MAGAZINE NO. 144 [ DECEMBER 2018 ]
"We find it hard, personally and communally, to allow space and time for periods of withdrawal and silence"
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE
THE DANCE OF INCARNATION by Sarah Bachelard
THE SENTINEL: WAITING IN SILENCE AT THE BORDERLANDS by Alan & Robyn Cadwallader
WHEN OPENING YOUR UMBRELLA by Kevin Bates
A CAMPAIGNER REFLECTS ON INTERSECTIONALITY by Helen Rainger
JOHN BUNYAN’S CINEMATIC SPIRITUALITY by Ryan Buesnel
WHEN DID I HEAR YOU CALL? by Richard Wigley
JAMES BOYCE’S ‘BORN BAD: ORIGINAL SIN AND THE MAKING OF THE WESTERN WORLD’ reviewed by Digby Hannah
ENGAGING THE DIVINE FEMININE IN THE MASCULINE CHRISTIAN JOURNEY by Irene Alexander
LAST TIMES by Ian Smith
A LONG WALK by Anne Udy
WHAT WOULD WE LOSE IF EREMOS CEASED TO EXIST? by Jorie Ryan
EREMOS INFORMATION AND MEMBERSHIP
Welcome to our Christmas and summer holiday issue!
I am always energised by writers and speakers who grapple with the challenge of seeing where the spirit might be moving in our contemporary world. Such people encourage us to persevere in seeking an authentic faith in a world where traditional narratives have lost so much credibility. Not that I am wanting to ditch traditional narratives – far from it – but there is work to be done in finding a way of reading them for our times.
In ‘The Dance of Incarnation’ Sarah Bachelard invites us to join with her in pondering the Christian doctrine of incarnation. Incarnation, the self-expression of God, she suggests, is not confined to one event, but, in the words of Beatrice Bruteau, ‘the cosmos is a dancing revelation of God’, available to those who have eyes to see.
In September, I had the good fortune to attend the Australian Ecumenical Council for Spiritual Direction (AECSD) national conference held in Canberra where Rev Dr Alan and Dr Robyn Cadwallader were keynote speakers on the theme of ‘Spiritual Direction in the Borderlands’. I decided what we heard there would be of interest not only to those involved in spiritual direction, but to all those in search of a meaningful faith for our time. In ‘The Sentinel: Waiting in Silence at the Borderlands’, they remind us that ‘the language of “spirit”, “spiritual”, “spirituality” cannot be divorced from the wider socio-political context within which individuals and groups operate’. Where the grand narratives of political and religious institutions no longer have the same authority, the temptation is to strengthen our borders rather than taking the risk of remaining in the borderlands of uncertainty, waiting for something new to emerge. The image of sentinel invites us to ponder the relationship between the contemplative and the prophet – to see them as two sides of the one coin. There is a need for both in our world.
Kevin Bates sm also explores the issue of border security. Birds of a feather may well flock together, he says, but does our need for border security require us to be closed to other flocks? ‘When Opening Your Umbrella’ includes a practice to make us more mindful of opportunities to show the inclusiveness of Christ.
From ‘A Campaigner Reflects on Intersectionality’ we can see that Helen Rainger is an energetic, dedicated and thoughtful campaigner. The notion of intersectionality reminds her that social activists need to keep the big picture in mind because their actions can have unforeseen consequences. For instance, she asks herself if, in opposing Israel’s actions against Palestinians, she might be guilty of anti-Semitism.
Now for a change of pace. In ‘John Bunyan’s Cinematic Spirituality’ Ryan Buesnel shares how The Pilgrim’s Progress has had such an attraction for him since his first reading of it as a boy that it has led him to reading it through once every year as a kind of personalised version of Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual exercises. Are there any books that have had a formative effect on your life? Perhaps it is time to revisit them.
Richard Wigley’s ‘When did I Hear You Call?’ is a sensitively told personal reflection on the theme of call and response in the spiritual journey. At one point he says, ‘It is hard to even sense the possibility of a calling when much of you is simply trying to survive’. What has helped him to thrive – my term not his – includes: a community of seekers first in Oxford and then at Benedictus Church, Canberra, poetry, music and the writings of Thomas Keating.
Digby Hannah’s review of Born Bad: Original Sin and the Making of the Western World traces the history of this doctrine and its impact not only on theology, but also on the wider secular culture. ‘The doctrine had by this time [the time of the Enlightenment] lodged deep within the psyche of the broader community. It morphed imperceptibly into a confirmed sense of human unworthiness’. How is this to be addressed or redressed, Digby wonders.
Irene Alexander’s ‘Engaging the Divine Feminine in the Masculine Christian Journey’ provides the background for her recently published Awakening Desire: Encountering the Divine Feminine in the Masculine Christian Journey. Irene reflects on how exclusively masculine images of God led to her devaluing the feminine, inevitably affecting her sense of herself as a woman and as a mother. She began to wonder if omission of feminine images of God might also be constraining to men. The feminine images are there in the scriptures, she argues, and their liberating and healing effects have appeared in a range of men’s narratives that she includes in her book.
The two poems that are included reflect seasonal themes. For those who find the transition into a new year – or their life stage – an invitation to personal reflection, Ian Smith’s ‘Last Times’ might provide inspiration. Anne Udy’s ‘A Long Walk’ suggests a modern version of the ‘Slaughter of the Innocents’ (Matt. 2:16).
Finally, Jorie Ryan provides thoughtful feedback on the recent survey in a short piece called ‘What Would We Lose if Eremos Ceased to Exist?’
Before I sign off, I invite you to look again at the cover image that serendipitously caught the eye of our wonderful layout editor Kate Riley. Remembering its title, ‘It’s About the Boundaries at Broken Hill’, what do you notice in the painting that reflects some of the themes in this issue?
Love and blessings for the season