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Issue 36.5 of the Review for Religious, 1977.
REVIEW FOR RELIGIOUS IS edaed by faculty members of St LOUIS University, the editor,al offices being located at 612 Humboldt Braiding, 539 North Grand Boule-vard
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Philadelphia, Pennsyl-vania 19131. The First Week of the Spiritual Exercises and the Conversion of Saint, Paul Carolyn Osiek, R.S.C.J. Sister Carolyn is on the faculty of Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, where she teaches New Testament. Most recently, she had been Research/Resource Associate in Women’s Studies at H~rvard Divinity’School. Her address: Catholic Theological Union
5401 S. Cornell
Chicago, IL 60615. The title ~ays in a general way the topic of this article. Actually, however, it is somewhat the other way around, for another way of expressing the topic would be: Paul’s decisive "First Week" experience, or, the "First Week" in the life of Paul. The present investigation Will be an attempt to focus, examine, and understand the personal experience of Paul which parallels and reflects the process experienced and planned by Ignatius for his followers in what he later came to call the "First Week" of the Spiritual Exercises. There are some obvious limitations to such an undertaking. First, if as is generally accepted, Paul’s initial conversion experience took place some-time between 33-36 A.D., and if what is preserved of his Philippian, Ga-latian, and Corinthian correspondence was written between the years 54 and 57 from Ephesus, there is a 20 year gap between the.experience and the description. 1 Second, Paul had no intention of writing an autobiography.’ He alludes to his own spiritual experience only insofar as it helps him convey ~The chronology of the letters is disputed. Here I follow J. A. Fitzmyer, "A Life ~Jf Paul," Jerome Biblical Commenthry, ed. R. E. Brown. J. A. Fitzmyer. R. E. Murphy (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:Prentice Hall, 1968), pp. 218, 221. 657 6511 / Review for Religious, .Volume 36, 1.,977/~5 his point to others, usually in terms of the bankruptcy of the Mosaic laW vis-a-vis the grace of Christ--a religious situation far removedin actuality from the experience of most of us, whatever figurative applications can be made. Third, the one source in which Paul’s spiritual conversion-is graph-ically and formally portrayed (in triplicate)--Acts 9:22 and 26~could be utilized in a consideration of New Testament theology of conversion, but in the light of modern scriptural source criticism cannot responsibly be used to shed light on Pauline spirituality or spiritual experience. Some of the elements picked up by Luke in.his triple narrative will be used as illustrative of the Pauline experience in the wider dimension of familiar religious symbols, but it must be kept in mind that for Paul they are secondary. This brings us to a statement of the broader scope of the present under-taking. The purpose of the investigation is not historical. If it were, it could well stop with the Pauline data. Rather, the full scope is an attempt to understand Paulis wounding and healing as exemplary of a common spir-itual journey through death to new life for a purpose. The expanded ar- .ticulation of that process is drawn from personal experience as retreatant and as a spiritual director. It might be well to begin by describing the structure of the "First Week’ ’~ process as it will be treated here. Basically it is a movemrrit of entering into death in Order to have life, of descending into the depths 0nly to find there new inspiration to arise, of going down with the old and familiar and coming up in newness, as the ancient ritual of baptism by immersion so clearly portrays. It is wodnding and healing, alienation and reconciliation as the person comes face to face first with human evil and then with divine good-ness. Precisely where these two currents cross is the point of greatest pain because the comparison becomes nearly unehdurable. But out of the con-flict engen.dered by that pain comes the energy to begin anew, and thus the paradoxical cycle of death and rebirth is once again lived out. Ignatius’ term -confusion" is not a bad word to describe the growing sense that something is wrong, both in its literary meaning of "shame" and especially in its more common sense of "losing one’s bea.rings." There are three stages that can occur as defenses are stripped away and the sense of confusion sharpens. Ignatius described these three stages one way in n. [63] of the Exercises: first, a deep knowledge of-pers~onalo sin and a feeling of abhorrence
second, an understanding of the "disorder of my actions" and a resulting feeling of horror
