Proof in the Poor

We must again see Christ in the poor. Jesus Christ could’ve come as a king or an emperor, but instead he came as a person of little status, of lowly means. Again and again, he commends care for the poor, and damns injustice toward them. None of this is a coincidence. It was, in fact, revolutionary: It overturned an ancient mode of organizing society and introduced as meaningful and urgent the station of the poorest members of our society. It extended dignity and value to people otherwise invisible. It charged generations of Christians, present company not excluded, with the holy task of finding the face of Christ the Lord of all things in the pain and suffering of those with nothing. Christ is with the lonely and hungry people who wander city streets in need of money and medical care. Christ is with the families fleeing ruined, flooded homes in Puerto Rico, who have no recourse, no food, no medicine for their injuries. Christ is with the refugees who find themselves in foreign lands, leaving their lives and families and communities behind in blood-soaked, war-torn places. In our modern world we struggle with faith; we want tangible proof, evidence we can see and touch for ourselves. Here is your chance: Christ comes to us as the poorest of the poor, and in touching them, you touch his wounds like Thomas, and drive away the shadow of doubt.

the conclusion to Liz Bruenig’s recent talk on Christ and the Poor

Assuming You Don’t Want To Be A Heretic

Here’s the beginning of Ben Myers’ series “Tweeting the Trinity.” More here. 

I.  HOW TO AVOID TRINITARIAN HERESY

#1. Start by abolishing Trinity Sunday, that fateful day on which preachers think they have to explain the Trinity

#2. Teach children to make the sign of the cross when they say the words “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”

#3. When someone offers to tell you the practical implications of the doctrine, just smile and move along

#4. Have you come up with a really helpful analogy of the trinity? Well done! Now please don’t tell anyone about it, ever

#5. The doctrine is not a mystery. It is simple & precise. The reality it points to is the mystery

#6. Don’t try to get rid of the biblical words. Don’t try to stick to them exclusively either

#7. In this doctrine every word is used in a very limited way. Even the numbers 1 and 3 can’t be taken literally

#8. Don’t partake in meaningless debates about whether “oneness” or “threeness” is more important (see #7)
 

God In The Dark

 

I know the darkness is appalling sometimes;—but it is the only way of learning that we depend entirely on God, that we have nothing from ourselves, that even our loves and desire of Him tends to be selfish. The “royal way of the Holy Cross” is the only way. But you will find out that the darkness is God Himself; the suffering is His nearness.

— John Chapman

From Abbot John Chapman’s extraordinary collection of letters on prayer. I hope to write more about this. 

The Difference God Makes

The idea that God’s causality could interfere with my freedom can only arise from an idolatrous notion of God as a very large and powerful creature—a part of the world. We see an ascending scale of powerful causes. The more powerful the cause, the more difference it makes. And we are inclined to locate God at the top of the scale, and to imagine that he makes the most difference of all. But God does not make the most difference. He makes, if you like, all the difference—which is the same as making no difference at all. So far as the kind of world we have is concerned, the atheist and the theist will expect to see exactly the same features. The only difference is that if the atheist were right the question would not arise—indeed, the atheist would not arise.

—Herbert McCabe (Faith Within Reason, 76)

I talked about this a bit in this post, but McCabe says it better. This point comes up in preaching and popular theology all the time, but its most egregious iteration is in worship music. I would be very happy to never again have to sing that God is better and bigger and stronger. I understand the sentiment, of course, but it begins to sound like a Kanye West song.

Friday’s Child

by W.H. Auden

(In memory of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred at Flossenbürg, April 9, 1945)
 
He told us we were free to choose
But, children as we were, we thought—
“Paternal Love will only use
Force in the last resort
 
On those too bumptious to repent.”
Accustomed to religious dread,
It never crossed our minds He meant
Exactly what He said.
 
Perhaps He frowns, perhaps He grieves,
But it seems idle to discuss
If anger or compassion leaves
The bigger bangs to us.
 
What reverence is rightly paid
To a Divinity so odd
He lets the Adam whom He made
Perform the Acts of God?
 
It might be jolly if we felt
Awe at this Universal Man
(When kings were local, people knelt);
Some try to, but who can?
 
The self-observed observing Mind
We meet when we observe at all
Is not alarming or unkind
But utterly banal.
 
Though instruments at Its command
Make wish and counterwish come true,
It clearly cannot understand
What It can clearly do.
 
Since the analogies are rot
Our senses based belief upon,
We have no means of learning what
Is really going on,
 
And must put up with having learned
All proofs or disproofs that we tender
Of His existence are returned
Unopened to the sender.
 
Now, did He really break the seal
And rise again? We dare not say;
But conscious unbelievers feel
Quite sure of Judgement Day.
 
Meanwhile, a silence on the cross,
As dead as we shall ever be,
Speaks of some total gain or loss,
And you and I are free
 
To guess from the insulted face
Just what Appearances He saves
By suffering in a public place
A death reserved for slaves.

 

A Benedict Aesthetic?

I’m ambivalent about Rod Dreher, his ‘Benedict Option,’ and this New Yorker profile, but I can enthusiastically endorse these two bits from the piece:

“Part of the problem with religion is that it can just be an aestheticization of life,” a young Orthodox priest from Yonkers said. “It’s still late-modern capitalism working its insidious tentacles. We need a vocabulary to get outside of that.”

Amen. I think that just about covers what’s missing from many BenOp discussions–and also what a great number of millenials (this one included!) are tempted to. And then there’s this sly repurposing of that MacIntyre quote that won’t go away:

Afterward, Dreher and the other panelists retreated to the club’s library. Bartenders served the Benedict Option (“another—doubtless very different—cocktail,” made with whiskey, amaro, St-Germain, lemon juice, and simple syrup).  

 

How To See The Resurrection

 

What makes the Resurrection faith real, is the people on whose faces there is some reflection of the reality of the present risen Jesus, his lordship and his glory expressed in the courage and fidelity of his friends and servants. Folk like me can go on nattering about the Resurrection, but it’s the confessors and martyrs and saints who show it in its reality.

— Rowan Williams

The Most Memorable Thing I Read Last Year

So opens Herbert McCabe’s sermon ‘Forgiveness.’ The rest is just as measured and memorable as this first paragraph. It’s the best treatment of the parable of the prodigal son that I have read and, two months into this new year, the piece of writing that’s stuck with me most since reading it last year. 

Perhaps I’ll write about it more later but for now an exhortation: Read the rest.