Saturday, December 29, 2012

Blogday 2012 - Knocks and knocks

Well, today is the birthday of this little blogling! I know I don't have the largest readership in the world, but I am very grateful to those who do visit to see my paltry offerings. This time last year, I was ruminating upon my identity as an Anglican Papalist despite retreating somewhat from a more Ultramontane position that I held somewhat erroneously.

Of course, I am still an Anglican Papalist, but these days I feel less need to affirm it. The reason is because I am no longer as isolated as once I was. Indeed, this year has been a year of transformation and a great leap out of various types of solitude.

Solitude is certainly a good source of spiritual discipline, but one that does go against God's observation that it is not good for a man to be alone. Even the greatest hermits, such as St Anthony and St Julian of Norwich engage with their fellows albeit rather briefly. This is how we hear of them. Too much solitude, especially solitude untempered by the monastic discipline, can result in too much introversion and the adoption of positions which may be against the doctrine of Almighty God and which only another can truly espy.

This year, my natural isolation has been knocked and suddenly I find myself catapulted into a different life and a different role. When God knocks at the door and you open it, He can knock you for six as well. It's as if He forgets to stop knocking when you open the door! Perhaps God likes cartoons!

As it is, I am in a new relationship. I am now ordained and a curate for my parish in Rochester. It's a position in which I now have responsibilities and the happy duty to serve my title. It means that my eremitical life has had to change immensely. New relationships must be accommodated by jettisoning the things which, though good, prevent that relationship from growing properly and in a healthy manner. It's a painful process but not in any way unwelcome, in fact it is necessary for the health of the soul.

We now live in a society in which solitude is becoming the norm, and not an healthy solitude either. People are now isolating themselves, or are being isolated as Society's boundaries change to exclude in the name of a strange inclusivity. This strange inclusivity is borne of the wedding between scientific materialism and moral relativism. Scientific materialism denies the existence of anything outside the range of empirical observations; moral relativism denies the existence of any personal accountability beyond the indigenous legal system. This strange inclusivity narrows the individual down to the god of his own little world. This can only result in an isolation at the deepest level of our identity. We can have no connection with anyone if we do not believe that other people exist as individuals in themselves, and yet this existence of other minds defies empirical observation.

Shared belief creates communities, but only if that belief is allowed to play a role in society, to question its motives and probe its assumptions. Admittedly, shared belief also creates boundaries between believers and unbelievers. That needs careful management and goodwill, but if belief is not allowed to play an active, critical role in society, isolation will result as people shape their own lives according to their own understanding of morality and of what it means to be human that do not relate with anyone else. Identity is reduced to the level of the individual to be preserved in aspic rather than something that can be shared.

The knock of God at the door is an opportunity to break one's isolation and to relate with Him and with His Creation. It is often painful, but if one's love for God allows us to love others, that pain of readjustment, of jettisoning unnecessary but comfortable assumptions and precepts pales into insignificance in comparison with being part of a community with like-minded but not identical souls. It's worth being knocked!

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