Today’s blog explores the gifts of both the Institutional/orthodox Church and the mystical, contemplative, interior church that I refer to as “the church of the Magdalene.”
Continuing Yesterday’s Discussion
Apparently yesterday’s blog stirred the ire of some readers. I will say it again, I am sorry if any readers took yesterday’s blog personally or thought I was shaking the finger of judgment at them. As a Perfectionist/Reformer (on the Enneagram), I am predisposed to see the world through the lens of “How can this be better?” and in my professional life, the common target of this question is the Institution of the Roman Catholic Church. Not because I hate it, mind you, but because I love it! I want my church to be a place where all people feel welcome, accepted, loved and honored for who they are. I am saddened when the very human Institution falls short of this hope.
Room for Orthodoxy
The Catholic Church as an Institution has stood strong and proud for 2000 some years and serves a very important role in the spiritual and religious experiences and beliefs of its members. The Church as an Institution creates form, structure, predictability, unity of belief and practice. You can go anywhere in the world, attend a Catholic mass and be able to participate. There is great gift in this form and structure as it can create a sense of security and safety in an often unpredictable world. We know where the Church stands on matters of morality, politics, and matters of social justice. We also know the chain of command and our role within that chain. The Institution of the Church creates order and for many people, this is important and necessary. The Institution also provides sound instruction in what members are expected to believe and how they are expected to act. Again, very important resources for many people. The Church also provides a sense of belonging. For those who qualify as “Catholic in good standing,” you know that you are accepted, you belong, you have a home and a community that you can turn to for comfort, support, guidance. These are all good things that feed and nurture many.
The Mystical Church
Here is where it gets messy…..especially for some. The Mystical/Contemplative church is pretty much the complete opposite from what is listed above. Instead of creating order, it stirs up chaos. Instead of offering rules, doctrine, strict guidelines, it invites us into our own personal discernement were we are called to discover God’s truth for us on our own (or with the help of a Spiritual Director). The black and white rules of orthodoxy are replaced with the grey matter of relativity….the only absolute truth being God….or whatever we want to call that. Instead of offering strict rubrics for worship and ritual, the Mystical church invites us to create our own. Rote repetitive prayer is expanded to include imagination, dreams, writing, inviting us into a deeply personal and intimate dialogue with God. In the Mystical church, instead of following the chain of command, we are invited to take it “straight to the top”, by-passing the human element and going directly to God. The final authority in the Mystical church is God, rather than the pope, cardinals and bishops. The Mystical church belongs to all of humanity and there is no separation by religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. All paths lead to God and all paths are honored as sacred. In the Mystical church, decisions are made through prayer, careful discernment, collaboration and concensus. Leadership looks more like a circle than a straight line. Can you see how this might not be for some…..even many?
The Church in a Perfect World (as defined by Lauri Lumby)
In a perfect world (at least according to me) there would be room for both expressions of the Christian experience. The Orthodox and Mystical churches would co-exist side by side in peaceful harmony and collaboration. Leaders and members would be formed and educated through both sound spiritual formation (Who am I? Whose am I? What are my gifts and how am I being called to use them?) as well as religious formation (rites and rituals, dogma and doctrine, theology, scriptural exegesis, church history, the study of church documents, canon law, etc.). Spiritual formation would inform religious formation and visa versa. Men, women, lay and ordained would all be included in this formation and leadership would be determined by the individuals’ specific charisms, not their gender. Ordination might be more broad…..perhaps all would be ordained to their specific call in the world and in the Church. Contemplation would be honored along side traditional forms of prayer. Religious dogma would be tested against discernment and the call to compassion. Primacy of Conscience would be valued in areas of morality with the final authority resting with God. Worship would include some wiggle room….room for interpretation of worship to expand beyond the strict rubrics of the Roman liturgy. I know, crazy, right?
Not in my lifetime
I realize that this vision of “the perfect Church” will most likely NOT be made manifest in my lifetime…if ever. And I have stopped beating my head against the wall of the Institution hoping they will hear the call to be open to the Mystical expression. And perhaps I am just a voice calling out in the wilderness….but I know there are people who resonate more clearly with the Mystical expression and hunger for its nourishment. So, here I am, offering it to those who would have it. In the spirit of this offering, I just wanted to remind you of the March 15th launch of the Agape’ Project – a subscription based newsletter that will give those who want it, tools for sound spiritual formation through scripture, meditation and contemplation exercises and educational materials that help us to grow in our understanding of what the scripture writers might have been trying to say. The newsletter is the culmination of my own 20 years of devoted prayer and contemplation, study and practice and I am humbled and honored to offer these tools in the hopes of helping others know the depth of love that arises out of the use of these kinds of tools. Going back to the mission of Authentic Freedom Ministries, to help you: Remember the Love That You Are!
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