Thursday, February 11, 2016

Corporate Association and Intentional Communities

Fr. Chadwick continues the discussion on the Perennialist school.

I have concluded that eccentric and spiritual ways are only for individual persons who try to be true to themselves. At the level of communities, we have to learn to get by with conventional exoteric Churches – in the same way as we live in the general population. Some Churches are more conducive to others. Some believe they have found “it” with Orthodoxy, and one can only leave them to discover reality over the years. Others join a Church which is less exclusive in its “truth” claims but in which worship is uplifting and human relationships draw at least some inspiration from teachings by Christ, St Paul and others on charity (ἀγάπη). A Church is always a compromise between our idealism and the common denominator of humanity. We cannot expect too much from Churches, any more than from the civil institutions of the country in which we live: government, law, police, armed forces, welfare state, education and so forth. Churches give some attention to the metaphysical and spiritual, and give the first guiding steps. We are responsible for our own spiritual adulthood and the discovery we are called to make throughout life.
There is so much to agree with here.

Corporate association is more often than not an exercise in routine and duty, which helps explain the perpetual urge in Christianity to rediscover the ancient tradition by breaking away from the larger body into smaller associations. This is the basic impulse behind monasticism (both Orthodox and Catholic), the Catholic Worker, and the intentional communities of the later 20the century. Corporate association (even dutiful observance of the liturgical books) is often perfunctory and formulaic. The more earnest reflection on the nature of God, the meaning of life and the purpose of man seems to take place amid smaller associations who find the need to create some distance with the larger corporate body. In such contexts, there is a conscious reflection on the praxis and prayer of Christianity.

Such associations implicitly question the ability of established churches to embody the Tradition in so far as established churches fall short of being communities in which a conscious and deliberate on Christianity Tradition, theology, liturgy and prayer is fostered. In our context, these intentional associations increasingly originate on either evangelical or inter-denominational grounds. In all cases, such communities are not after "observance" or even "sacramental participation." Rather, they are looking for communities that support formative experience and a transformational life via the application of an active application of Christianity's tenets related to living and prayer.

Again, the implicit criticism made by such associations is that established churches fill a role that is more sociological in nature and as such do not prove to be environments for actively cultivating the praxis of Christianity. There are times it is difficult to avoid a similar conclusion. If Christianity has any credible future in the West, it is not in a cultural or sociological model. It is more along the lines of intentional communities (perhaps a new monasticism) that deliberately blur the tired distinctions between Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant. Ultimately, the principles binding the three together are more persuasive than the at times exaggerated distinctions between them.

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