third, a. knowledge of the sinfulness of the world ~.and, again, a.sense of horror. Abhorrence and horror are strong enough terms, yet they imply a primacy of activity on the part of the retreatant though, it must be added, the grace to have such feelings is clearly seen as something to be asked of and freely bestowed by God. The terminology used by Ignatius here, at least as we can understand it four centuries later, does not adequatrly desc.ribe the passive nature of the First Week experience as it is sometimes encountered when, without active The Spiritual Exercises and the Conversion of Paul / 659 pursuit of desire for sorrow for sin, and so forth, rational defenses and affective supports ~reviously relied upon suddenly disappear. Disorienta-tion deepens as awareness of sin increases. The revelation of sinfulness progresses
as Ignatius.described it, in three stages. The first is that of felt guilt over specific acts for which the person is respohsible, guilt that has been accumulating perhaps over a long period of time, the full impact of which suddenly bursts forth with unexpectedly painful sharpness as the reti’eatant faces God and himself in solitude. Crnfusion is balanced only by the fi~m witness of the mercy and forbearance of God in allowing the person t~J come to this point. The second stage occurs if the layer of the conscious mind can be sufficiently peelea off to-reveal the underlying basic tendencies to evil for which a perso~n is only partly responsible at the conscious level. The feeling of confusion, pain,, a~nd alienation increases and a ne’w factor eri(ers in: helplessness-sthe inability to do what one Would want to do about vast areas of life. ,
The realization deepens that one is unable to Consciously regulate tendencies to grab for security, love, and control that diminish both victims and subject. The person is painfully aware of not being in control of his own motivation. At this point feelings of guilt mix with a newly discovered fear of one’s own innate destructiveness. Mistrust of oneself can be countered by trust in the God who has kept him from becoming worse than he is. In the third stage the probe of the ~pirit goes deeper still until it reaches the 16vel at which personal responsibility is no longer at stake. It is .the experience of total powerlessn~ess, helplessness, total inability to act in any way.to save oneself. The forces of disintegration seem to be triumphing and God seems to have left the person totally to his own resources which have consequently cru’mbled. Here it is no longer a question of guilt and merc~,, but of the ability to live with fear and to cling to some memory of the love of God. The familiar theological maxim that God sustains all things in existence at every moment becomes a crushing reality, for the person is This "confusion." flowing from the sense of being judged by God, is not the result of a rational process: it is total loss of face before a situation which cannot be long endured with the usual supports of reason and prudence. We find ourselves con-fronted by ttie cross of Christ placed in the presence of unmeasuredness itself, that which is "madness to the world" (I Co 1:23).2 Z"La ’confusion.’ fruit spirituel de cejugement divin, n’est pas le r~sultat d’une argumenta- ’tign logique: elle est perle totale de contenance, devant une situation qui pr~cis~ment ne peut ~tre plus Iongte.mps support~e avec !es ressources habituelles de la raison et de la pru-dence. ~Nous voici, devant la Croix du Christ. mis ,en presence de la d~mesure m~me, qm est ’folie l~our le monde" (I Cor 1:23) .... La premiere semaine des Exercices." Christus, vol. 6. no. 21 (1959), pp. 22-39 (translation mine). 660 / Review for Religious, Volume 36, 1977/5 sure that nothing within himself is preserving his being, .and yet it seems to be God himself wh6 is crushing him. Ignatius understood [53] that only the total powerlessness of Christ on the cross as he is destroyed by force.s beyond human control can give any meaning to this experience, W. de Broucker describes this state of soul in a way that sums up the whole triple movement: It is precisely the attitude expressed by the dying Chris..t that marks the beginning of the movement upward: "Into your hands I commit my spirit." Surrender into the hands of God, the cessation of struggle against the force that seems to be annihilating the self, goes against the basic instinct of human nature. It is natural for us "to fight for life, to hang on tenuously to the familiar. If the shred of self that is left can be given up, a new self can be formed. With surrender comes trust that there is someone or something to surrender to, and that something other than total chaos can result. Once trust has been given, a dim hope can begin to arise, an assurance that dawn will~ome and that a reason for the suffering and death of the experience may be that something greater is coming to birth. With a new confidence given to the force that is at work within, further insight into one’s personal responsibility may result. There may be deep-ened realization of how one’s total helplessness before God, now a.