Mennonites Notes from a Catholic University

  • There is a more penetrating paradox of joy and sorrow in receiving a eucharistic blessing than I have ever elsewhere felt. The gentle yet commanding touch of the priest, the exaggerated sign of the cross he imprints on my body, the quiet murmur of a trinitarian blessing intended directly for me: this is surely how it must feel to be embraced and sent by the church! Yet my fellow faithful have just joined a deeper blessing that not only signifies but embodies their unity with each other, with the whole history of the Church, and most especially with the Christ whom they touch, feel, and taste. The sign of my embrace is the sign of my exclusion, not out of malice or in error but because all we can do from our wounded distance is to touch. To touch is to hope for healing.
  • ‘Orthodox’ and ‘Radical’ tend toward the same root, which is the right praise of God. It is all the same tragedy whether Catholics (by assuming that God is contained in their liturgy) ignore the disruptive grace that emerges from proper doxology, or whether Mennonites (by assuming pretentious airs of ‘newness’) undermine the long history of faithful prayer that encompasses every true justice and every true church. There is no Christian doxology without justice and no Christian justice without doxology.
  • A doctrinaire simplicity will never know the wonder of God’s presence inside a building erected with all the extravagance due God’s name, where every detail is molded with care and every resource is quickly marshalled to express our praise. Unflinching extravagance will never discover that a material renunciation for the sake of each other, for the sake of the poor, makes possible the real presence of Christ among all the faithful who have meanwhile become friends. Neither the cathedral nor the house church can be too quickly rejected. Both are beautiful.

Comment (1)

  1. TimN

    Brian,

    Thanks for sharing these interesting reflections on the intersection of two faiths. In London I worked with the Catholic Worker and came to appreciate the way their action was deeply grounded in the social teaching of their church.

    Thanks also for the reminder that radical literally means back to the root. This is one of the intriguing aspects of identifying ourselves as young and radical. What are the roots we are going back to? What are our connections to those roots?

    And finally, I think you’ve hit on a key challenge for Anabaptists caught up in our newness. I’ve had a number of conversation with high church friends who are frustrated by the way Mennonites like to skip the 1200 year of church history between Constantine and Menno.

    You’ve packed quite a few provocative and dense concepts into this post. I hope you’ll take the time to expound on them in future contributions!

    Reply

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