Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
-4th Sunday of Advent, Book of Common Prayer
Okay. A quick word because I just couldn’t resist. (I’m in the middle of doing the Monday Morning Exegete, but today just screams for frequent breaks.) So, this is an eighth century prayer, because that’s how the Episcopal Church rolls, and here is this week’s take on it, directly from the Exegete:
Switching gears (the gearbox has the labels R, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and ∞) let’s take the mystic approach to the collect today. Shall we consider the possibility that the Second Coming of Christ is in fact a full manifestation of a world who has fully internalized the teachings of Christ when he was here the first time? What if we suspend our disbelief just long enough to suppose such a thing – where does that get us? (And for the sake of argument, I measure his teachings against the Summary of the Law on down, which says, essentially, Love God, Love Neighbor, Love Self & everything else is commentary.)
Well, it changes a few things. For one, ‘being a Christian’ would mean anyone trying to embody the teachings of Christ – which sounds more like a transformational way of being and less like a religion. (And an argument could be made that religion at its best is non-institutional, completely relational and a transformational track/way of being. I agree, and I also posit that this sort of religion is not widely found.)
Secondly, another common focus shifts: instead of a much-hoped-for post-death eternity with God, or even a post-apocalyptic heaven on earth, we’ve got the three-year-old I-Wanna-Be-Old-Enough-Now Syndrome. Which is to say that when we’re in ∞ Gear, we recognize that Christ is fully among us (the Second Coming) when we’re all, in our hearts and minds, acting like Christ. The first Christians really thought it might happen in their lifetime. And you know, it really might happen in ours. Will it? Who knows? The only thing we know is the only thing we can control – our very own selves. You and I, right now, can live this Christian life as fully as our imaginations can extend and we can do it right now. And we can fully expect that in the process of doing it, God will expand our imaginations, shape our dreams and require our trust in the midst of adventure, opportunity, danger and peril.
I was just teaching my New Testament college students last week that squashing Gnosticism in the church in the 3rd and 4th centuries firmly cemented the Christian religion as salvation oriented rather than enlightenment oriented.
Your definition of religion at its best as… ” non-institutional, completely relational and a transformational track/way of being” gave me hope this Advent season that my Christian religion can find what it lost when it threw out the enlightenment-centered Gnostic sects so very long ago. I want a religion of transformation binding me to God- not a guilt driven and impossible quest to be good enough for God often inspired by the burden of salvation.
Thanks for giving me hope this Advent Season!
Melissa Roberts George
Yes! And it’s time to re-examine, not to see it as a crazy cult as some movies have presented it, but as a metaphysical description in normal words of what has always been.
Speaking of which, how do you feel about learning some basic Coptic? I don’t have time and I think one of us needs to, because that mystic commentary on the gnostic gospels – we need to write that. This material needs more voices.