Wednesday, May 25, 2011
To Be a Christian in the World
Nothing has been busy in the gardens lately. More Japanese Maples added, and introducing Ginkgo Biloba and Quercus Rober to the landscape. All are dwarfs. Down by Lake Immaculata (subdivision pond!) is now a kind of rare Persica (Ironwood) "Kews Weeping". Good downpour in the last hour or two keeps one inside. Much to do inside, as well.
In this morning's Office of Readings, a letter to Diognetus expresses the role and function of the Christian in the world. In our location, we deal with a start-up group that exists contrary to what is stated in this letter attributed among the early Church Fathers, written in the 2nd century. It is the earliest known example of Christian apologetics. What was sound advice and example in the early Church, helps us today to review and reformulate how we are living our lives in both externals and internals.
Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language, or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in....
And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives....They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens....Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law....
This letter continues to describe the persecution Christians undergo, and the heroic and loving response of Christians to their persecutors. Then the author presents a metaphor of the Christian to the world as the soul is to the body.
As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen.... It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven....
The Lord sent nothing some persons who desire counsel, or life coaching, as is the popular term. Nothing calls it Christ coaching, as nothing and all of us nothings are spiritual beings--souls in our mortal dwelling place, for now. One asked questions specific to marriage keeping one from union with Christ. And others, including nothing, have pondered the externals in our lives in Christ. What is written approximately 18 centuries ago, seems sound. It runs counter to the ways of some in our time who dress as religious of the past several centuries, or who live their lives being noticed and in opposition to the life and culture of their environment.
This reading promotes invaluable reflection. By blending in, and the religious life remaining hidden, we give Christ the glory of His due by being Christians living in the world, yet not of it. Is this another way of describing the life of the temporal Catholic world, the visible Church, the social Church, the noticed and distinctively unusual lives--outlandish, if truthful--of some religious solitaries and groups? We may then place this externally-noticed way beside the option of remaining in Christ in the mystery of His life among us and of us subsumed in His life: the mystical Catholic world, the interior Church, the spiritual world.
One aspect of a life in Christ, sprouting forth during this week of warm, spring rains is that we are to love our lives and enjoy living. Utilize the gift of time, and rejoice in the many ways we can be His in the Church and in the world, without wearing our Christianity in counter-cultural apparel and life style. The crosses of persecutions will find us without waving ourselves as distracting flags. Love shows itself more purely if like the naturalness of nature, all matter and modes created by God live as His reflection. What do we reflect today?