Saturday, 30 August 2008

20 Years After - Reflections on Life, the University and Everything

20 Years After - Reflections on Life, the University and Everything

University can be a great adventure. For some it will be the best three or four years of your life. For others who go on to become academics it can last a lifetime. For me it has been a twenty year journey as an undergraduate. It has been 20 years since I began as an arts undergraduate student, and even though I have switched universities, and been a Chaplain involved with a number of campuses, I still love being a student. This spring term marks my 10th year as a part-time student here at UW in Arts and my 20th year as a university student. Over those nearly two decades much has changed about university life and much has stayed the same. Therefore we will reflect on life, the university and everything.

T
he cost has gone way up. My first year at Queen's University tuition was $1579 for 8 months full time, which worked out to about $315 per credit; here at UW this year it will be about $1020 per credit for tuition. Yet even with the astronomical rise in costs, the university is a great place to be. At the same time, in nearly two decades, things on campus have stayed remarkably the same, even across two campuses. You meet great people, and some not so great people, both students and professors. You encounter professors who are good or even great researchers and thus bring money into the campus, but in reality should never be involved in instruction or at the front of a classroom or in public (Chris Burris). Other professors are so great they will leave a permanent mark on the rest of your life. Here at UW I have encountered both types. To be honest there are too many exceptional professors to list them all but one of my favorites if Dr. Peter Frick.

I
n each of the 5 courses I have taken with Dr. Frick, his first lecture is on the philosophy of education, examining questions about what is the purpose of universities, and why are we( the students in class) at university. This lecture draws heavily upon The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom. It asks big questions and draws the students into dialogue with each other and with the big questions about the meaning of life. And in my experience that is what I love about being a student - being a student is about learning, it should never be just about getting a job or starting a career. University should be an opportunity to expand your horizons, to study and learn just for fun, for the love of learning.

When I started university at 18 I thought I had life all figured out - knew what I wanted, where I was going and how to get there. I believed I had all the answers. Now I spend more time trying to learn how to ask the right questions. C.S. Lewis once stated "The Future is some
thing which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is." He also said "Mere change is not growth. Growth is the synthesis of change and continuity, and where there is no continuity there is no growth." I believe that what universities should teach us is how to do life, and how to do life better.

One of the ways that universities can do that is through the diverse opportunities to participate in campus life. This can be done through media, student, radio, newspapers and magazines, and also through social activities, such as student clubs and associations. On most Canadian university campuses, there are clubs and associations of religious varieties, physical activities, house league sports, and areas of personal interest, i.e. photography, gaming, archery, dance … Once you move beyond the university years most of these activities are much more expensive and many less readily available. In school you have the opportunity to get involved, explore interests and participate in such a wide variety of activities that you will not have again. You can develop hobbies and interests and participate in activities that can be a part of the rest of your life.

Much like the old Clint Eastwood western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, in university and in life you will encounter all three from policies, to presuppositions to people who fit in all three categories. However in my experience over nearly two decades in universities, you encounter far more of the good than the other categories. For often in university even if your beliefs or opinions differ from those you encounter and dialogue with, the dialogue is more often than not respectful and intended as dialogue not just argument.

Yes academics are important, but the dialogue and your development
as a person should be a larger part of your focus as an arts undergraduate student. Use your time at school not just to develop the brain, but also the body and the spirit. Learn to become whole, and to have a broader approach to Life the Universe and Everything. For working on being and becoming will take you much further in life than just your marks on a transcript. So embrace the adventure and make the most of your time here at the University of Waterloo.

(First Published in Imprint 2008-08-29 in the Frosh Supplement as 'Twenty Years of Undergrad Adventures'.)

Friday, 29 August 2008

Office for Persons with Disabilities!

Office for Persons with Disabilities!

There are two types of people who should use the Office for Persons with Disabilities - those who have long term or permanent conditions, such as physical, or learning disabilities and the second class is those who have short term conditions, such as an injury while on campus, that will prevent them from doing their best academically.

The office room 1132 Needles Hall is open and welcoming. If you think you need their help, stop by and they can inform you of all the services they can provide and who has access to them. The office provides support for students, faculty, staff and campus visitors by providing: to whom they provide Information, Academic accommodations, support services.

If you come to the University with a pre-diagnosed learning disability or physical disability, then you will already be aware of your required accommodations, such as alternative texts (Braille, audio, electronic), or alternative exams formats like writing on a computer, extra time, writing in isolation. If you have a physical limitation then the office can help set you up, with on-campus transportation between classes, note-taker, and more. Also if you qualify for OSAP then there is a grant to help with adaptive equipment and the OPD can assist you in applying for this grant. But in order to use these services you will need to provide documentation from a medical
professional, meet with an advisor to register at the OPD, complete your forms (each term) and then introduce yourself to your professor to have him/her sign off on any special accommodations. If you do plan on registering with the OPD do it early, because it takes at least seven days to process requests for special exam considerations.

Now the second category of people who will use the OPD are those who have short-term assistance needs. If you break your leg and need assistance getting around campus, or you break your arm and cannot take notes, then the OPD can help you to make it through those trying times that life can throw at you. The office is there to help, and if you think you need it check. If they are not the ones to help you in your situation they might be able to help refer you or recommend another service on campus that can help.

The OPD also provides a slew of other services, from adaptive technologies labs in the David Center and Dana Porter Libraries, to offering seminars and support groups. The OPD website also has a number of resources. From their sidebar there are links to the OPD Student handbook, Ontarians with Disabilities Act and other online resources. So whatever your special needs are they can assist. So stop by even just to say hi and check out some of the seminars and groups that are offered to help make your time at UW more of a success.

(First Published in Imprint 2008-08-29 in the Frosh Supplement as 'Calling for Backup: The facts about the office for persons with disabilities'.)

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Installing Linux On A Dead Badger by: Lucy A. Snyder

Installing Linux On A Dead Badger:
And Other Oddities

Lucy A. Snyder
Creative Guy Publishing
ISBN 1894953479


I picked up this book because Jason Eckert recommended it on his blog. His strong recommendation of it made it a must have. It did not disappoint. Snyder is hilarious. Her use of characters and creatures from myths and legends, to re-depict IT situations by superimposing these beings from a supernatural realm onto real-life computer industry events, describes them in a new light, with tremendous insight and humour. The twelve articles collected here are fun for any Geek on your gift list.

The wit and wisdom displayed in this book are exceptional, with everything from step by step instructions on how to install Linux on a dead badger, to using your dead badger to fight zombies. This book has it all, from stories about IT helpdesks starting to staff with zombies to cut down on cost, to using vampires as supervisors to keep the zombies under control and working, to management having no brains to begin with so the zombies have no interest in eating them anyway.

Pick this book up for yourself, for your geek friends or anyone in IT or computer science; they will ROTFL while reading it.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Bondage or Life, You Can Choose: A Study of Galatians - An Essay

Bondage or Life, You Can Choose:
A Study of Galatians

The letter to the Galatians has always been one of my favorites. In this paper I will try and examine it as a stand-alone document; reading it as I would a letter from a friend, pastor of mentor. I will first outline my view of Paul from this document, then of the Jesus that Paul presents, finally Paul's views of the Law. Then with that basis, I will discus my impressions of the Galatians, my overall impression of the letter, and any unresolved questions I have at that point.


