which is a living sacrifice, and which will be raised on the last day, and which represents the totality of my life / being, is destined for full oneness with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

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