Archive for May, 2010

19
May
10

Typology of Views of Charismatic Movements, Part 5 continued: Charismatic Enlivens Institutional

Within this perspective we can also include some of the literature on charisms and the religious life in the Roman Catholic tradition (a word of clarification for those who aren’t familiar with Catholic terminology: Catholics refer to the “orders” within Catholicism (Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits) as the “religious life”). Since Vatican II it has become increasingly common for religious to speak about their movements as having a particular charism which is to be preserved and cultivated for the good of the whole Church.  Vatican II didn’t specifically apply the term “charism” to religious life in this way, but Perfectae Caritatis §1 speaks of the various gifts (variis donis) that are evident in the variety of forms of religious life, and also exhorts the religious to preserve the “spirit of founders.” Subsequently, however, both Paul VI and John Paul II used the term specifically in relation to the religious life.  See Evangelica testificatio §11, 12; Mutuae relationes §11, 13; Redemptionis donum §15.

Surprisingly, there has been little in-depth critical theological reflection done on the implications of applying the biblical idea of charisms to religious life. The most extensive treatment can be found in a short book by John Lozano, a Claretian Father and theologian, entitled Foundresses, Founders, and their Religious Orders (1983). Lozano’s discussion of the role of religious life as charismatic reforming movement comports well with the more general framework provided by Snyder and Sullivan, that is, viewing charisms as an enlivening force which renews the institutional life of the Church, like “lava” pushing against the “hard crust” of established institutions.

But when these charisms erupt at the surface, from the interior where the Spirit of Pentecost is burning like lava, they must necessarily push against the hard crust which has been hardening for centuries.  The People of God are not just a charismatic reality (although they are a charismatic reality essentially), but also an institutional entity.  The Church has its firm structures and its ministers, people whom God certainly helps in their care for his people, but people who are likewise conditioned by a certain mentality (61).

However, Lozano specifically gives attention to how such charismatic activity becomes itself institutionalized in religious families, and specifically to the question of how a charism can be said to be “transmitted” via such an institution – a question which has not received sufficient attention. It should be noted, however, that Rahner does deal with this question in The Dynamic Element in the Church (58-62), as discussed in a previous post. Lozano argues that, strictly speaking, a charism cannot be transmitted, but must come directly from God.

The charism, as we have said, always comes directly from the Lord.  It is not given by the Church, by any member of the Church (including founders and foundresses), or by the religious community  The Lord, by means of his Spirit, gives it to each individual… (76)

In a broader sense, however, the charism is transmitted by the particular religious institute in that the community becomes a context where that particular charism is cultivated, deepened, and actualized by the stable structures (i.e., the rule, constitutions, spiritual theology and practices) of the institute.

The gift received by the father or mother, and directly from God by their followers, is collectively cultivated, proposed in spiritual doctrine to new generations, deepened and actualized.  Its principle elements, the aim of the Institute or the “primordial concern” of the community, are described in the Constitutions, the form of life and spiritual environment are also described in them, as a point of consideration and source of light and nourishment for successive generations.  In this less proper sense, the charism is transmitted (76).

Religious join a particular institute, then, “because we realize that our vocation essentially coincides with that of its members and with the aims which this institution pursues” (75).

The picture that emerges from this perspective, then, is that of a vocational diversity in the church, evidenced in the various movements of reform and renewal which have at their root a particular charism.  The fruitfulness, functionality, and vitality of the movements depends on their continual interpretation and actualization of that charism in their own institutional structures.

This in fact became the basis for a program of renewal of the religious life after Vatican II. Perfectae Caritatis §2b speaks of this in terms of “loyal recognition” and “safekeeping” of “the spirit of the founders,” which give the various communities “their own special character and purpose.” Elizabeth McDonough summarizes the relevant papal documents relating to this renewal, and drawing upon them, identifies a set of presuppositions which underlie this perspective. If religious communities are in fact based upon a particular charism given to the Church, then existing communities must ask themselves a) if they indeed have a charism; b) if they know what their charism is; and c) if they are prepared to strive to live accordingly.  If their answer to any of those questions is in the negative, the religious community will not survive. (McDonough, “Charisms and Religious Life,” in The Church and the Consecrated Life, 135).

How much of this thinking could be transferred to protestant reform movements?  Can we speak, for example, of  a Methodist charism, or a Salvation Army charism, or a Christian and Missionary Alliance charism?  I think, historically speaking, we can easily make the case that these movements all started out in a way similar to a Catholic order: they were not trying to be “churches,” but instead trying to live out a very specific vocation within the Church.   They brought their particular charism to the Church, and the reaction was, as Lozano describes it, somewhat volcanic.  But do these groups remain focused on their founding charism today?  Is this still a helpful way to understand their place in the universal Church?  To what extent can an independent protestant movement sustain a focus on a particular charism, once it starts to take on “churchly” functions (one or two generations down the road)?

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14
May
10

Signs that make me laugh: “Sir Greek & Sir Sub”


Found at Danforth and Linsmore.

These guys are so much classier than the competition.

I love how they even worked in the Canadian flag. The imitation is more blatant (and less puzzling) than Coffee Lime.

13
May
10

Typology of Views of Charismatic Movements, Part 5: Charismatic Enlivens Institutional

A number of interpretations of charismatic movements centre around the idea of the enlivening effect of charisms on the institutional elements of the Church.  Such perspectives view both the established structures of the Church and the continued emergence of new reforming movements as normal and part of the Spirit’s work in the Church.

Along these lines, Howard Snyder attempts to provide what he calls a “mediating perspective” of church renewal, incorporating both the institutional and charismatic aspects of the Church.  Noting that institutional and charismatic views of the Church individually have their limitations, Snyder argues for a “a theory of church life and renewal which combines insights from both the institutional and charismatic views,” not seeking a middle ground but attempting to “incorporate the truth of both.” In his view both stable institutional structures and dynamic renewal movements are legitimate and in some sense normal aspects of the Church’s life in history, although the merits and faithfulness of individual movements and institutions could be debated” (Signs of the Spirit, 274-275).

