Holy Week seems like a good place to turn over a new blogging leaf, and Maundy Thursday particularly appropriate. Though we are many...
I’ve been well and truly convicted by reading Kathryn’s astonishing Good in Parts, as well as my long-time favourite Roman Catholic blogger and solitary Karen Marie Knapp. The Mercy Blog has been so impersonal, especially recently – and yet my life has been in such passionate turmoil over the period I’ve been posting here. I’ve been less than honest I guess, not speaking of the extraordinary journey God’s been taking me on over the last few months, and how he’s brought me back to the Anglican church after 7 years in the Baptist church, and the next 11 in the Vineyard. I’ll have to omit some of the finer details, as they involve other people, but suffice it to say it’s been quite a ride!
It’s crucially important too that for the last 3 years or so I’ve been involved in a conversation with various Franciscans, culminating in my being noviced as a Tertiary on March 4 this year. It just feels so right – Helen Julian CSF, in an essay published in New Daylight, calls it “finding a home.” And so it is. I’ve never been more sure of anything since marrying Jan!
As Mercy Site readers will know, the contemplative life has been drawing me in more and more deeply since, oh, 1978 at least, when I was introduced to the Jesus Prayer by Fr Francis Horner SSM, on an extended visit to Willen Priory. (He gave me Per Olof Sjögren’s wonderful book to read!) About that time, too, I began to read Thomas Merton, and he opened my eyes to the wonderful riches of the church’s experience in prayer. So wherever I’ve been, that’s been the centre of it all – the longing of God in my heart for closeness, intimacy; and the pain he’s let me feel for creation, for all my sister and brother creatures, human and otherwise – an ache that just doesn’t go away but gets stronger over the years and months, like St Paul says in Romans 8:19-23: “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”
But the amazing thing that’s happened since I began to explore this possibility of returning to the Anglican church, is the joy of coming back to liturgical prayer. I’d been noticing for a few years that my own private “quiet times” had been taking on a more and more liturgical shape, all by themselves somehow, with psalms and readings and regular bits of Scripture that kept coming back, and which I guess I’d have to call canticles. Coming back to this kind of prayer among my sisters and brothers, especially in the context of the Eucharist, has been mind-blowing. I can only describe it as being like being carried along by a deep and powerful river, rather than splashing about trying to swim in the pools.
Some of my past colleagues might be saying to themselves here, “OK as far as it goes, maybe, but what about the Spirit? What about freedom in worship?” All I can say is that I’ve found the Holy Spirit to be alive and well and living in the Church, in every bit of it, in every denomination and movement and flavour. (Unless people really make a determined effort to shut him out, I suppose, but I have to admit I’ve yet to see this theoretical possibility in practice!) And he’s the same Spirit, yesterday and today and forever. I have found so much of grace, of love, of mercy – of Jesus – over recent months. No, I’m not missing out – I feel more like the woman in Luke 15, who lost her coin and found it again, “Rejoice with me!”