~vivid reality, creates subconscious defenses in the form of root tendencies to turn away from God in order to avoid pain, conflict, or unwelcome truth. New awareness of personal orientation away from God then leads to a whole new outlook about personal sinfulness. The avoidance, neglect, anxiety, and self-seeking expressed in everyday~life as sin are seen with much more understanding and insight into one’s personal motivation.s and weaknesses. At this point a healing of pain and guilt can take place and the mercy of God becomes an invading presence _bringing with it the experience of reconcil-iation leading to a deep sense of peace and eventually of joy. The new clarity of understanding leads inevitably, for the person who remains faithful in following the new way where God is’leading, to a trans-formation of attitude and behavior. This transformation is a psychiC and spiritual change that invades the whole person, btit rarely does it happen all at once. It involves the abandoning of certain accepted values and untried assumptions regarding personal autonomy, perception of truth, or need for affectivity. Realization of what God is asking in these areas and consequent surrender and acceptance of change usually happen gradually over a period of at least several months. What is happening simultaneously is the ac-quisition of a new set of personal values to replace the old ones, values usually founded on sharpened awareness of the fragility and weakness of the self and a deep sense of awe an~d gratitude at the ways that God’s power is at work in weakness. Mary Esthei- Harding describes the psychological change that is taking place at this point: The Spiritual Exercises and the Conversion of Paul / 661 Whenever there is an upsurge of highly activated unadapted material into conscious-ness, the task of assimilation becomes urgent. This holds true whether the new material is valuable, creative stuff or merely alchaic phantasy that bespeaks more a morbid exuberance than a prolific creativity. The assimilation of the new material demands a fresh standpoint, which implies a recognition of the relativity of all former judgments. What was formerly considered unqualifiedly good must’now be judged in the light of,the new and enlarged understanding
the same must be done with that which has been considered bad? The whole experience might be summarized as an awareness of: the goodness of God gratitude sinful actions guilt. need for mercy, forgiveness sinful tendencies fear struggle need to experience love of God powerlessness surrender trust hope And a new awareness of: sinful tendencies new awareness of mercy love motivqtion for sinful power of God acts , need to change There follows a healing and reconciliation peace, joy and a gradual transformation of values, attitudeS, behavior As ’was stated at the beginning, the primary focus of this paper is the spiritual experience of Paul, aRd the previous discussion of the process is by ~ay of setting the stage. Patil’s change Of heart is classically spoken of as a "conversion
" The limitation inherent in the use of this term is the restricted sense in which the word is most often used: change of faith or religion or, somewhat more broadly, emendation of a wayward moral life, while the root meaning of the word "conversion’ ~ is really something closer to an "about face~’--a total turning of the person from one orientation to another. While Paul’s "conversions" certainly did entail a change of reli-gious affiliation, though probably not a change of moral conduct, it must be Understood. primarily in the broadest sense of the term, as a complete overthrow and turn-about of personal values. Because of the ambiguities aPsychic Energy: Its Source and Its Transformation, 2nd ed. Bollingen Series X (Washington, D.C.: Pantheon, 1963), p. 285. 662 / Review for Religious, Volume 36, 1977/5 present.in the word "conversion," it might be preferable to ~pe~ak of the "transformhtion" of Paul in his encounter with the li~,ing Christ.4 Contrary to, what much p0pu,!ar arid undiscrimina..ting piety (and perhaps even the a~uthor of Acts)would,have us think, Paul’s transformation did not happen.overnight or even in three days as a careless reading of Acts 9:18-30 might suggest. Paul himself speaks of three years (Ga 1:18).~tran~spiring before he began to preach Christ. There is no reason’ to suppose that the process moved along with remarkable speed. We tend to clothe Paul’s transformation~ixperien~e in’a thick ~overirig of the miraculous, leaning too heavily on the clear triple account of Acts and too lightly on Paul’s own illusive comments. The flash of light, the heavenly voice of the reveals/r, Paul’s being struck to the ground, and the mysterious three-day blindness are all stock elements of narrations of divine epiph-anies. For some, miraculous revelations are a stumblingblock and a source of conflict. But for most people today, they are something else: an invitation to disregard. And so what happens°is that someone like Paul, who leaps out at us so humanly in his own writings, becomes relegated to the dim past, to the gallery of "saints" who are not quite as human as the rest of us, to the realm of the "supernatural" dichotomized from that realm in which we ourselves live and struggle. The reason for all this is ’not surprising: we do not have to have the uncomfortable experience of seeingourselves reflected in such a "saint." The ways of God with humanity are as varied as are the persons who seek to know them, and yet there are qualities of our common humanity that remain very much the same. It is for this reason that an analysis’of the transformation process a~ given above, and an attempt to see that process as it happened in Paul are worthwhile. We may be able to see something of ourselves in him and so better understand the ways of God in us. It is a mistake to think of Paul as changing f.rom hardened persecutor to egthusiastic mystic, from~his, blind cruelty to a Christian sensitivity, as though: his transformation, were from sinner to saint. Paul was not a hard man
