Readings for 20/11/2011

An excerpt from Laurence Freeman OSB, “Understanding Faith,” in FIRST SIGHT: The Experience of Faith (London: Continuum, 2011) pp. 14-15.

Confusing faith with belief and so separating them traps us in the Law—within things we can define, regulations we can enforce, specific creedal formulas that justify us in rejecting others.

 More than any other religion Christianity has fallen into the temptations of power that uniformity of belief creates. Worshipping orthodoxy of belief—getting the words, rituals, externals and formulas exactly right—betrays the living God for a false one of our own construction. [. . . .] . . .[C]hristianity, perhaps more than any other tradition, has tried to impose uniformity most harshly at times and has therefore acted contrary to the mind of Christ by falling into the trap of exclusion and excommunication. The days of the   Inquisition or the wars of religion are over, but the embarrassing, shameful divisions within the Christian world and the levels of anger they generate against each other testify to that same failure of faith even today.

Belief can be heroic. You can refuse to disown your beliefs and may be happy to be burned at the stake or stripped of rank and status for them. Many believers are raised with stories of these heroic martyrs, who laid down their lives rather than disown their beliefs. We shouldn’t diminish the heroism of belief in the face of oppression and persecution. Strength and integrity are required to resist the violent force that would make us disown our principles and beliefs. But the spiritual realm is not about heroism. The heroic mentality of the warrior—or martyr—yields to another kind of self-awareness once we experience God as love, rather than the bestower of fame or eternal glory. . . . .Faith is more than the most heroic belief. It is not only a passionately help conviction, however loyal and self-sacrificing the conviction.  Faith is more than a concept and more than a sign of loyal belonging to a particular group.

It is a relationship with what we believe; with what we believe because we experience it and with what we experience because we are simply designed for it. And by it. Faith plunges us into ontology and endlessly reveals the full extent of the mysteries of being.

After Meditation, ”Song of the Builders” by  Mary Oliver from WHY I WAKE EARLY (Boston: Beacon, 2004), p. 60

On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God—

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.