Monday, 12 March 2012

Lenten Almsgivings - Almsgiving (5)

Well I had intended to end this series on Almsgiving with my last post, but a chance comment from a dear friend triggered a further thought, with regard to the secrecy of Almsgiving - 'do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing'.

I have already expressed this in terms of the Reckless Love of God, and Abundance and Light that we flee from, such careful and fearful lives do we lead - seeing perhaps what the World does to those who dare to Live in the Light, rather than the shadow of fear.

However another way to express this Giving, is that of Authenticity. Lent is meant to be a time of paring back to the Essence. What was the Wilderness, for Israel, for Christ, but to 'let go of everything that hinders', that which some nowadays call 'the false self'. Jesus in the Wilderness fasted forty days and was left with nothing, but his Essence - there was nothing but his Pure Life, nothing to sustain him, save who he Was.

Sin, or to put it another way, the Avoidance of God, is like an accretion. Slowly we build a life for ourselves, hiding from God, denying the Life that we have been given. Lent is a time to take hold of the disciplines of the church, and thus, in letting go of those things which we use to build our own life, to discover within ourselves how far that process has taken us away from a Life which is Gift.

With regard to our Human Nature, we in the West tend to fall into one of two errors. Those who are, for want of a better word 'Conservative' (particularly those who take their lead from Calvin), in an effort to magnify the Grace of God (which needs not be done - God needs no advocates :) ), speak of the Depravity of the human heart. As if our Essential nature is Evil, by virtue of Adam's Sin.
Those of a Liberal bent, in part reacting against this, use the phrase 'Image of God' to Justify our sinfulness - that we are by and large Good. Neither I believe is correct, or indeed is ultimately of any use in our journey into God.

Here, Orthodox (Eastern) theology comes to our rescue with its Insistence on the Goodness of our Essence - that we are Created Good and that Nothing can undo that, but at the same time that Who we Are can be Readily buried under our 'false self', our determination to say No! to God, to say No! to who we Are, by our determination to sin.

In Lent, in going into the desert, in prayer and fasting and almsgving, we allow God to remove the layers of filthy rags, our hopeless efforts to be ourselves rather than Be OurSelves - Goodness Created In Love, Through Love and For Love.

When we are stripped away to our bare Essence, we lose our Sense of self - for that is something we have created. Rather we become that which we were always meant to be Pure Act. Nothing now is self conscious, all there is is the Conscious Self, fully Alive - giving no heed to living  - just Alive. No longer living in the realm of careful and fearful calculation, rather set Free through forgiveness and healing to Be. Such that the left hand has no idea what the right is about, and what's more sees no point in caring about it.

This sense of who we truly Are is expressed all around us in the rest of Creation, which waits with eager longing for us to join in and Be children of God.

This is given no better expression than in the life of Christ, who is unSelfconscious, who only does what he sees the Father doing. And this is beautifully spoken of in this wonderful poem of Authenticity written by the Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins. that as the rest of Creation cannot help but be Authentic - Christ in Us sets Free Authentic Life. What I Do is Me, for that I came.

AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Christ—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of your best. Save ourselves rather than Be ourselves. That is brilliant. This piece is brilliant. Why don't you put these Lent blogs into a little book?