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Faith: One Long Alleluia Sung Into A Dark Night – Joan Chittister

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Deep down, we are still substituting a kind of magic for faith. God we make a cornucopia of human desires, a vending machine of human delights.  We coax God to be on our side and call it faith. We cajole God to save us from ourselves and call it devotion. But those things reduce God to some kind of popular puppet. For those things there is little room for alleluia.

The truth is that faith requires the awareness that God is and that God is holding all of us responsible for the other. Being a card-carrying member of a religious tradition does not give us the right to consume the world for our own ends in the name of God. We do not have the right to loose havoc on the rest of the world in the name of the God we have made in our own image. It is not getting the rest of the world to think and worship as we do that qualifies as real religion. It is giving ourselves for the welfare of the rest of the world to which we are called.

The Abrahamic tradition, in which Abraham’s rush to welcome strangers to his table is one of scripture’s most powerful icons, calls us all to be keepers of an open tent in the desert, for fear a stranger should simply happen to come by without water in the summer sun of the globe.

Faith is belief that God is leading us to become in tune with the universe, however different we see ourselves to be.

Faith is trust in the unknown goodness of life without demand for certainty in the science of it.

Faith is belief that the God we call ‘our God’ is either the God of all or cannot possibly be God at all.

Faith is confidence in darkness, for the willingness to trust in the deep-down humanity of others as well as in our own may be the deepest act of faith we can possibly devise.

Faith is the willingness to see God at work in others – in their needs and ideas, their hopes and plans – as well as in ourselves.

Faith is the certainty that God is working through others just as certainly that God is working through us for the good of all humankind.

For those things we sing alleluia. Those are surely the only things that can possibly save the globe from our own unmaking of it. Faith, real faith, real willingness to forgo our own need to either understand God’s ways with humankind or control them ourselves, is real reason for alleluia. Why? Because faith is not about understanding the ways of God. It is not about maneuvering God into  a position of human subjugation, making a God who is a benign deity who exists to see life as we do. Faith, in fact, is not about understanding at all. It is about awe in the face of the God of all. And it is awe that inspires an alleluia in the human soul.

Faith is about reverencing precisely what we do not understand – the mystery of the Life Force that generates life for us all. It is about grounding ourselves in a universe so intelligent, so logical, so clearly loving that only a God in love with life could possibly account for it completely.

When we center our power outside ourselves, which is of the essence of faith, we have faith in something greater than our smallness. We take our very lack of control as a sign of God’s presence in the world. It is precisely because of our smallness that we can come to see and trust the greatness of God that surrounds us. It is only then that we can really come to see the face of God in the face of the other.

Faith in what we cannot control, do not see, cannot understand, destroys the idol that is ourselves. It is only the deep-down belief that we are not the be-all and end-all of the universe that can save us from ourselves. It is the awareness of being part of something vast and intelligent and well-intentioned that gives purpose to life, that leads us to seek beyond the horizons of our smallness to the hope that tomorrow, warped as we may be today, we can all be better.

Faith in God is the only ground we have for faith in ourselves, in humanity, in life. Then we may care enough about others, about the purpose of God for all human life, to go beyond the kind of religion that turns God into a local deity and life into a zero-sum game in which winner takes all and losers abound.

Faith is one long alleluia sung into a dark night, the only end of which is another challenging dawn.

 


This wonderful piece of writing is by Joan Chittister from ‘For all that has been, thanks: growing a sense of gratitude‘ by Rowan Williams and Joan Chittister OSB, published by Canterbury Press Norwich in 2010

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(I have followed Canterbury Press’s lead and left the US spelling of manoeuvre and centre, with gritted teeth it must be admitted :>)

2 comments on this post:

ebrahim said...
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This is truly a wonderful piece of writing.
From god it is that we seek our own felicity. For ourselves what more can we seek? From self one must move on to species and thereon to all creation. As for gods right in himself, from us is required an unselfish faith that stands as a mirror unto himself, such as does not beget anything unto ourselves from him. This is giving to god as he gives to us in return; and this can only be from him by him too.

11 April 2014 07:27
Lay Anglicana said...
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Thank-you Ebrahim – it is comments like yours which remind me why I started this website:>)

11 April 2014 08:02

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