Monday, 10 November 2008

Retreat reading

When John Cassian famously advised monks to flee from women and bishops, he had in mind the most obvious danger of being in proximity to a bishop - you might end up getting ordained... Theodore of Pherme was made a deacon, but constantly avoided exercising his ministry, when necessary by running away...; [for him it is] as if ordination involved some sort of attempt to lay hold of a destiny that would take a lifetime of prayer and watchfulness to grow into... It is a story which ought to make all ordained people uncomfortable, if only in its clear suggestion that exercising a public role in the church’s worship involves standing in the furnace of divine action which unites earth and heaven; if we can’t see that this is a dangerous place, we have missed something essential... As for Theodore, the ordained person may be at risk because of the spiritually intense place where they must stand, but they are also at risk from the more prosaic, but still spiritually damaging, effects of hierarchy and deference...; the calling to monastic witness is not going to be easily compatible with a life in which it is easy to be ensnared by the fantasies of others and caught up in the illusory position of dignity... I wonder too whether the ambivalence about ordained ministry has something to do with the license that the ordained person has to talk - to instruct, explain, exhort, even control...; there are plenty of stories about the need to avoid both theoretical discussions and over-confidence on theological questions. Speech that is not centred upon... the painful confrontation of inner confusion [and] the painstaking making space for each other before God... makes us do stupid things.

From pages 64 to 67 of Rowan Williams’ Silence and Honey Cakes.

No comments: