Monday, August 11, 2008

An Imaginative Faith

Despite attempts from some in the Church to make adherence to rigid rules the only test of true faith, faith in Christ is founded on something much richer and more life-giving, much freer and more interesting than mere prescriptive formula for conduct and thought. An authentic Christian faith is at its core imaginative and extravagantly diverse. According to theologian Margaret Miles, one purpose of religion is to make us open to the tremendous diversity in experiences of embodiment, "receiving and delighting in the sensible world of bodies and things in all their multiplicity, particularity, and diversity." (Image as Insight, Wipf & Stock Publishers (2006) ISBN-13: 978-1597529020) It also opens us, or ought to open us to the diversity in ways of thinking and points of view all around us. In this way we are reminded that we are limited, created beings, that we are not God, and that we cannot contain God in our little narrow boxes, despite constant temptation to do so. God is much larger than we can imagine, but we must try. Looking around at the enormous variety which is visible everywhere is a constant reminder of that. We must also be ever attentive to our physical senses, paying attention to what delights us and gives us pleasure, noting what is around us, not closing it off or condemning it as outside what is acceptable within our own narrow view.
The responses of our bodies and the thoughts that interest us are to be noted and heeded, not suppressed or ignored. This is not to say that every whim ought to be followed. In fact it says the opposite, since it is the things of which we are not aware that lead us away from God. Our pleasurable responses inform us about our values, about the state of our souls. Awakening to them brings them into the light, and there is where we can make good choices about them. The things which truly give us pleasure ought to be attended to, because they are thereby likely to be life-orienting, besides the fact that the feelings they elicit also ground us in our embodiment.

At its core, the following of Christ is also about seeking for unity of body and mind. We must be able to take our own experiences and from them imagine other possibilities. In only this way can we get out of ourselves enough to recognize others as different from ourselves and at the same time good. Seeing from more than one viewpoint is a learned skill, one requiring constant attention to bodily sensations and the environment and at the same time constant questioning. The questions never allow us to become settled in our perceptions. We must be exceedingly careful with idealized representations of anything, including our ideals of what it means to follow Christ, especially if those start to become solidified and exclusive. God is always calling us to look beyond, to see and be something more than our desire for the familiar would lead us to. God is calling us to flourishing, not familiarity.


These photos are from the chapel at Sarah's, one of the ministries of my community. Click here to read more about Sarah's. Some of the stained glass windows there have window screens behind them, and this makes for a very interesting photographic effect, like impressionistic painting. I like to go over there during different seasons to see how the light and the plants, snow, etc. outside have changed them since my last visit.

Today I am grateful for: My local community and our nice house and beautiful yard; the safe return of Monica from Uganda; the CenterPeace Community; the opportunity that the Olympic Games afford us to see diverse artistic visions and ways of living.

Holding in prayer today: the Sisters continuing to minister in Uganda; Lilly in Mexico; the people of Tibet and China; the people of Georgia and Russia; the people of the U.S. and Iraq; the novices in our community; our new St. Joseph Workers, the Bachman family; JK, MB, PC, GV and others struggling with serious health issues; LM in her new job; Quentin and Toni.

3 comments:

St Edwards Blog said...

I just read a post at another blog that beautifully expressed the dynamism of grace and the effervescence of the Holy Spirit. This is the perfect next stop at a time when my heart is so open.

You say so many wise things here and I am moved.

There is so much to say about awareness and integration rather than diminishing things and disintegrating... 2000 years of Jesus trying to tell us that cutting off a hand is no way to deal with a thief and we are still so stuck.

Ignoring and subverting who we are is to deny much of the glory of God. I can write about this, but pressing it into practice in my daily life... well there is another matter altogether.

Breathe, walk, pray, move, be grateful,be. This is what I shall attempt to do today and your post will be with me as I go.

I will also take your prayers to the table with me this morning as I attend mass.

Peace to you and gratitude.
Fran

claire said...

"God is always calling us to look beyond, to see and be something more than our desire for the familiar would lead us to. God is calling us to flourishing, not familiarity."
I like this very much.
Jesus is calling us to meet him in Galilee. Galilee is ahead of me, hence I need to move forward in the hope of meeting Him. In the meantime, I meet people who announce Him to me.
You do. Thank you.
PS: Thank you also for the beautiful art and photos :-)

Missy Francis said...

" It also opens us, or ought to open us to the diversity in ways of thinking and points of view all around us. In this way we are reminded that we are limited, created beings, that we are not God, and that we cannot contain God in our little narrow boxes, despite constant temptation to do so."

This is another beautiful post. It expands the poem in the next.

The windows are indeed gorgeous. What a beautiful worship space.