One of Circle of Hope’s proverbs is: “We intend to keep all the great things God has given through the church of the past and be totally at home in our own time, ready and able to relate to the people of our day.” And there are so many great things given to us from the past!
Throughout history, the Holy Spirit has been preserving the church despite the many not-so-great things given to us from the past along with all that goodness. This strengthens my faith. God must be doing something really, truly enduring if throughout the history of the church, in every single era, we have evidence of extraordinary people and movements within Christianity who have kept the Christ light burning so brightly.
We keep adding to our collection of brightness on the Celebrating the Transhistorical Body Blog. In the past few weeks we have celebrated Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th Century theologian, a woman in the middle ages influencing many; George MacDonald, a 19th Century novelist who helped invent the fantasy genre and pushed against the excesses of Scotch Calvinist Theology; Henri Nouwen a 20th Century author of The Wounded Healer, the Way of the Heart, Return of the Prodigal and many other books on spirituality; and William J. Seymour the 20th Century black leader of the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, which expanded into the Pentecostal movement that has changed the world. Don’t miss Francis of Assisi on Friday either!
In the beginning of the Gospel of John, Jesus is described as the light that gives light to everyone—a light shining in the darkness, but the darkness cannot overcome the light. But the darkness is so strong sometimes I pause and wonder how that can be true. Is the light being overcome this time? These other lighted faces help me in moments of such despair. They too knew that feeling, I think, and they persevered. They kept looking to Jesus through all kinds of terrible news and potentially overwhelming darkness.
C.S. Lewis, who we remember on November 22, his death day, wrote about the value of seeking the counsel of those who have gone before us.
“We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it… None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.”— C.S. Lewis in his introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation.
(We remember Athanasius on May 2, by the way)
C.S. Lewis illustrates how absolutely vital our practice of celebrating the transhistorical body really is. It not only inspires us in moments of despair, but could prevent further contribution to the darkness by our actions. To bring the requisite creativity and wisdom to our present moment, we will require a bigger conversation than is available among the living. Our problems and our dreams need help from another time, and we have access to it. The light has always shone. The Holy Spirit continues to remind us of everything Jesus taught us.