Transparent and Illumined

The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most ven...
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Macrina Walker of A Vow of Conversation has an absolutely lovely series of reflections on the Father Boris Bobrinskoy’s The Compassion of the Father.

Reading her summary and the quotes selected from Fr Boris’ work, I was especially moved by his comments about the dangerous posed by the richness of the Church’s tradition.  He writes that  “the presence of Jesus is a reality that is simple, pure, and unique, which is not in need of many words.”  For this reason not simply the Church but I “must be … totally transparent to the grace of God – of which it is the channel and the reflection – and totally transparent to the world – of which it is the spokesperson and the prayer-bearer before the face of God – while not being of the world.”

While this is always a struggle in every age and for every Christian I think living as we do in what Macrina calls “a de-christianized” culture this is even more pressing.  Where in an earlier time the Church encountered those who had not yet heard of Christ, today we face people who have heard of Him and rejected Him. 

In response to this situation, Fr Boris present us with the very real possibility that those who have rejected Christ, have rejected not Him but the poor witness of Christians who approach the world with fear and not in “holiness and purity” and with “a passionate love of the truth” and a “humble love” of neighbor.

In all of this I am reminded of the words of the Second Vatican Council:

Undeniably, those who willfully shut out God from their hearts and try to dodge religious questions are not following the dictates of their consciences, and hence are not free of blame; yet believers themselves frequently bear some responsibility for this situation. For, taken as a whole, atheism is not a spontaneous development but stems from a variety of causes, including a critical reaction against religious beliefs, and in some places against the Christian religion in particular. Hence believers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism. To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion (Gaudium et Spes 19).

At least in the States, we seem to want to limit “transparency” to the Church’s administrative and financial dealings.  But there is only a limited value to this kind of transparency–after all mobsters can be transparent, at least in their dealings with each other.  But Fr Boris challenges us, challenges me, to a deeper mode of transparency–one in which the Gospel and “the presence and the words of the Lord” are clearly visible in and through me.

Transparency in this sense is not alien to the human person.  Nor does it require the  dissolution of the personality. We are rather called to be like the window that is both transparent to, and illumined by, the sun.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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  • timothyrgates

    Missionary friend, E. Stanley Jones, once asked Mahatma Gandhi, “Mr. Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is it that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?” Gandhi replied, “Oh, I don't reject Christ. I love Christ.” — “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians, your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Gandhi did observe (paraphrased from memory), 'If Christians were like their Christ no doubt all of India would be Christian.'
    The cult/culture of my youth was,' they' say, so much more 'Christian,' yet I would offer that it was more sensitive to an already accepted group of expectations, yet in so many ways it was not Christian in any stretch of the imagination. Racism was not noticed by those of my parents generation and before, and misogyny was the name of the game in business, as well as Church in many ways, children were spanked, and if beat no one thought it appropriate, for the most part, to say a word. Reflection upon another time relative to our own, at least when we think our own to be the lesser of the good, is easy to create 'holy Russia's,' 'glorious Byzantium,' or, as in the US of A, 'the City on the hill.' My Grandfather, who lived in this life to 91, and didn't become a Christian until he was 72, used to say, “The only people who speak of the good old days as though they were so good are those who do not remember them.”
    That being said, the reflections of this author's post are well phrased, and endearing, a word I do not use often but like.

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