White Robed Monks of St. Benedict
An Institutional Church's God Reconsidered
In all faces is shown the Face of faces, veiled and in a riddle. Nicholas of Cusa
The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict appreciate God through the eyes of the early Church rather than an institutional church marked by dogmas/doctrines created to satisfy political needs of churchmen and emperors. The information here in is not considered dogma nor doctrine and perhaps portrays nothing more or less than perhaps just a interesting point of view, In any event, how can God be reduced to words and verbal descriptions? The Early Church Fathers and students of the mystical path offer a "a noble, comprehensive Vision of Christianity."* We find in their teachings:
...the goal of Christian perfection is the love by which we cleave to God. (Cleaving to God, Chapter 1) writes St Albert the Great, To mount to God is to enter into oneself. (Cleaving to God, Chapter 7) We find no institutional teachings of sin and damnation. We also find "no doubts about Humankind's inner worth and dignity."* In place of a legalistic, regimented, authoritarian, narcissistic understanding of Christianity, we find "a whole new understanding of Christianity, an understanding that the churches have obscured and refused to acknowledge."*
To gauge the soul we must gauge it with God, for the Ground of God and the Ground of the Soul are one and the same. (Meister Eckhart in Atman, Grunt, and Spirit:An Unfinished Reflection by Don Goergen OP) Historically, an institutional church tends to "refuse to recognize this inner identity we humans have with God."* Be ye therefore perfect Jesus says, and, perhaps to keep the illusion of fear and control, an institutional church emphasizes that we are just 'adopted' children of God, "rather than being an emanation of God. * The institutionalized church believer trembles in fear (of priest or bishop more so than of God), guilt, or shame, "hanging on by a prayer and a sacrament to ward off divine wrath"* by the administrations of its clergy. Are we not responsible for our integrity as human beings when we "re-capture the true Essence of Christianity - our identity with God, our partnership with God, our inner, innate Being fashioned with Love and Understanding"?*
13th Century St. Bernard, a true champion of Love and Understanding, wrote: In those respects in which the soul is unlike God, it is also unlike itself. "Where were teachings like this when we went to Sunday school and CCD classes? The nuns who took charge of ... education were quick to point out that the devil was extremely powerful, waiting to devour our Souls. No wonder so many people have become disgusted with churches and their psychologically diseased dogmas"* as a neutral observer might term them.
6th Century St. Gregory of Nyssa said explicitly (in On the Making of Man): By its likeness to God, human nature is made as it were a living image partaking with the godhead both in rank and name, clothed in virtue, reposing in the blessedness of immortality, garlanded with the crown of righteousness, and so a perfect likeness to the beauty of the Godhead in all that belongs to the dignity of majesty.
Following Gregory, St. Basil writes: I am myself created by God, and have been bidden to be a god ("theosis"). St. Maximus the Confessor (580-662) reiterates Basil, Gregory and the rest, by saying We are made Gods and sons of God and the body and limbs and members of God. or paraphrased, "a divinized human person becomes all that God is except for identity in essence." (Louth, "Maximus the Confessor," 158; Pelikan, Spirit of Eastern Christendom, 267.)
Furthermore, we find St. Gregory Palamas writing: Man being himself a light, he holds up his light to see the Light, and looking into himself, he looks upon the Light, and if he looks further, then also he sees the Light, and always he sees by virtue of the Light, and therefore there is communion, and All is One.
Then in the Exhortation to the Heathen Clement of Alexandria suggests: A beautiful, breathing instrument of music the Lord made Man, whereupon the spirit of Life makes melody to God.
And in the writings of St. Gertrude of Helfta we find: When I return into my heart, I find Thee there; so that I cannot complain that Thou hast left me, even for a moment.
In Ruysbroeck's The Spiritual Marriage we find as well: In the Divine Image, all creatures have an eternal life, as in an eternal Archetype. This image is our proper life.
And St. Ambrose advises: The real paradise is not an earthly and visible one, it is not in any place, but in our self, and it is quickened and vivified by the powers of the Soul and the inpouring of the Spirit.
And in Zen-like manner St. Bonaventure teaches (The Journey of the Mind into God): We must enter into our mind, which is the eternal spiritual image of God within us, and this is to enter into the truth of the Lord.
And is it not true that an institutional church has its power not from God, but from the The People who believe that an institutional church has such power, when in reality, there is no such power but the Love of God and Neighbor?
I only have two commandments:
And is not love demonstrated by an institution church the same as what St. Paul describes Love to be?
Love God, love thy neighbor. (Matt 22, 35-40)
And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them. If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.
Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offense, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people's sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes. (1 Cor. 12, 31-13,8)
Peace and Joy!
*This paper is a re-write and an elaboration upon an original written by JoAnn Kite of The United Communities of Spirit
White Robed Monks of St. Benedict
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