St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Thursday, March 27, 2003 ::

Paring Down the Assumptions About Community

"Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it has sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God speedily shatters such dreams."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from his book "Life Together"

Like so many things in the spiritual life, what Bonhoeffer says here about community is so true. Humility must be our modus operandi in community life. As I've talked with people about my ideas about more intense community living, one thing that has struck me is how different each person's vision is. We each bring our own baggage and ideas and pre-conceived dreams into it, hoping, perhaps, that maybe we might "get something out of it." I've even caught myself in this type of thinking.

In an excellent introduction to the monastic life the Monks of New Skete write about this "first fervor" in their book "In the Spirit of Happiness". This overconfidence in one's own power very often overtakes those who embark on a new path for the first time. The danger of relying on your expectations is very great and can ruin what was once a noble and fervent desire.

Just like fasting, prayer, liturgy and the whole Christian life can't be treated as a "mystical supermarket" to meet all of my spiritual needs, neither can the communal life be made to serve me. I must serve God and my neighbor *within it.* Just like being a part of the parish life and especially like a marriage, one must enter into these commitments with three things firmly in mind:

1) this will be hard work, much harder than you can see now
2) in many ways, it won't be like you expected it would or should be
3) if you enter into it with the mind and heart of a servant and not a consumer, it will become the arena in which you will come to know God.

:: Karl :: 8:45:00 AM [Link] ::

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