This is a continuation of explorations of our intended life under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Spirit in us that helps reform our character and empower us to act as agents for Christ in the world in furtherance of His Kingdom and transformation of life.
Third Order Aims and Principles
I have set out elsewhere on the website details of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis and it can be said that living with the aims and principles is part of our life under the influence of the Holy Spirit and without the aid of the Spirit trying to follow it is all the more difficult. it is only in prayer and dependence upon the inner aid of the Spirit that it can be accomplished and be made fruitful.
To recap the main aims
1. To make our Lord known and loved everywhere
2. To spread the spirit of love and harmony
3. To live simply
Jurgen Moltmann – Liberation, Ecology and Solidarity
I came across Jurgen Moltmann long before I had feelings about becoming Franciscan but so much of what he has written relates to the Franciscan ethos of loving and seeking personal and social change and social justice in society. There is much in Moltmann’s wide ranging theology that is ecumenical, messianic and orientated towards personal and social change. Our future individually and collectively remains bound up with that fullness of Christ as the most perfect presence in creation and a transforming future. If we participate in the Spirit we are bound to be involved with these concerns as well as the usual “spiritual” and moral issues tradition has asked of us.
I have noted in several places the obligation today to think about the rest of creation and care of the world that comes from Franciscan teaching. In “God in Creation” Moltmann has a complementary exploration of many aspects of the divine nature as Trinity and human nature and our intended being as Imago Christi (image of Christ). It has a strong emphasis on seeing the world ecologically, with evolution and all things related together. It reminds of our obligations to be guardians and caretakers of the world and all its ecosystems. Our worship and prayer must include the non-human as well as the human. There is a future for all Creation as well as for humanity and we must see the world in that respect and not think we can just use the world as we want to satisfy our needs. Our spiritual life must embrace ecological and environmental concerns.
Another important work is God for a Secular Society in which Moltmann highlights the fight for human rights and transforming society and is structures to put right the inequalities that separate people. Moltmann starts with an analysis of the modern world and the wrongs that have historically occurred. Colonisation of many parts of the world by western countries led to all sorts of injustice towards indigenous people and much of that legacy has remained to affect individual nations and international relations today. Technological power has also had many detrimentally affects on ecosystems around the world. It has been a misuse of knowledge and abilities. As noted in the writings of Paul Tillich, Enlightenment optimism about moral change and advancement has often not been realised and so there have been many victims of society change as there may have been apparent victories. Much of this has all been associated with human tendencies to dominate without the virtue of self restraint and also an actual denial of God and our calling as the beings were were intended to be.
The Christian vision is about personal and society change that sees the God given dignity to others and our obligations towards them. So much of what has happened and does happen is denial of that and a denial of God. Even worse God may be invoked in self justifying ways rather than considering the true God and truth of who and what we must be and do. Today we must rediscover and embrace the true dignity God gives to all things and all people. We must embrace the equal and full dignity of all races of people and the dignity given to other creatures as well.
The Bible has often given inspiration about God’s covenant relationships and standing against corrupting power. It judges empire and misuse of authority.. Thus there is the need to think again about new covenant relationships between people with love and trust, people bound to each other and with their leaders and protections for the weakest and poorest in society that has occurred. We cannot uncritically invest power in individuals and there is the the need to resist such power structures, remembering the example of the Crucified Christ killed by unjust acts of authority and empire. The historic shock of Nazism and ifs effects should keep us awake to other tendencies of corruption of democracy and power that may occur today. Although some churches resisted others did not and were sinfully co-opted to support the corrupt state and corrupt forms of nationalism. There can be sinful alliance with state and church that destroys what the church is meant to be. Questions must always be asked about how the church supports or resists secular power and what is require of individual and corporate living. State and public ethics requires real Christian values to be preached and lived in order to rightly function for the good of all because there is so often an estrangement from how things should be.
Moltmann traces the roots of Liberation theology to the south Americas with resistance against inequality and tyranny. It was based upon local collective reading of the scriptures leading to church participation in resistance to society wrongs. It found its way into European churches through resistance to the Cold War and analysis of the wrongs of European society. Liberation Theology is a realisation that theology is not some private affair and personal devotion. Theology (as Scotus had pointed out) has practical consequences for us and society as a whole and is global in nature. It includes the motivations of movements for peace and renunciation of violence. It is also about the liberation of Creation from our selfish misuse (here connecting with his work God in Creation).
Vladimir Lossky –Mystical Theology
Lossky sets out to explain Orthodox Church theology in his Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. In doing so he explains doctrine and spiritual practices that are of importance to the Orthodox Church but are also important considerations for all of non-Orthodox. He starts with the unknowability of the true nature of God and the Hiddeness of God. The divine essence of God cannot be know to us. God can only be fully known through the divine self offered revelation. There is has therefore in Orthodox practice been methods of concentrating on this hiddenness and the uncreated light that only God can reveal. It seeks to go beyond all earthly acquired knowledge, a stripping away of self with renunciation. (It should also be said that there have been related practices of prayer in Catholic tradition as well).
While the Hidden nature cannot be know God is manifest in the “energies” that flow our of God and have become known through the Word and Spirt who manifest them. There is a ladder of manifestations from God to that lead us into contemplation, as noted from Bonaventure’s writings. Lossky affirms what he have noted before that Christian theology is not philosophy it comes from the revelations in the manifest energies through the Word and Spirit, in the Incarnation and experience of the Spirit. Their combined roles in bringing the energies of God in to the world that leads us to our understanding in the Trinitarian nature and purposes of God. Contemplation of these things lead us into union with God revealed as Trinity. In this we find a true stability in a changing world. In thinking of one of the persons of God at any time we are also led to contemplate the relations and work of the others. Thus we ever focus on the Three and One. We come to know each in themselves through each of them and are drawn into the mystery of their united being and our past, present and future relations.
The Spirit coming to each person there enables our continued participation in what has been occurring in Christ. The Spirit acting in union with all that has gone before guides us in this continued journey of change and reform. It is the continued ‘servant” operations of both that are at work in us. In the believer the Spirit becomes witness and image of Christ in the world. In this activity of the Spirit various gifts and abilities are bestowed.that work towards the divine union that God intends for us, individually and for the world.
Here again from Orthodox tradition there are many elements of spiritual life that go with an evolving Franciscan theology and practice.
Spirt from the Father
Spirit through the Son
Inspire us to seek you with continued effort of prayer
Empower our seeking union with you and towards your kingdom
May be be leaders for the search of justice, dignity and liberty for all, from all tyranny and abuse of power.
And lead is in knowledge of science and technology to use it all for the good and against all human greed and abuse of your world.