Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lex agendi

A while back, the wondrously webbed-in Fran of There Will Be Bread posted this photo on her Facebook page; all unaware, their souls seem on display. I've been wondering off and on since what you could tell about me by watching. Could you tell, for example, that I was a mother? a teacher? once a dancer? a Christian? a Roman Catholic?

It's those last two that have me thinking, to paraphrase the words of Peter Scholte's 60's hymn, "Will they know we are Christians?"

If you happened to notice the Orthodox prayer rope I wear on my wrist — fifty knots of black wool tied in the tradition of St. Anthony, ending in a simple cross — you might guess that I'm a Christian of some sort. If you were in the parking lot last week when I dropped my purse (upside down - ack!) you might hazard from the holy cards I was scooping up and tucking back into a prayer book (my beloved breviary, now a bit the worse for wear) that I'm of the Roman persuasion.

But this is not the real question that photograph is asking me, the big question is could you tell I am a Christian should I be stripped of the externals? By what I say and do, not when I'm writing, not when I'm praying in Church, not when I know anyone is watching, but when I'm walking down the street, as unaware of being observed as these two people are.

Today Mike Hayes at Googling God is wondering if we Catholics are spending too much time caught up in our own internal concerns (liturgical or otherwise), and not heeding Christ's clarion call to help those in need. There is a robust exchange going on at The Deacon's Bench about Hayes' post. My contribution to it, echoing C.S. Lewis' comment in Weight of Glory, "Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses." is here. (Warning, I don't acquit myself as well as I might.)

It's not that I think that our concern with liturgy is entirely misguided, or in any way deny the reality of Christ's presence in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. But I will not delude myself, these things are not the principle things that I think Christ will be weighing in the balance when the time comes. He will ask when I fed the hungry, drew water for the thirsty, was mindful of those who were poor, or suffering. Nor will I delude myself into thinking that I measure up all that well in this regard.

The liturgy and the Eucharist are source and summit of our lives. Where we go to drink of the living water so that we can go forth and see and serve Christ in each other, where we go in gratitude to celebrate the presence of Christ among us. We become as a result dwelling places for God, Christ in our very being.
"Faith finds its strength and dynamism in the Sacrament of the Real Presence, because truly the lex orandi remains linked to the lex credendi which, in turn, is translated into the lex agendi of the Church’s life and mission. The Eucharist, then, has also a personal dynamism: it is the gift to celebrate, bringing a deeper knowledge of the mystery of salvation, accomplishing communion, leading to adoration, and finally affecting the Church’s life through mission and pastoral ministry, all the while fostering charity inside and outside the Church." (The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and the Mission of the Church, full text here.)
It's not difficult for me to sit an hour in front of the Eucharist; I willingly and joyfully participate in the Eucharistic liturgy. It's far harder to put on Christ and wear Him as I walk out the church doors, and I fear I've not the courage to live that radical of a life.

“And what about His hunger, cold, chains, nakedness and sickness? What about His homelessness? Are these sufferings not sufficient to overcome your alienation?” — St. John Chrysostom


  1. You know Michelle, I posted that awhile ago and had forgotten all about it. There is another post altogether!

    Yes, who are we? And how are we known? I did not have the stomach to get into either discussion - at Mike's or at Greg's. They are both personal friends of mine and I love them both, but I lacked the time and the stomach to get into that conversation. (Today I opened my email to see that someone was informing me that after reading my comments here and there that I was one of the worst persons in the world.... I don't take that to heart, but still.)

    In any case, you have posed provocative thoughts here, good thoughts. I enter more deeply into thinking, praying and hopefully - living.

  2. trying to imagine myself at a liturgy team meeting

  3. I seem to remember us having something along the lines of this conversation before, over warm tea and amongst not only invisible molecules.

    Yes and yes.