Maybe it's about the whited sepulchre. All formal and good on the outside but did any of the purification offered get inside. I ask myself that every time I don't seem to be the kind of example I think a good Christian ought to be. And it's not about looking down on someone else who doesn't see what I see. It's about wishing that they'd get the grace to see the riches they are presented with.
Dear Bob ...
I just happen to be 'in town' and dropped in on this thread and really have not read it all yet. I was going through it getting the favor of the thread … and stopped here at your words above.
I think your words (the thought they represent) is very profound.
I am real tired tonight my 2 cents ... may not be worth much.
The crux of the question is: The holiness that it is the church's responsibility to present to us (and to the world) ... as differentiated from our individual or personal holiness.
Where does our personal holiness come from??
In a way … there are two schools of thought. And these two beliefs often pull at each one of us - at the same time. One day we feel this way and the next day we feel that way - or they can collide in us and we are really confused.
It is absolutely true that we all (at times) use the church as a wobbie-blanket. You know ... that security blanket that a child drags around everywhere and sucks on a corner of it - and feels secure and safe when he has it and in total panic if it can‘t be found (mom is washing it).
Being humans - I think we all have our seasons of doing that wobbie thing. I know I have had my seasons of doing that.
Allow me to thrown out some thoughts to kick around.
Is it wrong? (using the church as a security blanket) .. well .. in the ultimate ... using the church as a security blanket (and only as such) does not do one a bit of good for personal holiness. No matter what anyone else may say ... I say that we can not ride on the coat tails of the church as a method to get into heaven (whatever heaven may be). God demands our cooperation as he forms us into his own image ... and THAT cooperation takes place ‘out there’ in the events of daily life. The people we work with, the strangers we meet, the hard times we weather, the goods that we can reach for that may hinder us ... etc.
Personal holiness ... really does not happen as a result of going to church and rituals ... it takes place 'out there' in the everyday life we have in the world and the choices we make everyday by conscience or not. That
is the real theater in which Providence (hidden inside and behind so many seemingly mundane daily events) does His work on us. This same path to holiness (cooperation with God through our conscience while involved in what appears to us to be normal and natural daily events) is available to every human no matter his religion. Sanctification is not exclusive to this or that ... or any ... particular church - for the simple reason that no church (not one) can sanctify - anyone. This thought had often been codified in early Church Councils under the rubric that the salvific sacraments of the church - are not - magic. They do nothing by themselves. They are only effective in the fertile ground of a good conscience and the accumulation of virtue (another was to say cooperation with Providence in our daily lives) which fertile ground can be had by any man anywhere..
The idea that the church saves us … if we assiduously attend rituals etc.. is certainly an enticing one. As if we absorb holiness simply by attending church services and do all the rituals well .. A member in good standing. And certainty at the height of political (social) Christianity (Christendom) ... When the Western church went so far as to define union with Peter as the only means to salvation … one was made to feel that membership in the church … social and political … actually made one holy just by that membership alone. If one accepted the primacy of the Pope … and abided by all church laws and regulations for membership - salvation was assured. So in crept the concept that the church imparted salvation to its members. To this day that idea remains very strong and is at the root of any ideas of church exclusivity (MY church is the TRUE church and YOUR church is not).
Guilt (good ole Roman Catholic guilt) was a powerful weapon to keep the political structure of the church intact. You are guilty and only we (this particular church) can fix that (you had better be a member). And so the action of Providence (the only REAL thing that makes anyone holy) in everyday life - faded away to be replaced by social and political membership in a particular church..
So - one need not look to far to find where it is that we laity have this nagging feeling that our membership in the church (and attendance at ritual) automatically imparts holiness into us (we absorb it in some way) and that attendance to church will overflow into our daily lives and should ease and smooth everyday life for us. If we attend church - holiness will spill over into normal daily life.
So - this though - is what Father Schmemann is trying to get at. However the way he is trying to do it - is to say that what is happening is not real effective because people are not absorbing well what church has to offer. Holiness is not being transferred to the people. Father Schmemann in trying to understand why attending church is really not being effective to change people - and is assuming that the presentation
must be done - better. The presentation must be more effective.