I would like to state that of the Pauline letters this one is the one that often affects me the most. I tend to find myself sliding into the problems, and entanglements that the Galatians do. So when Paul states in 3:1 "You foolish Galatians…" I see myself right there hearing the letter read for the first time. With an
initial response of a mental smacking of myself on the forehead. Then I thinking to myself, I knew that, why have I slipped down this slope again? Maybe it is something in the Celtic Nature that draws me and the Galatians or Gaul's, Celts to these problems. This nature of beings is summed by Robertson Davies Book title states What's Bread in the Bone. The same was true of Saul/Paul being a Pharisee was something that was bread in his bone, and it did out in the flesh. Therefore, I will start with a look at a Timeline of Paul from this letter.

Paul was a Pharisee who excelled in law, and in practicing the "Traditions of the Ancestors". He was so jealous about these things that he was persecuting the "Church", Followers of the Way, or members of the Jewish Sub-sect of Christ
followers. He received a "revelation" or vision from God, and now sees himself as being called to be the Apostle to the gentiles, just as Peter is to the Jews. Three years after (either his conversion or after his first trip to Arabia) he makes his first trip to Jerusalem. Some 14 years later Paul makes his second trip to Jerusalem; this trip is based on a revelation to go there. Decisions are made about gentiles during this trip in Jerusalem. At some later point he has an argument with Peter while in Antioch, because Peter had been associating with the Gentile believers, but after some others Jewish believers came he started pulling away. Paul called him on this hypocrisy. At some point between his conversion and this letter Paul preached in this area, and founded this cell of the church. He did so while suffering from some sort of illness. And now he is writing this letter because of his concern for the Galatians. Now that we have a timeframe for these events, lets look at Paul's self-understanding or view of self.

Paul used to see himself as the most extreme of his generation, in that he surpassed all his contemporaries in excelling at the Law and the "Traditions of the Ancestors". But then he has a theophany moment. He believes that he has had a direct revelation from God. This revelation does a few things, first it sets up Paul's authority, and secondly it completely alters Paul's self view. He now is more concerned with God's will, over the opinions of men. He sees himself as called and set apart for this specific ministry. Even as being set apart for this from his birth. That this calling influences his authority and teaching, making them both from God and not of men. This call on his life is totally by grace, and now by works, or anything else. He now sees himself as the one called to preach to the Gentiles, even if this is causing him to be persecuted by other Jews (5:12). Specifically his not having the Gentiles circumcised, is a cause of Jews persecuting Paul, which is one of the major issues in this document.

Some other information about Paul is also
present in the letter. The first is that the Church in Jerusalem gave praise to God saying that the one who persecuted them is now preaching Jesus. On Paul's first trip to Jerusalem the only apostles he met was James and Peter\Cephas. Paul has an emphasis and focus on his being a servant of Jesus Christ. (As an aside there are some that believe that The "Thorn in the Flesh" Paul mentions elsewhere is possibly, blindness, or severely impaired vision, this can be argued from this document in two ways. The first is in 4:15 where they would have plucked out their eyes and given them to Paul while he was there. And also 6:11 Paul's states that he is writing in his own hand with such big letter to them.) Finally Paul is really concerned with the state of the Gallatin Church (4:11) but we will get to that later.

What is this message or belief that Pa
ul is teaching. He is teaching about Jesus Christ. But what did he teach them while there with this church? That we can not be certain about, but we can tell from this document exactly what he was trying to reinforce and bring them back in line with. Thus we have view of Paul's "Jesus"!

Paul in this letter teaches a Jesus, who was Jewish, born of a women, but the Son of God (4:1). That He came to the earth to redeem all that were under the law, so that all might become adoptive sons and daughters of God (1:4, 4:5). That Christ freely came to give himself up for our sins (1:4). He not only came to do this, but he did it, in delivering himself for our sins (2:20). That by doing so Christ has become the fulfillment of the promise or Blessing of Abraham (3:14). This promise is that all nations will be restored by Abraham's seed to God. That in order to become the curse for us Jesus was publicly crucified (3:1). He thus became a curse for all (3:10). That this Christ did not only die, but he raised from the dead (1:1). Based on his death and resurrection, if we believe in Jesus He is to become our Lord (1:3). Thus if we have Jesus as lord, and are baptized into Christ, we will become recipients of that promise to Abraham (3:27). If we receive this baptism, Christ lives in us and wants to live His life through us (2:20). Because of all Christ has done for us He is deserving of Glory (1:15). Christ appeared and revealed Himself and this message to Paul, and sent him to be the apostle to the Gentiles (2:7). And thus Jesus is working through Paul to build His church among the gentiles, in the same way He uses Peter to build the church among the Jews (2:8). If the Galatians had received the above teaching and believed and lived it, to now turn back and try to live the Law, Christ will become of no use to them (5:2). Thus, is we have been crucified with Christ, and He now lives in and through us, we should live out that grace, and not return to the slavery of the Law (2:20).

Thus we have the complete Gospel message in this short document to one church. Paul writes to remind them of all they had heard and learnt and accepted when they first believed. He even goes so far as to pronounce a course twice on anybody who adds to this message of Jesus Christ (1:8,9). So now we get to the heart of the controversy that Paul is writing to counter. It was one that according to Paul had already been debated in Jerusalem. Had also caused problems in Antioch, the question of does someone have to become a Jew to become a follower of Jesus. Or specifically do the men have to be circumcised to be followers of Jesus. It all boils down to questions about the Law.

As stated earlier Paul was originally very jealous for the Law. But now he believes he teaches a message from God. A message of Christ Jesus, and Christ crucified. Paul believes that what he teaches is a new covenant, a covenant that has precedent over the Law. And that this covenant is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham to bless all nations through his Seed. Just as the law did not invalidate the Abraham
covenant, which was over 400 year old at this point in time. So too, Christ does not invalidate the law, He just supercedes it. For Paul the law shows us we are sinful, and in need of Christ Jesus. Paul goes on to show that in the Council of Jerusalem during his second post-conversion visit to the city, they decided not to enforce circumcision on the followers of Jesus who were Gentiles. But he shows that there are some false brethren, who he calls the Judaisers, who want Jesus followers to be Jews, then followers of Jesus. He shows that we are justified by faith and not by works. But if we try and follow part of the Law then we will be responsible for all of it. There is no way we could do that. We would be entering back into slavery of sin and bondage. The Law does not justify anybody, it just shows us where we fall short of God's goals for us. Our only justification can come through belief and living in Christ Jesus. For if righteousness could come from the Law, then Jesus died for no reason. Paul makes it very clear that you can not live for both the Law and the Spirit, you must choose which of the two will be your master. God has offered to bless all through Abraham's seed, Jesus Christ, then the question becomes will we live it? For all the law will and can do for us is to put us under sin. We are no longer under the law; it was there to show us Christ and the justification that is available through him (3:25). If we are lead by the spirit we are not under the Law and then, faith working through love will be our goal.

