As we seek after God, what we know will lead us. Even if we start with God is Love, our experience of love will form our thoughts. If our confidence starts with the assertion that what is revealed in the scriptures is sufficient for us to trust God and the promise of God found there is true, who we are in our reading will dictate our path to seeking the Holy.
Holy means beyond knowing yet close, a place of presence, an encounter with mystery. Both love and holiness are the exercise of goodness. Love wills the good and holiness is presence of good. Again our culture and experience, our character and history will define our experience.
That is why I believe silence and stillness to be part of our quest after the divine. That’s why I believe that faith begins with the appreciation of beauty, goodness and justice. What warms our hearts in the moment, what blazes unexpectedly, the arresting presence is the beginning and end of faith. The faithfulness of God in the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus are my beginning and the stillnes and silence strip away the rest, all other thought is purified by the presence of the mystery of the birth, death and resurrection of God in Christ.
The experience that defines our quest after the knowledge of the Holy begins with encountering the end of experience, declaring, here I am before the person and voice of God speaking into our need to know.
Where are we in history? We are promised that as followers of Christ, we will move from glory into glory. The censuses tell us there are fewer of us declaring ourselves Christian though. What’s gone wrong? The self proclamation of belonging to a church or faith system is diminishing and seemingly the system is diminishing in power and influence.
The picture to me is more complex than the statistics suggest. In history the instituted church has done its work it appears to me, and has served its function. Could it be we are in a new phase that won’t appear in a census and this phase has been quietly fermenting all along.
I see the church as having established a culture, a core understanding of mercy, beauty, selfless giving, forgiveness, restitution as justice, care for the poor, care for the widow, a common commitment to fairness for everyone. Where Christianity has been central to a society, the secular society is different. The incarnation of God in Christ has led to the embodiment of godliness and enabled pluralism and equality. Where the word of Christ has been preached we find the habitual virtues of faithfulness, hope and love as expectations.
By faithfulness we mean, that we rest in the faithfulness of the Divine who is righteous and true to his promises revealed to people close to his heart. There is truth. By hope, we live in the light that all will be well and all manner of things will be well; all is not lost in the troubles of the day. God is with us in trials, in pain, in disappointment, to hold us and sustain us. By love we understand a willing of the good for all in a non coersive, self giving, enemy loving way poured out to all. The rule of God is exercised through communities of people gathered in love.
Society that has this foundation of love born of the words of Jesus, has this root may hedge it around with laws and institutions. Democracy and the rule of law with an independent judiciary and a free press exist where Christianity has been. Christian society’s life blood is the heart of the people moulded by the word of Christ. The estates of nations are instituted by God. Christianity may have moulded these but the institutions are not God’s rule.
Is the new phase where those who draw succour from Christ bring life, without the rod of power? Could it be that in this phase we see the irrepressible growth of the truly catholic church? Is this where the glory increases, where the kingdom of God is revealed to be not of this world, where speaking truth to power is not having power?
To find stillness, to rest in who we are, to know ourselves… As we rest and everything falls away, we find the good; we are resting in our being, our wellbeing. In all circumstances, for a moment, we can know good. For a moment we are found.
In our knowing we find ourselves in the presence of a person beyond knowing; a person beyond naming. The moment is not empty, and we know goodness.
To find the stillness we need to stop and open our eyes, stop and listen. The stillness creates longing and draws us to good. We are filled to will the good in every circumstance, called to the fulfilment of all good. As we become aware, all attachments fall away; everything that binds us becomes plain and we find the beginning and end of all things. And so wholeness is opened to us.
In Christ this wholeness is named, the beginning and the end, who teaches us to call the one beyond knowing, Father.
For this he died and in him we die to all our lacks, all our attachments, all our false hopes, as we trust in his goodness, his loving embrace.
We are not ashamed of this good news of grace. In the moment, in all circumstances, though we are of the soil and to the soil we will return, we find wisdom. Our senses are alive and life calls us to be fruitful, to draw from the fount of all being, draw from the living wellspring, draw from Christ, and filled, pour ourselves out.
In this being, all is redeemed, all pain, all suffering, every tear is grounded in joy, earthed in a radical sense of purpose: to love.
Come Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us!
An important and interesting reaction from Diana Butler Bass.