Thursday, March 22, 2012

To speak in the terms familiar to us...

there was a moment in which Jesus, as a man, a physical presence, left that supper at Emmaus. His leave-taking was a profound event for which the supper itself was a precursor. Presence is a great mystery, and presence in absence, which Jesus promised and has epitomized, is, at a human scale, a great reality for all of us in the course of ordinary life.

I am persuaded for the moment that this is in fact the basis of community. I would say, for the moment, that community, at least community larger than the immediate family, consists very largely of imaginative love for people we do not know or whom we know very slightly... [including fictional characters]

We live on a little island of the articulable, which we tend to mistake for reality itself. we can and do make small and tedious lives as we sail through the cosmos on our uncannily lovely little planet, and this is surely remarkable. But we do so much else besides. For example, we make language...

Democracy, in its essence and genius, is imaginative love for and identification with a community with which, much of the time and in many ways, one may be in profound disagreement.

(Marilynne Robinson, When I Was Young I Read Books; 20-28, in an essay on "Imagination and Community")


  1. Is there a flip side to Marilynne Robinson's observation, that community extends beyond the physical presence, yet is there not also the necessity to have physical presence at some level? Whether it is words on the page, a photo on a screen, the body of Christ in the bread? Community is not restricted to concrete expressions, but does it not need grounding at some level? And the tension between the two can create great conversation.

  2. And so we come to another truth: we are not just the community in Christ, but also the community that lives on without him -- that comes together because he has left.

    1. Matthew,

      I'm not quite sure I get your point. I think of the "I am" sayings, especially "I am the way, the truth and the life" There is on other truth than Christ. The Church being the body of Christ is community with a present Christ.

      I'm also reminded of the Quicunque Vult, which says "For as reasoning soul and flesh is one man: so God and man is one Christ."

      I'm not sure one can separate the Man Jesus from the Son. It may even be a heresy.

      Truly The Son ascended to the Father, but has left with us the Holy Ghost, which just takes me back to the Athenasian Creed.

      It seems too soon after Saint Patrick's Day; a day on which we remember the Trinity of Saint Patrick's Breastplate, to forget out catholic faith.

  3. There is much more to this essay than the one quote, and yes, she emphasizes community, but is interested in the idea of presence in absence, which she discusses in this section.

  4. Kathy S.9:18 PM

    Presence and Absence. Community. I, too, have spent my life contemplating these things. Since last summer, when I returned to my Lutheranism and started following the goings-on in the ELCA, one thing has struck me: It is not the social issues that are causing the problems; it is the loss of the mass.

    I believe Luther (and his followers) did throw out the baby with the bathwater.

  5. Kathy,

    Luther did not get rid of the mass, neither did he advocate for the elimination of the Latin mass.

    Luther did develop a German mass that was intended to be used as a tool to introduce the common man to the mass so that he could understand and be lead to the Latin mass.

    I agree with you though, that what passes for a Lutheran mass or service today can be lacking in dignity and tradition. There is rarely a connection to anything other than fashion. It's a pity that more people don't take Piepkorn more seriously.