Now that we understand the problem, lets look directly at Paul's discussion, direction, exhortation and commands to this congregation. As seen above Paul reminds the Galatians of all that he has taught them about Jesus, all that they accepted and believed. But now they seem to be falling away. Paul wonders about who is trying to lead them astray (1:7). He even asks them if they had received Jesus by the spirit or by law? He reminds them that they are sons of God under Christ (3:26). As sons they have the right to call God Daddy. That because of their relationship with Jesus they are no longer slaves but sons. Thus, Paul pleads with them not to turn back, from their freedom in Christ to the law. To have been set free and turn back is far worse then ever to have known freedom. Paul is very concerned that they had originally received him and His message enthusiastically, but now appears to be turn away from both. They are heading back into the bondage under the Law (5:1). Paul commands them that things had been going well, but now he again questions who is leading them astray (5:8).

Now after Paul deals with the issue of the Law, he goes on to give them further instructions and commands. He reminds them of their call to love and serve one another, to love their neighbor as self.
He also exhorts them to walk by the spirit and not the desires of the flesh. He goes so far as to command them to fight the deeds of the flesh (as seen in 5:19-21). And also commands them to be cultivating the fruit of the spirit (5:22,23). He reminds them to live and walk by the spirit. Paul also asks them to work at extending grace and to try and restore fallen members of the church. Reminding them again of their need to be upholding one another. Finally that each of us is to examine our own works and hearts and to guard against being deceived.

My impression of this congregation is mixed. I se
e a lot of myself in the Galatians and the area's or legalism, and attitudes, which Paul addresses to them. It is very east to fall into the sin of legalism, or any "ism" for that matter. We all fall away, and have different areas of struggling. What we need to remember is grace, love, faith, hope trust and belief in God's promises, and in the support of our community will carry us through anything. If we are willing to lean on others in the church and be vulnerable, and admit our need. From my readings of church history, most movements and church denominations have sound theological and ecclesiastical beginnings. But all seem to fall into a certain amount of ritual-ism, legalism, and any number of another "isms". Today the biggest struggle is against denominationalism. The Galatians are just on record in history as being rebuked by an apostle for it. I was even told once at a church that I was not really a Christian because I had Tattoo's.

The letter as a whole gives me a few strong impressions. The first is the curse on any that teach any other message, then that of Christ Crucified. As someone who has lead bible studies and small groups and studying for ministry, this is a great warning to be cautious in what we say and teach. When we presume to speak for God we are shouldering a lot of responsibility.


The second is that we have been crucified with Christ and risen with Him as well. He lives in and through us, and we are sons and daughters of God through Christ. As such what type of a "Christ" am I modeling to others, at work, at school, at play? But being a son of God I have a responsibility, to be active in the battle between the flesh and the spirit, in my personal life and in the world.

We must each choose to live for the flesh or for the spirit. O
ne leads to death and the other to life. Every action I make, or don't make is in one of these two categories. What am I choosing most often? Finally that we must be choosing to do the Good while we have the opportunity to do so.

I do have a few unresolved questions from the letter. The first is how can we be sure of God's revelation and command to Paul. Are the people that are causing problems the people who lead Peter astray (2:11). If so, how much power and how many "missionaries" did they have going about trying to counter Paul.

Do I live up to the calling on my life? That is the questions I
get from this letter, To self examine and proceed with caution. Walk close to God and listen to the spirit.

(First written for Tom Yoder-Neufeld Ph.D. for RS100F New Testament Survey Winter Term 2000.)

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Memorial Service - An Assignment

(On one of the exams for a course we had to write a description for turning a profane place into a sacred place. I chose to write a memorial notice for my memorial service. The teacher loved it and asked to share it with the whole class, and yes the humour was intended.)

Transforming Space into Place: Creating a Memorial Site

It is wi
th great regret that we are herby informing you that Steven R. McEvoy, honors distinction student at the University of Waterloo, Renison College has passed away. There will be a memorial service at the Chapel of St. Bede, and the great hall at Renison College from April 1st-3rd 2005. As per Steven's last will and testament, there will be a traditional Irish wake for Steven at the campus.

Steven's body will be on display for visitors in the Chapel, he will be upright with a pint of Guinness in one hand and a Cuban cigar in the other. Live Gaelic bands will be playing in the afternoon and evenings, and prayer vigils will take place each evening.

Temporary spiral staircases will be installed at either end of the gallery for easy access back and forth between the chapel and great hall. The Flags in the great hall will be replaced with an Irish Flag, a Scotish Flag, a Canadian flag, the Christian Flag, and 3 Pirate flags.

The Tables will be places in squares around the room. Refreshments will be served at all hours. Live shamrocks both red and green will be the centerpieces at each table, surrounding celtic crosses.

The family would enjoy your dropping by to pay your respects, come hang out, tell stories and celebrate the life that was Steven R. McEvoy.

(First written for RS272 Sacred Places Winter 2005 - In class test #2.)

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Brave Souls by: Douglas Todd

Brave Souls: Writers and Artists Wrestle With God, Love, Death, and Things That Matter
Douglas Todd
ISBN 0773758321
Stoddart

I first encountered this book about a decade ago in a course called Faith Quests RS 100C. During the course of the term we had about a dozen books to read. From this volume each student had to select two of the people profiled and present a seminar using this book as the beginning point and doing further research. I personally loved the book, and read not only the profiles we needed to have prepared for seminars but the whole volume. I even gave away a few copies. The sad part is that the book is now out of print because Stoddart went under a few years ago.

Todd, a long time writer and columnist for the Vancouver Sun, created the book by doing a series of interviews and then crafting those pieces into this volume. He breaks the Participants into four categories: The Atheists, The Doubters, The New Ancients and Emerging Mystics. The people profiled in each group are:

The Atheists

  • Mordeccai Richler
  • W.P. Kinsella
  • Bill Reid
  • Jane Rule
  • Robert Munsch
The Doubters
  • John Irving
  • Paul Verhoeven
  • Laurence Gough
  • Evelyn Lau
  • Wade Davis
  • Douglas Coupland
The New Ancients
  • Lynn Johnston
  • Susan Aglukark
  • Ann Copeland
  • Tony Hillerman
  • Robertson Davies
Emerging Mystics
  • Timothy Findley
  • Peter C. Newman
  • Robert Bly
  • Robert Fulghum
  • Sylvia Fraser
  • Loreena McKennitt
  • Farley Mowat
  • Barry Lopez
  • Nick Bantock
  • Alex Coville
  • Carol Shields
This book was great for a number of different reasons. They include the fact that many of these people are famous - or infamous in the way these profiles present them in a new and different light. Also some of them have since passed away and the interviews done for this book will have been among some of their last, and maybe most in-depth in regards to their religious and spiritual views. It is truly a pity it is out-of-print, which makes it all the more worth tracking down.

As an aside, the hand out from my seminar on Robert Fulghum and Evelyn Lau can be seen here. I also received bonus points because in my seminar I covered a great controversy between two of the authors profiled in the book. The controversy was between Evelyn Lau and W.P. Kinsella.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Ruether & Chung - Seminar

Ruether & Chung - A Seminar

Chung Hyun Kyung

Chung Hyun Kyung, is an Associate Professor of Ecumenical Theology, she graduated from Ewha Women's University in Seoul with the B.A. (1979) and the M.A. (1981). She holds the M.Div. from the School of Theology at Claremont (1984), a diploma from the Women's Theological Center in Boston (1984), and the Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary (1989). She studied in North America for 9 years before returning to Korea to teach. Her teaching and research interests include Ch
ristian Buddhist dialogue; feminist and eco-feminist theologies and spiritualities from Asia, Africa and Latin America; as well as mysticism and revolutionary social change; she also has a focus on history and critical issues of various Asian Christian theologies and traditions. The two dominant Christian traditions in Korea are the United Church and the Presbyterian Church, Chung is a Lay Theologian and teacher in the Presbyterian tradition.

