Thursday, July 28, 2011

In Praise of Passivity

In contrast to the masculine, activistic-sociological populus Dei approach, Church—ecclesia—is feminine. This fact opens a dimension of the mystery that points beyond sociology, a dimension wherein the real ground and unifying power of the reality Church first appears. Church is more than ‘people’, more than structure and action: the Church contains the living mystery of maternity and of the bridal love that makes maternity possible.
Mary, the Church at the Source, 25

Reflection – ‘Let us build the city of God, let our tears be turned into dancing…’ We all know the activistic strand of ‘churchiness’ that Ratzinger is referring to in this passage. Let’s get organized, let’s initiate a program, let’s have a five-year plan, ten-year plan, twenty-year plan. Take charge, and make the Church what it oughta be!
While neither the Pope nor I would ever deny a role for human action and labor in the task of the Gospel, he points out here and elsewhere the radical insufficiency of this model of the Church.
Before the Church does, the Church is. Before the Church acts, the Church receives. Before the members of the Church can make, they must contemplate. There is already a reality present that is the Church, and it is not a product of our makings and doings, our collective projects and programs. It is a gift of God coming down from heaven, a total response to the initiative of the Father, a ‘product’ if you will of the project of the Son, and its only valid program is to listen to the Spirit and follow Him.
This is the reality of the ‘femininity’ of the Church. I realize that questions of masculine and feminine are hotly controverted in our day. But the fact remains—the woman receives the man who gives himself to her, and in that receptivity gives her own self to him, and from that comes the fruitfulness of new life. No brand of feminism or any other variation of gender politics can ever change the biological structures by which humanity is fruitful.
And this is a model of the Church. We receive God, and give ourselves to Him in that reception in obedience and love, and out of this bear fruit, not in a dozen more successful programs and projects, but in holiness, in souls restored to Christ, in new citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
Always, always, always, the first movement of the Church is a passive one: to contemplate, to look, to wait, to listen. God is the one who initiates, gives life, and makes fruitful, and the only lasting city of God we can have  part in building is that city designed by Him, according to His ideas and good pleasure, never our own.

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