Thoughts of Hope

The path of society today has shown itself as moving farther and farther from the Judeo-Christian values that built it – both here and in Europe.  This week’s tragic decision on Marriage is just the latest in clarion examples that prove this.  It is now painfully obvious that Christianity needs to come to terms with a new paradigm which an op-ed in Time Magazine proclaims ‘Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country’[1]

But should this worry us? Yes and No.

Yes

Our efforts to proffer the Gospel message as the best path for mankind to take is seriously ignored and ridiculed. We have been relegated to the sidelines as an annoyance – to some a threat.  Through our own inactions as apostolic descendants we have placed our message in limbo.  We don’t act as we speak and, truth be told, we rarely speak our faith anyways.  And through our actions we have shown that we don’t really live our faith.  The misguided belief that if our society doesn’t agree with the Gospel then we should just allow society’s ideas to be our own (as seen in numerous attempts to bend ideas to fit our faith) just howls of hypocrisy – and people see and understand it as such. We have led ourselves into some uncertain waters that could lead to persecution.

No

Our journey since the Lord ascended home has shown great periods of persecution, laxity, desertion and confusion.  During these times our Holy Mother Church has been purified, re-tooled and continued in a stronger fashion.  The Roman persecution saw savagery against our Church only to see great growth afterwards. The 13th century saw Holy Mother Church wallowing in self-indulgence and from this we saw the great mendicant orders started by St. Dominic and St. Francis re-energize the Christian world. And on and on. So we can hold on to hope that though we might struggle through our time on earth – God’s plan continues no matter what mankind throws in His way.

Our Heavenly Father doesn’t wish for our waywardness and failure – He doesn’t wish to ‘clean house’ and start afresh – He desires our success.  But He knows our struggles and He understands the pressures exerted on us by Satan and, yes, ourselves.  We hear in the Gospel of St. John Christ tell us that He has a plan for this: ‘Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.[2]  As scary as this sounds it is a much more loving correction that what He visited on Sodom and Gomorrah, what He tried during Noah’s time.

Years ago, then Cardinal Ratzinger made a shocking statement, at least at the time, and though rather lengthy it needs to be reflected on in total:

‘From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision.

As a small society, she will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly she will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Alongside this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. 

But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize her true center and experience the sacraments again as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship. 

The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystalization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. 

The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism of the eve of the French Revolution—when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain—to the renewal of the nineteenth century. 

But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. 

Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret. 

And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already with Gobel, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.’[3]

Brothers and sisters, we have seen terrible decisions made in our lifetimes, this week’s decision by the Supreme Court is just another in abominations done in the name of love.  We can see the continued and increasing threats to our faith, our ability to live our faith and probably even our freedom.  We have every reason to be sadden and worry – but never despair; and never resignation.  We have the right of it because we have been given truth from our creator.  If our church is entering a retooling then we continue the good fight and accept God’s will.  If we remain true to Christ He will remain true to us and Holy Mother Church will come out on the other side of this period stronger and more vibrant.  So I proudly say what is hanging on our front door: ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.[4]

——————————————————————————————————————–

[1] http://time.com/3938050/orthodox-christians-must-now-learn-to-live-as-exiles-in-our-own-country/
[2] John 15: 2-3 (RSV)
[3] Glaube un Zukunft (1970) Faith and the Future (1971/2006)
[4] Joshua 24:15b (RSV)

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