She was 30 years old before she met her mother. Her father's wife could not bear children, so he found a beautiful poor woman and paid her to be his mistress and bear children for him. After he had his children she was discarded. Chung upon her return
from North America was encouraged by her best friend, a Buddhist monk to seek out her mother and break the social stereo type, that of being a surrogate's daughter. After finding here mother they performed a ritual to recreate bonds, they bought turtles in the market to set free again in the sea, and the turtles would take away their pain and hurts and bring healing and wholeness to them. Chung stated "I have a PhD, in systematic theology and I felt uneasy doing the ritual of the turtle." Yet she soon came to realize that her illiterate mother had a wisdom that she lacked. From then on she only wanted to only do theology her mother could understand. She began to seek spiritual renewal in different places, one place she found it was in the markets, and the women there who struggle to survive each day. Chung states "I go to the Market as a spiritual place of renewal, by seeing and speaking to the women who are struggling to live. I go to the mountains sometimes for spiritual renewal and sometimes I go to the market." The biggest accusation against Chung is that she is a Syncretist. She herself states: "My Bowel is shamanist, my heart is Buddhist, and my head is Christian. So I have to build this whole reality and I can not cut anything from me to be a real Christian. Who defines a real Christian?" From this we see that she does not fight against the accusations but lives her life as she see's her calling to do so. Her best friend is a Buddhist monk and together they are looking for truth. They both believe that religions can learn from each other. The Merging of religions help us to see the hidden teachings in our own traditions and for Chung Buddhism has helped her to understand contemplation, silence and symbolism which she thinks much of protestant Christianity has lost. She also has learnt from her friends that the best way to grow is to ask questions. Another of her close friends was trained as a theologian and yet works as a painter, a liberation theologian painter. Chung has the walls of her lecture hall covered in the paintings by this friend. Showing the empowerment of women and some of their pains and struggles from the past. Chung says that there are many ways of doing theology, theology as dance, song, painting and like herself in the world of academia, as long as it is a reflection of the divine in the midst of their life.

She writes and speaks much against the traditions of her Asian world, She states the old way is "When you are young you obey your father, in midlife you obey your husband, and when yo
u are old you obey your oldest son." Yet she has become involved in a movement to liberate the marginalized of her country, and this group focuses on women. One thing they do is provide child care so women can have other options, school, and work. She believes if she just stays in academic life all the time she will not know what is going on in the real world, at the bottom of her society. Much like Simon Weil who went to work in factories to understand the oppressed in Europe, Chung spends time with the poor and most oppressed in her country. For Chung Liberation theology to be real and vital it must focus on the non-human, or those perceived as non-human and how do we regain humanity and dignity for them and through that for ourselves. That is the main issue to Chung.

In the larger work Struggle to be the Sun Again, the first few sections focus on some interesting area's, the historical and social context of Asian Women's spirituality, Humanity, Who is Jesus?, Who is Mary?, and then our selection Emerging Asian Women's Spirituality. So let us now turn to our text. The poem that begins our section is by Ting Ling, in a collection titled O'Grady, Chung in her footnote stated that she originally was going to drop this quote for it's individualist nature, as she see's spirituality and spiritual development as communal. Yet she decided to leave it in. This poem is intriguing for though it is written for Asian women and their development it can be applied to anyone who wishes to grow and develop as a person of character and integrity. One of the things I think we need to be aware of is that when a theology becomes so narrowly focused it can loose it's power for liberation. I think back to some of our earliest writers writing when the church was oppressed and persecuted and how their faith was vibrant and alive. Of people like Vibia Perpetua, and Irenaeus of Lyons who's writings had a universal approach, not a narrow view. Even feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether states: "All theologies of liberation, whether done in black or a feminist or a Third world perspective, will be abortive of the liberation they seek, unless they finally go beyond the … model of the oppressor and the oppressed. The oppressed must rise to a perspective that affirms a universal humanity as the ground of their own self-identity, and also to a power of self-criticism … Quite simply, what this means is that one cannot dehumanize the oppressor without ultimately dehumanizing oneself, and aborting the possibilities of the liberation movement into an exchange of roles of oppressor and oppressed." Thus there must be caution taken in any endeavor to work at liberation that it does not in turn need to be overcome in a new liberation. On page 92 at the top of the page "Asian Women say that their emerging spirituality takes into concrete relational reality into consideration…" This appears to a central point of Chung's theology that it is communal, the women of her country and region need to work with each other, draw strength when needed and lend the hand when it is called for. At the bottom of that same paragraph it states "There is no place for dualism between body and soul in this spirituality, because it arises from women's everyday, mundane, bodily experience" Chung attends a women's home church, each person has a chance to speak and share. On the video Gentle but Radical, they show one service, with worship, bible reading, then the women passed around a red scarf and shared stories about menstruation, and children, and ended with Chung giving a lesson about the women with the Hemorrhage. For them faith is about every aspect of life, and every aspect is open to the church service.

The next section focuses on characteristics of this emerging spirituality, it is Creative, flexible, prophetic, and historical, Community Oriented and Pro-life. These characteristics should be evident in any church that wishes to grow in a post-modern world. We can learn much from these new religious movements and bring it back to our own traditions.


Chung presents a view of religion that many in a postmodern world could embrace. It should not be limited to Asian women because that is the tradition she emerges from. But
should be offered for all to examine and draw the strength to stand up for the humanity and dignity of all people, in all places and from all classes.

Rosemary Radford Reuther

Rose
mary Radford Ruether is the Carpenter Professor of Feminist Theology she has a B.A., Scripps College, 1958; M.A., Claremont Graduate School, 1960; Ph.D., Claremont Graduate School, 1965. Rosemary Radford Ruether is a pioneer Christian feminist theologian for nearly five decades and is among the most widely read theologians in the world. Her book, Sexism and God-Talk, is a classic, and is reported to be the only systematic feminist treatment of the Christian symbols to date. With her very wide-ranging scholarship, Dr. Ruether has edited over thirty books and hundreds of articles and reviews as well as published over two dozen books of her own work. Her primary research and her specialization in teaching interest is that of women and social justice in theological history. Her work explores how Christian theology has been biased by the exclusion of women's experience and female symbolism, and thus she seeks to shape an inclusive theology. She has always been a strong voice for those without a voice, women, children, minorities, yet she was a faithful wife and mother to three children. So with all this in mind let us now turn to our text.

It is interesting to note at the beginning that we are back into a predominantly biographical text again. It appears that through out each of the five periods of Christian history that spirituality is often demonstrated through personal example, and story. Through 'our story' we are the continuing church, the book of acts from the bible, the Acts of the Apostles is continued by each person who shares there story and their interaction with God, Son, and The Holy Spirit, and through them with the communion of sain
ts the body of believers. This piece is her story of how she came to begin thinking in feminist ways, and from the excerpt we have we see that such thinking began at a very early age.

