[Theology is] considered as a reflection of . . . faith and of the moral force of the Word, for the work of liberation from injustice and from sin, in its structural as well as personal dimension. Reflection is only a partial understanding of truth if it does not translate itself in practice into commitments to the common good and justice. Truth is not mere abstraction, but something to be done; and is only apprehended when this is realized. It is this concrete work, which Christians must undertake in great numbers, that will lead to the process of liberation of our people. ~Adolfo Esquivel, Argentine artist, Nobel Peace Prize recipient
Christ reigning in the soul for Julian of Norwich echoes Esquivel’s stance. To understand that Christ dwells within “is not simply a retreat into the interior and abandonment of the world historical stage, as if Christ’s reigning in the soul was opposed to his reign in history.”(179)
Christ reigns over the ‘city of God’ as he dwells in the soul, and the soul, as a result of the atoning work of Christ, dwells in God. Yet, it is made visible, and does so by its effects, that is, sacraments as signs of divine grace and the compassion perfected on the cross, now enacted by the one whose soul Christ indwells.
To perceive the Body of Christ, read the Text, implies that the reader mimic, enact the message. The Word is alive, the Text beyond mere ideas and theories—it is a lived reality that can only be understood by its being, by participating in the word-act-character that is the Word of God. But it is also a lived reality that has no borders. It is a reality that is not constrained by linear, finite powers and judgments. When Christ punctured time and space, “the dividing line between time and eternity is ruptured by the incarnation . . . so that his way becomes our way in this life.” (195) In practice, the implications are not simple to conceive. It demands that established norms be reoriented, no, entirely recreated. It would amount to “a collective identity that would be grounded not in a geographical ‘place’ that must be defended, but in a ‘space’ defined by an ensemble of narratives . . . and of practices—hospitality, compassion, the sharing of material goods.” (196) I love that phrase: a collective identity grounded by an ensemble of narratives and of practices. I do not mean to say this is an imagined utopia, rather, it is concrete, visible, a sacrament—sign and cause, actualized practice of compassion and forgiveness—“an alternative to other visions of human community, visions that are built on metaphysics of domination or conflict or scarcity.” (197) It is neither unchecked laissez-faire policy nor rule by divine sanction, resulting in “a utopianism characterized by naïveté or anarchy.”
Dorothy Day who beautifully enacted the vision of Julian and loved to quote Dostoyevsky wrote, “Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thinking compared to love in dreams.” The trouble is that most “prefer love in dreams to love in practice.” Yet, if we believe as Julian did, imagine with the hope that Christ has already made all things well, and love was his meaning, it is only natural—human, our created nature enfolded in the crucified flesh of the Divine Human—that we can “stand in unknowing” and abandon fear. We can stand in that hope because, as Julian has said, and Dorothy Day reiterates, “the worst has already happened and been repaired.”
Imagine a space where/when power and position are superseded by compassion and forgiveness. Consider a new politics based not on prominence or position, boundary and border, but on a purified gift exchange whereby my gift is me—entirely. And, the opportunity for giving is only made possible by another (countless others) who gave to me. Everything I am is due to Another, and through others—and, by my giving, by the power and action of the Spirit, to another, I receive back from a renewed other. No boundaries. No claim to land or space (or position of authority or argument). Only to the eternal Love whose Wound remains open still until all who will be saved, are. But, don’t just imagine it. Please, with me, let us enact the Body, consider ways to more completely give the whole self without concern for power or position, control over others or self-protection—perhaps, a tangible giving away some power for Lent. Will any join me and be a “collective identity,” an ensemble of narratives as a sign and cause of compassion and forgiveness? Meditate with me on this visual and musical prayer; inviting the Spirit to speak to us about specific, tangible ways we can (are made to) live this.