Friday, December 20, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Isaiah 30 and My Own Book "Leadings: A Catholic's Journey Through Quakerism" (Part 28)

Isaiah 30 – Isaiah speaks out against the efforts of those who are looking to Egypt to help them. “Pharaoh’s protection will be your shame” (30:3). God instructs the prophet to inscribe this oracle on a tablet so “in the time to come it may serve as a witness for ever” (30:8). “Since you . . . prefer to trust in wile and guile . . . your guilt will prove to be for you a breach on the point of collapse” (30:13). “Your salvation lay in conversion and tranquility, your strength, in complete trust; and you would have none of it” (30:15).

Yahweh assures them that He is “waiting to be gracious to you, to rise and take pity on you, for Yahweh is a just God” (30:18). Prosperity will come and the Lord will comfort you. “He will be gracious to you when he hears your cry; when he hears he will answer. When the Lord has given you the bread of suffering and the water of distress, he who is your teacher will hide no longer, and you will see your teacher with your own eyes” (30:20). You will hear his voice saying, “This is the way, follow it” (30:21).

From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism
Part 28
Skipping back a ways – I went over all of the particular Quaker Testimonies I found appealing and had gotten to the part where I felt called to return to the Catholic Church. Then I realized I hadn’t explained why I had ever joined the church the first time in 1964. So now I have gone over that and then why I fell away and what is was that drew me to Quakers in the early 80s. I joined the Religious Society of Friends in 1982 and was an active Friend until the late around 1990. Then I felt myself called back – not because I was disenchanted with Friends so much as that I thought I need both.

First the similarities I found in Catholicism and Quakerism: Both the Catholic church and earthly Quakers believed that Christ was and is really and completely present in his Church and among his people. He promised us that he would be “with us always, even until the very end of time” (Matt. 28:20), and he has kept his promise. For Friends, however, the Christ we can know and be joined with is only Spirit; but for Catholics he is also miraculously and mysteriously present in the sacramental dimension of the Church’s existence—in the bread that is broken at Mass, in the priests who break the bread, in the Holy Father who tends the sheep and encourages the brethren, and in many other ways. I do not see why one necessarily excludes the other. Perhaps I am just not an “either/or” sort of person, but instead a “both/and” sort. This is the richness of the Trinitarian God we worship. He is Creator God, Christ, and Spirit, and each is an opening into the other, so there is no reason why he should be present to us only inwardly or only in sacrament or only in and through nature. He is in all of these. He is before us, beyond us, in us, in our church, in the bread he breaks for us, in the love he manifests to us in all these things. And when we join ourselves to him, we see him everywhere—in all these things and others besides.

His gift of himself in our communion bread is a very corporate presence; his gift of himself to us in our minds and hearts is very individual and personal. The relationship between inward and outward is infinitely complex—the outward stimulating and shaping the inward, the inward recognizing and infusing the outward with power far beyond what is there alone. If we were angels—beings whose essential nature was not tied to the physical creation but were in some way we cannot imagine purely spiritual—then perhaps the substance of the gospel could be that spiritual, “unclothed” essence some modern Friends take it to be, not bound up with time, history, concrete physical reality. But we are not angels. Our essential nature is bound to physicality, time, history, concrete, mediating forms that are our ways into the world of spirit. When we try to pretend we are like angels, that we don’t “need” outward things to mediate spiritual truth, we pull away from truth, come unmoored from the forms through which we came to the measure of truth were capable of possessing.

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