From the very first lines we hear her voice state: "It is hard to trace my awakening to feminism … because it seems to me that I was implicitly always a feminist, if by being feminist one means a woman who fights for her full realization." But such a statement could be true of any Christian seeking to become all that God has called them to be. For her it includes the title Feminist and role of Feminist theologian. On the first paragraph on page 455 "My older sister remarked …" Was her first internal realization that some would put limitations on her, or roles they saw for her, and from that young age she stood firm against these stereotypes. In the second full paragraph on that page she speaks about Mary, as the one to turn to in prayer, for having been raised by women, and being in school with an all women faculty, men were a distant presence.

In the next paragraph she sums up her experience of this environment and how it nurtured her future idea's: "Although I occasionally glimpsed a narrower and more authoritarian side of nuns, most of my memory is of a cozy, female-run world where I felt myself a favored daughter." She thus grew up believing she could be anything she wanted to be, a position her mother encouraged. Men were a curiosity to her she states "But secretly, one suspected that their aura of superiority was a fragile fa├žade, a bombast concealing secret impotence." And further in the paragraph, "For endless generations women have paid public deference to male authority while, privately, not really believing in or counting on it." This resonates with my experience growing up, I was raised in an Irish Catholic home, and the Irish are one of the few remaining Matriarchal societies. Andrew M. Greeley in many of his theologian and fictional works affirms the Matriarchal nature of the Irish culture, he states often "Irish women let their men think they make the decisions and run the home, but they know that it is not so." Later on the same page Ruether shares how she started her husband with the goal of an academic career but he adjusted to that reality quickly.

I the final paragraph on page 457 she states, "It takes a new consciousness to go back and isolate the whole body of material as a problem rather than as normative tradition." She here advocates that Christianity and Christian spirituality must re-examine it's roots and origins, and traditions if it will be a c
hurch that draws women, and embraces them. She does not want to destroy the church but to reform it. To make it a church that is appealing to men and women. As I quoted earlier in the section on Chung, if a theology does not go beyond it's own narrow focus it will become the oppressor. Ruether does not want a new women's only spirituality. She would like to see a new spirituality that speaks to both men and women, black and white, European and Asian. But one that grows out of the needs of individuals to be fulfilled and growing.

Endnotes:
  1. Gentle But Radical Korean Theologian Chung Hyun Kyung, Video
  2. Gentle But Radical Korean Theologian Chung Hyun Kyung, Video
  3. Gentle But Radical Korean Theologian Chung Hyun Kyung, Video
  4. Gentle But Radical Korean Theologian Chung Hyun Kyung, Video
  5. Liberation Theology, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Paulist Press, 1972, p.16
  6. Struggle to be the Sun Again, Chung Hyun Kyung, New York, Orbis 1990, p92
  7. Struggle to be the Sun Again, Chung Hyun Kyung, New York, Orbis 1990, p92
  8. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.454
  9. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.455
  10. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.455
  11. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.456
  12. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.455
  13. Paraphrased from memory.
  14. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.457
Bibliography:

Tyson, John R. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. New York: Oxford UP, 1999

Placher, William C. A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction
Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983

Chung, Hyun Kyung Struggle to be the Sun Again: Introducing Asian Women's Theology. New York: Orbis, 1990

Ruether, Rosemary Radford Liberation Theology, New York: Paulist Press, 1972

Webpages
http://www.uts.columbia.edu/
http://witness.peacenet.or.kr/
http://www.scmcanada.org/
http://www.psr.edu/

Video
Gentle But Radical Koren Theologian Chung Hyun Kyung
Kilimann Production, From the World Council of Churches

(First written for RS 383 Shapers of the Roman Catholic Tradition in the winter of 2003.)

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Underhill & Bonhoeffer - Seminar

Underhill & Bonhoeffer A Seminar

Evelyn Underhill

Evelyn Underhill was a unique and intriguing woman at a point where it was not all that easy to be those things in the church. She is remembered by a friend as, "slight and thin … and not very tall, her body carrying her spirit with as little fuss as possible" She has a number of experiences that lead her to becoming a Christian and in 1907 was even very close to becoming a Roman Catholic. Yet her soon to be husband persuaded her to wait a while before making that commitment. During this period of waiting a Papal Bull Condemning modernism, published by Pope Pius X, caused her to turn away from Catholicism and all organized religion for many year. She continued to have encounters with the divine over the next twenty years. These years would be very productive. Evelyn was incredibly productive writer in her 39 years of publishing she produced 40 books, collections, editions and over 350 essays, reviews and articles. She was also a woman of many first as this list from Todd E. Johnson: "She was the first woman to lecture in theology at Oxford college, the first woman to lecture Anglican clergy, and one of the first women to be included in Church of England commissions. These accomplishments, along with her work as a retreat leader, made Evelyn Underhill a prominent figure in her day."

Mary Ford-Grabowsky in the book she edited, Sacred Voices: Essential Women's Wisdom Through the Ages; states: "By the 1030's, Evelyn had become the first women in the twentieth-ce
ntury England to be taken seriously as a theologian, a stunning feat in an era when women were forbidden to even teach theology." Yet why did she turn to mysticism as a field of study and personal experience? Mary Ford-Grabowsky in the book she edited, Sacred Voices: Essential Women's Wisdom Through the Ages; postulates this possibility: "An only child whose upper-class parents often left her at home alone while they went yachting, she took to Plotinus at an early age, perhaps finding in his idea of 'the flight of the alone to the Alone' a solution to her own loneliness and an impetus to study the mystics…" So now that we have some background on the woman let us turn to her writings.

We will begin by noting the contrast she makes between her understanding of the marks of a mystic with the list she quotes from William James, James list consists of "Ineffability, Noetic Quality, Transiency, and Passivity" whereas Underhill has these four characteristics:
  1. Active and Practical, not Passive and theoretical
  2. It aims are wholly transcendental and spiritual
  3. It draws one homeward, but always under the guidance of the heart.
  4. Living union with the One(God)
Paraphrased from page 382 of our text. I would like to highlight a few lines from this section, from the last full paragraph on page 382 "it is the art of establishing his conscious relation to the Absolute" This is the best definition of he goal of mysticism that I have encountered to date. I am intrigued that in her writings she quotes so often from those who have gone before her. Almost as if she saw her role more as that of compiler and explainer then original source. She quotes Recejec, Blake, William James, St Teresa, Plato, John of the Cross, in just these four short pages we have from her writings.

I would like to draw our attention to the middle of page 383 Underhill states: "Taken all together, they c
onstitute phases in a single process of growth; involving the movement of consciousness from lower to higher levels of reality, the steady remaking of character in accordance with the 'Independent spiritual world.'." From here she goes on to outline these phases of the mystical life, the three that I focused on are:
  1. The Awakening of the Self to consciousness of Divine Reality
  2. The Self, aware for the first time of Divine Beauty, realized by contrast its own finiteness and imperfection.
  3. The development of the great and strenuous seekers after God.
  4. Union: The true goal of the mystic quest.
These are some of the Items in this selection that really spoke to me. Now can we share some of the items in these sections in this selections that spoke to you the class.

