Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Present Need of the Church To Go to the Roots To Know Rightly

   I cite the below in the face of the brouhaha that appears around Pope Francis for his ongoing reform of the Church, i.e. the paranoia of the "conservative" and the fantasy of the "liberal." Both are working in a superficiality apart from the knowledge of the heart. Hence, The Year of Mercy.

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Archbishop John R. Quinn writes that the first clearly attested synod was held in the year AD 175 to deal with the Montanist heresy. This heresy, named after its leader, Montanus, may be described in simple terms as a combination of severity and exuberance. It was excessively rigorous in moral and ascetical matters, requiring married people to separate or to live in continence. On the other hand, its adherents indulged in demonstrative display of alleged invasion by the Holy Spirit.”[1]
   From the very beginning the Church had to decide “the blazing controversy over the Law of Moses, in particular, the dietary laws and the religious rite of circumcision.””How did the Church resolve this problem?” Quinn answers: “looking into the New Testament, we see that there were three factors involved in settling the problem: pastoral experience, the appeal to Scripture, and the Jerusalem meeting of the leaders. No one of these three factors alone determined the solution; they were all interrelated
         “The relationship between doctrine and pastoral experience was of crucial important. The solution to the controversy did not come simply from an abstract examination of doctrinal principles. It was through and in the pastoral experience of the exemplary Christian life of the Gentiles whom Paul baptized without the requirement of circumcision, and of the outpouring of the Spirit on Cornelius and his Gentile friends as soon as Peter had preached the Gospel to them (Acts 10), that a singularly important doctrinal development took place in the Church. This doctrinal development occurred because the Church discerned between God working in the existential situation of the Church and her actual experience. Further, the searing controversy over the freedom of Gentle Christians from the Law powerfully dramatized that discernment is not easy. In this New Testament concern, the plan of God for the Church was discerned only after long, arduous search and controversy. The path was not self-evident.”

               Quinn then remarks: “This crisis of the primitive Church stands as a perpetual warning to the Church of every age that it cannot expect to find easy of quick solutions to its doctrinal and pastoral problems any more than the primitive Church did.”

               The first converts to the Church are Jews prone to the fundamentalism of the Law as evidenced in all the encounters of Our Lord with the Judaism of His day. It is not surprising that both reactions occur: rigorism on the one hand and enthusiastic laxism after His departure on the other. The criterion of truth centered on the real can only take place where there is an experience of lived faith – an experience of self-transcendence – which is an experience of the Person of Christ as Revelation of the Father. After the split of the Church in 1054 as East (Constantinople) and West (Rome), there is an eventual shallowing of experiential depth that eventually spawns Jansenism as an elitist pharisaical rigorism, which is immediately countered by the appearance of the Lord to St. Margaret Mary: “Jesus Christ, my kind Master, appeared to me. He was a blaze of glory – his five wounds shining like five suns, flames issuing from all parts of his human form, especially from his divine breast which was like a furnace, and which he opened to disclose this utterly affectionate and loveable Heart, the living source of all those flames. It was at this moment that he revealed to me the indescribable wonders of his pure love for mankind: the extravagance to which he’d been led for those who had nothing for him but ingratitude and indifference. ‘This hurts me more that everything I suffered in my passion. Even a little love from them in return – and I should regard all that I have done for them as next to nothing, and look for a way of doing still more.”[2]
                The above may be of some help in considering what Pope Francis is doing until now and with the “Year of Mercy.”

[1] Archbishop John R. Quinn, “Ever Ancient, Ever New,” Paulist Press (2013) 2,3.
[2] “Heart of the Redeemer: An Apologia for the Contemporary and Perennial Value of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” Ignatius (1989) 135.

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