Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Holiness as Action

Is holiness found in right action, or contemplation? Perhaps both.

Merton sees in the second creation narrative humanity’s vocation to a particular kind of action. When Elohim makes humanity in his own likeness, the god who is creator, worker and father commissions these people to be that also. They will build a society, and form order from chaos in order to safeguard and nurture the Creation that brings the first Creator so much joy. They were created to be like him and do like him, but to exist as separate persons who could love and honor him. Using those creative gifts rightly, those borne from Yahweh’s own being, is, in Bach’s phrase, “a gift back to the giver.”

Merton continues:
And in the line of this thought, original sin would be a perversion of man’s active instincts, a turning of man’s creativity away from God so that he produces and creates not the society and the temple which God’s own creation demands as its fulfillment, but a temple of man’s own power. The world is then exploited for the glory of man, not for the glory of God. Man’s power becomes an end in itself (60).

I find this a helpful conception. I’ll draw it out. In such a case, living redemptively would be to continue living in and working out of that vocation following the manner of Christ. Just as the Creator brought form and a life like his own from a shapeless void, so would his Anointed One. Jesus entered that chaotic maelstrom of competing powers and through his healing works, execution and subsequent vindication brought order and the rule of Yahweh into the midst of it. Christ the second Adam did what the first Adam failed to do.

How do we continue this work? As the Church, we integrate ourselves into every aspect of human existence. We take common cause with sufferers, speaking correction and hope to victims and victimizers alike. We step into the lives of one another to speak truth that will chase away the lies, and to invoke the Spirit of Yahweh into the godforsaken places through the laying on of hands. We live as prophets, speaking order and healing into the brokenness of a fallen and chaotic creation. The Word of God created, the Word of God redeemed, and we will continue as Christ-indwelt prophets, speaking the words of God to effect his work of re-creating broken and wounded men and women.

Holiness is something you do.

Download Matt and Alan's reflections on the Schola page.

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