I would like to conclude our study of Evelyn Underhill by stating that she was an amazing woman in a time when the church was not looking for nor necessarily wanted amazing women in their traditions. Yet she stood behind her beliefs in her intellect and
her faith and pursued both.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich was another amazing person in the Christian tradition in the 20th Century, He had his first Phd. At age 21 and a second by 24 years of age. His two most influential books are Cost of discipleship and Life Together. He als
o co-authored with Karl Barth The Confession of the Underground Church. Throughout his life he pursued the question 'What does it mean to live for Christ today?' To understand Bonhoeffer's work we must understand the man. Bonhoeffer and his family were all influenced by the natural sciences. His Father was a Physician and his brother was a Physicist. He believed that Christ was found in the midst of persons. He believed that costly grace was won in battles in our heart. In defying Hitler he ended up fighting both the Church and the Nazi's. He ran an underground seminary in Nazi Germany. There were eight Children in his home growing up and Bonhoeffer, two brothers and two brothers-in-law died in the camps for their activities against the Nazi regime. He saw himself as an ecumenical pastor and respected the Roman Catholic Church, he saw the church as One Body, one Universal church under Christ. He saw salvation as more that the soul, it is the restoration of people, families, friends and social justice. He once told Hitler face to face what he thought of his policies and Hitler's reported response was 'I only have to pick up the phone and you die.' Which would later be fulfilled William Platcher states: "Dietrich Bonhoeffer tried to follow one side of Barth, his seperation of Christianity from culture and religion, to its radical conclusion. Bonhoeffer participated in church opposition to Hitler but remained in Germany. The Nazis arrested him for playing a minor part in a plot on Hitler's life, but he continued to write theology in letters from his prison cell."

With this in mind let us now move into our selections. The First selection 'Costly Grace' is a key though in Bonhoeffer's life. He outlines How Grace is either cheap and of no use or value or else it is costly and of ultimate value. He states "Cheap Grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the incarnation
of the Word of God.". He also later on page 391 states: "Cheap grace is preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confessions, absolution without personal confession." From this we see that he contrasts being religious with being Christian, Being religious make grace cheap and of no value. Whereas "Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ." For Bonhoeffer grace cost God a lot in sacrificing his son, but was not to high a price to pay, and if we are to be followers of Jesus the Son, we too will have a cost to pay.

The call to discipleship is part of costly grace, for if we are to be Jesus's disciples we must be willing to live with the costs of that relationship. On the bottom of page 392 Bonhoeffer says: "He is called out, and has to forsake his old life in order that he may 'exist' in the strictest sense of the word. The old life is left behind, and completely surrendered. The disciple is dragged out of his relative security into a life of absolute insecurity (that is, in truth, into the absolute security and safety of the fellowship of Jesus)." He also states that when we are called to Jesus it is an exclusive relationship, we become attached to Jesus and through him to the family of God.


In our final selection Bonhoeffer states: "To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self, to see only him who goes before and no more the road which is too hard for us." We begin to see here that even though discipleship is costly, we have the means of attaining it through the guidance of Jesus Christ and through his working in and through us. It is interesting that Bonhoeffer using the examples of this calling being costly of the first disciples, and Luther. For we have seen again and again in our readings how often people go back to the beginning, the disciples the church fathers, and even many of the authors we have covered thus far. Here Bonhoeffer is doing the same, drawing different examples from the past. I would like to end my highlighting of selections with 2 final quotes from our last 2 paragraphs first: "If we refuse to take up our cross and submit to suffering and rejection at the hands of men, we forfeit our fellowship with Christ and have ceased to follow him." And "Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called to suffer." We know that Bonhoeffer lived this, they were not just words to him. He could have stayed teaching theology in the states during the war. But he felt he could not play a role in helping to rebuild Germany after the war if he was not willing to work for change there during the war. He died at the hands of the Gestapo just weeks before the end of the war.

From my rereading of course notes for RS 100K Introduction to theology as well as my research for this seminar, I believe that Bonhoeffer has a few area's of focus in his writings and life, they are as follows:
  1. What does it mean to live for Christ today
  2. "Only he who believes if obedient and only he who is obedient believes
  3. Costly grace
  4. The combination of the transcendence and the Imminence of God
  5. That Bonhoeffer is a synthesis of the though of Tilloch and Barth
So we see a man deeply committed to living a vital, real Christian life.

Endnotes:
  1. Life of Evelyn Underhill; Cooper, Margaret, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1990, p.109
  2. Evelyn Uderhill's Pneumatology: Orgins and Implications; Johnson Todd E. Downside Review, 1998, 116, no. 403 p.109
  3. Sacred Voices: Essential Women's Wisdom Through the Ages; Ed. Mary Ford-Grabowsky, HarperCollins, San Francisco, 2002, p.155
  4. Sacred Voices: Essential Women's Wisdom Through the Ages; Ed. Mary Ford-Grabowsky, HarperCollins, San Francisco, 2002, p.155
  5. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.381
  6. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.382
  7. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.383
  8. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.383,384 Paraphrased.
  9. A History of Christian Theology; Placher, William C., The Westminster Press, Philodelphia, 1893, p.295
  10. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.391
  11. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.391
  12. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.392
  13. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.392
  14. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.393
  15. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.394
  16. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.394
Bibliography:

Tyson, John R.:Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. New York: Oxford UP, 1999

Fanning, Steven Mystics of the Christian Tradition;
Routledge, New York, 2001

Ford-Grabowsky, Mary Sacred Voices: Essential Women's Wisdom Through the Ages; HarperCollins, San Francisco, 2002, p.91

Placher, William C. A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction
Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983

Cooper, Margaret. Life of Evelyn Underhill; Harper & Brothers, New York, 1990, p.109

Johnson, Todd E. Evelyn Uderhill's Pneumatology: Orgins and Implications; Downside Review, 1998, 116, no. 403 p.109

McEvoy, Steven R. Course Notes RS 100K Introduction to Theology
Fall Term 1998, Professor P. Frick

(First written for RS 383 Shapers of the Roman Catholic Tradition in the winter of 2003.)

Monday, 4 August 2008

Ignatius of Layola - Seminar

Ignatius of Layola

If we are to understand the spirituality of Saint Ignatius, in the context of Christian spirituality, then we will need to understand Ignatius and his times. Ignatius had three stages in his life and development, the would
be romantic hero, the courtier or soldier, and finally the religious. Each of these stages played a specific role on his development. We will look briefly at each of these stages then move on to our specific text. Ignatius was born of noble family of significant influence. He was wounded in battle and during his convalescence had his conversion experience.

I
gnatius was in the first stage, prior to his injury, was very fond of romantic novels. From these he would sit for long periods of time and have 'fantasy's' or 'day dreams' of all that he could be, or do. With himself always as the romantic hero, and victory never in doubt, at least in his mind. To some extent this continued even after his injuries and carried over till a later period in life. This can be seen on page 245 of our text, in the first paragraph of 'A Soldier for Christ,' "And So whilst a fortress that the French were attacking …" we see here he was so convinced of the romantic fantasy that he persuaded his commander against all others judgments to fight and not surrender. It was only after his being hit by a cannonball that they surrendered. This period leads to the second period, that of the courtier or soldier.

