Keeping The Faith and Heart Open

 So..... we live in interesting times.

by Amy Lowell

To Ezra Pound: with Much Friendship and Admiration and Some Differences of Opinion

The Poet took his walking-stick
Of fine and polished ebony.
Set in the close-grained wood
Were quaint devices;
Patterns in ambers,
And in the clouded green of jades.
The top was smooth, yellow ivory,
And a tassel of tarnished gold
Hung by a faded cord from a hole
Pierced in the hard wood,
Circled with silver.
For years the Poet had wrought upon this cane.
His wealth had gone to enrich it,
His experiences to pattern it,
His labour to fashion and burnish it.
To him it was perfect,
A work of art and a weapon,
A delight and a defence.
The Poet took his walking-stick
And walked abroad.

Peace be with you, Brother.

The Poet came to a meadow.
Sifted through the grass were daisies,
Open-mouthed, wondering, they gazed at the sun.
The Poet struck them with his cane.
The little heads flew off, and they lay
Dying, open-mouthed and wondering,
On the hard ground.
"They are useless. They are not roses," said the Poet.

Peace be with you, Brother. Go your ways.

The Poet came to a stream.
Purple and blue flags waded in the water;
In among them hopped the speckled frogs;
The wind slid through them, rustling.
The Poet lifted his cane,
And the iris heads fell into the water.
They floated away, torn and drowning.
"Wretched flowers," said the Poet,
"They are not roses."

Peace be with you, Brother. It is your affair.
The Poet came to a garden.
Dahlias ripened against a wall,
Gillyflowers stood up bravely for all their short stature,
And a trumpet-vine covered an arbour
With the red and gold of its blossoms.
Red and gold like the brass notes of trumpets.
The Poet knocked off the stiff heads of the dahlias,
And his cane lopped the gillyflowers at the ground.
Then he severed the trumpet-blossoms from their stems.
Red and gold they lay scattered,
Red and gold, as on a battle field;
Red and gold, prone and dying.
"They were not roses," said the Poet.

Peace be with you, Brother.
But behind you is destruction, and waste places.
The Poet came home at evening,
And in the candle-light
He wiped and polished his cane.
The orange candle flame leaped in the yellow ambers,
And made the jades undulate like green pools.
It played along the bright ebony,
And glowed in the top of cream-coloured ivory.
But these things were dead,
Only the candle-light made them seem to move.
"It is a pity there were no roses," said the Poet.

Peace be with you, Brother. You have chosen your part.
Poem source here

Fr. Vincent Donovan, says in his seminal book, Christianity Rediscovered:
Never accept and be content with unanalyzed assumptions, assumptions about the work, about the people, about the church or Christianity.
Never be afraid to ask questions about the work we have inherited or the work we are doing.
There is no question that should not be asked or that is outlawed.
The day we are completely satisfied with what we have been doing; the day we have found the perfect, unchangeable system of work, the perfect answer, never in need of being corrected again, on that day we will know that we are wrong, that we have made the greatest mistake of all.

The article below is by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser taken from here

There are more ways than one in which our belief system can be unbalanced so as to do harm to the God and to the church.

What makes for a healthy, balanced, orthodox faith? The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines orthodoxy as “right belief as contrasted to heresy.” That’s accurate enough, but we tend to think of this in a very one-sided way.
For most people, heresy is conceived of a going too far, as crossing a dogmatic boundary, as stretching Christian truth further than it may be stretched. 

Orthodoxy, then, means staying within safe perimeters.
This is true in so far as it goes, but it is a one-sided and reductionist understanding of orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy has a double function: It tells you how far you may go, but it also tells you how far you must go. And it’s the latter part that is often neglected.

Heresies are dangerous, but the danger is two-sided: Faith beliefs that do not respect proper dogmatic boundaries invariably lead to bad religion and to bad moral practice.
Real harm occurs.

Dogmatic boundaries are important. But equally important, we don’t do God, faith, religion, and the church a favor when our beliefs are narrow, bigoted, legalistic, or intolerant. 

Atheism is invariably a parasite that feeds off bad theism

Anti-religion is often simply a reaction to bad religion and thus narrowness and intolerance are perhaps more of an enemy to religion than is any transgressed dogmatic boundary. 
God, religion, and the churches are, I suspect, more hurt by being associated with the narrowness and intolerance of some believers than they are by any theoretical dogmatic heresy.

Right truth, proper faith, and true fidelity to Jesus Christ demand too that our hearts are open – and wide enough to radiate the universal love and compassion that Jesus incarnated. Purity of dogma alone doesn’t make us disciples of Jesus.

‘The real demands of discipleship’

Suffice it to say that Jesus is clear about this. Anyone who reads the Gospels and misses Jesus’ repeated warnings about legalism, narrowness, and intolerance is reading selectively. 
Granted, Jesus does warn too about staying within the bounds of proper belief (monotheism and all that this implies) and proper morals (the commandments, love of our enemies, forgiveness), but he stresses too that we can miss the real demands of discipleship by not going far enough in letting ourselves be stretched by his teachings.

True orthodoxy asks us to hold a great tension, between real boundaries beyond which you may not go and real borders and frontiers to which you must go. 

You may not go too far, but you must also go far enough.

And this can be a lonely road. If you carry this tension faithfully, without giving in to either side, you will no doubt find yourself with few allies on either side – that is, too liberal for the conservatives and too conservative for the liberals.

To risk just one example: You see this kind of pained, but more fully Catholic orthodoxy in a person like Raymond Brown, the renowned Biblical scholar, a loyal Roman Catholic thinker who found himself attacked, for opposite reasons, from both sides of the ideological spectrum.
He upset liberals because he stopped before they thought that he should and he upset conservatives because he suggested that proper truth and dogma often stretch us beyond some former comfort zones.

And this tension is an innate, healthy disquiet, something we are meant to live daily in our lives rather than something we can resolve once and for all.

‘A healthy soul’
Indeed, the deep root of this tension lies right within the human soul itself: The human soul, as St. Thomas Aquinas classically put it, has two principles and two functions: The soul is the principle of life, energy, and fire inside of us, even as it is equally the principle of integration, unity, and glue.

The soul keeps us energized and on fire, even as it keeps us from dissipating and falling apart.

A healthy soul, therefore, keeps us within healthy boundaries, to prevent us from disintegrating, even as it keeps us on fire, lest we petrify and become too hardened to fully enter life. 
In that sense, the soul itself is a healthy principle of orthodoxy inside us. It keeps us within real limits even as it pushes us towards new frontiers.

We live always in the face of two opposing dangers: disintegration and petrification. 

To stay healthy we need to know our limits and we also need to know how far we have to stretch ourselves. 

The conservative instinct warns us about the former. The liberal instinct warns us about the latter.
 Both instincts are healthy because both dangers are real.

The German poet Goethe once wrote: The dangers of life are many, and safety is one of those dangers. This is true in our personal lives and it’s true in Christian orthodoxy.

There is danger in bad dogma but there is equal danger in not radiating, with sufficient compassion and understanding, God’s universal will for the salvation of all peoples.

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