Sunday, August 12, 2007

Quiet, Meek Brilliance

The theme of "storied" existence is being examined over at Father Stephen's blog--that is, that we often, in our culture, live as though the heavens and the earth occupy two mutually exclusive arenas of existence. Our challenge, then, is to experience the epiphany (and abide in said epiphanic existence) that the two are not separate but united, yet without confusion; in other words, what has been accomplished in the span of a God-Man's transfigured body has also been applied to the whole of the cosmos.

wpe14.jpg (11975 bytes)What is maddening to me is the refusal of God to break in, angel choirs blaring, and announce this triumphantly and in unignorable fashion to folks other than those already willing and capable of bearing it...and, often, those who experience Tabor experience more light and stillness than sound and fury, the latter being the M.O. to which this world is addicted and which, so it would try to convince us, is the only reliable way to make an impact. Squeaky wheels and pushy, slick sales pitches -- from the boardroom to the evangelist -- are seen to be the only way to get one's message across to its intended audience. One must, after all, compete with all the noise coming from all the competition.

wpeA.jpg (12232 bytes)Our passions feed us the same lie, only internally. There the promise of sweetness, of fulfillment, of recognition, of praise, of (vain)glory -- all this is trumpeted loudly, yet all we are offered by God, in contrast, is hidden in Sinai's cleft and Tabor's quiet, bright mount. When we desire a divine scream that will silence all carnal appetite, what we are given, rather, is a command to be still when we feel like stripping a gear. We're told to be small -- to be weak in the world's eyes and bury our faces in our cloaks -- when we feel like standing up for "rights" that vanish in the light of the realization that all of life is love of other. We're told to be light when we'd rather be heat -- the difference is that of a candle versus a flamethrower -- and we see our God to be a Fire who will consume yet forbears now so that not even a tiny bush is consumed in order that a young, fugitive shepherd might get the sober, simple message.

We attend services till we can no longer stand. We join every activity at Church (assuming we are blessed enough to be at a parish with a sufficiently developed sense of community to accommodate this) until we have no more time for anything else. We may even fill our time with so much online Orthodoxy that we don't have to deal with our own parish or our own selves. All of these movements, these sounds, these flashing, neon lies we deal ourselves not only will not substitute for stillness, smallness, and genuine light in our own lives, but are answered, not in kind by our Lord (nor by our Lady), but are largely ignored by them, really, and the humble, steady, peaceful light streaming from radiant flesh is shown only to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

It's been said by many of us impatient types that "relationship evangelism"--a phrase usually associated, through crudely and unfortunately so, w/St. Seraphim's injunction to "acquire the spirit of peace and thousands around you will be saved" -- is really a "cop-out" compared to the more aggressive, confrontational brands of reaching the masses, for one can simply claim to be acquiring said Spirit while actually engaging in spiritual apathy. Meanwhile, "results" are not seen and the world is not converted. What's frustrating is that the genuine answer to this accusation provides neither comfort nor a solution to the aggressive soulwinner's burden, for rampant buttonholing and (apparent) decision-making do not (usually) equate to genuine spiritual fruit, nor does genuine, humble acquisition of holiness (always) differ in appearance from those whose silence springs from indifference, so the false security we usually try to derive from watching for "results" is usually ill-founded, for we expect fruit in days or months which takes years to cultivate. Yet it is this silent, light, and sober joy which will allure those who seek to live in a world free from the need to muster up all our own clamorous, pretentious glory.

Those who have that quiet, meek brilliance are the only ones, it seems, that the Lord tells us to listen to. Would that it were as easy to obtain it as it is to write about it.

1 comment:

Ian said...

Very interesting thoughts; thank you. I'll need to re-read this to let it sink in I think.

And congratulations to your wife and Katherine re the churching: I find it a beautiful and wondrous thing.