We see now that after his injury he came to the conclusion that he would not win his fame in battle so he fantasized about doing so in court, and doing so to win the hand of a specific woman. He was so intent upon this goal he was willing to undergo unnecessary surgery in order to remove a lump from the repaired le, and treatments to stretch the leg to make their difference in length almost unnoticeable. On page 246 of our text there is a long and detailed account of his treatments and recovery. During this recovery he request some of fiction to read, but all that was found in the house was a 'Life of Christ' and a book on 'Saints'. During this period he read these two books many times and they started to have a positive effect upon him. And this is the turning point into the third stage of his life. That as religious thinker and spiritual leader, and this is the stage of his life we are most interested in.

Our first except if mostly biographical, but I would like to highlight a few key sections before we open this up to discussion. The first was his realization that some thought patters left him satisfied and some empty after he had pursued them. On page 247 he states "When he was thinking of those things of the world he took much delight in them, but afterwards, when he was tired and put the aside, he found himself dry and dissatisfied … but even after he put them aside he remained satisfied and joyful." As this passage goes on to say, he did not immediately make the connections but eventually he perceived the difference that reflections upon things of the world versus things of man could have upon him. Another key point in this section is the bottom of the last full paragraph on this page, "But his brother as well as all the rest of the household came to know from his exterior the change that had been wrought inwardly in his soul." Not only were his reflections and meditations having an effect upon him, but also that effect was noticeable to those who were around him. Now I would like to know what from this first passage was most significant to you?

Let us now move on to the Spiritual Exercises them selves. I will skim though what from these selections has impacted me firs. Then we will open it up to discussion. I would like to pass around the complete exercises now, as well as 3 modern versions of them to designed to be done by laity. Ignatius later realized that not all people could take 4 weeks to go on personal retreat and a modification of the Spiritual Exercises was written to be used over a longer period of time at home.

I was immediately struck by the focus of the four weeks, week one on consideration and contemplation of sins, week two focuses on the life of Christ up to the passion, week three focuses on the passion, and week 4 focuses on the resurrection and
ascension of Jesus Christ. As well as that each day of the exercises the prayer is to be done in the order of thanks, confession, examination of the day, confession, to make amends and close with the Our Father.

From these the major focus in the first exercise that I notice is the focus on sins Ignatius states on page 253: "I see how many people have been damned for committing a single mortal sin, and how many times I have deserved eternal damnation for my many sins", he also states on the next page "For one sin they went to hell; then how often have I deserved hell for my many sins!" What about this section has really impacted you, or have you noticed.


The final selection 'Rules for the Discernment of Spirits' are one of a series of appendix to the rules. The two rules here that impacted me most were rules four and five. That is "the Fourth, about spiritual desolation" and "The Fifth, during a time of desolation one should never make a change." Now I would like to ask you what did you see in this section.

What hit me most was that the Christian life would not necessarily be one of constant happiness and joy, or success. Much like the health and wealth gospel some evangelical's teach. But that there will be good times and bad times, and in the good time we are to prepare for the bad, and in the bad remember the good. Ignatius faced personal adversity both before and after his conversion. He developed the Spiritual Exercises which are one of the most widely used spiritual formation and mentoring tools today. They are a tool used widely within and without the catholic church. His contrib
ution to Christian spirituality has been immense.

If I can share on a personal level with you the class. I was in a period of desolation yesterday. My computer crashed because of my roommate and I lost my entire seminar just shortly after finishing it. I scoured my hard drive for any fragments of it, but to no avail. I had only worked on the computer so lost all my primary research and all my secondary sources. So I rewrote this seminar late last night knowing I had to work at 6am this morning. Last night I came close to dropping this course. I was tired stressed, my roommate was moving out. I am making plans for the wedding and furniture deliveries … involved with that. And rewriting this from scratch just seemed so daunting. But here I am writing the last lines, and smiling and thanking God. Consolation does come again.


Endnotes:

  1. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.246
  2. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.247
  3. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.247
  4. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.251
  5. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.251
  6. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.253
  7. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.253

Bibliography:

Tyson, John R. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. New York: Oxford UP, 1999

Caraman, Philip. Ignatius of Loyola : a biography of the founder of the Jesuits

Lonsdale David. Eyes to see, ears to hear : an introduction to Ignatian spirituality

Henry F. Birkenhauer et al. New introduction to the Spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius

Ganss, George E. Spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius : a translation and commentary

(First written for RS 383 Shapers of the Roman Catholic Tradition in the winter of 2003.)

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Julian of Norwich - Seminar

Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich, a visionary mystic, her life can be broken down into three periods: life before the visions; the visions; and life after the visions. From a historical or biographical perspective, there exists little data to help understand our author. What little evidence we have about her is derived from her own writings, both the longer and shorter texts and some court documents. Today in fact we still know very little about Julian of Norwich's life, before or even after her visions. Though there is a lot of academic debate about her, her life and many aspects of both, we can in fact only draw a few authoritative conclusions from her own writings and some legal documents from her time. We can piece together some information from the accounts of her visions both the Longer and Shorter texts. What we do know or know to be close to appropriate dates are as follows:

1343: December, born somewhere around New Year's.
1373: May13th, Received first revelation.
1380: 2nd Revelation

1388: Fifteen years of reflection since first revelation
1390: Further understanding (Thus the Longer Text)
1413: Still living, based on court documents of Wills being bequeathed to her.

So with these sketchy materials we have little specific information. Compared to some of our other authors there is relatively little personal information to get an understa
nding of our author from.

Perhaps one other historical detail worthy of mention is some background of Norwich. I would like to state that historically, Norwich at that time was the second largest city in England. It was second only to London, in size, and population, as well as wealth and social development. But even with how little we know about this woman outside of her own writings, there is currently immense interest in her and her words. Steven Fanning in his book Mystics of the Christian Tradition puts it is this way: "Julian's interpretation of her revelations has drawn intense modern interest, for she presents a view of God this is personal and unique, brimming with optimism and couched in simple and direct language." In fact that is one of the points we will focus on later while looking at our specific selections, that she presents God as both our Father and Mother, but specifically Christ as Mother and Ideal mother for us who are children of God in faith. In fact that theme of Christ as Mother, is a focus in most of the commentaries and outside sources I have found. Mary Ford-Grabowsky in the book she edited, Sacred Voices: Essential Women's Wisdom Through the Ages; states: "Julian's spirituality of the motherhood of God has made her one of the most popular mystics of our time, as she was in the fourteenth century. In a daring departure from the dominant language of her era, she portrays the three masculine persons of the Christian Trinity (Father, Son, and Spirit) as a nursing mother overflowing with kindness and love." We will notice this theme of the motherhood of God, again and again as we examine our writings. But before we get to that specific task, I would like to bring up some speculation about Julian's credentials. Cooledge & Walsh in A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich: Part 1, do a very critical analysis of Julian's life, and times, both of her writings and other contemporary historical documents, such as court Wills, and other papers. They state that Julian had a very high level of academic training and they draw this conclusion from the fact that her works, both the shorter and longer texts, have extensive quotes from the bible as well as other Christian authors that precede her. They surmise: "Before she began to compose the shorter text, Julian already knew all of the Vulgate; especially, she can be seen to be deeply familiar with all four gospels, the Pauline and Johannine epistles and Hebrews, the Psalms, the sapiential books and Deutero-Isaias. We can only make conjectures about how she acquired her Latin and her learning, for she is as reticent about this as over every other part of her external life;" Again here we see hr unwillingness to discuss her life before becoming a hermit in the cell at the Church of Norwich. Cooledge & Walsh conclude that Julian possessed a high level of academic training, which they find in evidence, through her extensive quotes of the bible ad other authors that proceed her. This will to either privacy or secrecy may impede a biographical examination, but her writings lay open and ready for examination.

