READ: I John 4:7-12
“My dear friends, let us love one another, since love is from God and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love. This is the revelation of God’s love for us, that God sent His only Son into the world that we might have life through Him. Love consists in this: it is not we who loved God but God who loved us and sent His Son to deal with the guilt of our sins. My dear fiends, if God loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever come face to face with God, but as long as we love one another, God abides within us and among us and God’s love comes to its perfection in us.” – I John 4:7-12
The Abbot said to the community during morning prayers, “We are called to become perfected in the love that God has given to us. We are to each day, if not in each moment, to be seeking a Perfection of Spirit, not a perfection of living that is beyond our human reality, but a Perfection of of Love that is at the far frontier of human reality.“ And I thought, “How strange that I have journeyed to such a far distant place here at Greyfriars’ Abbey, only to arrive back at my beginning in a Methodist Chapel, hearing once more the call to Christian Perfection, the call to a more Perfect Love.”
In theology, there is a concept known as “sanctification“. It is the process by which God’s grace takes a new believer and sets them apart for the work of God, preparing them for holy work by transforming their lives into holy expressions of God’s love. The oft misunderstood term “Christian Perfection” is another way of describing this transformation of our humanity. Jesus taught, “My disciples, seek the Perfection of holy living, but do so in the manner of God and not in the manner of the Pharisees. They seek Perfection by keeping all the rules; God seeks Perfection by fulfilling the mission of love by perfecting the quality of the Love of God expressed through our living.” (my paraphrase, of course)
But how does one go about the work of Christian Perfection?
First of all, it must be God’s work being done upon our soul. It is not an achievement of our own effort, but more a cooperation with God’s process. But, yet, it is not something totally passive on our part either … .
To illustrate … I hope … I share an afternoon that I lived awhile back when Brother Demetrius, an Eastern Orthodox monk, came to practice his trade here at Greyfriars’ Abbey, more specifically at the nearby cathedral. In the cathedral of Notre Dame, one can experience the majestic power of God through the ministry of the great pipe organ that reside there. The music from that pipe organ can bring the cathedral to its own life, awakening the music within the stones and the stained glass into a divine and human resonance. Brother Demetrius, by trade, is an organ builder and an organ tuner. I was given the privilege to be his “laborer” for the day. My contribution to his work included such chores as holding the ladder, toting the tools, bringing him glasses of water, putting my finger on this and every now and then, pushing wires from one place to another. I found the artistry of tuning a pipe organ to be most fascinating. It was my blessing that Brother Demetrius was a teacher at heart, explaining to me the what’s, the why’s, and the how’s of this glorious instrument.
How is a pipe organ tuned? You find its beginning note, the pure note, the note that Brother Demetrius poetically refers to the “note that God first gave.” Then each pipe is ever so slightly adjusted to being it into harmony with the one note – not identical to that one note mind you – but into perfect harmony with it, each note relating perfectly to the first note and then to all the other notes. It is tuning not by so much by the precision of the “acoustics” but by the perfection of the sound. It is a tuning of each pipe, not only the pipes with each pitch of the scale, but also the pipes that give a certain quality of voice to each pitch of the scale. As I watched Brother Demetrius work, I observed how he tuned each pipe, then kept returning to tune all the pipes to one another, always with that perfect first pitch in mind. Finally, the tuning of the organ was finished, not among the pipes in the chambers but at the keyboard. The pipe organ’s perfection is always fulfilled in the playing.
Such it is with the tuning of the human life. It is a tuning of not one thing, but the tuning of many, many things, all tuned to the spirit of God’s love, all brought into a harmony of the interplay of them all, not only in its characteristics which might be likened to the pitches of the scale, but also in its qualities which might likened to the timbres of its voices.
In the Benedictine approach to maturing the Christian disciple, we are continually tuning each pipe and all the pipes, so that they all work together in the creation of Divine Love expressed in human form. We ask ourselves searching questions, quite particular and specific questions … what is the quality of my love for God? What is the quality of my love for those in my family? What is the quality of my love with my neighbors, my fellow church members, my friends? What is the quality of my love for those with whom I disagree, even those who oppose me? What is the quality of my love for the poor, for the lonely, for the outcast, for the criminal, for the sinner? And with each question that particular pipe in my Christian soul must then be tuned … not only to the first perfect pitch that we have received from God but also, in relationship of each to all the others. But after asking and after the tuning, there must always come the playing … the actual doing of the Divine Love in our quite human ways.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
— For the latest installment of the ongoing story, The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, just click … https://greyfriarsabbey.wordpress.com/the-mystic-reams-of-shadow-fox/ … The installments are separated by ********* with the latest being at the end (obviously).