Here I wish to draw attention to a problem rather than to solve it. The theme assigned to me is ‘The cultivation of the Christian life’. May I first make four introductory propositions before attempting to chart the content and manner of cultivation of the Christian life.
i. My first proposition is that the giving of priority in Christian thought and planning to the mission of the Church over the life of the Church is both contrary to the Scriptures and harmful to humanity.
In the last two hundred years or so, there has been a growing tendency to exaggerate the evangelistic task of the Church. The sending of missionaries to foreign countries, at first resisted by the Western Protestant churches, later became the thing to do for all churches. That great pioneer of the modern ecumenical movement, John R. Mott, cannot himself be exculpated from the responsibility for this gross exaggeration. The fact that words like witness, evangelism and mission have now been ascribed a wider and more comprehensive meaning does not mitigate the situation. There is still too much emphasis on talking and acting. and too little on the subtler qualities of life that have always made the Christian the salt of the earth.
Grace and Apostleship-I. suspect Apostleship is the new word for mission. The word mission is hard to find either in the New Testament or in the Great Fathers and Doctors of the Church, or even in the Reformers. Its currency in Christian parlance happens to coincide with the mission of the West European powers to colonize and civilize the rest of the world. Not that there have not been great missionaries in every age and every clime in the Church. But they did not feel than everybody had to be a missionary; nor did authentic Christian missionaries ever try to colonize a mission field for generation after generation, refusing to leave or to stop bringing new missionaries once the Church had been established.
But let us begin with the New Testament. The Greek word for mission ‘Apostle is, used a total of four times in the whole New Testament—Acts 1: 25, Romans 1:5,
1Cor.9: 8,and Gal. 2:8. In each of these four cases it refers specifically to the ministry of the Twelve or of St. Paul, as distinct from the ministry of the whole Church. Only in Gal. 2:8 is the word translated ‘mission’ in English. but even here the meaning is clearly that of St. Paul’s’ special calling to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. Being an Apostle was not everybody’s business the New Testament church. It required certain given qualifications which none of us today can aspire to. At least three can be mentioned here: (1): to have b a disciple of Jesus during his earthly ministry (2) to have seen the Risen Lord with one’s own physical eyes, and (3) to have ‘been commissioned directly by the
Risen Lord to go and preach. St. Paul lacked the first qualification, and had to press his claims to Apostleship despite this disqualification, as we see from Galatians. ‘Apostole’ or Mission in that restricted sense appears a special privilege of a chosen few and not of the whole Church.
When we come to the verb apostellein—to commission, the picture would appear to be somewhat different. The verb occurs 133 times in the New Testament. But strangely enough 121 of these are in the Gospel’s and Acts, and only four in the Pauline writings (Rom. 10:5,Cor. 1:17, 2 Cor. 12:17 and 2 Tim. 4:12). In none of these instances does it mean the whole mission of the whole Church.
The virtual absence of the words ‘Commission’ and ‘Mission’ in St. Paul’s writings at least, should give us cause to reflect. Why does the greatest missionary of the Church’s history fail to exhort the Christians to whom he writes to become missionaries? Why is what has become axiomatic tn western Christian thought, both Catholic and Protestant, namely that mission is the central task of the Church, apparently absent in St. Paul?
We know that St. Paul was full of missionary zeal and the early Christians spread the Gospel with fervent earnestness. Was it then because it was superfluous that St. Paul did not exhort them to mission and witness? That seems a little difficult to believe. The centrality of the Cross and Resurrection or of the Grace of God, could just as well have been taken for granted by St. Paul. Yet he does dwell on these themes at some length. I suspect that the phenomenon is to be attributed more to St. Paul’s divine wisdom than to his taking it for granted.
