Looking through certain blogs that try to maintain pressure against continuing Anglicans and rekindle the embers of the polemics of 2010 and 2011, I feel a certain melancholy and muse about a future world where there would be no churches, no beauty, no love. We feel it more and more, the choice between fighting against the encroaching bestiality of humanity at its worst or looking forward to our deliverance at the end of our earthly life.
Some try to keep optimism, even those of us who have found our places in “micro” Churches. I notice how the triumphalism of the converts of 2011 and 2012 has become silent, as those clergy people try to take stock of their existence in a post-Benedictine Church. Are we going to sneer at their isolation and marginality when we ourselves have no triumphal reassurance of our own glorious future?
The Russian Orthodox priest Father Seraphim Rose said in 1981 – “In the end, all the Churches will serve Antichrist“. The language is apocalyptic, and the ideas haunt us however much we push them away saying that these are the things of God and not for our human knowledge. Do we not all collaborate in this nightmare through our own spiritual selfishness and lust for power? Russian Orthodox thought is forceful and powerful, and has always fascinated me. They are every bit as pessimistic as the French (!) – but yet there is faith that God will triumph however far the forces of Hell get with us and our world.
I have been reading Douglas Bess’ Divided we Stand, graciously sent to me by Dr William Tighe (I can’t remember whether I wrote to thank him – if not, I thank him now). We are reminded of the harrowing bishops’ brawl in the ACC in the late 1990’s. That particular dust calmed down in time and there has been quiet and sober rebuilding ever since. The TAC was driven onto the rocks in the hope it would become the Ordinariate – and some have found their happiness and the places where they wanted to go. In time, the dust from that too will settle, and rebuilding can go ahead – if it is real and humble. I understand the cynicism of those who have been hurt in all these upheavals, but we have not to be cynical. We can recover innocence and freshness through prayer and forgiveness – and asking God for forgiveness on account of our own sins.
Most of the time, there seems to be little to do other than pray and offer our sufferings that poverty and illness bring us. The forces arrayed against Christianity, goodness and light seem so mighty that we easily lose hope. And then, we have people within the Churches and in our own midst who are serving the enemy, thinking they are working for God and their moral integrity. We have only to look within ourselves to find the enemy, and then we have both to fight, and to integrate our own personalities.
Is it too late for us in Europe, like in Russia or the Americas? Countries and continents were brought to the Gospel in the past by missionaries, albeit helped by the old colonial powers. Atheism has been with us for a very long time. It persecuted the Church of France in the 1790’s, and it continued in the nineteenth century and in the twentieth through the tyrannies of Nazism, Fascism and Communism. Out of the oppression rose great souls like Dietrich Bonhöffer and Edith Stein.
Will this rebirth come through groups of enthusiasts like the Charismatics and the new communities? Much hope has been pinned on such groups, which have mostly been around since the 1960’s and 70’s. Certainly, an amazing amount of good has been done, but as drops in the ocean.
Most of us, whether Roman Catholic, Anglican or Orthodox are so marginal that we have no guarantee of our own future. We bewail the wastage and loss of our churches and heritage, as churches are demolished or turned to secular use. There seems to be no end to it, and our little chapels are limited to the length of our own lives – after which what is precious to us will end up on the rubbish heap or on E-bay.
We love to claim that Christianity can bring good to this world, in particular toleration, civility, democracy, and human rights – but we find precious little of any of these qualities in the Churches. Will other religions or secularism bring us these things that make human life worth living? We have our doubts.
My intuition is that we have been claiming the wrong things, especially when we have sought to “feed on the prestige” of the mainstream and respectable. It is something we all do as individuals and groups, including those who denounce such things as wrong. My feeling is that the way of the future will be κένωσις, our self-emptying so that God may take the place of our egos. We have to go inwards.
Then it doesn’t matter whether we are members of a big Roman Catholic or Orthodox parish or serving our “micro” Churches. The Church of Christ subsides in them all without distinction, and none of us can judge to which degree. We can only aspire to serve and give without counting the cost. It’s easier said than done?
We should keep focused. Times have changed, and will change again. I will not allow myself to be discouraged by the rantings of curmudgeons and those who think only their way is right. I thank God for bringing me home to a good community where all the characteristics of the Church are present and live in our midst as elsewhere. I am filled with joy and gratitude, even if the rest of the world ignores us. We are called to be humble, silent and invisible, effaced so that we might receive God’s grace.