Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Morning After the Election

or Pastoral Care and Public Church?

Tuesday was Election Day. I was not at home, but in Fort Wayne on a Society of the Holy Trinity multi-chapter Retreat (I had voted in Peoria the previous week). We watched some of the election returns on the TV, then went to bed with control of the Senate still up in the air and unaware of most of the Illinois results.

Wednesday morning there was "free time" as the Retreat was winding down. I had brought a couple of the books I'm currently in the middle of reading, hoping I'd have some time to spend with at least one of them. And finally, with this particular period of "free time," I took one of the books, opened to my book mark and -- seeing that I'd not marked anything for a couple of pages -- I went back a few paragraphs to remind myself of the context. And I began reading...
Now, gold is dimmed when a holy life is corrupted by earthly deeds. The finest colour is changed when the former esteem of those who were credited with living religiously is diminished. For when anyone resigns himself to earthly activities after a life of constant holiness, reverence for him is ignored and grows dim, as though his lustre had faded in the eyes of men.

Further, the stones of the sanctuary are scattered in the streets when those who should have occupied themselves in the interior mysteries for the adornment of the Church, as it were in the secrets of the Tabernacle, wander outside in the broad ways of secular affairs. Evidently, they were made the stones of the sanctuary, that they might appear in the vesture of the High Priest within the Holy of Holies. But when the ministers of religion do not demand the Redeemer's honour from their subjects by their meritorious way of living, the stones of the sanctuary are not in the vesture of the High Priest. Indeed, the stones of the sanctuary lie scattered through the streets, when persons in Sacred Orders, given over to the laxity of their pleasures, cling to earthly affairs.

We should observe, too, that these are said to be scattered, not merely through the streets, but at the top of the streets; that is, to say, even when they are engaged in earthly matters, they wish to appear at the top, so as to both occupy the broad ways in the enjoyment of their delights, and yet to be at the top of the street in the external repute of holiness.

Furthermore, we are not prevented from understanding these stones to be the stones from which the sanctuary had been constructed. They lie scattered at the top of the streets, when men in Sacred Orders, in whose office of holiness the glory of sanctity was previously seen to exist, devote themselves to the preference of earthly affairs. Secular employments, then, are sometimes to be sympathetically put up with, but never sought after out of affection for them. Otherwise, when they oppress the mind of him who is attached to them, he becomes submerged by the weight and sinks down from the concerns of Heaven even to the very depths.

Some, on the contrary, undertake the charge of the flock, but wish to be so free for spiritual occupations, as not to give any time at all to external matters. Now, when such people wholly neglect to attend to what pertains to the body, they afford no help to their subjects. It is no wonder that their preaching is disregarded for the most part, for while chiding the deeds of sinners, and not giving them the necessities of the present life, their words certainly do not find sympathetic listeners. Doctrine taught does not penetrate the minds of the needy, if a compassionate heart does not commend it to the hearts of hearers; but the seed of the word does germinate promptly, when the kindness of a preacher waters it in the hearer's heart. Therefore, that the ruler may be able to plant within, he may be able to plant within, he must also, with irreproachable intention, make provision for what is external. Let pastors, then, give their entire devotion to the inner life of their subjects, yet not neglect to provide for the exterior life also.
-- Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care, Part II, Chapter 7

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