2021_001_A

Support the Café

Search our Site

Devotion

Devotion

There is only one reason for the monk’s existence: not farming, not chanting the psalms … not fasting, not manual labor, not reading, not meditation, not vigils in the night, but only God.

And that means: love. For God is love. If we love [God] we possess [God]. Everything else about the monastic life is only a means to an end.  (Thomas Merton, The Waters of Siloe, Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1949)

Perhaps to paraphrase Paul, farming will cease, chanting will cease… fasting and reading will cease, as will vigils – they, too, will cease. Now abide faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.

I wonder whether the greatest temptation to the religious practitioner, be they lay or cleric, is be to confuse what one does in the name of God for actually loving God, trading the activity of religion for the heart of religion. 

Attending church (in person or online), practicing devotion, reading Scripture, and praying – these activities are but means to an end. The end is union with God (in Christ). Similarly, good works like feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless, while vital extensions of one’s love of God, do not equal love of God. (Indeed, good works often flow from mixed-motives. Think of the business that offers charitable community service to improve public image. Good the business participates, but the better motive is sincere charity.)

What, then, is the love of God? To be sure, loving God means loving one’s neighbor, but being nice to one’s neighbor is not the equivalent of loving God. 

What, then? The disciplines – offered joyfully or painfully – are (to repeat) means to an end, but not the end itself. The end is perhaps salvation, but what is salvation, if not union with God? Loving God into union is the goal of the Christian life just like loving one’s spouse into union is the goal of the married life. Love of God, as any married couple will tell you about loving a spouse, is less about feeling than it is about essence. Essential union. 

Religious devotion, then, is scaffolding, or perhaps framing, the structural support, but not the structure itself. One devotes in order to create just like one hammers in order to build. 

Love of God, and love of God seems to apprehend the human soul most often by the process of release – be it by one big burst of release (think “born again”), or by many little shards of abandonment. Letting go – of self, of selfishness, of right and desire, all in exchange for promise. Hope.

Love of God. Union.

There is only one reason for the monk’s existence: not farming, not chanting the psalms … not fasting, not manual labor, not reading, not meditation, not vigils in the night, but only God.

And that means: love. For God is love. If we love [God] we possess [God]. Everything else about the monastic life is only a means to an end.  (Thomas Merton, The Waters of Siloe, Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1949)

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Facebooktwitterrss
Support the Café
Past Posts
2021_002

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café