Thursday, January 19, 2012
Attached to Communion of Mind and Heart
Today I visited with some wonderful parishioners and they played for me a CD of King's College Choir singing Anglican chant. The text of one of the psalms really struck me as particularly beautiful. Psalm 122 describes the joy of going up to the temple and the peace of being in the temple. This particular psalm occurs frequently in the Liturgy of the Hours and in the readings of various feasts. What most struck me is verse three.
In the Liturgy of the Hours, I recall that the translations says, "Jerusalem is built as a city, strongly compact." When it appears in the readings of Mass, I believe it is translated, "Jerusalem, built as a city, walled round about." The translation in this particular chant--which I presume is drawn from some poetic Anglican translation of the psalms--says, "Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity in itself." This image of the temple which is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ and his body, the Church provides good meat for mediation, especially during this Week of Christian Unity.
In a particular way, I look at those words in terms of parish life. A forceful temptation arises within Christian communities whereby people are lured into attaching their hearts to particular programs, ideologies, or ways of doing things. These attachments never bring joy or peace because they create within persons a fear of losing them. I think of this as the Archdiocese of Boston prepares to begin implementing a new pastoral plan. This will inevitably mean that certain aspects of parishes will change. Mass times will change, programs will change, locations will change. Thus, if we expect these things to bring peace and joy, we will likely be disappointed.
Our attachment ought to be to our unity in Christ. The temple brings such peace and joy because the tribes are together within it. It brings peace and joy because of its unity. As Catholics, we should rejoice when we go to the house of the Lord because it is in his house--the Church--that we are united in him. We are members of his body and are drawn up into the love of the Blessed Trinity. Through the Eucharist and the other sacraments, we are built up into a city that is at unity in itself. It is to this that we ought to be attached. It is this that brings peace and joy.
My very happy experience has been that in parishes where attachment to unity in Christ is proposed and lived, the joy and peace that are met become nearly irresistible. Jesus sent the disciples out two by two and gave them a long list of what not to bring with them. Their success was going to be found in their communion of life. He did not want them attaching undue importance to what was transitory. Their unity in Christ would be sufficient for the mission entrusted to them.
In the Acts of the Apostles we read that the community of believers was of one mind and one heart. These words for me are not a fairytale description of a long gone era. They continue to be fulfilled in the life of the Church today. Substituting other things (no matter how good they might be) in place of communion of heart and mind will never work. They will always lead to dissension, rebellion, and bitterness. Those who give themselves over to obeying the grace of unity do not find such obedience oppressive or suffocating. No, when we take courage and go into the house of the Lord, obediently following the hierarchical communion of the Church, we discover that she has been built as a city that is at unity in itself. For those of us living this unity, we can truly say, "I rejoiced when they said unto me, 'Let us go up to the House of the Lord."