I don’t know whether this will be a lone post, the first of a coherent series, or just the start of some jottings but I thought in the shower this morning that it is about time I tried to write about the experience of ChronicFatigueSyndrome as a person of faith and, indeed, an erstwhile theologian.
Suffering is an important issue for Christian theology. All religious belief systems hold out some kind of promise of some kind salvation from suffering; but Christians have had to contend from the beginning with the fact that the founding figure of our faith suffered, died, and was buried. We have had to make sense of the Passion and Resurrection. How do we say that suffering can be the locus of God’s own activity without making God a monster or an incompetent?
A friend sent me a newspaper cutting today–from the The Observer a few weeks back–about the work of Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ in LA with gang members. When I was in California I used to visit Greg’s community and he always impressed the hell out of me.
Father Greg Boyle keeps a grim count of the young gang members he has buried. Number 151 was Jonathan Hurtado, 18 – fresh out of jail. Now the kindly, bearded Jesuit mourns him. ‘The day he got out I found him a job. He never missed a day. He was doing really well,’ Boyle says.
But Hurtado made a mistake: he went back to his old neighbourhood in east Los Angeles. While sitting in a park, Hurtado was approached by a man on a bike who said to him: ‘Hey, homie, what’s up?’ He then shot Hurtado four times. ‘You can’t come back. Not even for a visit,’ says Boyle, who has worked for two decades against LA’s gang culture.
As well as the links above I’ve also included a clip featuring Greg from a Jesuit vocations video from a few years back.
The clip is the middle of three if you want to see the rest.
I’ve just read (thanks to Matt) a superb piece of journalism from the Washington Post about a little experiment: put one of the world’s best violinists, with one of the world’s best violins, playing some of the world’s best violin music in a subway station and watch what happens.
The article is fascinating. The accompanying recording is marvellous. And, in gratitude, I’ve been staring out of my window watching spring unfurl.
Coming soon … updates to the posts plugins. Quite a few changes have built up over the last few weeks that I haven’t had time to properly release. I hope I can make sure that the changes cover the whole set of plugins — that should teach me to keep better records rather than rushing out little fixes in response to feature requests.
With its dramatic transition from darkness to light and fire the Easter Vigil rather betrays by compression the grace of resurrection. In our living of it the joy of the resurrection often has to creep up on us. Ignatius says that the Risen Christ ‘comes in the office of consoler’ and that implies we meet him and find his consolation and share his joy only if we are in the honesty of our need to be consoled.
The Easter Sunday gospels are truer to life–they always focus on the emptiness of the empty tomb. Our Easter begins with an absence. A blank page waiting to be written upon.
Von Balthasar’s insistence, which I wrote of yesterday, that the Paschal Mystery not be made natural reveals something of his approach to the perennial issue of the interrelationship of nature and grace. He has an absolute conviction of the chasm between the two, between infinite and finite, between Creator and creature, that is only bridged from the other side when God, by grace and gift, makes the move to which we can respond.
How differently von Balthasar’s contemporary Karl Rahner approaches the subject. For Rahner nature is only ever a ‘limit concept’. As we experience the world ‘nature’ is always ‘graced’ and the two can only be spoken about separately on the understanding that they can never be prised apart. It leads Rahner in a somewhat different direction to von Balthasar:
The Independent newspaper has celebrated Good Friday with a pullout of poetry about spring. There’s something very tempting about lining up the rebirth of nature as winter ends and the resurrection of Jesus at Easter. Tempting but, I think misleading. I was convinced by von Balthasar that naturalising the Paschal Mystery is a mistake. There’s a natural process, however, we try to be surprised by it, that leads us from winter to spring–we count on it, literally–but there is no natural process to lead from death to life. The Resurrection isn’t a sequel; it’s a shocking gift we could never have foreseen, no matter how much we desired. Our hope in resurrection is precisely that, hope, and not any kind of outcome we can predict, manipulate, or work toward–we trust in the goodness and creativity of God.
Let me undermine my argument with a poem by Hopkins. The Indo used his ‘Spring’. I thought this might be more suitable for Good Friday:
Well my flirtation with new meds was brief. They were supposed to help with my sleep patterns, make the adrenaline anxiety easier to handle and help with the pain. I didn’t get past the first few days of restlessness, racing thoughts, agitation, and insomnia. The hardest part was trying to sit and pay attention in spiritual direction when my concentration was non-existent–though it did take my mind off the aches and pains. Score one for CFS. Maybe the doc will have some other recommendations.
A number of writers have been posting about atonement recently and Crystal challenged me to post something on the topic. It made me think of a paper I wrote a good few years ago on the relationship between creation and redemption–in particular exploring some of the implications of a theological aesthetics. Along the way it winds back and forth among some of the issues of a theology of atonement–perhaps denying such a thing is possible. For any who are interested here it is as a pdf file. Beware though if you are in a Holy Week mood as it focuses on Easter.