Before we b
egin just a note of textual correction of the textbook, on page footnote 69 states that this is from chapters 55 and 56 of the longer text. Yet in the three different translations I looked at the selections are actually from chapters 59 and 60.Let us now turn to our specific texts and begin to examine them. The texts are taken from two different versions of the same book, now known as the Longer or Shorter text depending on which is used. The Shorter was written after reflection upon her 16 Showings or Visions or Revelations depending on the term you are most comfortable with. Our first excerpt comes from the shorter text, and the other is from the Longer text. The Longer text was written after further understanding was given to Julian around the year 1390, close to 30 years after the initial revelations. Even though she later wrote a much expanded and revised version of her understanding of the revelations and their meaning, there is little evidence that there was ever doubt of their authenticity. Steven Fanning states in Mystics of the Christian Tradition; "Nonetheless, it is obvious that she never doubted the truth of her revelations and she was confident that somehow the infinite love and power of God would be able to make all things well." So now let us proceed to the texts themselves.

T
he first except we are to look at is part of her first showing/revelation. The first showing acts like a prologue to the other fifteen, it shows us her understanding of spiritual quest, and her understanding of God. It also introduces us to the concept of God as Mother. This is in strong contrast to Clare of Assai, who on page 166 of our text presents a strong masculine image of Christ as Bridegroom. In this first excerpt Julian shows us that she desired to be close to God. She hungered for Him and she sought gifts from God. She was deliberate and intentional about seeking God, and specifically sought answers to specific prayers. She sought to be brought to the point of death, so that she might experience God's closeness in a new and profound way. Through this experience she sought, sickness, Christ's Passion, and the seeking of 3 wounds. It appears that all of her prayers were answered and beyond her expectations. In this first revelation she had an understanding of six things as seen on the bottom of page 191, and top of page 192, she has an understanding of the following:

1. His (Jesus) Passion
2. The Virgin Mary

3. Divinity
4. The goodness of creation
5. Everything is made for love
6. God is good, and that which is good is of God.

Yet even after seeing all this, she desired more as she states at the end of this section: "Rejoicing in what I saw and wishing, as much as I dared, to see more, it that were God's will, or to see for a longer time what I had already seen …"


We now move on to our final two excerpts, which are both from the longer version of the text. The first is on the Trinity, which is one of our theme's from Tyson's introduction. She begins with a short statement, on page 191, but one of profound theological truth, "God the blessed Trinity, who is everlasting being, just as He is eternal from without beginning, just so was it His eternal purpose to create human nature," here we see her understanding of the triune God, and the Godhead. In the next paragraph we have the introduction of the concept of God as our Mother, yet she also has the idea of God as our spouse. In the next paragraph we have many new concepts, she states "I saw and understood these three properties: the property of fatherhood, and the property of motherhood, and the property o
f the lordship in one God." Julian presents us with her view of how the different aspects of the Trinity interact with us, and us with them. The first aspect, the Father, is our protection and bliss. Her understanding interprets Christ, as brother, mother and savior. Finally, the Holy Spirit is a reward and gift. These are more than concepts to Julian, who outlines the different ways that each of these aspects of the Trinity interact with us. On page 193 she states that that the trinity as Father, Mother and Lord as our nature.

In the next paragraph she focuses again on how the different aspects of the Trinity interact with humankind. She states on page 193: "And our substance is in our Father, God almighty, and our substance is in our Mother, God of all wisdom, and our substance is in our Lord God, the Holy Spirit, all goodness, for our substance is whole in each person of the trinity, who is one God." Even though her language is new, and she introduces us to the concept of God as mother, her theology is sound, unlike other authors like Master Eckhart who was sanctioned by the church for his writings and interpretations, Julian was never under such scrutiny. Julian's writings were accepted by the Church of her time. She appears to push the boundaries on what was acceptable in her time, and stretch the thoughts of her contemporaries and even some modern readers. Yet she always stays true to the
God, and sound doctrine.

Then we come to our final selection. Here again we see a strong focus on the trinity, and especially different roles for each person of the trinity. Julian states "Our Father wills, our Mother works, and our good Lord the Holy Spirit confirms" We see a strong focus here on different roles, but each significant in how the trinity work in our life. As we have noted Julian's writings focus primarily on the trinity, but not just the trinity, specifically her understanding of the trinity. Which is now and expanded.


I see Julian as a mystic who stretches me to see an aspect of God that I had seldom approached before. (What is that) The American Catholic Priest, Sociologist and author Andrew M. Greeley always refers to God as "She", and though I enjoyed his writings it was always hard for me to relate to a female mother, because of my own family situation. Yet through these readings, I can now have an appreciation for such language and can even see a need to approach God as both Mother and Father, Christ as Brother, savior and Mother. As far as contributions to the concept of spirituality within the Christian tradition, Julian has stretched me most. She presents a close, intimate personal God, a God she experiences as both Father and Mother, and a God who is active in her life. Her visions only serve to draw her deeper into relationship with God, and seeking God even more. Therefore I would like to leave you with a quote about Julian and her writings. Austin Cooper in his introduction to Julian of Norwich, reflections on Selected Texts; states: "She comes across these centuries as a great Christian woman who has much to teach us and whose message reminds us of the beauty and joy that are inseparable from the Christian faith." And that is what I would like for you to take from today's readings, a renewed joy and sense of beauty, in God, Creation and in the spirituality we are pursuing.

Endnotes:

  1. Mystics of the Christian Tradition; Steven Fanning, Routledge, New York, 2001, p.125
  2. Sacred Voices: Essential Women's Wisdom Through the Ages; Ed. Mary Ford-Grabowsky, HarperCollins, San Francisco, 2002, p.91
  3. A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich: Part 1, Cooledge & Walsh, Universa Press, Wetterren, Belgin, 1978, p. 43
  4. Mystics of the Christian Tradition; Steven Fanning, Routledge, New York, 2001, p.126
  5. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.192
  6. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.192
  7. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.192
  8. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.193
  9. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.194
  10. Julian of Norwich, reflections on Selected Texts; Austin Cooper OMI, Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, Connecticut, 1988, p.4

Bibliography:

Tyson, John R. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. New York: Oxford UP, 1999

Cooper, Austin OMI Julian of Norwich, reflections on Selected Texts
Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, Connecticut, 1988

Fanning, Steven Mystics of the Christian Tradition;
Routledge, New York, 2001

Ford-Grabowsky, Mary Sacred Voices: Essential Women's Wisdom Through the Ages; HarperCollins, San Francisco, 2002, p.91

Cooledge & Walsh A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich: Part 1, Universa Press, Wetterren, Belgin, 1978, p. 43

(First written for RS 383 Shapers of the Roman Catholic Tradition in the winter of 2003.)