.he was a sincere and generous man. His pursuit of Christians sprang 4An important article or] the structure and Western interpretations o"f Paul’s conversion ex-perience appeared long ~go and attracted considerable nOtice in Protestant Scholarly circles, coming as it did out of a Lutheran interpretation of~Paul
I refer to Krister Stendahl’.s "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West," Harvard Theglogical:Revi~ew 56:3 (July, 1963), pp. 199-215, an article well worth reading. In recent conversation betwe_en the author arid rfiyse!f there was agreement about Paul’s "clear conscience" regarding his former way of life in Judaism (see ~specially pp. 200-201)
however, I would not want to stress the idea of "introspection" as the search for personal sin, but would rather emphasize the seeking after awareness of God’s action within the person. In contrast to Dean Stendahl’s interpretation (pp. 204-205) I would distinguish two aspects of Paul’s change of ways: first, a personal transformation, and second, the directing of that new energy toward evange Jzat~on of the Gentiles. The Spiritual Exercises and the Conversion of Paul / 663 not from cruelty but from enthusiasm in the service of God. He was the good and tlpright man whom the Lord loved, and because the Lord loved hii~ so much, he called him to give more. Paul says of himself (Ph 3:5-6) that his family and religious credentials were impeccable and that he had done far more than the minimum required to be a son of the Law. He was without fault in itg r~gard,’fully aware of its value as gift bestowed upon Is-rael as a proof bf God’s love. Hi~ sincere thirst for justice miast have led him periodically into the self-scrutiny of the just which produces an awa(eness of personal failings anti sinful tendencies that only deepens devotion as it deepens-an ap~areciation of God’s mercy. ,.Then something happened. Whether his encounter with the living Christ was as dramatic as Acts 9 portrays it is doubtful, for Paul nowhere alludes to~,,his experie]ace as containing elements of the sensational,but rather de-scribes it qui[e simply: "Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" (1 Co 9:1)
"I did not receive [the gospel] from a human source nor was I.taught by any but a revelation from Jesus Christ" (Ga 1:12)
"God who had set me aside from my mother’s womb called me through his grace and revealed his son in me" (Ga 1:15
see Is 49:1
Jr 1:5). There is an undeniable sense of personal encounter and ,call, even for a specific mission, but ~very little impression of fanfare. He found himself at point zero, knocked off his horse more internally than externally, with no patterned defenses or conditioned responses to fall back on that had not been stripped away by a new presence that was relentlessly pursuing him. ,When the realization of whathad happened began to take hold of him, Paul knew he had been changed. Luke’s image of blindness approximates in physical.terms what must have been his psychic,state for a period of time: confusion, loss, fear, inner chaos, spiritual paralysis, the terrifying~feeling that hig whole world was coming apart. As he began to surrender to the force that was invading him, he would have become aware that it was a new and unwelcome presence that of Jesus of Nazareth, suddenly: intruding upon his well-ordered world. This is in fact the heart of the experience of brokenness: that Christ manifests himself in a new and unexpected way, and before his demanding presence all pre-conceived structures of life must be put aside. ’~ Onc~ he had accepted what was happening, he would have begun to see h~ms~lfin a new way, feeling within himself the slowi3i-dawning and terrible realization that he had misplaced his devotion and misdirected his zeal, the frustration of knowing for the first time that he had beeri turned in a di-rection which, in the light of a new awareness, he had to judge as the wrong way. New understanding Would .have brought about new se’lf-knowledge and a new capacity for radical honesty about the movements of his life, enveloped in deepened awe at the sustaining and patient love of God re-vealed in Christ who was now calling into question the whole meaning of his life. ,664 / Review for Religious, Volume 36, 1977/5 The realization that the love of God has been constant when our re-sponse has been anything but constant, that his forgiveness was extended even before we knew for what to ask it, can be a crushing blow from which the security of the ego never fully recovers. The wound inflicted on it is not cured, as if the tearing never happened
