…every soul that stands under condemnation with nothing to say for itself has the power to turn and discover it can yet breathe the fresh air of God’s pardon and mercy. Why would it hesitate to confidently enter the presence of God? Why should it fear the majesty who gives it reason to be confident? Beauty is the soul’s birthright.
Bernard of Clairvaux
Today’s newspaper shares the news that indulgences are making a come back.
Indulgences are, as described in the article, the gift of wiping from us the shadow of our harmful doings. The Catholic church is experiencing many who seek such soul washing; in particular among those who are in their young adult years.
It makes sense. Who doesn’t long for a holy soul washing? Who doesn’t long to believe the vision shared by Brother Bernard above? Who hasn’t participated in things that have caused hurt to self and others? Forgiveness is a precious gift. Embracing a practice that promises it is understandable and good.
The twelve step program gets the importance of this. Healing can’t happen without forgiveness. Without forgiveness, the past and its wrongs keep churning like a washing machine gone bad.
As human beings, we need practices that help us to grapple with the huge in our lives. For too long we have let ritual and communal marking of life passages be somehow suspect. We are soul-starved for the meaning and power they provide our lives. The upsurge in interest in indulgences is testimony.
So how will we welcome the power of the real into the life of our faith communities? Seems to me the Catholic church understands the need.
With the unleashing sparked through the Reformation, those of us of the Protestant persuasion sought to claim the birthright of beauty in ways direct and unmediated by clerics.
But we lost something in the pursuit of our individualized reaching for the Holy. We lost the real power of sharing our souls and our stories in community. We lost the incarnational gift of being the flawed Word in communion with other flawed Words and we somehow became convinced that sharing the real of our lives with others was just not seemly.
It’s not only seemly. It’s necessary.
God longs for us to turn and claim our birthright of beauty. We can choose to turn and accept the breath of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Sharing that journey in the company of others makes the breathing of grace flat-out delicious.