Thursday, November 17, 2005
A Wounded Universe ... The current issue of Commonweal has a very beautiful column by the Orthodox priest John Garvey entitled "A Wounded Universe: And the Kingdom Yet to Come." I would like to share a few paragraphs: Although membership in a church is in most cases a precondition for faith, it is not the same thing as faith, which involves a risk, a profound change of heart. In this sense the evangelicals who speak of being born again have a point, although the danger is that the conversion of heart we are called to can be reduced to an emotional experience, and leave us, once more, more or less where we were to begin with. St John Chrysostom has a series of short prayers, one for every hour of the day. The first is, "Lord help me to make a beginning." How do we do that? Perhaps what is missing from our ordinary sensibility is an awareness of the eschatological, the understanding that Christianity is finally a faith that Christ will come again; and that the wounded universe will be made what it was meant to be, for the first time, at last congruent completely with the will of God. We are too much at home in the world as it is, and don't yearn enough for the universe as God wants it to be. Maybe we are afraid to look too much like the people who take the goofy Left Behind series seriously. You can't read the New Testament, though, without becoming aware that the yearning for Christ's return pervades the Gospels, Paul's epistles, and the first epistle of John. Part of the problem may be that we have lost the sense of the universe as itself a wounded reality. The sufferings of animals, the illnesses, physical and mental, suffered by so many people, the storms that kill thousands, were traditionally seen as somehow involved with the power of sin and evil in a fallen universe; we have separated physical and moral evil, for reasons that seem sound, intellectually, but have perhaps led us to think of the world we experience as if it were the world God intended from the beginning. The story of Adam's sin reflects a sense of something wrong that predates humanity, something primordial. Our need to be saved from this, to see everything in the universe finally liberated from bondage, is not something we hear preached very often. But it is part of the teaching of Christ. It pervades the New Testament and is present in our prayers: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." When our worship lacks the sense that we receive the bread of the kingdom that is yet to come, we have moved away from an understanding essential to the meaning of the New Testament. That yearning for the kingdom, taken to heart, might be a beginning.