Friday, May 9, 2014

Reclaiming The Mystical Aspect Of Theology

"The original meaning of the word 'theology' was 'union with God in prayer.' Today theology has become one academic discipline alongside many others, and often theologians are finding it hard to pray. But for the future of Christian leadership it is of vital importance to reclaim the mystical aspect of theology so that every word spoken, every advice given, and every strategy developed can come from a heart that knows God intimately. I have the impression that many of the debates within the Church around issues such as the papacy, the ordination of women, the marriage of priests, homosexuality, birth control, abortion , and euthanasia take place on a primarily moral level. On that level, different parties battle about right or wrong. But that battle is often removed from the experience of God's first love which lies at the base of all human relationships. Words like right-wing, reactionary, conservative, liberal, and left-wing are used to describe people's opinions, and many discussions then seem more like political battles for power than spiritual searches for the truth.
Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source for their words, advice, and guidance. Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen again and again to the voice of love and to find there the wisdom and courage to address whatever issue presents itself to them. Dealing with burning issues without being rooted in a deep personal relationship with God easily leads to divisiveness because, before we know it, our sense of self is caught up in our opinion about a given subject. But when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.
For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required."
~ Henri Nouwen, "In The Name Of Jesus," 1989.
below: Father Henri Nouwen, left, chatting with his friend Bill at Daybreak, the L'Arche community near Toronto. L'Arche is a worldwide community of homes where able-bodied and disabled people live together in friendship and ministry.

1 comment:

Alison Longstaff said...

So good to see you writing again! Carry on being awesome.