Monday, November 21, 2011

today I am thinking about...idolatry!

In Caryll Houselander's The Reed of God, there is a chapter called "Idols."  She means the various ways we, through pride or fear or misunderstanding, mis-conceive of Christ.  The spiritual life, she believes, ought rather to be called "the seeking" because, just as His Mother discovered during the Passover pilgrimage of His twelfth year, He needs to be sought in order to be found.

And yet we are so selective about what we want to find.  The author recalls a scene from her childhood when an elderly and quite wealthy friend would sit on the vast lawns of her estate (the one that was built from slum-rents), and read aloud from the Bible, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..."

She writes:

We all tend to that sort of scripture reading.  And though we do not depend only on reading, yet it is really necessary, in our search for Christ, to read the Gospel, and to read it without flinching; or if we must flinch, at least without giving up the attempt.

But we are still faced with the fact that Christ lives with us, in the same room, and we do not know Him. (...)  We form a wrong conception of Him, an ego-projection Christ, an imaginary Christ who fits into our own narrowness, who does not shatter our complacency. (...) [But] Christ does answer all our real needs.  People who have what is called a "special devotion" to one particular aspect of Christ's humanity, find in this approach to Him the true answer to some deep need in themselves.  One of the greatest motives of God's love is to answer the needs of men...

If we had kept the strength of our primitive needs, we should not want to make idols...[T]he basic needs, the roots as it were, of human nature are good; they are given to us by God in His great purpose of increasing life.  Love, in its several great manifestations, is given that life may be begotten and nourished and cherished, strengthened and handed on and not exclusively physical life, but the life of the mind, too.  Our other great instinct, self-defence, it is newly created form was just an immense awareness of the wonder of the gift of life, which gave man the instinct to preserve it in gratitude. (...)
But we have watered down and whittled away the power of our deepest instincts we are afraid of the completeness of Love and afraid, or too lacking in vitality, to rejoice fully in the glory of possessing life.
She carries on describing the limitedness that comes with having a limited view of Christ and of God, and the cruelty or rigidity exhibited by those whose god is cruel or rigid, but then she returns to the original question about progressing in the spiritual life, or rather in "the seeking:"

Now we have one answer to the question, Why must we always be seeking for the lost Child?  Why must we always feel the pain of loss?  If we did not, we should not realise that our idols are not God, are not Christ.

Bad as they are, they match our limitations; and if they could content us, we should never know the real beauty of Christ: we should not become whole.  (...) Our conception of Christ makes us what we are, makes our effect on others what it is, influences us and influences everyone with whom we come into contact.

Our Lord said to His Apostles: "It is expedient for you that I go away."  It is the same for us.  We know Him only by continually learning Him anew; we get away from false gods only by continually seeking Him we hold Him only by losing Him.

No comments:

Post a Comment