Friday, December 23, 2011


Brethren, as you know, I am just an ordinary Christian, a simple follower of Jesus, with no formal education in ‘theology’ or in ‘biblical criticism.’ I’ve said it often enough, and so I believe, that theology isn’t learned in schools, nor is it possible to criticize the Bible. Sometimes I write things, just like the foregoing, that make me sound very dogmatic, very doctrinaire—some of you even think that I am denominationally biased, favoring one church over another, as if there were such a thing as ‘churches.’

If you know me well, as some of you do, you know very well that I am not being dogmatic or even denominational, that my words may seem pontificating, but I laugh at them, knowing they are the ravings of a fool who knows only the words of Jesus and is merely trying to accept them, accept Him, fully, letting you see his folly meanwhile, to elicit your prayers. But I don’t laugh only at myself. I laugh at you too, and often I seem to laugh all of us to scorn, nonetheless writing what I believe is true.

I really do believe that the Bible cannot be understood outside the Church, nor dogma grasped outside of worship, yet I write on subjects as if I knew something. As I’ve said often enough, I don’t witness for the Church, I witness for Christ, and He witnesses for the Church. I assume that anyone who studies the Bible wants to have faith, wants to hear the call of Jesus Christ, wants to be inside the Church, just as I do. As for dogma, well, I have done nothing if not invited everyone I meet repeatedly to worship.

What happens, though, when confronted with people who think they know the Bible and can use it as a weapon against others, even as a weapon against the Church? Personally, I am used to being attacked, used to being used and pillaged, used to being doubted, used to being suspected and slandered, used to being mocked, scorned, and discarded, used to finding myself having to start over from scratch, used to being eliminated from society.

Do you think I am speaking of Romanós? I am not; I am speaking of the Church. But then again, what does it mean if one’s life follows closely on the heels of these complaints? Could it mean that one is perhaps a member of the Church after all? Yet, we go to church and see all the marvelous things, the worship, the social and religious activity, the wonderful camaraderie of, well, some of the people there. Not everyone, it seems, fits in, but the Church makes room for us all, even us misfits.

We see the world around us with a sort of double vision—what it looks like, and what it really is. This double vision applies to how we see other people, and it even applies to how we see the Church. This is where faith either kicks in, or fails us—or should I say, where our faith fails us? Who can be strong enough to live in a world where, though the Truth be known, those who say they know the Truth cannot even be relied on to love those they see, as proof that they love Him who is Unseen?

How brittle are our lives to be so easily shattered! As I come to the end of all things—yes, the end of all that is merely human, all that is breakable, all that fails, yes, especially me—before I can welcome the One who makes all things new, who rewrites the broken ikons, refashions the fallen Adam in the image of the Eternal Man, even in His birth defeating hell and death because He fills all things—before I can welcome Him and hear the Message, ‘and on earth peace, and to humanity the favor of God’

What must I do but confess that I am a failed human and deserve the rebuke of all, that I have not kept up my end of the bargain—yes, the bargain, for what better buy was there ever to be had than the one whereby the Son of Man purchased me for myself with His own Blood, to set me free? All my ravings and babble, worthless, all my thoughts, nothingness, and yet I stand as one who thinks himself sane in a world that has gone mad, but nothing and no one is sane in this mad world, only He.

in a Christmasless land, I approach this bright feast of the Church—yes, only the Church celebrates it, while the world indulges itself in it—as one who has not even begun making an effort to live the good life, the only life worth living, as one who knows he doesn’t deserve to draw near.

Today the Virgin gives birth to Him who is above all being, and the earth offers a cave to Him whom no one can approach. Angels with shepherds give glory, and magi migrate with a star. For to us there is born a little Child who is God before the ages.

Shameless I come before Him empty-handed. Lord, have mercy on your servants who do not know You, who do Your will in spite of themselves, and on my enemy, on my worst enemy of all, on myself. In Your mercy make me worthy to say with the saints, ‘Christ is born! Glorify Him!’


Anonymous said...

Regarding the fourth paragraph, Iam just beginning to acquire that attitude. Throughout my life, it hurt every time I was attacked, slandered, rejected, or just ignored. The emotional wounds hurt every time as fresh wounds, wounds upon other open wounds which had not yet healed, and I never got used to it. The only thing to which I was ever able to adjust was living in the margins of society, socially and 'churchly.'

In order to 'get used to it,' one must be grounded in the Church and in personal faith--as you seem to imply in the other paragraphs. One must have confidence in Christ and an appropriate understanding of the Bible. One must not interpret attack and slander as the definition of oneself, but as the mental and spiritual condition of those who attack a fellow Christian--using the Bible and doctrine as a dull axe for the slaughter.

Only lately, especially with this Christmas season, have I been able to rest in Christ, so to speak (a statement which certain others would use against me to say that I am delusional or filled with pride or even the tool of the devil), and not to let them deteriorate my belief in Christ into a belief in their condemnation. The star over Bethlehem did not shine only for a select few, or even for a dominate majority, but for everyone and anyone--and that includes me, an ordinary misfit who is foremost a Christian.

Peace to you, Romanos, and a Merry Christmas.

Jim Swindle said...

To your Christmas essay, I can only say Amen.