To put over-emphasis on mission is to invite the danger of empty words, vain activism and hypocritical sell-assertion. This was driven home to my mind during a’ conversation with a cultured and highly spiritual Hindu friend in India. ‘Christ‘, he said to me, ‘has a tremendous appeal to the people in India. If only those who bear his name were not so arrogant and self- assertive and so unlike their Master, India would be gathered at the feet of Christ’. That of course is an exaggeration. But for St. Paul at least, the life of Christian community was more important than its con-scious words of witness or missionary action. Take any of the Pauline epistles and examine the hortatory passages in them. Is he calling the churches to be witnessing communities or missionary congregations? The words he uses are significant. I mention only a few that the New Testament as a whole as well as St. Paul in particular uses rather frequently. Hagios =holy occurs 229 times in the New Testament of which 78 are in the Pauline epistles. Zoe=life and Zao=live occur 276 times, of which 96 are in the Pauline epistles. Agape = love, Dikaiosune = righte- ousness, peripateo =walk, ginomai = become, apothnesko = die, ginosko=to know, kaleo= call, kosmos=world: these are some of his favorite words.
Even evangelizo (evangelize) and martureo (witness) do not occupy a central place in Pauline thinking. Evangelizo he uses 23 times, but in most cases referring to his own special calling and in no case as the responsibility of all Christians; Martureo 9 times. marturia and martus 9 times, but in none of these cases does it refer to the witness of
5the whole Church or to the witness of individual Christians to Jesus Christ. In fact the manner in which we use the word witness is thoroughly un-Pauline. Quite often when St. Paul ‘bears witness’ to somebody, it is a weaker man whom he wants to support by his testimony.
Why have we today accepted a concept as central to our Christian thought, which is central neither in St. Paul nor in the Fathers of the Church, nor even in the Reformers? With due respect and appreciation for the great accomplishments of the modern western missionary movement to which most of us owe our Christian faith let me submit that there are two grave errors in - that movement. In both respects the modern missionary movement departs from the practice of the Church. First, no previous missionary movement has used the practice of missionary colonization, either through. Foreign personnel or through financial controlling power.
Secondly, no authentic missionary regarded his calling as a calling of all Christians. This was John It. Mott’s big mistake, and our self-conscious emphasis on mission makes the Church an unbearable bore; when everybody regards himself as a missionary and a preacher the gospel gets cheapened and the Word loses its power. We Asian Christians seem to have been thoroughly brainwashed in this regard. We have acquired that dangerous missionary self-consciousness which leads to hypocrisy, sham and pride. We too have started bragging about the number of Asian missionaries sent out by the Asian churches. I may in my more sinful moments be all in favour of sending out some Asian missionaries to the West, if only to get even with them, as a sort of ‘tit for tat’. But St. Paul. Never measured the spiritual vitality of a church by the number of missionaries it sent out.
New Testament standards for a church are always the depth of faith, the binding quality of love, the stead fastness of its hope, the holiness of its life.
So my first introductory proposition is that the time has come for the Asian Church to be redeemed, from this missionary brainwashing. An authentic mission can ensue only from an authentic Christian life of the community. The over-emphasis on mission is unscriptural and harmful.
2. My second introductory proposition is that the cultivation of the Christian life should be considered first in terms of the life of the whole Church, and only secondarily in terms of individual Christian lives.
The development of individualism in Christian spirituality cannot the attributed to Protestantism. It has its roots in the Egyptian Antonine monasticism; but it came to its full flowering in the medieval Roman Catholic piety of Belgium and Holland. When the eucharistic and ecclesiàl spirituality of St. Dionysius the Pseudo Areopagite was assimilated and transformed by the great Saints of the Low Countries, what emerged was the pro- found but largely individualist spirituality of Gerhand ‘Groote, Ruysbrooke and Thomas a Kempis. Dionysius was probably a Syrian and a Semite who could not think in individualist terms. For him spirituality was a matter of a community assembled around the un- approachable holiness of God’s Person. It was in the Eucharistic adoration of the celestial and ecclesial community that the beatific vision was to be found. No man or angel stood alone before God. There was no place to behold God except in the community of God’s people .on heaven and on earth. But when it was redeveloped 7in Latin and Greek piety the ‘mystical’ vision became an encounter of the ‘alone with the alone’. When this spirituality was combined with a distorted vision of Egyptian monasticism, which searches for the salvation of the soul, the basis of modem individualism was already born.
The reaction to the dry post-Reformation Protestant scholasticism, which took shape as Pietism was in its beginnings still a social movement. Zinzendorf and the Brethren of the Common Life were still not indivi- dualists. Early Pietism, by affirming the primacy of love over the correctness of academic theology, continued to maintain the emphasis on community. Even Luther, who developed the spiritual basis of individualism by his enunciation of the principle of private interpretation of Scripture, still held that the people of each princedom were to choose collectively for the Reformation.
In a sense the modern missionary movement brought this nascent individualism of the Western spiritual tradition fully into the open. Individuals started the missionary movement over against the Church. The gospel of the modern missionary movement was addressed to individuals. They had to choose, often over against the family and the community. The convert was separated from the community and placed in a ghetto.
There is of course a positive side to this individualism. The importance of the human person which is increasingly accepted as a secular value, has its roots in this individualism of the Western tradition. God has used the wrath of men to praise him. The value of the person before God is a genuinely Christian insight which had to be clarified even at the cost of exaggeration and over emphasis.
But my second introductory proposition is that the time has come to correct this over-emphasis, and that this can be done only by thinking first, of the community and only then of the person of the individual in it. There may be the danger, as Mr. M. M. Thomas has pointed out, particularly in Asia of the value of the person being overlooked in the interests of the collectivity. But the proper approach is always to keep the person and community together, with the primacy given to the community. In that sense the Asians may yet be proved right, only they will learn to combine the value of the person with their present emphasis on the national community.
3 My third introductory proposition is. that the cultivation of the Christian life, i.e. the life of the Church should be understood in the context of the sum total of creation, rather than in terms only of the world of men.
It is a genuinely evangelical insight that the Church exists as a foretaste of and for the sake of the total human community. It is an equally important insight that the Incarnation is a historical event, and that history itself is to be redeemed.
But there is more than that t be said. Men are but part, be it ever the most important part, of the total of creation. And human history is but a small though significant page in the history of the cosmos.
Nothing less than the whole created order, the time- space universe in its entirety, stretching across billions of years of time and millions of light-years of space,can be the object of God’s love and redemptive activity. Our little planet, and this short 5000-year span of our human history, should be seen in the perspective of the whole universe, and in continuity with it. The formation of our little solar system in our little galaxy is an event in the life of the universe leading up to the Incarnation. But the Incarnation and the life of the Church have significance for the whole universe. It is God’s will and purpose that the new man in Christ should be the mediator between the creation and the Creator.
This material element of redemption is what St. Paul has in mind when he says in Romans 8: 19-21‘For the yearning of the created order eagerly awaits the unveiling of the Sons of God. It was not because the created order wished it that it was ordained to emptiness but through Him who so ordained it but under hope (of better things). for it is a fact that the created order is to be freed from its enslavement to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.’
Whatever heaven may be. it must include a liberated and reconstituted material creation. This is one of the fundamental insights of the doctrine of the Incarnation.Matter has been assumed by the Logos, the Son of God, and is therefore redeemed. Matter is no longer opposed to Spirit, but becomes its field and raw material. This is why science and technology are already within God’s plan of redemption.
‘The Church is like a tree planted on the earth. It is the planting of the Lord. The seed is Christ Himself- the seed that fell into the ground and died. ‘Unless grainof wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit’ (John 12: 24). The Kingdom of heaven ‘is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and ‘the birds of the air made nests in its branches’ (Luke 13: 19).
But this planting of the Lord, like other plants and trees, has to have roots in the earth to draw nourishment, and leafy branches open to the light of heaven. Both are equally essential to its life and growth. The cultivation of the Christian life cannot neglect either the rootage in the earth or the openness to light, without endangering that life. Rooted in the Incarnation of our Lord Jcsus Christ, and the material reality of our daily existence, the Church grows by drawing nourishment from the life of the world, material and historical. Open to the light of God in Jesus Christ, the Church draws in the energy of the Son in eucharistic worship and private prayer. If worship is without roots in the life of the world, the tree fades and dries up. But if openness- to the sun is shut off as may be the case in modern secularism, the tree withers away and dies,
The Church cannot be so concerned about the world as to neglect its own life of worship and prayer. Neither can it so devote itself to prayer and contemplation as to neglect the life of the world.
This unity of matter and Spirit is best expressed in the writings of that great French savant, Pierre Teilbard de Chardin in his two important books The Phenomenon of Man and Le Milieu Divin. He seeks in his own words ‘to reconcile, and provide mutual nourishment for the love of God and the healthy love f the world, a striving towards detachment and a striving towards the enrichment of our lives’.
De Chardin is bold enough to say, and to pray, that the work of our minds, of our hearts, and of our hands that is to say our achievements. wha we bring into being, our opus’ will also be in s sense ‘eternalised’ and saved. And that boldness remains yet to be acquired by all churches, Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox.
It is natural for us to rail and cavil at our own activism, at our own organizational bureaucracy. at our own multiiplicity of programmes and projects, at the rushed pace of our lives, at the restlessness of our souls. These are somewhat new phenomena which perplex and frustrate us, for we seem unable as yet to. cope with them without losing our inner tranquillity. Some would counsel us to go back to the glories of a mythical golden age, when everybody was spiritual, peaceful and pro found. Alas! God has placed us within the inevitable flow of time and there is no way back. It is idle to dream of a revival of pre-technological civilization. Man, especially Christian man, stands inescapably confronted with this bewildering new world, with the challenge to find a new spirituality in this new world which offers us no easy place of rest.
And yet man has to do much more than adjust to the new. He must learn to find his own true being within the new situation. Our generation is in that burdensome position of having to pioneer for a totally new world; to discover the shape o a new obedience.
Matter must -be drawn into the -realm of the Spirit. This has been the calling of man since his creation. Yet mattter in the eloquent words of De Chardin is the burden;. the fetters the pain, the sin and the threat to our lives. It weighs us down, suffers, wounds, tempts and grows old. Matter makes us heavy, paralysed, vulnerable, guilty. Who will deliver us from this body of death? But at the same time matter is physical exuberance, ennobling contact, virile effort and the joy of growth. It attracts, renews, unites and flowers. By matter we are nourished, lifted Up, linked to everything else, invaded by life. To - be deprived of it is intolerable’.
How to harness this power of matter so that it is no longer a drag and a burden but a spur and nourishment that is the spiritual question of our time. We do not need today a spirituality divorced from the conflicts and struggles of living with earthly things. These poetic words of de Chardin contain a spiritual depth which the Church has yet to plumb. He addresses matter:
Matter, you in whom I find both seduction and strength, you in whom I find blandishment and virility, you who can enrich and destroy, I surrender myself to your mighty layers, with faith in the heavenly influences which have sweetened and purified your waters. The virtue of Christ has passed into you. Let your attractions lead me forward, let your sap be the food that nourishes me; let your resistance give me toughness; let your robberies and inroads give me freedom. And finally let your whole being lead me towards God.’
All of history, and the physical universe. are to be redeemed. No true cultivation of the Christian life can afford to ignore this.
4. My fourth introductory proposition is that the cultivation of the Christian life has to be conceived in terms of death, resurrection and the last judgment.
Death, of course, is an embarrassing subject for our modern civilization. Particularly in those countries where the cost of dying is rising higher than the cost of living and the undertaker is at the top of the affluent society, death has to be embalmed, romanticized, covered up in expensive caskets and decorated with lilies and roses.
Yet death is a fact to be faced, and a power which has been conquered, though in a sense different from the Undertaker’ Association concept of the conquest. We must all die.
The concept of a ‘Responsible Society’ is not meant to cover the whole area of the Christian faith. Yet it is a temptation for the ecumenical movement to give it so-central a place in our thinking as to overshadow and obscure the eternal life aspect of the gospel. ‘Responsible Society’ as a category for describing the task of the Christian Church cannot deal with the problem of death. We know that this world is to go up in flames, and no society, however responsible can expect to give life to dead men, or to survive the final conflagration. There is a real danger in our time of the Social Gospel, of the old and discredited liberalism of an earlier decade of our century, dominating our Christian thought in such a way as to eclipse the transcendent and obscure the issue of death. Especially in Asia, but also elsewhere in the world, the emphasis on social relevance, on understanding the tides of history, on nation-building, on social and political activity directed towards the centres of power and our science and technology can obscure the problems of the death of the individual,’ of the impermanence of history, and of the eschatological nature of human existence.
What happens to men who have developed a high level of social and political responsibility, when they are confronted with personal death, as every individual human being must be confronted at some point in his life? What happens to the human person whose Spirituality has been developed almost exclusively in the context of social and political responsibility when he ultimately dies and his physical body disintegrates? The cultivation of the Christian life has to face this question also if the Christian message is to be fully relevant. ‘The gospel is the gospel of victory over death, and in Christ, there is more than new social political life
So much by way of introduction. We must now enter into the content of the Christian life and the manner of its cultivation.
II The Content and Manner of the Christian Life
Let me state in a sentence what I regard as the content of the Christian life, and say a few words to explain it.
The Christian life, coming from the grace and peace of Cod, is a life of faith in Jesus Christ, where the Holy Spirit creates joyous freedom in the community of suffering love, led by the transcendent hope of Resurrection and final victory and where ‘wisdom and power are developed to the full for the manifestation of God’s glory.
One could speak for hours on every phrase in that sentence, but we shall seek here only to dwell on some main points:
1. The Vocation of Man:
The calling of the Christian Church cannot be under stood except in the context of the vocation of man as man. ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever’ says a Calvinist confession.
This is in general agreement with the ancient tradition of the Church though that tradition prefers to begin from the biblical assertion that Man is made in the image of God.
Image here means more than resemblance. The Greek words used by the New Testament and the Fathers is eikon ‘Jesus Christ is the eikon of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation’ says St. Paul (Col. 1:15) The passage continues: ‘He is the head of the body, the Church, he is the principium, the first-born from the dead’.
Jesus Christ does not merely resemble God. He is God physically present in the created order. An icon is the concrete and proximate presence of an invisible or distant reality not simply a photograph or a reproduction which can be an aid to memory. Man’s vocation is to be in the image of God, as created. He is to be, in the Jesus Christ, the physical presence of god in the universe. This is the vocation, which Christ fulfilled and continues to fulfill through his body.
The calling of the Church is to be this icon, or physical presence of God within the created order. Any spirituality oriented merely to the salvation of the soul, to the beatific vision, to political and social responsibility, or to witness and service, would go wrong if it does not start from this point. The being of the Church cannot be separated from its doing or talking, but that being must be regarded as primary and basic to all doing and talking.
But what does it mean for the Church to be the physical presence of God in the created order? It means nothing less than the social and corporate embodiment of all that God is. His glory is the only standard for man. And we all come short of it, as St. Paul says in Romans 3:23. There is no static nature of man, which can be called good or evil, righteous or sinful. The nature of man is joyous freedom- it is not bound by anything, even by his creatureliness. God has crowned man with glory and honour, putting everything in subjection under his feet’ (Heb3:7-8). This is the eschatological vocation of man, fulfilled in Christ, but only invisibly and mysteriously realized in the life of the Church and of mankind.
2. Glory of Man:
But what is this glory? Is it sitting on a jewel-studded throne, wearing a triple tiara, with a company of sycophants singing man’s praises all around him? That is the great misunderstanding of glory. That is the error of triumphalism.
The glory of God, as it manifests itself in man in history, is to be expressed in basically the same way as Jesus Christ manifested it.
‘Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee’. What was this hour of Jesus glory? The hour of the Cross! The Cross is the dimax of a life of glory of which Jesus said ‘I glorified Thee on earth, having fulfilled the task Thou didst give me to do (John 17:4).
In manifesting through rejection and revilement, the love, the wisdom, and the power of God, Jesus glorified God on earth. And our task is the same. To accept suffering, rejection and unpopularity, infirmity and contempt, and in that context to acquire God’s wisdom as Jesus did, to develop God’s healing and life-giving power as Jesus did, and to manifest God’s gracious love as Jesus did.
This wisdom, this power, and this love did not come to him automatically by virtue of His being the Son of God. He accepted the limitations of manhood, and his first traces of wisdom and power and love were imparted to him by his mother, who fed him and nourished him, who taught him his first lessons and gave him that infinite mother-love, without experiencing which no human being can learn to love.
Yes, that is where the cultivation of the Christian life begins; in the simple love joy and peace of the family. The spiritual life is not some energy transmitted by direct cables from heaven into the heart of each soul, but comes through the normal channels of our daily life as well.
But Jesus did not develop his power, his wisdom and his love from the family alone. The New Testament gives us few clues in this regard but already by the age of twelve, he is in the company of devout Jewish scholars, learning from them and often teaching them. Later he must have joined a monastic community. There is every possibility that he spent the springtime of his youth in the Essene communities along the Dead Sea coast where he developed in community his own power, wisdom, and love and imparted it to others. Of course, he had to disagree with them and Part Company, but yet he was no doubt trained in that framework.
3 The Place of Prayer:
If there is one thing that is clear about the mysterious private life of Jesus, it is that he was a man of prayer. He could continue all night in prayer to God—and that is a’ feat which is acquired only by prolonged discipline ‘and practice. Yes, the Son of God so limited Himself to be the Son of Man that he had to learn the life of glorifying God through channels open to every human being, and not by fiat, by simple virtue of his miraculous divine power, but by the power which is available to all men and which is in fact the sign of authentic humanity. That is the difficulty of ‘proving’ the deity of Jesus by the miracles. You do not have to be God in order to perform miracles. Every religion on earth can produce authentic miracles, which do not prove the deity of the miracle-worker. The New Testament speaks of the working ‘of miracles as one of the gifts of the Spirit given to men in the Church.
This is not a digression. Prayer is the lost art of the Church. Modern man cannot pray. Even his intercessions become either pious propaganda for particular causes, designed to remind the people of these needs rather than to place them before God in faith. Our technical age has brought two new obstacles in the way of prayer. First, we have developed our academic consciousness to the point where we cannot believe what, we or some learned scientist on our behalf, cannot under stand. And the scientist cannot see how prayer can have any effect on the course of events which are guided ‘by laws other than that of prayer. We seem to have discovered these scientific laws by the experimental method, though many things remain embarrassingly obscure to our vision in the causal networks. But with our academic minds trained to seeing reality operating according to laws other than that of prayer, we find it difficult to believe in the efficacy of prayer. The only possibility is to hope that prayer will have a ‘psychological’ effect. Fortunately psychology is still a highly inexact science, and we secretly hope that it will not become too exact and rule out the possibility of prayer being explained by some vague phrase.
The second difficulty in prayer has been most illuminatingly pointed out by Martin Buber in his work On the Eclipse of God. This is .a penetrating insight indeed. Modern man, especially the academically well-trained man, has his self-consciousness so highly developed, that it becomes a problem to him. Just as he begins to pray, he becomes aware of the fact that he is praying, and this self-conscious awareness comes between his consciousness and God, thus eclipsing God. It is a very ancient insight of the spiritual tradition of Eastern Christianity that self-consciousness is the great enemy of prayer. Prayer requires the willingness to lose ourselves in God. Modern training teaches us never to lose ourselves for error is the great enemy of science and a fully alert mind alone an guard against this enemy. Truly to pray is to experience a kind of death of the consciousness. The rational prayers of western collects, beautiful and sublime in their thoughts, cannot often lead inert to this confident and trusting surrender to God which is the better part of faith—both in our corporate worship and in our private prayer.
Prayer is the means by which the image of God is imprinted on the life of man, as individuals and in community. Prayer is the secret of freedom, of wisdom, power and love. Prayer makes man authentically man in the image of God.
God said, Let there be light, and there was light. God’s word creates reality. Man’s word of prayer must become a creative word. He must develop his wisdom, his love and his power to such an extent that his ardent desires expressed in articulate prayer or inarticulate groanings should create the object of those desires. But those desires should first conform to the general - plan and purpose of God. Man’s usual desires are not always in consonance with the purpose of God. Freedom in Christ means deliverance from the usual selfish and anxious desires of man, and the development of the power to pray. Very few of us have moved out of the kindergarten of prayer.
4. A Place to Stand:
Man stands upon the emptiness of creation. He has emerged out of the creative evolution that is the ongoing process of this time-space cosmos. The freedom that inheres in the creation by the gift of God, through the inter-play of chance and anti-chance factors, has given birth to our solar system, our planet, and life on our planet. Out of this tree of life, which has again grown up through the play of chance and anti-chance factors, has been produced this strange two-legged animal called man, continuous with the material creation, plant and animal life, but endowed with a consciousness capable of infinite development.
The process of evolution, initiated by God, operates through the factors of mutation, which produce variety. It works through large masses which provide infinite variety and the possibility of selective survival through the surge of life which manifests itself as the urge to re production, and finally through the elimination of the unselected through decay and death.
With the emergence of the consciousness of man, a new principle has been brought into play, in this vast process of creative evolution. De Chardin’s great book,The Phenomenon of Man, is an exciting elucidation of this point man is still part of the great surge of creative evolution, and as such is subject to the play of the forces and factors operative in the process. But he is more than merely subject. He is called upon, not simply to be a passive object to be moulded by that process, but to rise up on his two feet, to take hold of that huge and infinitely powerful creative process, and to mould it. From within the material that is being moulded, by God’s grace, has now risen a moulder.
To emancipate oneself from the bondage to the turbulent forces of Creation, to reflect upon and understand these forces, and then to mould them in accordance with the general purpose of God, transmuting the whole process including man to reflect the ordered beauty of God’s glory—in the fullness of God wisdom, love and power this is the calling of man, and the content of the - Christian life which we are to cultivate in the Holy Spirit. But how? I shall only state the how in terse outline.
(a) To be freed: ‘Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the- Lord, are being transformed into his eikon from glory to glory. This also comes from the Lord, the Spirit’ (2 Cor3:17-18)
Christ has conquered the turbulent forces of Creation, the principalities and powers. He is the Man who has been freed. We need no longer be afraid of those forces, whether they be demonic powers which hold many primitive societies in fear and thraldom, or the more subtle power of death, guilt and the fear of punishment which holds modern man in their power. Neither do we need to be afraid of the forces and powers of Secularism. Communism, Atheism, other religions, political totalitarianism, or any other such threatening powers.
Man has no ground to stand on in the created order ‘where he can be secure. -Neither in his own powers nor in his wisdom can he find a place to stand. But we must first have a place to stand, before we can deal confidently with these tremendous forces which we are to control. -
And that place to stand is the Body of our Risen-Lord. There is no other place in creation which is not subject to death and decay. Christ is risen Hallelujah. Man is no longer at the mercy of the turbulent forces of creation. He has a place to stand. That is the good news. To stand in Him, to abide in Him, that is freedom.
Standing in Him means also - standing in adoration and worship. Faith is not a momentary act--not a leap. It is a standing. It is access with confidence into the presence of God.This is the plan of ages which God has realized in Jesus Christ our Lord’, says St. Paul in. Ephesians 3 : 11-12, ‘in whom we have boldness and confident access by his faith’.
It is in the Eucharistic worship of the Church that this bold access into the presence of God is realized, and man is able to stand in the eternity of the eschaton in Jesus Christ, with the angels and archangels, in the presence of Him to whom the Heavenly Hosts sing the great mystic hymn of adoration, ‘Holy, Holy. Holy’.
To be freed then is to have a place to stand and to join the company of eternity standing in the presence of God.
(b) To be Wise: It is in this stand in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, that the word of wisdom is spoken to us in the Scriptures. Bible study is some thing that takes place primarily and fundamentally in this heavenly eucharistic context. But this context is not divorced from the ordinary life of the great process of creative evolution. We bring this process with us when we come to the eucharistic adoration and there the word of power directly related to the life of the cosmos is spoken to us Listening to the scriptures in the eucharistic context of standing: before God is the way to wisdom.
(c) To be Empowered: As we offer ourselves in the eucharist as first-fruits of the whole process of creative evolution in identification with the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit to God the Father, then, He who sits on the throne gives himself to us in His Body and his Blood. That is the new life, the new power, which goes back into the process of creative evolution and transmutes it.
(d) To Live with Joy: We come back into the process of creative evolution, to live and love and work, in joy and peace, in suffering, with humility, to fulfil that which God has given us to do—whether it be in politics, in administration, in evangelism, or in scavenging.
(e) To Live with Eyes Open: We see the world now in a new perspective, as the arena where God’s purposes are being worked out. We act in accordance with our new insights, and help others to gain, these new insights. This means that all human knowledge is to be pains-takingly, acquired by Christian men and transmuted in this new perspective.
(f) To Live in Grace: By the joy of forgiveness we transmit the joy of grace to others. Not simply by the proclamation of forgiveness, but by ourselves living as a community of openness not in deceit and sham and’ false piety, but in the truth of openness in the loving acceptance which is open to all men. The grace of God often overflows into society without drawing men into’ the Church. but this is also part of God’s mercy to man.
(g) To Study and to Work: We enter into science and technology, into historical activity, also with the same boldness with which we enter the presence o God, for He is now master of this process and has sent us to master it. We work alongside others who do not believe. We cannot offer the life o the world to God without ourselves becoming participants in the hard work of that world.
(h) To Pray with Groaning and Agony: As we see ‘God’s purposes being thwarted by the willfulness and ignorance of man, as we see our own openness and love rejected by men, as we experience our own sinfulness and incapacity to do that which we know to be good, we pray all the more earnestly. We agonise to discover what would be the best in each situation, and with full awareness of our own incapacity to do much about it, we pray deeply, groaningly, with all the strength of our aspiration, that that which we see to be best in that situation may be fulfilled.
And God, who has willed that we should be His children and co-creators with Him, when we have suffered for a while, will exalt us and crown the creation with glory.
All mankind, along with the material creation and the achievements of man, must be crowned with honour and glory. In as much as man, Christian or non-Christian, opens himself to the liberating forces of God’s grace, he ‘becomes more of what God intends him to be. The Christian, to whom the secret has been revealed, has ‘-thereby simply a greater responsibility. But the common life of the Christian community, secretly nurtured by the life of worship and prayer, belongs to the mystery of man’s attaining to his destiny of glory. This glory waits to be manifested on the day of the Lord. But when it bursts forth, we the chosen community in space and time must stand with our fellowmen and the whole of the time-space cosmos, to fall down before the throne and sing the praises of Him who sits on it.
H. G. Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios Metropolitan