I am, after all, a medievalist: My Lenten journey so far
I have set myself several guides during Lent this year, grounding myself in some of the most challenging theology of the church as I prepare myself for Easter.
I am, after all, a medievalist.
I spent my first week of Lent, from Ash Wednesday to my last sabbath day, immersed in the writings of the great fourteenth century theologian, Julian of Norwich. The revelations she received from the God she knew as maker, lover and keeper are reflected both in the general themes I will be preaching on (sermons for Lent I, II, IV and V) and specifically in my sermon this coming week. Julian has richly appropriated Augustine’s confidence in God’s providence and justice and wrestled (succesfully) to square it with God’s self-diffusive love and compassion. “All is well. All is well. All shall be very well.”
During the last seven days I have let St. Bonaventure (1217-1274) guide my daily meditations. This thirteenth century theologian was the minister general of the Order of St. Francis for seventeen years while teaching at the University of Paris during it’s most formative and controversial years. The Soul’s Journey Into God is Bonaventure’s summa of Western spirituality, neatly bringing together the contributions of Francis, Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius in a ladder of ascent modeled on the six days of creation and the six-winged seraphs. According to him, one find in every sphere – creation, the self, and God – vestiges and evidence of the self-diffusive love of the rich Trinitarian life. I completed my reading of Bonvanture this morning, the morning of my sabbath, with the seventh step: the soul’s’ sabbath rest in God. A very neat symmetry for my meditation.
Back in the fourteenth century, I now take up for the coming week the theological vision of Dante as found in his Commedia and Vita Nuovo. More after that.
Shadowing and accompanying all of these personal readings is the public study that the congregation I am serving is undertaking during Lent. Last week we began a five week study of the Belhar Confession, a Reformed confession of faith emerging from South Africa as a “cry of the heart” – but steadily being recognized as a confession of the whole church. This powerful confession, stressing the unity of the church, the justice of God, and the ministry of reconciliation, is a powerful Word from God concerning the gifts of human diversity and our common calling:
We believe in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects and cares for the Church through Word and his Spirit. This, God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end.
May your sabbaths and lenten journeys be rich.