Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 17, 2003
Bow down and worship God's mysteries
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
"In the high churches, they saunter through liturgy like Mohawks along a strand of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger."
- Annie Dillard
We need to be humble about language. All talk of the sacred is limited by our imaginations and our language. We are finite creatures trying to picture and talk about the infinite - an impossible task. The finite mind runs out of room at a certain point. The infinite can't be conceived and God is infinite.
Knowing that doesn't weaken my faith: I believe deeply in the reality behind our religious language, namely, the existence of a Trinitarian God, the goodness of that God, the divinity of Christ, the need for salvation through divine sacrifice, the fact of the resurrection and the promise of God as the only real basis for hope, among many other things.
But I'm under no illusion that our language about those realities (including the language of Scripture, the creeds, and the dogmas of the Church) is meant to be taken literally, like a videotape. Rather that language puts me in touch with those realities, it lays out some boundaries within which I should stay if I don't want to stray from the truth, and it stretches my intellect and heart beyond normal resting places. Our language is inadequate, but it's all we have.
I like Annie Dillard's comment on this: "The higher Christian churches - where, if anywhere, I belong - come at God with an unwarranted air of professionalism, with authority and pomp, as if they knew what they were doing, as though people in themselves were an appropriate set of creatures to have dealings with God.
"I often think of the set pieces of liturgy as certain words which people have successfully addressed to God without their getting killed. In the high churches they saunter through liturgy like Mohawks along a strand of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger.
"If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it at any minute. This is the beginning of wisdom."
Never assume that religious language is anywhere near adequate. No theology, however good, gives you a picture of God. Good theology helps you know something that you can't think or picture. The heart knows things the mind cannot picture. Thank God for that. That's the heart of faith.
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