rather, it is healed, brought to new wholeness- not in spite of, but because of the rending. As is often the case, Paul’s healing and reconciliation with God were not for his sake only., but that he might lead many others to the same point: "The love of Christ overwhelms us when we realize that one died for all.., so that the living should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.., for everything is from God who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Co 5:14-18). What is cautiously born then is a’self that must undertake the painful task of she~lding and leaving behind as so much debris much that the former self deemed of value, in order to make room for new value to come. In the case .of Paul the reversal which he had to endure to be faithful to newly-given grace was dramatic and loaded with not only personal but also social consequences: "But whatever was formerly gain to me, I have com~ to consider it loss because of Christ
mor.eover, I now consider everything loss because of the overwhelming knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord, for whom I have let go of eve~:ything and consider it rubbish in order to gain Christ and be counted with him" (Ph 3:7-9). For him it meant giving up a worldview, religious affiliation, a certainty of being right, a reputation, family and friends, the whole fabric of personal and social relationships that had formed the pattern of his life. Few are called to so drasti6.a change. Yet the most fundamental change must have been one with which many can resonate: the need to reconstruct from broken fragments.a new self, a much more fragile self, like an earthenware jar hollowed out at the center in which "the overflowing power comes from God and not from us" (2 Co 4:7). It is the need to understand and accept the voice of Christ addressed to the prostrate human spirit, "My grace is enough, for strength is brought to fullness in weakness," and to respond by saying, "Joyfully then I will openly share my weakness so that the power of Christ may be revealed through me" (2 Co 12:8-9). It might be argued that the above account of Paul’s conversion .and transformation is a fanciful extrapolation based on insufficient data. Yet the essential human experience underlying it is so basic and .universal that no matter in how many myriad forms it is manifested, a true experience of transformation from one spiritual state to another (as opposed to a super-ficial "conversion" that is only temporary because self-induced) has certain fundamentally similar components. Certainly Paul’s experience was a trans-formation of this kind. Though he leaves many things unsaid, the pain and fear, the bewildering search, and ultimately the ecstasy of discovering that it is precisely in crucifying weakness that the power of the risen Christ is manifested, come through in the few literary traces he has left. The Spir!tual Exercises and the Converison of Paul / 665 For Paul transformation meant a radical break with the past, with family, home, and faith. For most of us, the break is not so abrupt, and yet the need to abandon old habits of thinking and feeling to make room for new ones still only dimly perceived is a common element. Spiritual directors are plentiful these days, but guides and models in one’s spiritual experience are not always easy to come by. An ability to find echoes of one’s own life in the jolting experience of Paul may give encouragement and be a cause for that movement of hope in darkness which affirms with him that no matter how chaotic may be the experience of finding out what we really are, for the person who continues trying to hang on the way Christ has hung onto him neither height of blind pride nor depth of despair--both of which can co-exist in the same person--nor any creature of the imagination can ever wrench us away from the love of God that is expressed to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.5 ~See Ph 3:12
Rm 8:39. REPRINTS FROM THE REVIEW Profile of the Spirit: A Theology of Discernment of Spirits by J. R. Sheets, S.J. .50 Retirement or Vigil by B. Ashley, O.P. .30 The Confessions of Religious Wom~en by Sr. M. Denis, S~.O.S. 30 The Four Moments of Prayer by J. R. Sheets, S.J. .50 The Healing of Memories by F, Martin .35 The Nature and Value of a Directed Retreat by H. F. Smith, S.J ...... 35 The Teaching. Sister in the Church by E. Gambari, S.M.M. .30 The Theology., of the Eucharistic Presence by J. Galot, S.J. .30 The Vows and Christian Life by G. Greif, S.J. .30 New Reprints° Centering Prayer--Prayer o~ Quiei by M. B. Pi:nnington, O.C.S.O ....50 Colloquy of God With a Soul That Truly Seeks Him .30 Prayer of Personal Reminiscence by D. J, Hassel, S.J. .60 Orders for the above should be sent to: Review for Religious 612 Humboldt Building 539 No. Grand Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63103’ Please include remittance with all orders less than $5.00 A Theology of the Religious Life Local Church and Ladislaus Orsy, S.J. Father Orsy teaches Canon Law at the Catholic University of America. He resides at Carroll House
