Saturday, 14 April 2012

Reflection on "What receiving Christ anew means for our era"

Thank you to Sue for offering this after hearing Matthew Fox's talk over the Easter weekend.

“What receiving Christ anew means for our era”
 – How would you or I answer this,
suggest more praying?
 Stricter regulations?
Bring in a new-old-fashioned liturgy?
Or humbly seek out the Holy Spirit’s perspective on today’s world?

And what or Who is exactly meant by Christ?
This is not the historical Jesus – and yet He is also the Christ. I have to say the idea of the cosmic Christ is not one that I find at all easy to think or write about, probably because, as Matthew Fox said, the cosmic Christ cannot be dissected, itemised or defined by left-brain activity but only sensed, experienced. Putting the ineffable into words is where the trouble starts! Richard Rohr is another writer-teacher who speaks often about the cosmic Christ – and for me this is still new – and still a mystery.

“What receiving Christ anew means for our era” was, however, the title of Matthew Fox’s talk at the Christ Consciousness Conference held at the Findhorn Community over the Easter weekend and from the outset we were in lively waters. Our present era is one of a deeply suffering planet, we are in an emergency situation which cannot be ignored and for which society needs compassion, justice and healing, all qualities our various institutions are unable to provide. We need to rediscover the spiritual energy which alone is capable of awakening our species. Matthew Fox quoted Julian of Norwich “between God and man there is no ‘between’ ” to emphasise the radical unity between God and humanity. And if we “want the kernel, we have to break the shell” (Meister Eckhart) - suffering is inevitable and even the cosmic Christ carries wounds. The answers won’t be cost-free, but there are new, creative and more community-oriented ways to live, different choices to be made, a new economic system to emerge.

The kind of spirituality necessary is contemplative in nature, a listening attentive awareness - Matthew observed that after returning to earth, many astronauts became mystics, “which cost $42 million each.” Then shaking his head rather ruefully, he quietly added “There must be a cheaper way.” Gentle laughter – we more than got the point. Contemplation such as that, immersed in darkness, silence and beauty would change our entire attitude to our universe and humanity’s place in it. We are an absolutely integral part of this universe, not beings apart from it, in fact Matthew repeated what Leonardo Boff also describes, that as everything that exists has developed over eons from the Big Bang, then truly we are all “walking stardust.” If that doesn’t pull us up short in awe at our connectedness with the entirety of the universe, then we are indeed already dead! It is the cosmic Christ, says Matthew, that is the pattern that connects, God within everything, holding it in being by His love. Surely this is straight down the middle catholic theology?

To illustrate the seriousness of our situation, he didn’t blind us with a mountain of statistics but gave a few striking examples: Western society freely chooses to spend $39,000 per second on weaponry (go and sit with that quietly for some minutes, he suggested, just allow it to sink in): there is a UN study estimating that in 40 years’ time, if we continue as we are, there will be no more fish in the ocean. But the observation that brought me up short was “We are the first species in 4 ½ million years that can choose not to go extinct” – and he slowly and quietly added “ - and we have not yet chosen.”

This was no sugar-coated message but profoundly challenging. Clearly he cares passionately about the ecological issues we are familiar with, what humanity is doing to the planet and to each other, particularly the young people for whom his love, deep respect and great empathy shone through. What a gifted teacher he must be – and what a tragedy that the hierarchy chose to banish him and his rich and God-given gifts. Young laity are the particular losers. However, his books are readable and readily available so I can only recommend folk to get stuck in and be stirred up and inspired to new creativity in the reading, just as hearing him speak inspired my friend to revisit her long-abandoned poetry.

My impression of him was of a man great gentleness and true strength, qualities which the fires of adversity frequently forge in anyone truly following the Gospel. I felt his touches of humour were signs of a man very much alive and rejoicing in the present moment. Yes, comparisons are odious, but I couldn’t help but think how the priesthood produces too few men of such balance and vitality with a clearly profound spiritual journey of their own. It’s only when this journey is truly ongoing that one can inspire others – I felt Matthew Fox is pointing the way to life, to discovering Christ within, in those myriad of places we don’t expect. I reflect: sadly, our poverty-stricken institution prefers to instruct folk to follow various deadening regulations that indicate only an outward observance which serves to cover a profound and empty chasm.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your reflections on Matthew's message in this context. I am helped to give new language to the liturgy of holy communion having read your post.


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