Monday, April 12, 2010


I offer two quotations with a brief comment as helpful for our spiritual walk today. The first is from the Catholic Biblical scholar Gerard Sloyan (I quoted him in this past Sunday’s homily):

Jesus gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to make his followers a community in which forgiveness is firmly lodged… Failure to receive such remission will come only when this is the sinners’ choice.

Going back some 650 years, St. Gregory Palamas was one of the most outstanding mystical theologians of the Eastern Orthodox Church of the tradition that was called “Hesychasm,” or silence in the presence of the divine, uncreated Light. Quoted in Magnificat for this past Sunday, he writes:

I shall tell you, in your charity, something which has just occurred to me. I notice that Thomas lost his faith when he was absent, but when he was together with the believers his faith did not in any way fall short. So I have the idea that if only a sinner will flee the company of immoral men and associate with the just, he will never be found lacking in righteousness or the resultant salvation of his soul.

What we see expressed here is the need for community support in our desire and attempts to follow the “Way,” the path of discipleship. And surely this is why Jesus sent His disciples out two-by-two to preach (Mark 6:7ff. and parallels): so they could lean on one another, support one another, and so be more faithful together than they might be alone.

This principle pre-supposes that the community itself is faithful to the Word and the Way. It is the view presented by St. Luke in Acts (4:32; also 2:42, 5:12), when he writes, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind…” And that was “the mind of Christ,” as St. Paul wrote (I Corinthians 2:16).

The idea here is that the Church, the community, must ever be willing to forgive others though always with true accountability—read Psalm 99:6-8! It must also be willing (with accountability) to stand admitting its own need of forgiveness, yet not asking for it. The humility of admission is shown in willingness to wait until mercy is offered. And when it is, the remedy includes being re-connected with the community in which “righteousness or the resultant salvation of his soul” happens.

How do we forgive, and how do we confess? Where do we find strength for the journey along the Way? Will we attempt to “fly solo,” or will we recognize our weakness and remain rooted in the community “in which forgiveness is firmly lodged”?

Footnote: notice the white “scarf” with crosses in the icon of St. Gregory. This is the mediaeval shape of the “pallium,” the badge of authority worn by archbishops. Our Archbishop Rodi has the more modern-shaped pallium to signify his authority.

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