Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday's Final Assembly

Saturday's Final Assembly

This morning we had the final Assembly and Mass for the meeting. My summary of Fr Carron's remarks follows:

The denial of God is something that creeps into our lives and culture. Is comes from a division between the real God who is the origin of everything, of "all in all", and God as an intellectual concept. Our experience of God and our thoughts about him are split. How does this happen? It's because of a false understanding of the relationship between experience and reason. We need to recover the right relationship: true experience always engages our reason.

What draws us out of this false understanding? It's always the affection we feel for ourselves, for our own neediness. We are surprised when events demonstrate our dependence. If we think about this, it generates wonder at our own existence. We easily might not exist. We discover a new way of looking at ourselves, marvel at ourselves, and begin to take our deepest needs with a new seriousness. This new and complete acceptance of ourselves leaves us free.

This affection for our own smallness, this recognition of our own hunger, requires a poverty of spirit. We have to accept that our neediness isn't something about us: it really IS us.

Too often we 'go through the motions', and treat the Movement as an external 'spiritual exercise'. Or we seek an answer to our neediness in the 'answers' manufactured in our culture or the advertising industry. Even the Gospels can become mere history for us. But reading the Gospels isn't a history lesson; Jesus gazes on us with sympathy, just as he gazed on the Apostles.

Where can we encounter the love that can meet this neediness of ours? In Christ, who came for the poor not the rich. But if we don't share His affection for ourselves, if we are ashamed of our neediness and try to avoid it by pursuing our own 'worthy' projects, we block Christ.

The solution is a tenacious attachment to reality. Jesus' method is to look at the facts. And He cannot look at these facts - the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, the sower of seed - without seeing the Father that they point to. We too must embrace reality in this way, not what we imagine or feel, not for any external reason, but simply because reality is there, and it points to the Father in this way. The philosopher Feuerbach was wrong: we do not believe for out of fear, but out of wonder. We believe because we can see that 'He is'.

How many of us have really unleashed this path of faith? We know the theory. But how has our perception of reality changed? Has the immoral division between experience and reason been conquered? Have we accepted our own need? Otherwise, we wake up alone tomorrow morning, living a private faith without roots in reality.

The facts of reality can only be read with a reason that has an affection for humanity and wants to see its need fulfilled. There can be no genuine reason or knowledge without this affection. We don't have to create the answer to this need; once we see clearly, we can recognise it. This isn't an intellectual clarity; it's a matter of humble acceptance of our neediness and dependence.

This clear knowledge isn't automatic. We tend to be suspicious of knowledge that requires work because we have been taught that true knowledge shouldn't require effort. This is wrong. It's based on an ideology, powerful in today's world, that knowledge exists independently, and can be extracted from reality by the methods of numerical science. Anything not found out this way is not real knowledge.

The Pope has gone into battle against this false scientistic concept of knowledge. The problem is that this concept leaves our reason unengaged with reality outside of the laboratory. Faith then becomes just an arbitrary irrational choice.

When we break out of this kind of dualism it is through the impact, the gaze of an Other, seen through the facts of reality, that moves us to ask 'why?' When we meet someone (or Someone) who has this loyalty to experience, then we can't help being attracted by the desire our need generates in us.

Once we understand this we see everything as a sign. To love something or someone without this recognition of the Other within and beyond it is ultimately corrupting.

The test of our fidelity to reality is satisfaction. We have made the journey of faith when we experience this satisfaction, the fit between our need and what we have gained. We don't need someone else to tell us when this happens.

Who makes this journey? The one with affection for their own needy humanity. Our problems arise when we hate and despise ourselves. Without this affection, the Movement is just another political project, an attempt to find a 'place in the sun' in this world.


Anonymous said...

"Everything a human does is to achieve happiness. This doesn't mean we avoid sacrifice - but our reason for sacrifice should be our happiness, not some cold moral duty".

Its great to read those words, especially after a conversation I had with a friend on this exact topic. As far as my experience goes, this statement is the point at which people of more irreligious leanings most struggle with. Religion (and the morality that comes with it) is not some arbitrary set of rules that make you a ‘good’ person, rather, morality - in the Christian sense - isn’t much more than a roadmap (or for me an ‘idiots guide’) to happiness. But that definition seems to get dismissed and I’m labelled a religious person because I go to church on Sunday, I don’t eat meat some days or I read religious books etc, ie: because I follow the rules. The fact that I regard Christianity as true and an inspiration to happiness is conspicuously absent from their rationalisations.

Interestingly sacrifice came up too. In Orthodoxy, Chesterton wrote, ‘the best way to thank God for beer and burgundy is to not drink too much of them’. I’ve lifted this from a slightly different context but the principle is the same for when you want to enjoy beer and burgundy in the best way. I remember an unpleasant experience where I watched as an acquaintance gluttonously devoured a beautifully cooked meal as if it were a bowl of corn flakes. Between the grunts and slurps the purpose of the morality of self-restraint quickly dawned on me, not as an unpleasant or ‘cold’ moralism, but as a defender of a real pleasure. It can be hard to explain that morality and sacrifice exist BECAUSE we value pleasure and happiness. But, after all, who really values food more, the glutton or the person who goes without once in a while?

But you can have your blog back now dad...

Anonymous said...

Well well, Athanasius dear, it seems you are having a grand time.

It is fine to see how the Italian community are so welcoming to a member from the outskirts of little Melbourne. I would have loved to take the panoramic shot of your fine self on a hillside alive with music. Presently the only tramping song I know is "I owe, I owe, and off to work I go....

Just a quick note about sacrifice in addition to A jr, regarding 'sacrifice in relation to our happiness not out of some cold moral duty'... A fine gentleman of the Cistercian persuasion in conversation mentioned that often we fail to see what is beyond the sacrifice we make, especially in how we serve others. It is Christ present in the other who we serve, that person in their dignity,a dignity conferred by the presence of Christ. And in response I must not disdain the offer of anothers service to me either.

This fact opened my eyes to wider understanding of the other rather than the impatient snort of "wot, you still here?!!!"

On another note, with all the activity and information deluge, you have a remarkable capacity to write continuously about the event...I think you may have a book in you Mr A... it is desperate to get out, if not then perhaps you may consider some editorial work on the english translations?

But perhaps one is more productive and creative where the hills are alive with the sound of music?

All my love, Mrs Athanasius

Anonymous said...

Oops left my comment/rant on the wrong post. I was referring to the Wednesday meeting...