The reform movements spring up within the institutional church, bringing new life and growth, analogous to a new sprout growing out of a stump which appears dead.  Snyder then offers what he considers to be the “marks” of this mediating model, which is based upon the idea of authentic reform coming through ecclesiolae in ecclesia – radical and more intimate expressions of the church which exist in the Church, for the good of the whole Church, maintaining some form of institutional ties with the larger body (Signs of the Spirit, 276-280).

Francis Sullivan, a Roman Catholic reflecting on the charismatic renewal movement in Catholicism, offers a similar view of the Church and the place of renewal movements in the Church’s life.  Sullivan speaks of the official sacramental ministries and charismatic movements as two “equally important” ways in which the Spirit gives life to the Church.

There are two distinct, but equally important, ways that the Holy Spirit breathes life into the body of Christ: on the one hand, by his covenant relationship with the church, guaranteeing the effectiveness of its sacraments and official ministries, and on the other, by his unpredictable and often surprising charismatic interventions (Charisms and Charismatic Renewal, 47).

The official ministries of the Church exist to safeguard and pass on the tradition, but charismatic movements are given “for the purpose of shaking the church out of the complacency and mediocrity that inevitably creep into any institution” (47).  Sullivan is comfortable speaking of the official structures of the Church as institutional, and of ascribing an inevitable stultifying character to those institutions, which puts him closer to someone like Snyder than to Rahner or Ratzinger.

In addition to Catholic religious orders, Sullivan also suggests that many movements that ended up becoming sects or separate church bodies began as charismatic movements within the Church.  Their separation indicates a failure to renew the Church, but it need not indicate that the separated movements were not in fact the work of the Spirit, because blame for separation often lies on both sides, and at times has been due to a resistance to reform on the part of the Church.

I certainly do not think that the fact of separation by itself is proof that the movement in question could never have been an authentic work of the Holy Spirit, because there is also the possibility that it was rather the refusal of the Church at that time to admit its need of reform and accept renewal that led to the alienation and eventual separation (49).

Without going into detail, Sullivan suggests that “the history of Western Christianity in the last four hundred years has been profoundly marked by alienations of this kind, whether from the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, or from various Protestant bodies in the following centuries” (49).

Sullivan also notes that, while for much of this period, Catholics simply denied that the Holy Spirit was at work protestant bodies, Vatican II affirmed that the Spirit works not only in individuals but also through churches and ecclesial bodies outside of Catholicism. On this see Unitatis Redintegratio §§3 and 4.

Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ (§3).

…Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognize the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood…Nor should we forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church (§4).

I’ll continue the discussion of this perspective with another post on Catholic literature about charisms and the religious life (religious orders, etc.).

07
May
10

Hymns that didn’t last: “Ah, Lovely Appearance of Death”

It’s interesting to speculate as to which hymns and songs we sing today will still be in use in the decades and centuries to come.   This is the kind of question that can’t really be answered until the hymns and songs in question have stood the test of time.  One way to think about it is to look back on hymns from the past that are no longer in use today.

Here’s an interesting one from Charles Wesley, called “Ah, lovely appearance of death.”  We don’t sing about death too much these days.  We don’t even like to talk about it, actually – we avoid the topic of death at all costs.   But it was not always so.  In much of human history, death was a much less “avoidable” topic – it was simply a part of every day life.

The early Methodists believed in “holy dying” as well as “holy living.”  That is, they thought a holy life needed to be crowned by a holy death, and therefore they spent significant time reflecting on what it meant to die well.  Methodist publications would frequently include death-bed stories, as examples to other believers about how death was to be faced.

Reading this hymn today seems almost comical – there’s just no way you’d get away with singing about the delight of  surveying a corpse in today’s Church.   Still, though we might not sing it, there could be a lesson here for us:  this hymn reminds us that as Christians, we ought to be able to talk freely about our mortality.   We don’t need to fear death – but we shouldn’t avoid talking about it either.

Any suggestions as to good hymn tunes for this gem?

 

Ah, lovely appearance of death!

What sight upon earth is so fair?

Not all the gay pageants that breathe

Can with a dead body compare.

With solemn delight I survey

The corpse when the spirit is fled,

In love with the beautiful clay,

And longing to lie in its stead.

 
 

How blest is our brother, bereft

Of all that could burden his mind;

How easy the soul that has left

This wearisome body behind!

Of evil incapable thou,

Whose relics with envy I see,

No longer in misery now,

No longer a sinner like me.

 
 

This earth is afflicted no more

With sickness, or shaken with pain;

The war in the members is o’er,

And never shall vex him again;

No anger henceforward, or shame,

Shall redden this innocent clay;

Extinct is the animal flame,

And passion is vanished away.

 
 

This languishing head is at rest,

Its thinking and aching are o’er;

This quiet immovable breast

Is heaved by affliction no more;

This heart is no longer the seat

Of trouble and torturing pain;

It ceases to flutter and beat,

It never shall flutter again.

 
 

The lids he seldom could close,

By sorrow forbidden to sleep,

Sealed up in eternal repose,

Have strangely forgotten to weep;

The fountains can yield no supplies,

These hollows from water are free,

The tears are all wiped from these eyes,

And evil they never shall see.

 
 

To mourn and to suffer is mine,

While bound in a prison I breathe,

And still for deliverance pine,

And press to the issues of death.

What now with my tears I bedew

O might I this moment become,

My spirit created anew,

My flesh be consigned to the tomb!

#47 in A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People Called Methodists (1780).




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