JANUARY 18-25: CHRISTIAN UNITY WEEK

SO AS TO BREATHE WITH BOTH LUNGS…

 

“It is in the measure that the spiritual experience of the diverse traditions is shared that the ecumenical dialogue will exceed a conventional and speculative theology and become truly living and fruitful” (Fr. Boris Bobrinskoy)

[1]

 

The ecumenical dialogue finds its living and true expression by a sharing of spiritual experience and interior life. What is our spiritual experience and through what liturgical forms do we live it? Are we able to understand and share with others our interior life?

At the source of ecumenism lies a desire, the desire to share the amazement of a special meeting, a meeting that has changed our life.

“The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people, “Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ?”” (John 4:28-29)

 

THE FOUNDATION OF THE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

 

The experience of holiness in the Orthodox Church is primarily to become consciously Christian thanks to the divine life communicated through baptism - chrismation (since these two sacraments are inseparable for the Orthodox) and the eucharist.

 

“This divine “energy” that is conferred on the Christian through baptism – chrismation and the eucharist is also built on the profound meaning of the Scriptures read “in Church.” And the Scriptures find their summary in a certain sense in the very Name of God “the savior”, the liberator who is expropriated of every proper name on the cross except that of Love: that is to say, the name of Jesus in which all holiness is concentrated… To be Christian means to be “incorporated” in Christ as Saint Paul says, to be called to die in Christ and live of his resurrection. Thus the baptismal grace becomes like the sum and the rhythm of our existence.” [2]

 

To live “in Christ” means:

-         To live in “the Church”, for the Church is the sacramental body of Christ,

-         To live “in the Spirit”, the gift received from the Father at baptism – chrismation,

-         To live “in the Trinity”, for the Spirit through Christ brings us to the Father.

 

Our very existence is the fruit of a “circulation of love”. In which the gift of his Son that the Father makes and the gratuitous gift that the Son makes of his life, bring forth in us, the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit. It is love at the start of our life.

The beginning of all existence is a movement that finds its source in “a will to love” freely and gratuitously.


 

It is “by emptying himself” on the cross that Christ permitted the power of love to manifest itself. That is why in the Orthodox tradition the cross is the most evident sign of the resurrection. The man of dolors is inseparable from the Transfigured man.

 

  THE CHRISTIAN A LITURGICAL MAN

The Orthodox experience of holiness underlines the importance of what is useless according to the criteria of this world… But exactly, in this tradition, liturgical prayer and liturgical experience are basic… The first experience of mystery is lived in the liturgy.

The liturgical life is not only to announce the Good News, but the sharing of a new life…”[3]

The celebration of Divine liturgy is above all an invitation to experience the joy and the beauty of the future Kingdom. The chants, the icons, the candles, the incense dispose all of our faculties to take part in the joy and the beauty of meeting God.

 

  THE CHRISTIAN A MAN WHO LETS HIMSELF BE EXAMINED AND ILLUMINATED

 

“We know very well that we are prisoners in this world subject to death; we also know that at times a face can become an overture, but we also know that this overture is furtive and that faces close up. To become a Christian means to discover the Face that never closes itself and that a Friend is looking at me, in the deepest obscurity of my hell, with a look that does not paralyze but frees me.

The Face of the Crucified – Risen One is absolute beauty.

To enter into the “great joy”, in the gratuitous joy of the liturgy, means to at least enter into a reflection of this beauty…”[4]

Our existence is explained by a look that comes to rest on us. It is the look of the face of the transfigured Christ that gives us true existence.

 

“When Moses came down from the mountain of Sinai—as he came down from the mountain, Moses had the two tablets of Testimony in his hands—he did not know that the skin on his face was radiant after speaking with Yahweh…

And when Moses had finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. Whenever he went into Yahweh’s presence to speak with him, Moses would remove the veil until he came out again. And when he came out, he would tell the sons of Israel what he had been ordered to pass on to them, and the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he returned to speak with Yahweh [5]

 

Jean Guitton says in one of his books dealing with the connection between science and faith: “Let us never forget this essential principle of quantum theory: the very act of observation, in other words the consciousness of the observer, intervenes in the definition and, still more deeply, in the very existence of the observed object: the observer and the thing observed form only one system…” [6]

Our faith reveals to us that we exist because a look of love is constantly on us. If God turns his look away from us, he takes away our very existence. As someone already remarked concerning the famous “cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am) of Descartes, it finds its most complete expression in the “cogitor ergo sum” (I am thought, therefore I am).

 

Father d’Alzon had understood this truth very well and left us a beautiful prayer that still helps us today to nourish our spiritual life and understand the deep dignity of human nature that man discovers through the light of the suffering and transfigured Christ.In his reflection on the crucifix, he asserts:

“my children, it seems very hard for me to understand that your crucifix would not become for you a friend, a confidant; or that Our Lord will love you, teach you, strengthen you through his image… It will no longer be only the wood or the metal that will reproduce the traits of the Savior for you: they will be imbedded in a living way in your soul. You will feel the most immediate activity of the one who was attached to the cross for you; you will want to be transformed in him and say as Saint Paul “To live, for me, is Jesus Christ”…” [7]

To look at the Christ, or more precisely to accept to be looked at by him means, as the Orthodox tradition teaches so clearly, to let oneself be transfigured through the light of the Risen One.

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Notes


[1] « La douloureuse joie. Aperçus sur la prière personnelle de l’Orient Chrétien ».  SPIRITUALITE ORIENTALE, n. 14. ABBAYE DE LA BELLEFONTAINE, p.7

[2] O. CLEMENT, Prolégomènes,  « La douloureuse joie. Aperçus sur la prière personnelle de l’Orient Chrétien ».  SPIRITUALITE ORIENTALE, n. 14. ABBAYE DE LA BELLEFONTAINE, pp15-16

[3] O. CLEMENT, Prolégomènes,  « La douloureuse joie. Aperçus sur la prière personnelle de l’Orient Chrétien ».  SPIRITUALITE ORIENTALE, n. 14. ABBAYE DE LA BELLEFONTAINE, p. 18

[4] O. CLEMENT, Prolégomènes,  « La douloureuse joie. Aperçus sur la prière personnelle de l’Orient Chrétien ».  SPIRITUALITE ORIENTALE, n. 14. ABBAYE DE LA BELLEFONTAINE, p. 19

[5] Ex. 34,29.33-35

[6] J. GUITTON, “Dieu et la science”, GRASSET, Paris, 1991, p. 127

[7] E. D’ALZON, Ecrits Spirituels, pp.1230-1231

 

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