1225 Otis St. N.E.
Washington, DC 20017. The text of this article is the keynote address given in New Orleahs at the annual convention of the National Conference of Vicars for Religious, on March 21, 1977. The notes were added later to try to dispel some ambiguities in the text and, elucidate further the author’s mind. Saint Thomas Aquinas introduced one of his famous works with the Sen-tence: "A small error in the beginning leads to a great one in the end.’’1 In the same spirit of wise caution we can say that the wrong question ~n thee beginning is likely to lead to the wrong answer at the end. Let us transform, therefore, the terse words of the title, "A :Theology of the Local ChUrch and Religious Life," into a question rightly construed, that can lead us securely in our inquiry toward the ans~ver~s that we do not know at the point of our departure. Indeed, the title breaks up quite naturally into three queries: 1. What is our understanding of the local church? (By under:standing we mean tides quaerens intellectum
faith seeking underst.and!ng. Here we mean the knowledge of the local church that is givew t.hroughfaith, and is deepened through our reflection on the data of faiths)z ° ~ ~ 2. What is our understanding of religious life? (Understanding means, here again, knowledge through faith and reflection.) , 3. What is, and what should be, the right relationship between the two? The questions spring quite natur~ally from the title. Yet, I am still not satisfied with them. They shouldbb focused with more care, sharpened with greater precision. Also, they should impose a limit on our rather broad topic, and thus make the discussion of it more manageable for our specific purpose. Let us try again to set the right questions. 666 A Theology of the Local Church and Religious Life / 667 1. What is our understanding of the fact, of the ~event, of a particular church ? There are two significant changes in this new formulation. We seek a better understanding of the fact or event of the church
that is, our’focus is not on an abstract concept, but on an actually existing community of Chris-tians who form a church, although not the:universal Church. Our focus is concrete and existential. Our understanding will develop more from .the observation of the living body than from the analysis of texts. Also, we substituted the term "particular" for "local." The reason for this isthat local church has a geographical connotation and tends to point to a parish or to a diocese, hardly to more than these. The term "particular" allows greater flexibility
it points toward the natural unity of a group of Christians inside the broad,universal community. Such unity may well emergedn a diocese, .but it may well go beyond it and extend as far as an ecclesiastical province, a region, or a country.~ It may even spread over several countries. To seek the understanding of a "particular" church, instead of a "local" church, frees us from narrow boundaries and will allow us to examine the issue in a broader context? But we must impose a restriction on ourselves. We do not intend to exhaust the mystery of a particular church by investigating all its dimen-sions. We want to understand its life in relationship to religious commu-nities. That is all
but, it is a lot. 2. What is our understanding of the fact and event of religious com-munities? Here, too, our focus is concrete. Our primary interest is not in the concept of religious life, but in the real life.of religious communities.4 With a well-defined limitation: we seek the understanding of the life and work of religious communities in their .relationship to a particular church in which they exist, and where they give themselves to the service of the universal church. 3. What is, or what should be, the relationship between the two, a particular church and religious commutiities, in it? We intend to reflect on the living relationship that exists, or should exist, in the b6dy of the church between two diverse members.. We seek ihis understanding in view oflntelligent Christian action, with the intention of ¯ finding norms and guidelines for such action. Let us turn now to the first q,uestion.. First Question: How Can We Come to,a’Better understanding of the Particular Church? All understanding begins with the perception of facts. For facts about the particular church we must turn to the awareness of Christians through-out- the centuries, from the beginning to our days. Review for Religious, Volume 36, 1977/5 Some historical pointers about the development of the particular church
or, how did the Christian community perceive the particular church throughout its history? In the early centuries, Christian communities developed maihly along the great commercial routes of the Roman Empire. Soon they structured themselves
the bishop presided over the congregation. The local com-munities were closely knit
those were the times when Christians knew each other by name. While they were aware of the universal dimension of their religion, they enjoyed a certain amount of local autonomy,. Yet, right from the beginning, there was a ,movement to bring the smaller communities around the bishop into a larger unity, either under the supervision of a traveling bishop, or under a metropolitan residing in a larger city, usually the capital of a province. Particular churches with their own language, liturgy, discipline and customs, developed, not so much in each~city, but in larger territories that represented a natural cultural unity, They developed different understandings of Christian faith
they created different practices. Of course, those differences did not go so far as to deny or contradict the unity necessary for universality, but they certainly went far enough to give a different character to each of those

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