Today, for the feast of St Mark in my inbox a passage of reflection arrived from Fr. Richard Rohr's Centre for Action and Contemplation.............. which has morphed into further reflections with a little prompting from the vibrant words of Karl Rahner.
A few personal reflections
Would we be able to discover and experience the Spirit of the Lord more easily and powerfully if we were not afraid ?
This freedom, confidence, hope and joy, peace and unity in diversity is there for us and we are like thirsty deer yearning for the running streams of this Spirit of life.
As Christians that long for the revitalising breath of the Holy Spirit more than anything else are we breathing in the gift of new air or the stale and stagnant breath of old narrow minded mediocrity?
I have been quite absorbed in reading a book by the theologian Karl Rahner called Opportunities For Faith.
It is an old book but full of relevance for many of the crises and ongoing dilemmas of Catholics living in today's world.
Rahner says that anyone who has allowed the Exultet of the liturgy at the Easter vigil to touch their heart knows the meaning of paschal joy.
It is the subjective aspect merged with the objective fact of the Resurrection ; the joy of liberation, of overcoming death, of sheer victory over evil.
Where then,with us Christians says Rahner, is this joy which reaches its consummation at Easter ?
Where is the jubilation , where the unconquerable , radiant confidence ?
Where is the laughter , where are the tears of pure and redeemed joy?
Where among us Christians is that spontaneous cheerfulness which is in fact characteristic of those who have overcome, who know that the gate to infinite future can never be closed against us, leaving us locked in the hell of our own finiteness and futility ?
It is the Christian Easter which puts Christians to the greatest test.
As Nietzsche said, people should be able to see us as those who are redeeemed. But I fear that we show no signs of this.
How then , asks Rahner, are we to come to terms with the Easter we are celebrating ?
Or, how does Easter come to terms with us Easterless Christians ?"
Rahner has no easy answers , but he does say that there is no point in concealing this situation of ours with speeches that are supposed to sound inspired, like those of a loud-mouthed party secretary when the election -day draws near on which his party finally loses.
He says that the light of Easter shines " only for those who have accepted and voluntarily endured to the end the darkness of Good Friday.
If we accept our darkness and don't explain it away by a tortured pretense at joy then we can experience an "apophatic form of Christian joy which is the longing for joy, the desire for it and the readiness to accept it in whatever form in whatever measure it arrives.
If we admit our arid joylessness and don't try to numb it then a first experience of joy does indeed come upon us as a sense of Easter.
We can try and create a little joy for others and wait patiently until God puts it into our heart as a gift.
Karl Rahner said that the Holy Spirit cannot be understood as one sided progressivism or traditionalism; the progressives versus the the law and the letter, the institution....
He says that if Christianity is pilgrimage, mutation, and creation of history as an introduction to all truth then experiment in the Church in the future is a permanent state, the concrete expression of which under present day conditions is via collegiate reflection, dialogue and planning in the unavoidable quickening tempo of history."
Rahner wisely says that the invitation to experiment is not a wild one with everyone simply doing what they want and calling it the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and a "holy experiment". But he does say that the charismatic character of the church means that not every experiment can be one organised or expressly permitted "from above" ( with official approval of the hierarchy.)
He says there are such experiments in theology too.
Any theologian who does not merely repeat the traditional formulas is experimenting on his/her own account; he/she is offering and addressing to the Church the question whether her total awareness of faith can be recognised in the theology or not.
( I think this is relevant to the recent debate over Elizabeth Johnson's work.)
Rahner says :
"If then there can and should be experiments which do not first have to be approved, and yet not simply every sort of mad experiment is morally permissible, if we must distinguish between experiments which are justified without preliminary approval and those which are merely arbitrary, and if this distinction cannot be made from the beginning by authority as such for whom everything is forbidden which is not expressly permitted, then the distinction between the two kinds of experiment is a matter for a conscience which is self critical while boldly sustaining its own responsibility and for charism in the church.
Without these things the Church would degenerate into a bureaucratic apparatus and a totalitarian system.
Rahner goes on to say that "unrest" in the Church is inevitable and in such unrest and "out of it", in spite of all the confusion, the Spirit of God who is promised and given to us is guaranteed to awaken the life that should be present, not through a cult of the norm and the letter of the law : a cult which would prevent any daring experiment from the start and to render new life also impossible.
He says : " We must finally get used to the fact that in the Church too, monolithism is not an ideal; that unrest ,venture and an element of conflict belong to the life of the Church.
If office holders do not think that no one can raise a finger without their consent, that all experiments require approval in advance, that every experiment does not have to be sacrosanct and pre-ordained then we can live with struggle in a Church which must experiment and slowly mutate to find and practise for a better future."
Rahner says "if we want to get rid of the impression of a secular world, in which there is nothing like a Holy Spirit,
then we will have to stop looking for the Spirit only under explicitly religious labels of the kind to which our "religious"training has accustomed us."
The Holy Spirit is "poured out on all flesh", and is not merely locked up within the walls of the Church."
So I'm thinking what are we afraid of experimenting with as a Church these days ?
Are we afraid of recognising the epochal mutations that we need to radically embrace so that we can enact a full and responsible living out in our ordinary lives, the hope Jesus gave us as Easter People?
Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God. My soul is thirsting for God, the God of my life; when can I enter and see the face of God? My tears have become my bread, by night, by day, as I hear it said all the day long: "Where is your God?"