Our good friend, The Lonely Pilgrim, is marking the ‘Year of Faith’ on his excellent blog by reaching out to all those who ask questions about the faith That is something in which, I hope, we shall all join him.
My own Archbishop, who is coming to the end of his tenure of the See of Canterbury, has made what I think is a notable contribution to reaching out, but, of course, as it makes good Christian sense and does not open the door to mockery, the media have, on the whole, ignored it. In a speech to the synod of bishops in Rome (a good ecumenical gesture on both sides), ++Rowan made a magnificent appeal for why our faith matters even more than ever.
He spoke, with his usual eloquence, about the connection between evangelisation and contemplation:
To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to all the fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our hearts. With our minds made still and ready to receive, with our self-generated fantasies about God and ourselves reduced to silence, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow. And the face we need to show to our world is the face of a humanity in endless growth towards love, a humanity so delighted and engaged by the glory of what we look towards that we are prepared to embark on a journey without end to find our way more deeply into it, into the heart of the trinitarian life. St Paul speaks (in II Cor 3.18) of how ‘with our unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord’, we are transfigured with a greater and greater radiance. That is the face we seek to show to our fellow-human beings.
This was not, however, some sort of appeal for the privatisation of the Faith and of belief – quite the opposite.
We seek to reflect the love of the Lord because ‘in this self-forgetting gazing towards the light of God in Christ we learn how to look at one another and at the whole of God’s creation.’ Growth in that mutual love is a key part of being a Christian and reaching out to others, and in that transformation of self, contemplation plays a key part:
To learn to look to God without regard to my own instant satisfaction, to learn to scrutinise and to relativise the cravings and fantasies that arise in me – this is to allow God to be God, and thus to allow the prayer of Christ, God’s own relation to God, to come alive in me. Invoking the Holy Spirit is a matter of asking the third person of the Trinity to enter my spirit and bring the clarity I need to see where I am in slavery to cravings and fantasies and to give me patience and stillness as God’s light and love penetrate my inner life. Only as this begins to happen will I be delivered from treating the gifts of God as yet another set of things I may acquire to make me happy, or to dominate other people.
That seems to me a profound reflection,