There is certainly nothing wrong with a more effective presentation of the treasures and guidance of the church. As long as a balance (or continuity) is maintained between tradition (the past) and a more relative expression to us of the 21st century culture.
But as you note well … someone who IS doing the daily cooperation with Providence .. WILL be thrilled at church even if the human aspect of the presentation is lacking and dull. And that person will wonder why everyone else is not as thrilled as he is. What’s wrong with them!!?? Can’t they see how wonderful this all is???!!
The truth is - some are there to absorb holiness from the church (wobbie blanket) … and some are there because being there compliments the way they live their own life in cooperation with Providence day by day.
Q: Which am I?
A: The answer to that is day by day and week by week.
Sometimes I want my wobbie and sometimes I am looking for a little assistance and encouragement for when I go back out there and have to deal moment by moment at trying to live my daily life by my conscience with each event that comes to me.
Ultimately - there are no inviolable steadfast rules that one can live his life by (there is no rule book). We WANT these rules in order to learn and apply (note the Roman Catholic catechism is now over 800 pages!!). But union with God remains on the mystical level (an existential and dynamic experience). We would like
holiness to be something we can learn (like school) and graduate and be certified in. I spent 14 years in school and I am now a Doctor, a lawyer, policeman, etc… I spend plenty of time in church so I must be saintly!. So we have this habit of thinking “I go to church and know all the rules .. So I must be holy” (or at least not guilty any longer). The original idea of Protestantism was that the Bible (not the Pope) WAS that rule book.
Now the funny human thing about all this is ... that when we do not have (or are involved with) personal holiness on a day to day level - we automatically switch over to 'wobbie mode'.
Our nature MUST have God. That is built right into us. No way around it. And if we do not have the real living God (alive and active in a mystical union with our conscience) then that hole (lack of the real living God) which abhors a vacuum - fills that place with a reasonable facsimile (an idol of God).
Do you see that? Does it makes sense to you?
When Eve was tossed out of the garden (Eve represents our psychological mind of thoughts and reasoning) that exile is equal to the place where God should be alive in us - - - is now empty and void. This condition is totally against how our nature was designed. Our psychological mind (Eve) automatically creates a reasonable-facsimile and fills that spot with an image (idol) of God. And so Eve says upon the birth of Seth “I have made for myself … a god.”
(The English translation of that passage “I have given birth with the help of god” is wrong).
The sense of that passge is that if we are not in a living union with the living God - our psychological mind will automatically create (give birth to) a replacement that we can follow and worship as it it were God.
Now isn’t that exactly what we humans do?? Yes it is.
For some - our god is money. For others our god is politics, power, sexual pleasure, and for some the idol which stand in the place where God should be is - religious fundamentalism.
And so the Church (material and earthy with rules and rituals) will always be - both. That is: transparent through which we can see the real living God which can not be known by the senses AND opaque by which we believe God to be rituals and rules and membership.
It depends upon our own personal state of soul at the time.
This is why I have sometimes said that the Church is the ONLY idol which God allows us. And only reluctantly too.
What is missing?? What is the catalyst
which transforms the idol-church into a transparent window through which we can experience the living God himself …?? what is the alchemy which turns lead into gold?? and (most importantly) HOW shall we know the difference between the idol and the real McCoy???
It is not - the presentation. Father Schmemann is mistaken, but understandable so, and I admire him for even recognizing a problem and nearing the subject. The Church does not impart holimess to anyone ... that is the task of Providence alone. The Church CAN assist us ... IF and only if ... we ourselves make the ground fertile (good conscience and cooperation with Providence on a daily level).
Father Schmemann has missed the mark of what the catalyst (that turns a wobbie into an assistant to personal holiness) ... is. But I preach to the choir because you already know what the catylist is Bob. It is present in your life. It is bound up in our personal pray and how we pray. Not all prayer is transforming. There is much ignorance and plenty of misinformation regarding personal prayer. meditation, and contemplation. Too many books written by people who would like to have us think of them as holy and that they know all about prayer hen they really do not.
My post here is already too long and I have to make out a job application needed tomorrow … so the catalyst will have to wait.
Peace be to all who live by conscience and know how to cooperate with Providence.