We Don't Need no Contemplation. . .

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I was distressed to read the excerpt from James Akin's article yesterday at Video Meliora. It starts with:

"The problem is that the renewal of holiness being conceived of is in feminine terms, placing a greater emphasis on meditative spirituality and 'contemplating the face of Christ.' This seems to me to be if not the opposite of what is needed, only a single component of what is needed."

But, it's just one of those cases when the attempt to make a very important point results in hyperbole that probably overstates what is really in mind. Surely Mr. Akin would not fly in the face of the Lord who said that "Mary has chosen the better part." And yet some of the remainder of the excerpt seems to say exactly this.

Instead of praying and turning inward, the Church needs to be praying and turning outward - evangelistically...It is true that the goal of evangelization and of ecclesiastical activity is union with God, but the primary modality of the average Christian life and of the Church's mandate in this world is evangelistic action rather than meditation or social projects.

This is not a zero-sum game. Turning inward is absolutely necessary. The Church must do so, but that inward turning must lead to an outward flowering and growth. The plant does not grow exclustively from the apical meristem--there is concomittant and perhaps even greater growth at the root-tip. If the roots are not entrenched, well-placed and healthy, the plant is sickly. Reaching outward before reaching inward is a tactic commonly used in certain evangelical circles and it leads to a spirituality that Jesus described in another parable--the grass sown shallowly. The roots dry up and the grass blows away.

I have not read all of Mr. Akin's comments as I do not get the publicaiton in which the article occurs. But one need not abandon nor even etiolate the inward looking contemplative dimension of life in order to serve. But one must pray in all humility that his or her mission is made clear.

Evangelization without true knowledge of the news you are spreading which comes from study of the scripture, but more from talking to the author of Scripture is a very bad notion indeed. (Moreover, I have much to say about Mr. Akin's distorted and highly stereotypical notions of fatherhood as well--but I won't go there because I suspect the point was not to talk about all fathers at all times, but to make a generalization with which I can in large part agree. However, I am inclined to wonder what he thinks all the pslams about "Our God is quick to save and abundant in love" are all about. )

Read the excerpt and if possible, read the article. I'm sure that I have overstated Mr. Akin's case here, and so I have no real basis for strong disagreement, just caution. The growth of a crown of a tree that is not accompanied by the growth of the root, leads only to the ultimate collapse of the tree.

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I wasn't sure whether to post that because of the risk of mischaracterizing his argument by just excerpting. I think I represented his argument fairly, but do read the article if possible.

I generally expect to find discernible levels of guff in most everything written in the popular Catholic press that contrasts "masculine" and "feminine" aspects within the Church. I think people get carried away with those terms. Once you say, "This is masculine, and that is feminine," all sorts of wide, level roads open up before you. Most of them don't have "Now Leaving Reason" signs posted.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 9, 2004 6:53 AM.

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Hans Urs von Balthasar Responds to Mr. Akin is the next entry in this blog.

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