I stand on the edge of the first Sunday of Great Lent, the so called “Triumph of Orthodoxy”, and I still feel the crush of acedia but I try to stay with it and ride it out because, when push comes to shove I don’t believe I could ever truly walk away from Christianity no matter what. Despite all my intellectual wanderings into the riches of Islam or Zen Buddhism the reality on the ground is that something happened that sultry summer day so many years ago that shattered my Buddhism and brought me face to face with Jesus Christ that cannot be erased or covered over with anything else. I have often told people (and quite sincerely) that while I may doubt Roman Catholicism and walk away I could never doubt Christ. This is still how I feel even when in my imagination I can find myself praying towards Mecca 5 times a day as a devout Muslim in some Moroccan oasis or sitting Zazen with a shaven head in some some picturesque setting right out of a Basho or Ryokan Haiku. I have that ability to appreciate and learn from others, and even to entertain certain ideas in my mind without actually taking them up. This is a bit dangerous for some, in fact, I don’t recommend it at all to those who aren’t prepared to suffer for it in some way.
I’ve kept up the use of the Julian Calendar and Old Orthodox Prayerbook along with the Jesus Prayer and I’ve found a rhythm that works. Sometimes there’s a part of me that misses the Benedictine Office, but I was warned by someone I trust not to jump around haphazardly, but instead to stick to something over time. Heck this is usually the advice I myself give; I better live up to it!
On another note I finally picked up Father Peter Alban Heers book The Ecclesiological Renovation of Vatican II, a book I’ve been dying to read for a long time but as of yet have not made time for it. Thus far it is a tour de force, a seemingly devastating critique of modern Roman Catholic Ecclesiology and more confirmation for me of just how far Rome fell over the centuries. I don’t like to think that my baptism was not grace filled but after reading this I can entertain the possibility that it might not have been, even though it was triple immersion. Thank God I have that ability that I mentioned above where I can hold certain ideas without necessarily fully assenting to them! I’m not totally convinced Father Heers reading is correct yet but I’m open to it, and thus far it’s pretty convincing.
I’m also slowly wending my way through the Study Koran, and thoroughly enjoying it for it’s spiritual depth and sheer breadth of information. I like how pretty much every verse is filled up with mostly spiritual commentary, giving the non Muslim or Muslim reader a glimpse into how various practicing Muslims interpret the given verse. It’s kind of like the Islamic version of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, that is to say the commentary is less academic than it is spiritual. As a guy who enjoys learning about how a given community understands things, as in “lex orandi, lex credendi”, this is refreshing. It actually allows me to really get an appreciation for the richness of the Muslim tradition outside the headlines and beyond the polemics.
I really enjoyed reading the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden and how profoundly different and fascinating that narrative is from the Christian. Iblis (Satan) is thought to be a Jinn, that is to say another race of beings not exactly human nor angelic, and all of man was said to have made a covenant with God somehow before being born, making Islam a sort of primordial religion. It’s thought provoking.
As a final note, reading about Islam has really made me want to dive into what we Christians actually mean by the Trinity. What IS our Trinitarian Theology? Obviously I believe that God is Trinity, but I have always struggled with how, and what that means. I am trying to read more about it, mostly from the Eastern perspective.. Maybe, just maybe it’s all just a mystery, and we can do no better than to simply accept it on Faith, and meditate on it the way St. Andrei Rublev meditated on it when he painted his famous icon. I’ve always been a bit leery of those who think that our powers of reason can accurately set down in writing exactly how God operates. So much of ANY religion is downright mysterious when it all comes down to it.