September 18, 2007
Julian Meditations

September, 2007

Each of the Faithful is a Little Church

by Martin L. Smith

"EACH OF THE FAITHFUL is a little church." This is what St. Peter Damian taught his hermits, building on the ancient doctrine that the whole is present in each part. If because I am a person, I am a little world, then because I am a Christian I am becoming a little church. The spirit in the world takes separate individuals and unites them in Christ, so that they become one body in him... Jesus proclaims the hospitality of God which beckons all the excluded and disabled and powerless out of the shadows into the full light of day. God's sovereignty is a community in which all have equal place in the light, a full share of life.

...The Spirit's work in the heart is not a matter of a few adjustments here and there, a little polishing and refining. There has to be breaking-up of the present order. Jesus proclaims to each the acceptable year of the Lord in which all the banished and excluded sides of ourselves can now be welcomed for healing and empowerment. We have been given notice that the false selves we maintain at the cost of excluding so much that is within us are purely provisional arrangement; they must give way to a new way of being.

And so the Scriptures speak of a breaking down of the old way of being a person and the discovery of a completely new one. They speak of our need to be born again. They speak of crucifying the old self with Christ. Nothing milder than these expressions will do justice to the radical change in our living meant by "metanoia," the repentance Jesus proclaimed after he emerged from the wilderness.

Jesus is inviting us to participate in his solidarity with humankind, his compassion. But we cannot adopt this compassion as a kind of external pattern of behaviour and responses. We have to live that compassion within our own selves. Jesus has to establish the community of reconciliation within the heart. Only by becoming little churches ourselves, societies based on the principle of love in which there is room for everyone, can we take up the "ministry of reconciliation" to which God calls us.

Taken from A Season for the Spirit: Readings for the Days of Lent by Martin L. Smith (Cambridge, MA: Cowley, 1991).