It was cold inside. And it was cold outside. It was Monday morning before the temperature was up inside the church. A couple of visitors came on Sunday, and left almost right away. One of them mentioned that it was almost as cold inside St. Mary's as some of the churches they had visited in Eastern Europe several years. That comment was what started me thinking. There was no heat when they were built and there still today is no heat, at least central heat.
I have always looked longingly at the old wooded churches of the Ukraine and the surrounding countries. They were built by the parish. And they were heated by the parish. If all those spaces between the angels and saints standing in Orthodox Churches are felled with people (the parish, the faithful), the temperature rises. Add a lot of candles and the temperature goes up even more.
I have always noticed that when I turned down the temperature setting after a service that the temperature has always got up beyond the setting. The same is true in the summer with the air conditioning.
Now some of you might suggest that it is nothing more than the hot air from me and the congregation. But you are wrong. It is nothing more than the fire of all those prayers going up to God. Welcome to Heaven on earth.
So back to the furnace. Am I going to leave it off? No. It is like all those other things in our lives which we do not need, but we have anyway. How often do we go out and get a newer faster computer? What about that wide screen TV? And let's not forget getting a new car just because a new model has been introduced. The Christmas season is upon us, just look at the advertisements on television. There will lot and lots and lots of things we do not yet have but will be told and told we must have.
And by the way I do not have a new car. I am still paying for the last repairs made on it. And there is no wide screen TV in the future. Don't need one and don't want one. As for the computer, this think I got will last a long time, even if it does get shower than yours.
And while we are at it, I am sure that a small part of us this holiday season will remember that there are lots of folks who have much less, if anything at all. For a brief moment we will think of them as brothers and sisters in Christ, and give a few cents to this charity or that charity.
What got me going on this even more than having no heat for Sunday's service was an article I just finished reading on another blog, Torn Notebook. Check it out. There is a link down the left side of the page to the blogs which I follow. The author's thoughts are well worth following and reading. I have shared some here before. Today the author answers his students question about his IPod. Here is his answer:
Not quite there yet, but on the Way. Hopefully.
A student of mine who read Moo Point #2 asked me the other day, “So yeah, what’s with your iPod? Do you just get to suspend your vow of poverty or something?” Non-Christians say the darnest things.
That’s question is what I call “a spiritual pothole”. My response is always to close my eyes, drive as fast as I can, and hope I don’t pop a hubcap loose.
I’ve been wondering a lot lately what it means, first of all, to live as a Christian who is on pilgrimage in this world even as he stands in the light of the dawning Age to Come in which he professes day after day. My conclusion is that, for a sojourner, I own way too much real estate, and something needs to be done about that. But this all got me thinking about this guy named Bonaventure.
In their quest to live the Christian poverty shown them by their founder, the early Franciscans of the 13th century found themselves repeatedly falling short of the radical lifestyle that St. Francis had lived. As the Order grew and spread, for example, there were more and more friaries that needed to be maintained and older brothers who needed to be cared for since they were no longer able to go about begging for their own food as Francis had. More and more, they found it difficult to live the Gospel ideals of austere simplicity and poverty which had constituted the core of Francis’ total devotion to Christ. The realities of everyday life pressed on the communities, and it appeared that Franciscanism was on its inevitable way to being watered down.
Into this scene appeared St. Bonaventure, who rescued the future of the Order with his sober and modest interpretation of the Franciscan ideal. In a sense, he saw Francis as an eschatological figure—a man who manifested in his life all that the Church could and would be when Christ is all in all. However, he also saw the Order as being only the seed of the tree that Francis had been. For him, the Franciscans could only be a shadow of their Founder in history, but accepting this fact was not so much a concession of loss as it was a way of negotiating the tension between radical poverty and the utterly real demands of the world in which the sons of Francis lived—demands which imposed inevitable constrictions on the radicality Francis embodied. Of this negotiation Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in his The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure:
Without feeling any infidelity towards the holy Founder, Bonaventure could and had to create institutional structures for his Order, all the while realizing that Francis had not wanted them. It is a too facile and, in the final analysis, an unlikely method to see this as a falsification of true Franciscanism. In reality, it was precisely the historical accomplishment that…he submitted himself in humble recognition of the limits demanded by reality. Bonaventure recognized that Francis’ own eschatological form of life could not exist as an institution in this world; it could be realized as a break-through of grace in the individual until such time as the God-given hour would arrive at which the world would be transformed into its final form of existence. Everything else is naively visionary. Bonaventure was able to give the Order a form that could be realized in this world because he recognized this fact and had the courage to accept it. His first concern in doing this was to preserve whatever could be preserved of that radically eschatological character. (50-51)
Thus, Bonaventure, in accepting the limits imposed by the practical realities of life, actually made it possible for the Franciscan ideal to survive in the heart of the Order without compromise. The task of Francis’ spiritual sons and daughters was live that ideal to the fullest extent possible in this world, knowing that its full realization would only be possible in the Age to Come.
The gap between the ideal and the real has always been a difficult one for me to accept. In the early days of consecrated life, I found myself agonizing again and again over the precise meaning of “poverty”. Should I own a car? Should I accept gifts? Ought I to have a retirement fund? Own a house instead of pay rent? When I brought these questions to my spiritual director at that time, she calmly smiled and said words to this effect: “What you’re looking for is a one-size-fits-all rule. There is no such rule, because each one’s poverty is different. There is only the vow, and there is love, which is the aim of that vow and all your vows. It would be better for you ask Christ how He wants you to love Him every time you open your wallet to buy something. Asking that question will keep you young at heart and your vows fresh. For sure, you will make your mistakes—I have, we all do—but even in making them you will grow in love. Apart from love, the vows mean nothing. Consecrated life means nothing.”
I’ve lost count of all the mistakes I’ve made—many even consciously—these past 6 years. One of them might be this tiny blue iPod, a gift which I accepted without vehement resistance. And I don’t feel too bad for having accepted it, in fact. I guess I’ll just have to trust that, if it’s not something Christ wants me to have, He’ll find me someone to give it to. And so it is with everything else. This is also how I deal with the ache that I sometimes—and only sometimes—feel from owning a car, a small CD collection, a Dell notebook, and a comfortable bed.
I think my thoughts turned toward Bonaventure these past few days because I admire his ability to navigate between the ideal and the real, hold on to both, and not wreck the Franciscan ship while doing so. I consider myself a son of Francis, but I also accept the fact that I cannot become exactly like him. He is the eschatological Church embodied, and I am the sojourner with one tent too many, leaving behind a trail of possessions as I slouch toward the Kingdom. Not quite there yet, but on the Way. Hopefully.