Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Loving God According to Rowan Williams and I

"...which of us does "love" God? I remember, ages ago, talking to a young Chinese Marxist student, who amazed me by saying, "of course, priesthood [I had him I hoped to be ordained] is unrewarding, but you won't mind that, because you love God." I was amazed and rather appalled, because I couldn't imagine why he should think I loved God; as soon as he'd said it, I knew it wasn't true. After all, what was it to love God? The saints loved God: their whole lives revolved around God, they wept and laughed and danced for love of him. When St. John of the Cross was staying at a convent over Christmas, one of the sisters saw him, when he thought no one was looking, picking up the figure of the child Jesus from the crib. He hugged it close to his chest and then, with eyes closed, danced around the crib for a few minutes. Well, that, it seems, is love of God: a devotion that makes people more than a little dotty, that produces an all-pervading warmth and delight, an incommunicable gladness beyond all words. "My beloved is mine and I am his"; Jesu, the very thought is sweet; In that dear name all pleasures meet"...St. Aelred of Rievaulx on his deathbed murmuring "Christ, Christ, Christ" unceasingly; Francis of Assisi literally crying himself blind in his long vigils of prayer.

If this is loving God, most of us don't." - Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury) "Loving God" in "A Ray of Darkness" p. 127

This is one of my favourite sermons of all time. Dr. Williams goes through the Catholic position and the Protestant position and notes how both fail to adequately describe the experience of loving God. He doesn't dogmatically state his views, in typical Anglican style, but rather talks about loving God as understanding him as "incomparably worthwhile". Almost a Thomistic understanding of knowing the kind of thing God is, even if not knowing exactly what he is, and then allowing our souls to ascend to the love of God by his grace. As the Angelic Doctor stated "To love God is something greater than to know him".

The Protestant/Calvinist/Lutheran position traditionally has been to say that humans can't love God. The Wesleyan/Catholic tradition has been to say humans can purely love God. A third way that modern Evangelicals and Roman Catholics alike have share is the idea of love as a choice.

Given the choice between Papist, Puritan, or Prelate, I'm going to have to side with the latter, and agree with Rowan Williams that love of God is something indescribable. It is mystical, but it comes from a choice we make long before the experience that prepares us for the reception of this grace.

There's so much in this sermon and I'm butchering it. Do yourself a favor, go out and buy a copy of Ray of Darkness. I don't agree with alot that Williams says, but much of what he says has formed my faith in that wonderful Anglo-Catholic tradition that harmonizes so well with both the fathers and Rome.

He borrows alot from Hans Urs Von Balthasar and I enjoy both of their understandings of love. They are both just within the Catholic tradition, but not in the mainstream of it.

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