October 14, 2011

The Solitude of the Cross

Yesterday I spent some time with one of the wisest Christian teachers I know. This is a riff on something he said:

Why do families tend to fight on vacation and around holidays? I think it's because of a certain frustrated utopianism. There's this idea that the time of vacation or holiday will a perfect and wonderful time of peace and harmony, but when this doesn't exactly happen a lot of frustration and anger can come out.

Something analogous can happen in a Christian community; part of the reason there can be so much tension, frustration, and anger is that our optimism and idealism made us think that a Christian community, whether it be a religious house or a marriage or whatever, would also be a kind of utopia, as if the Kingdom of God were already here in its fullness.

This can easily become a sort of double denial:

First, we forget that there is a fullness of the Kingdom of God to which we look forward in Christian hope, and second, that the Cross means that each of us, in the solitude of his own heart, has to surrender to carrying not only the burden of his own sins and imperfections, but those of the whole community as well. This is what it means, as individual Christians, to take seriously that the Church as communion derives from Christ crucified.

Without that solitude, there is no Christian person to offer as a communion with others, and Christian community comes to be based only on emotional needs and the other concerns of the flesh. And then we wonder why it falls apart at any sign of trouble.

1 comment:

Greg said...

Sweet brilliance, my humble friar.