And so, once again, if we have learned anything at all in our theological education, spiritual formation and pastoral service, we have learned to beware, and to be wary, of all contentment, consolation and comfort before our co-crucifixion in love with Christ. We have learned that though we can know about God through formal theological education, we can only come to know God by taking up our daily crosses with patient endurance in love with Jesus. And we can only do this by faith and grace through the Holy Spirit's abiding power.
When we speak about "taking up our crosses" and "bearing our burdens" in imitation of Christ, by the power of God's Holy Spirit, we also learn by painful experience that the crosses we take up and the burdens we bear must be those that God gives us, and not those that we ourselves choose and desire. Thus we become convinced that when our burdens are unbearable and our crosses crush us in joyless misery -- and we become dark, depressed, despondent and desperate -- the reasons are evident. Either we are choosing our own crosses and burdens, and rejecting those sent to us by our merciful God whose thoughts and ways are not ours; or we are attempting to carry our crosses and bear our burdens by our own powers, and not by God's grace and strength given to us by Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Church.
And so we come to another conviction: The Church -- the communion of faith and love (as St. Ignatius of Antioch defined it: henosis agapis kai pisteos), the community of saints who are Christ's own very "members" as his body and bride - is essential to our human being and life. We cannot be human beings - still less, Christians and saints - by ourselves.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Hopko, Part 3
The final excerpt from Thomas Hopko's commencement address, with some excellent thoughts about discipleship and community:
Read the entire commencement address here.