Guard Your Peace!

A friend of mine who is a Priest reported in a homily that once he was talking to a friend of his, who is a Bishop: not his own Bishop, mind you, but rather a trusted friend and mentor. My friend, the priest, was complaining about all kinds of things until it went from simply whinging to nearly ranting. Suddenly the Bishop said, rather loudly, “Father! Guard your peace!”

I thought of that story recently reading in 1 Peter where the Apostle, quoting from the Psalms, urges us who would “Love life and see good days” to, among other things, “seek peace and ensue it”. What is peace? What am I not only supposed to seek and to ensue (chase after)?  I found the following from Strong’s to be of great interest on the word “peace” or ειρηνη in Greek:

irḗnē (from eirō, “to join, tie together into a whole”) – properly, wholeness, i.e. when all essential parts are joined together; peace (God’s gift of wholeness).

It ties in well, pun intended, with several other important Greek words: σῴζω – to make whole (also “to save”); from whence we also get σωτήρ – the one who makes us whole (also “savior”), ie Jesus. I found myself wondering if “Salvation” might not be seen as this “peace” that the Bishop was asking my friend to “guard”.

Christian salvation is not the following:

  1. We sin.
  2. God exiles us from Heaven/banishes us to Hell.
  3. Jesus paid for our sins.
  4. We get into Heaven/get out of Hell free.

There are many claiming to be Christian who teach that. But the Church founded by Christ has never taught it.  Salvation Can’t be taught in a sound bite or in a four-point tract from Campus Crusade. Here rather, is the Faith Once Delivered to the Saints:

  • God is Life.
  • There is a difference between Life (which can never end) and just breathing – which will stop. The difference is so great that the New Testament has two different words for these two different types of living.
  • Our primary calling is to God’s Life – but our weakness leads us into distraction.  
  • Our distraction divides us from the divine Life, loops us into ourselves. Our desires become what feeds us: we settle for smog and dust rather than the pure, clean air of the mountainside.
  • We confuse our petty choices and appetites with divine promptings. We mistake our passions for our souls.
  • We end up eating to survive, killing to get on with only breathing. When food runs out or our age and weakness destroy our ability to get food or our other desires, we stop breathing.
  • Then we die.
  • Try as we might humans have never found a way to get over that cycle – or to simply give up be satisfied with being trapped in it. We know there is something more: we feel it in our guts. 
  • Denying that gut feeling leads to depression, psychosis, megalomania, fear, hate. More death.
  • Humanity runs this road together, Over and over.
  • Jesus is God – Life – grafted into humanity. (We are all one; Jesus is one of us. God is one of us.)
  • God’s life is connected to us.
  • Jesus heals the division, restores our wholeness.
  • We need only to live it (by first changing our mind about what real living actually is) in order to participate in the healing of the division between us and God, between us and each other. 
  • Living God’s life makes us whole, heals us.
  • Brings us peace.

But it is so easy to get distracted.

Guard your peace.

St Vincent and Development of Doctrine

Is there to be no development of doctrine in Christ’s Church? Certainly there should be great development. Who could be so grudging towards his fellow men and so hostile to God as to try to prevent it? But care should be taken to ensure that it really is development of the faith and not alteration. Development implies that each point of doctrine is expanded within itself, while alteration suggests that a thing has been changed from what it was into something different.

It is desirable then that development should take place, and that there should be a great and vigorous growth in the understanding, knowledge and wisdom of every individual as well as of all the people, on the part of each member as well as of the whole Church, gradually over the generations and ages. But it must be growth within the limits of its own nature, that is to say within the framework of the same dogma and of the same meaning.

Let religion, which is of the spirit, imitate the processes of the body. For, although bodies develop over the years and their individual parts evolve, they do not change into something different. It is true that there is a great gap between the prime of youth and the maturity of later years, but the people who reach these later years are the same people who once were adolescents. So, although the size and outward appearance of any individual may change, it is still the same person, and the nature remains the same.

The limbs of infants are tiny, while those of young men are large, but they are the same limbs. The man has no more parts to his body than the little child; and if there are parts that appear with age and greater maturity they are already present earlier in embryo. As a result, it can be said that nothing new is produced in old men that was not already present in an undeveloped form when they were boys.

There is no doubt, then, that this is the correct and legitimate rule for development and the best and most striking order of growth, if the passage of years sees those parts evolve in the adult, which the Creator in his wisdom had prepared in him beforehand when he was a child.

But if the human form is changed into some shape that is not of its own kind, or at least if something is added or taken away from the full compliment of its members, than the whole body must perish or become a monster or at least be weakened in some way. It is fitting, then, that Christian doctrine too should follow these laws of development, so that with the passage of years it may be strengthened, with time it may make progress and with age it may achieve greater profundity.

Long ago our ancestors sowed the seeds of the faith in the field of the Church. It would be quite incongruous and wrong if their descendants were to reap the weeds of error in place of the harvest of truth.

St Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium, 1, 23; The Divine Office III.

Humans Being Human Beings

So I think I finally got it – or at least had it for a moment – it comes and goes.  Sitting in a hotel room in Manila being bored off my backside (I hear it now, only boring people can be bored) and wondering what to do when the Maid gets here to clean up my mess, I think I got it again.
Saints are the only fully-human beings out there.  The rest of us are striving for it, following this plan or that plan with faddish delight, or gym-bunny urgency, or lackadaisical lack of energy becoming a teenager wearing too much black to move this week.
Gay people can’t be saints.  Neither can straight people.
Black people can’t be saints.  Neither can white people.
Women can’t be saints.  Neither can men.
Only Human Beings can be saints.  You may be male, female, slave or free, attracted to the same or opposite sex, wearing dresses or jeans or bow ties and John Lennon glasses or Elton John Sunglasses, but only by walking away from all that in to fully Human Being can you be saved.
I’m ok, with debating what it means to be saved at this point. I know there are different version of the idea out there: but what I’m clear on is this really recent, late 20th Century Idea of “I Do it Because You Ain’t The Boss of Me” is as reactive as “I hear and obey”.  Claiming to be an self-generating and self-empowered ego is, well, exactly that: an ego. The Church has an idea of how to help people to be persons, of how to turn egos into saints.  So does Buddhism, so does Paganism, so do even a few secularists.  We all disagree on what it means, so you still have to pick.  I get that. But Oprah’s idea of stare at your belly in love until you love yerself enough to love others is about you – not about becoming human beings. None of us are human yet. We’re only trying to be with varying degrees of success. And if we were already human everyone else around us would be human as well.
Being a self generating ego point is objectifying in the first person, the second person and the third person. Being human subjectifies everyone around us – we all become points of ambient intercommunion  And I don’t know anyone like that yet – least of all me. Although I have been blessed to know some who came close.
Sure, God loves you, but if you really loved God you’d get off your ass and start to lose some of that psychic obesity you’ve gained sitting on the couch letting your spiritual arteries harden. If you think it’s all about you knowing God loves you, then you may be all you care about. God loving you doesn’t make you human, though: it means only that you have a shot at becoming one.  God expects something more from you than you’ve yet done. It does, however, mean you’re worthy of becoming human.
You do have the right to remain silent. Claiming to be human and demanding “human rights” is the first sign you’re not.