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Thursday, November 29, 2007
A question of faith

From the Bishop of Oxford's sermon yesterday morning during chapel at work:

"For me, the mark of an authentic faith is that the person isn't about whether they're really religious or not, it's whether or not they are fully alive ."


He continues:

"I've known people whose faith has diminished them, made them smaller. It has prevented them from fully engaging in life."

He has articulated one of my most deeply held beliefs. As a Catholic in my church, my faith is measured by whether I receive communion on the tongue or on the hand; whether I go to a mass where the priest's back is to me; how well I can worship at a priest's feet; how precisely I follow the rules.

But looking around me, all I see is death. People dead to the world, to joy, to God.

As per a favourite poet:

"And an old priest said, "Speak to us of Religion."

And he said:

Have I spoken this day of aught else?

Is not religion all deeds and all reflection,

And that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul, even while the hands hew the stone or tend the loom?

Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations?

Who can spread his hours before him, saying, "This for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?"

All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.

He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked.

The wind and the sun will tear no holes in his skin.

And he who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage.

The freest song comes not through bars and wires.

And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.

Your daily life is your temple and your religion.

Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.

Take the plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute,

The things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight.

For in reverie you cannot rise above your achievements nor fall lower than your failures.

And take with you all men:

For in adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower than their despair.

And if you would know God be not therefore a solver of riddles.

Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.

And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.

You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees."

--"On religion", The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

So you'll pardon me if I judge your faith not by your ability to parrot or follow the rules, but by how you live your life: how you treat others; whether you will risk fully engaging in a mortal life that brings love and pain, happiness and sorrow in equal measure; whether you will risk everything for love, mortal or divine; whether your faith opens you up to others or makes you shut them out, creating a world of 'us' and 'them'.

I have seen 'faith' diminish too many people - they have become small-minded, narrow; desperate for the approval of their superiors; joined the 'more perfect' religious life to run away from their issues and to lead an easy (read: avoiding responsibility) life; they amputate parts of their personality until they fit a soulless mould and there's nothing left of the person God created.

Shortly after that, Bishop John made a point that wasn't explicitly related, but I think ties in beautifully to his comments above.

"When I'm afraid, I lock the door. But when I lock myself in, am I locking Christ out?"

That's the real question, isn't it? "Perfect love drives out fear" - and makes you unlock that door - and yourself.

The truth shall set you free.
posted by Irim at 3:58 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 11/29/2007 08:27:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    Exquisite thoughts, Irim!

  • At 11/30/2007 09:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    this is beautiful and inspiring... so much of what has been on my heart and mind recently. thanks for sharing.

  • At 12/01/2007 05:31:00 AM, Blogger Irim

    Thank you both! For various reasons, it has been a very long time since I've been here - I'm trying to catch up, and thought a post would be the quickest way.

    Right, off to read some amazing posts by some fabulous women...


  • At 12/03/2007 09:09:00 AM, Blogger Sensuous Wife

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 12/03/2007 09:09:00 AM, Blogger Sensuous Wife

    "The glory of God is man fully alive" I believe that. In the global sense that God desires his beloved humans to be fully alive. Religion deadens and amputates. Relationship with God grows and expands the human heart. When we're living in relationship with Christ in a fully alive state, we are not diminished. Instead the parts of us that were stunted and wounded are grown and redeemed healed and revealed. Religion offers a box or bandaid. Relationship offers restored taste of original created glory. Oh yeah. Religion looks quite small and petty when stood side-by-side with Relationship and Restoration.

  • At 12/03/2007 05:41:00 PM, Blogger Irim

    Absolutely perfect, Sensuous Wife!

    I've always argued that we love and grow in relationship, and that's what faith is - a *relationship* with God, not a set of rules about how to relate to Him.



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