Perfection in our (life)Time

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My chief problem with Tom's critique of what I write about St. John of the Cross is not the critique itself, but "penumbras and emanations" to use judicial language.

There seems to be a very strong suggestion that not everyone is called to be a Saint. And here, if this is truly representative of his thought, he and I must disagree. Everyone is called to be a Saint. Very, very few of us choose to answer the call. And perhaps not all of the Saints are called to the honors of the Altar--that is, to be exemplars for others.

Tom says, "not all of us are called to perfection in contemplation in this life.
Just to keep things complicated: Note I wrote that we aren't all called to perfection in contemplation. I do believe we are all called to some level of contemplation, because contemplation is for everyone. " This in itself is innocuous. But when coupled with the following response, it suggests other meanings.

Of course the goal is perfection in intimacy with the Lord. But not everyone's goal is perfection in this life. Mary chose the better part, but that doesn't mean Martha's part was unnecessary. Nor does it mean that Martha was never able to listen to Jesus.

If we are not all called to perfection, why then did Jesus say, "Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." It would seem that the highest perfection, the most important point on which to obtain perfection is not in how you raise your garden nor even necessarily in how you serve the poor (to the best of my knowledge a great many saints never directly served any poor), but in how you love God. It would seem to me that, in fact, this is the perfection to which Jesus is calling us and which MUST be possible because Jesus is calling us to it. That perfection in intimacy is not possible without a perfection in the prayer life, which implies entry into higher forms of prayer and communication with God. I readily admit St. John's way may not be universal--but that actually is a debate for another time.

I take exception to the suggestion that many of us can choose to go only half-way and that's enough--that perfection is not a calling for all in this life. We are not all Marys, but I believe that suggests a false dichotomy--we must be either Mary or Martha, when in fact we must combine the better aspects of both. We cannot be so Mary that we never lift a finger to help those in need, but neither can we be so Martha that we don't ever hear God.

I truly believe every single person is called to perfection of love of God in life AND in prayer. I also believe that not achieving that perfection is in no way damaging to our salvation, so I would acquiesce that perfection is not a prerequisite for Heaven, but, it sure wouldn't hurt.

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As ever, we read each other as though we had written what we read.

My very strong suggestion is not that not everyone is called to be a Saint. It is that not everyone is called to be a Carmelite Saint.

What I'm saying is that "the presence of heaven on Earth" is not -- well, it's not my goal, nor do I believe God intends it to be everyone's goal. God willing, we'll get to the presence of heaven soon enough. For now, we work in the vineyard that later we may celebrate at the feast.

And of course it's not an "either/or" proposition. Of course we don't say to ourselves, "Well, am I going to go out and do some work, or am I going to search out a secret and peaceful loving inflow of God?" Of course we don't say, "Half-way to union with God is enough."

But what I'm willing to say, which I don't think you are, is, "Half-way to union with God is as far as I'm going to get before I die, and that will be enough, since my hope in Christ is that God will cover the rest of the distance then."

The differences in tense between "I am close enough to perfection" and "I will be close enough to perfection" are critical.

Finally, loving our neighbor is a way of loving God. The false dichotomy I worry about is thinking we can only grow in the latter apophatically.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on April 2, 2004 2:57 PM.

The Meaning of the Dark Night of the Senses was the previous entry in this blog.

Half-Way or All the Way is the next entry in this blog.

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