Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Today I was talking with a friend of mine. Brother C. is a married Anglican Franciscan monk under and in the Celtic monastic tradition - the tensions implicit in the previous statement are beyond my ability to fully understand or resolve - whom I have found to be thoughtful, deep, and the instigator of further thought.

The problem with Puritans, he said, is that they start with the Fall.

A simple statement, but it got me thinking.

Orthodox do not start with the Fall, but with Eden. We start with Paradise. And then, acknowledging the Fall, we move on to Resurrection, a Resurrection that is the climax to the crisis of the Cross. The two, interwoven, interlinked, entwined, paired. And in our temples, two icons paired: Crucifixion and Resurrection.

What we show at the front of our temples is not a moment, a gory, Passionate moment where Christ writhes endlessly under Roman torture, but a story, centred at a cross and a tomb (both empty), but also beginning in Incarnation and ending in Apocalypse, the story of Christ Jesus Emmanuel, God with us.

And it struck me forcibly that the lure of the Gospel is the invitation to share. Share in His suffering, share in His resurrection ... share in His baptism, His body, His blood. Share in the story.

I have recently walked through a very desolate place. There wasn't a lot of singing or dancing, or even praying, for that matter. Perhaps we - E. & I - were walking through a grave, walking through the shadow of Hades. I don't know. But God was present, all the time. He didn't say much, He didn't promise much, but it seems to me that He suffered with us, He shared with us in our desert place.

Theodicy: Suffering - evil - is a problem if the Cross is the cure to the Fall, if all Christ does is pay our dues to God. Because then why do we suffer? If our suffering is a consequence of the Fall and our sins, and Christ has paid these [and our forefathers'] sins off, suffering as a Christian feels like nothing more than vindictive malevolence.

But if the Gospel is an invitation to join in a divine story, then suffering is revealed as a condition of the world that Christ has walked through and continues to walk through with us, the better to share, the better to unite, the better simply to become friends.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A profound insight. And I have found that Catholics follow that train of thought as well, and then further, speaking of that relationship with Jesus Christ as a mutual sharing such that our suffering can have meaning if it is given to Jesus Christ as a gift to add to his sufferings for the purpose of redemption of others.

This explains what would be otherwise inexplicable in the writings of St. Paul when he says he has joy in suffering, and then the most inexplicable of all, when in Colossians 1:24 he says;

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I AM FILLING UP WHAT IS LACKING IN THE AFFLICTIONS OF Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church . . ."

That is a strong and troublesome statement unless one has the Orthodox or Catholic mind with respect to suffering, which I think is likely the case with your Anglican Franciscan friend.

I know some Catholics who would consider suffering "wasted" if not offered to Christ for him to use.