Tag Archives: Karl Rahner

February 16: the New Creation

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The way we overcome fears is not by coldly reasoning out an alternative. It is by accepting the gift of Christ’s new heaven and new earth, given to us as love. Mary received that gift on our behalf, a vision of new stars and a new sun, the sun of righteousness and integrity. Joy is an aspect of wonder in the Christian outlook of hope, because we look forward to transforming love as a community of joy. We cherish this authentic vision of love in all the layers of our personality.

As Karl Rahner expresses it:

“An authentic vision can probably be explained as a purely spiritual touch of God, affecting the innermost centre of a man, and spreading from there to all of his faculties, his thought and imagination, which transform this touch. Hence, when a ‘vision’ reaches the consciousness of a visionary, it has already passed through the medium of his subjectivity, and therefore also bears his individual characteristics as regards language, interests, theological presuppositions and so forth.”

Does this make our distinct cultures into barriers? Not so.

“The grace of which the Church is the enduring sign is victoriously offered by God even to those who have not yet found the visible Church and who nevertheless already, without realizing it, live by its Spirit, the Holy Spirit in the love and mercy of God.” “Some who would never dream of telling themselves… that they have already received ‘the baptism of the Spirit’ of the radical freedom of love… nevertheless live in a community secretly liberated by God’s grace in the deepest core of their existence.”

ChrisD.

January 2017.

 

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July 25, John Cassian IX: The Power of God’s Word

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As I write I am painfully aware of a friend who has confided in me about struggles she has in the workplace with employers and colleagues.  She faces injustice daily, and only by dint of dedication to her profession and commitment to those who work under her does she remain in her present situation.

I dare say she, and many others, could read what I have written about “owning” our problems and say, “I wish my boss or my colleague would do that!”  There are many such situations in our world where the Christian must somehow negotiate webs of deceit and structures of sin.  How does John Cassian’s teaching apply to such situation?

It is important to note that Cassian’s teaching is not geared to the political and social sphere but to the personal and spiritual sphere.  And so, I think we find the answer to this question in Cassian’s sense of the power of God’s Word, and his repeated urgings to us to “remember the cross.”   He says, “Thus at every moment we should cultivate the earth of our heart with the gospel plough – that is, with the continual remembering of the Lord’s cross”.

Cassian has changed the metaphor for the heart here from that of the vessel to that of a field.  The gospel works on this field like a powerful plough.  The continual remembrance of the Lord’s cross is the essence of the gospel, and is the power that eventually transforms us like a plough transforms a field.

It is worth lingering here a moment.  Imagine the field, the great lumps and clods of dark earth, and the plough’s work of digging and turning the earth, back and forth, over and over.  It is an image for the spiritual life that I have returned to many times over the years, whenever I feel that my inner “field” is being ploughed over once again.  I find it very easy to relate to this, and when I remember the cross and the gospel plough I feel the return of hope amid an experience that might otherwise feel as though anything good I had done was being destroyed.

For Cassian, the Word of God – epitomized by the remembrance of the cross – is alive.  It has its own intrinsic power to work within and strengthen our hearts if only we give ourselves over to it.  I cannot change others. I cannot do away with structures of sin in the world.  I can only change myself, but by doing this, I do make an effective contribution to the process of dismantling sin’s structures in the world. Through the continual remembrance of the Lord’s cross, personal change becomes possible.  Then, it becomes possible, too, to experience the truth of the words of Karl Rahner, with which we began our reflections, “The Christian faith professes that God is not merely the God far off….  God wills to be, in self-communication, the ‘content’ and future of man.”

SJC

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July 17: John Cassian and Interiority: I

 

Karl Rahner wrote, “The Christian faith professes that God is not merely the God far off….  God wills to be, in self-communication, the ‘content’ and future of man.”  I would like to explore how this may be realised in us, with the assistance of John Cassian.

This might strike some as an unlikely pairing.  Rahner is modern, and John Cassian was born around 360. His birthplace was Dacia (present-day Romania).  How can someone who lived so long ago, and in such a far-away land, possibly help us to understand Karl Rahner’s insight?  Before we begin to answer this question, a bit of background about John Cassian.

Only a few facts about John Cassian have survived time’s ravages.  He was from a well-off family and was well-educated.  In his twenties, he entered a monastery in Bethlehem, and several years later he embarked on a pilgrimage to the then-famous monasteries of Egypt.  He spent perhaps ten years there, learning about the spiritual life from the great Egyptian monastic fathers.

After this long period of training in monastic wisdom, Cassian was ordained to the priesthood.  Finally, he ended up in Marseilles.  There, he founded two monasteries and wrote The Institutes and its companion work, The Conferences.  These are the writings I would like to refer to in the next several posts, for they speak about what, for Cassian, was the only thing that mattered: life with God.

One of the most intriguing terms Cassian uses to describe our inner self is that of the “vessel”.  Cassian first uses the term in his book’s dedication.  Addressed to one Bishop Castor, who himself had founded a monastery and had asked Cassian to write about what he had learned of monasticism in Egypt, Cassian says to the Bishop:

You are setting out to construct a true and spiritual temple for God…out of a community of holy men; and you also desire to consecrate very precious vessels to the Lord out of holy souls that bear within themselves the indwelling of Christ the king (emphasis mine).

 

Here, Cassian is saying that we are created as “containers” – that’s just how we are.  And so we are meant to have something inside.  Rahner says that God wants to be that “something.”  So does Cassian.  For both Cassian and Rahner, what makes us precious is not a thing, but a person: God.  Christ himself.  If we bear Christ within, we shine with his goodness.  How?  That is something that we will explore.

SJC.

Dear Friends,

This post somehow got out of sequence. My apologies! It will reappear on July 17th as advertised, to be followed by the rest of Sister Johanna’s reflections. WT.

If we bear Christ within, we shine with his goodness. St Maurice, Switzerland, MMB.

 

 

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