my dad is a wise man. And i really love reading people's thoughts, maybe even a little more than hearing them verbalize them. i think its because i am a visual learner, rather than an auditory learner. also why i have horrible memory as to what people tell me and expect me to remember...
Here are some of his thoughts for this second Sunday of Advent.
the Rector's Ruminations:
(a rector: in Anglicanism, the elected pastor of a financially self-supported congregation) (my dad is an Anglican priest, p.s.)
We're in the Church Season of Advent now. Sunday, 30 November marked the first day of the new Church Year. There's an ancient Jewish blessing for the end of Shabbat which neatly illustrates what I want to say in my rumination:
Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe, who makes a distinction between sacred and secular, between light and darkness, between Israel and the other nations, between the seventh day and the six working days. Blessed are You, Lord, who makes a distinction between the sacred and the secular. Amen.
In general, people don't like looking at things in a complicated way. They want to simplify what is necessarily complex, like religion. When the come in contact with that dreaded subject 'organized religion' most people take the politically correct path and say they don't like it. Why? Does anyone think that something which has been thought about and practiced for thousands of years will be simple on the surface?
On one hand, God is One. On the other, God is Trinity. God loves everyone, but God has chosen some and not others for His purposes. All the earth belongs to Him, but some places are more special than others. All time is important, all days are alike in intrinsic value, but some days and times are special. People often want to smooth everything out, equalize everything, and have equal outcome as well as equal opportunity.
In the world of spiritual practice we do things to strengthen our relationship with God, and don't do other things which weaken it. People are aware of such practices as private prayer, meditation, contemplation, study, and reflection on Biblical or other sacred texts. They understand that practicing generosity by giving alms (charity = 'caritas' Latin for 'love without bias' = Greek for Agape) or working in service to others or God is part of the necessary spiritual practice of Believers. As well, collective worship of God on Sunday is part of normative Christian spiritual practice. Worshiping Sunday by Sunday (or even better, day by day) changes you at a deep level.
A little thought-of but big part of our spiritual practice is the sanctification of time. For most people, time is basically all the same. One day is the same as another. Romans 14:5-6 says, One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.
In one sense, then, it doesn't matter if one person celebrates Christmas, for example, and another doesn't, so long as both keep Christ and His living presence in the forefront of their consciousnesses. However, as the late Bishop Karl M. Block of California (1941-1958) once remarked, 'Men tell me all the time that they can worship God as well on the golf course as they can in church. But how often do you see one of them actually kneeling when he isn't putting?' We have special times and seasons in the context of spiritual practice for good reason.
God causes us humans to make distinctions between sacred and secular for our sakes, not His, to help us keep our attention on that of which we ought to stay aware. The Church Year operates in Sacred Time as distinct from worldly time. The Church Year starts four Sundays from Christmas because we need, every year, to spend some time longing for the coming of the Messiah Jesus in the future at the end of days as Lord and Judge, and as the baby in the manger in history. In Advent we look both forward and back, and that begins the Church's yearly liturgical walk with Christ from the days before His birth all the way through His Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The liturgical year is spiritual practice on a collective level, not just a personal one. It's objective is not only to teach but also to change in ways which are not only subtle but often unseen.
Making distinctions between things, sacred and secular, God's people and those who haven't chosen Him, these things do not have to be excuses for prejudice, though people misuse them. Making distinctions is a way of focusing on something in particular, and not just being satisfied with the generic. God the Holy Spirit has inspired His people to set themselves apart, in a sense, in order to draw closer to him, because without drawing nearer and nearer to God we aren't going anywhere much at all.
Between God and the soul there is no between.
- Lady Julian of Norwich