Easter 4 Year A

Sharing Beauty

Prayer in Taize Church

 

“Intentional community” has become a familiar phrase used to describe a group of people who choose to live together in a patterned way. In making this decision, they order their common life through shared commitments rather than by default. Sometimes these fellowships model their way of life after religious communities known as monasteries, convents and friaries. But not all who live in ‘intentional community’ take vows, or describe themselves as “catholic.” In recent years, believers from protestant and evangelical backgrounds have chosen to live together in religious communities so they can share prayer and meals, as well as assets and expenses.

The ecumenical monastic order of Taize, and the L’Arche communities for people with developmental disabilities, provide compelling examples. They inspire young people to live together for a period of time, so as deliberately to evoke the apostolic community described in Acts.

At the heart of these initiatives is an observation: through Baptism, we already share membership with one another through our incorporation in the One Body. In every Eucharist, we offer all that we are and all that we have. We may not actually give our energies and our goods in ways that literally manifest these resurrection-enabled realities. But they discipline our awareness and vision, if we open ourselves to their power to transform our lives.

The beauty of the risen Lord and his Spirit permeate the community that bears his name, wherever it may be found — in an apartment in a blighted urban area or in a house on a rural farm; in a convent or friary of life-vowed missionaries, and in the ordinary households of believers everywhere.

If we already share the most valuable thing we have, our Spirit-led life in the Risen Jesus, why is it so hard to share ourselves and our things with generosity and joy? Old habits and attitudes die hard, even if they have lost their original power. This may be why Paul urges us not to set our minds on the things of this world but on things above. It is surely why we find Jesus so often telling us not to be afraid.

The beauty of the Lord, whether in the face of an icon, or in the face of a fellow believer, frees us and transforms our natural inclinations and limitations. His grace and love are abundant, and his beauty is found everywhere — even in you, even in me.

 

The photo above shows people gathered for prayer in the Church of Reconciliation at Taize (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike licence). The theme of this posting directly follows the theme of the prior one, “Common Beauty.” See Acts 2:42-47.

Common Beauty

Rossano_Gospels_Last_Supper

 

We have many ties with others through birth and our families. We find we are connected with one another by bonds that are not of our own making.

Like the links we have with our families into which we are born or adopted, our relationships with other members of the Body of Christ are also given to us. These relationships are a reality we find rather than one we construct, for they are not products of our acts of willing.

Though we discern the reality of these given birth and baptismal connections between us, we easily fall into patterns of thought that suggest otherwise. When asked who we are, we often answer in ways that ignore these received relationships. We forget that, especially after Baptism, who we are can never rightly be described without also referring to whom we are for.

Acts 2 describes the post-resurrection community as having four shared attributes : common worship, common practices, common goods, and common witness.* Members of this community could share “all things” because they already shared the most important thing, the beauty of new life in the risen Jesus.

The Rossano Gospels depict Jesus with the disciples at the last supper, reclining in ancient mediterranean style. The image of circular fellowship applies equally to their life together after the resurrection and ascension. They shared their lives at the table of Eucharist and at tables of fellowship, which became visible symbols of everything else they shared.

Judas is shown leaning out from the pattern of this circle, fulfilling Jesus’ prediction about the one who would dip in the bowl after him. Judas’ stance mirrors his refusal to share the common purse with which he has been entrusted, and his disinclination to share common worship and common witness to Jesus’ power among them.

Common beauty is within us and around us. Seeing each other as joined in the risen Lord is directly correlated with seeing the risen Lord in each other. By sharing union with him, and through discerning his beauty in one another, we are more likely to share everything else.

 

The image above is from the Rossano Gospels, 6th century A.D. *Robert W. Wall offers this insight.