Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Lord: Chapter 72, “Ecclesia and the Firstborn of All Creatures”

Dear friend,

There are chapters in Romano Guardini’s book The Lord that make me feel like a first-grader at his first catechism class. I mean, take a gander at that title: Ecclesia? And that difficult theological term applied to Jesus, firstborn? I wish the chapter clarified these ideas to my satisfaction, but it doesn’t. So when I read something like this, and still wish to understand it, I latch onto a phrase or sentence here and there, to get the nutrients I’m capable of absorbing.

For example, this sentence: “Christian spirituality does not mean that a person turns inward, or strives to reach essential (psychological or spiritual) depths, but that Christ enters into his being, bringing his spirit with him, to remain as long as he remains, to depart when he departs.”

OK, first, let’s admit, the idea of Christ entering me, like an astronaut slipping inside his space suit, is hard to even picture. How exactly does that happen? But let’s put that doubt aside, let’s put all doubt aside, and try to get what we can—

So much of what passes for spirituality today is little more than introspection: I looking into me. For what? To see or reach what? More of me? A better me? “The inner God in me,” which, let’s face it, usually means just a me I like better than the one that usually hangs around?

I spent years meditating in silence, looking into myself while wondering just what or who was looking at what. Yes, it was peaceful: my breathing and heart rate slowed down. A certain energy (chi?) seemed to flow more freely. Sometimes I even felt a vibrant sort of lightness coming over me. But still: all me, just me.

I think that what we give away when we approach spirituality this way—and if I haven’t made this clear, I did so, for a long long time—is that there really might be something outside or other than me, that God might really be substantial and extraneous to me and my consciousness, that something out there cares for me in here.

The only thing added by this notion of Christ entering me is that this outside power and beauty can move inside, informing and enlightening my life, my thoughts, my feelings, my actions, my words.

I still don’t know what firstborn means, and if you’re just picking up Guardini I wouldn’t advise starting with this dense chapter packed with theology. But I hope I’ve at least taken something useful from it for myself, and passed a bit of it along to you, my dear old friend.

Best always,

This series of posts on Romano Guardini’s book The Lord continues here with chapter 73.

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