Beams and Logs
IF JUDGEMENT is to begin with the House of God how do we stand?
In every household it is far easier to note and condemn the blemishes of others than to acknowledge and remedy our own shortcomings. Yet Jesus says that only the one who is without sin has the right to cast the first stone; while He, the blameless one, refrains.
The beams and logs impeding our vision certainly do make it hazardous for us to operate on one another’s eyes. But all the same the axe is clearly laid to the root of the tree, as the Baptist warns. It is only necessary to cast a glance over the world-wide ecclesiastical scene, to observe that this is so. “Unless you repent …” Jesus cautions the Churches in Revelation; “Unless you repent you shall all likewise perish”, He says in the Gospel.
How easy to feel all this refers to everyone else, or to some other time way ahead. Yet always now is the important and only time, the day of salvation. Repentance is for the present, and for the individual person, in the inner depths of the pricked and enlightened conscience. Lord I have sinned, I am blind, prejudiced and unloving and the Church is as it is because I have sinned.
Repentance means a chewing over of what has been, a digging up and bringing to the surface, and an assessing of what could and should have been, but is not. It involves the recognition of the deep grief of things; all the good that was ours which we have let slip. Repentance is renewal of mind, ‘metanoia’, a great and immeasurable turning about in sorrow and contrition and seeking to amend. And finally, a recognition that we are powerless of ourselves to atone or undo; that we are totally dependent on the mercy of God.
Do we ever truly ponder the magnitude of the reality we claim to believe in – the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?
We have a shared inheritance which has been handed down and which is not ours to tamper with. Truth does not change and suddenly become untrue. Rather it grows and develops from the basic Gospel seed in the energy of the Spirit. Accretions and false growth are pruned away. What was secured for us by the Apostles, and the Fathers who followed them, was not lightly gained. It is as vital today for us to live by what they taught as in their day.
Maybe we fondly imagine that Christians of the early centuries had everything cut and dried, the true and false clearly demarcated. It was nothing like that. They, especially, had to live with confusion and try to sift wheat from tares. The tenets of orthodoxy set down in the Creeds and the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils were not arrived at without much anguish and many casualties on the way. It was not always the majority viewpoint that held the day and the champions of orthodoxy often had to fight against bitter odds.
St Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria from 328 – 73, was exiled five times from his see because of his stand against the Arians (those who denied the divinity of Jesus). His troubled era is not unlike our own. Heresies are rarely new. We are slow to learn so maybe need a revision course, a re-looking and recalling, leading on to repentance.
Judgement and Renewal
Then perhaps, we shall find our judgement turned to renewal, by the grace of the Spirit, as we discover again some of those vital basic tenets that somehow slipped into second place. Then and only then can the accretions and false growths be seen for what they are so that we can go forward, together, with clarified vision with no more stones to cast.
A Sister of Holy Cross Convent, Rempstone