Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Lead Offers an Unwitting Lesson for TEC

Over at The Lead, J.B. Chilton passes on a lesson drawn by Giles Fraser from the recent unseemly brawl that occurred between monks at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (I've had to repair some hasty grammar typos, but I've left the spelling of the name of Pope Pius IX as is, in case the Rev. Fraser was having his little joke by Anglicizing it.) Anyway, here it is, warts and all:

There's a lesson in the news reports of [the] recent brawl [between] monks about who got to stand where . . . at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem[,] says Giles Fraser:

Pope Pious [sic] 9th was absolutely spot-on about how one defends the church. One defends it best by not defending it, by not being obsessed with it and instead by looking outward, looking towards the needs of the others.

Jesus said that only those who are prepared to loose [sic] their life will find it. The logic is counter intuitive. The more you give away the more you have. The more your focus in life is outside of yourself, the more your own soul will flourish. This is why the introverted piety of churchyness is, in the end, a complete betrayal of the message of the church - which is exactly what happened with those warring monks.

But surely also, there's a lesson here for a huge number of us. For many of us do spend a great deal of our time and energy, at work and at home, defending some pathetic little patch of turf which, in the great scheme of things, means precious little. If we're not careful we can easily find that we've invested our lives in battling for some shrinking space that is, ultimately, as inconsequential as the place of a monk in a procession.

How do we guard against becoming like this? The Christian answer is that that we find freedom from the ego's ever narrowing obsessions by placing our centre of interest outside of ourselves.

Yes, J.B., there is a lesson here. It's too bad that the Church which you support does not appear to be listening to it.

1 comment:

  1. "A Senior Priest" comments on this post, for which I thank him (he obviously has firsthand knowledge of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre):

    It seems to me that the monks understand quite clearly that the point in question matters quite a lot, and are willing to defend it. The 'Status Quo' in the Holy Sepulchre is an unwritten set of rules which, in essence, state that whatever a group does, and which is not objected to, becomes enforceable custom after the first instance. For example. If the Armenians in their veneration of the spot where Jesus was crucified move a foot closer than they did previously, and the Greeks don't object, that new use of space is the new Status Quo. A few years ago the Ethiopians took over a large section of the Coptic monastery on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by merely moving into the rooms while the Copts were all out of the building for a few hours. In the case in question, the Greeks wanted to change the Status Quo as regards the use of the Edicule by stationing one of their monks (who, BTW, wear steel-toed boots) in the Edicule itself while the Armenians use it for a a customary and Status Quo sanctioned service. If the Greeks had won this point, an important beachhead would have been established for Greek usage of the Edicule while the Armenians were there for worship. It's no wonder that the Armenian Patriarch brings along thirty or so muscular young monks to back him up when he does servies there! I found the brawl edifying... at least someone cares about something in Christianity, and is willing to stand up for what they believe is right!