Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Looking over both the comment box, and especially my private emails, the idea of Christians of different traditions cooperating to support and sustain each others' spiritual formation work with their respective laity has struck a cord. What is especially interesting to me are the positive responses I have gotten from Orthodox Christian clergy who are otherwise not supportive of the official dialog that exists between the different Christian communities.

As I was reflecting on this I came upon the following post from Gil Bailie's blog, "Reflection of Faith and Culture":

"No discipline can survive the loss of inwardness."

Philip Rieff again:

Here we now see, with startling clarity, how little our established political distinctions between left and right, conservative and radical, revolutionary and reactionary, matter nowadays. Rather, any remaking of political distinctions will have to ask, first, whether there is in fact a discipline of inwardness, a mobilization for fresh renunciations of instinct; or whether there is only the discipline of outwardness, a mobilizing for fresh satisfactions of instinct. Such a distinction will divide contemporary men and movements more accurately; then we shall find fashionable liberals and fascists on the same side, where they really belong.

Rieff and Bailie are right on target. The reconciliation of Christians with ourselves is not primarily an outward movement, but an inward one. We able to reach out towards one another only if we move inward and deeper into our own traditions and ultimately into our own hearts.

When I was in Toronto last month, I found that the people I felt most connected to were not those with whom I would have necessarily agreed theologically, or politically, or morally. Rather, it was those who seemed to value and foster inwardness with whom I felt most connected.

This doesn't mean that we could or should move toward theological or political or ethical agreement--only that this agreement is the fruit of an inward turn and our willingness to foster stillness and listening. I suspect that much of the activity that characterize ministry and ecumenical work is a fleeing from inwardness, an implicit refusal, or at least fear, of communion.
We need, I need, no so much to still my desires, but rightly order them so that they serve my communion with God, my neighbor, creation and myself. We are made to be desiring, and desirable, beings--but when our desires are improperly ordered, when I desire lesser goods in place of greater goods for example, then I am in turmoil.

While it is good to desire unity among Christians, as many have pointed out, this unity must be a unity in faith and not simply an ability to find a mutually acceptable doctrinal or moral statement. But this shared faith is itself the fruit of silence--of a real inward turn that allows us to recognize the work of God's grace in ourselves and in each other.

To make this inward turn means we need to risk all the things that we are so attached to--our tradition, our positions, the prestige we have in our respective communities. Does this mean that, for example, everything is up for grabs? No. But it does mean, as our phenomenologist friends are found of saying, that our approach to those things which are essential and lasting will necessarily be sacrificed.

The divisions that afflict us run not between us, but through us--the source of schism and heresy, as well as the triumphalism and religious indifference that aids and abets our estrangements, our rooted in the human heart and so it is to our hearts we have to look for the solution.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory