POST-CHRISTMAS Greystoke has facilitated wind-down to stop! It’s vaguely beginning to register that in a day or two I’ll have to start winding-up to go again. But close to the end of another very full year I’m revisiting and renewing the old resolutions to take life just a little more slowly, avoiding the overly-frazzled approach to life and work. The difference between frazzled and fractious loss of vision and “life and health and peace” for me has a great deal to do with whether a day has allowed for a) an even very brief walk in fresh air with nothing particularly on my mind and b) a silent hour or two “beside the fire” (physical, spiritual or plain metaphorical) and opportunity to savour and process my current reading, and imagination, and meditation, and prayer. Ordinand Paul Deakin speaks of the rhythm of life he’s discovered at Mirfield. I’m a gentle rhythm sort of a man, I think. Rather fonder of ebb and flow than of great highs or lows. Quietness, books, fireside, loved ones near in heart and mind if not actually present, then something in and around me glows. And grows.
I’VE RETURNED time and time again in the last couple of years to the writings of Diarmuid O’Murchu in the quest I’ve engaged in all my life: the search for Adult Faith. In his book of that name O’Murchu quotes the late John O’Donohue:
Our modern hunger to belong is particularly intense. An increasing majority of people feel no belonging. We have fallen out of rhythm with life. The art of belonging is the recovery of the wisdom of rhythm.
John O’Donohue, cited by Diarmuid O’Murchu
I’ve witnessed a spiritual hunger in young and old alike in the past thirty years – along with a reluctance to partake of a “spiritual” diet grown old and stale (albeit that the kind of theological staleness I’m thinking of is too often dressed up as “contemporary”, or “for the young”, or “modern”). Many would rather remain hungry than have to suffer indigestion wrought by leave-your-brain-outside coercion. Me amongst them sometimes. O’Murchu, though, whets my spiritual appetite in these early years of the twenty-first century in much the same way that John Robinson reawakened interest, debate and dialogue mid-way through the twentieth.
There is a tendency in all the great religions to pass on religious wisdom through doctrines and creeds, with emphasis on knowing the verbal formulations. Adults are judged to be religious if they can pass on those beliefs to future generations just as they have been passed on to them. But this transmission is often lacking in internalized understanding; the neophyte learns the formula, and frequently is unable to apply it to daily life in an integrated way.
The bigger challenge is the realisation that we are all endowed with an inner transparency for the holy, for the mystery we popularly call “God”. We are programmed internally in the power of living spirit, always inviting us to attune more deeply to the Great Spirit who infuses the whole of creation. Whether we adopt a religion or not, we are innately spiritual and will remain so throughout our entire lifespan. For contemporary adults, this awareness is quite widespread and is raising formidable challenges for the meaning and place of formal religion in human living.
ibid. page 14
It was precisely Jesus’ own raising formidable challenges for the meaning and place of formal religion in human living that attracted me long ago to follow him. I’m still attracted, and still formidably – albeit willingly – challenged. When we’re able to rise to Jesus’ challenge to rid ourselves of outdated and outmoded shibboleths on the one hand, and perpetually to align ourselves with Divine Mystery on the other, we begin to roll away the stone from the tomb. And in doing so begin to glimpse new ways of belonging, in an altogether more “catholic” universe. We wean ourselves away from the life of the “whited sepulchre” and find ourselves nudged towards the joy and belonging of perpetual resurrection.