August 2nd, 2009

Prayer-Fr. Charles Mosley

Personal/Theological Notebook: July 31st Anniversaries

Friday marked an anniversary. Actually, it marked two. I didn't really observe either in an explicit way, as my day was mostly directed toward gathering with the gang over at Dan and Amy's, and all that food and talk and play really took over my attention. Then I came home to, among other things, a surprise late-night online conversation with Michael Blair, a former student of mine at Saint Joe's. So I was distracted.

The first anniversary was my brother Joe and his wife Daniele's 5th wedding anniversary, which is all cooler than cool. They had a tremendously fun wedding on the western beach of Jamaica at sunset: pretty much everything that you could hope for in arranging a tropical getaway wedding of that sort, where they invited everyone to stay and enjoy some of the honeymoon activities with them: everything from para-sailing to scuba diving. Both sides of the family got to meet a large portion of the other side, and everyone took to one another very quickly. The only downside of all that was that my return from the wedding marked the occasion of my greatest computer gaffe of all time, where I managed to accidentally delete much of my photographs and digital movies from 2002 through the wedding in 2004 – on both of my harddrives, which took exceptional skill. Although I finally figured out a program to buy that let me dig into my harddrive and retrieve much of what I had deleted, there were some permanent losses: almost all of the early stuff I'd shot of Grace, and a goodly portion of the wedding. Anyway, it's fun to see them already at five years married, much less the years they were a couple before that.

The other anniversary is not one I talk about a great deal. That was the – and I can hardly believe it – 25th anniversary of my having for the first time consciously chosen to embrace the Christian faith I had been raised in, resulting in one of the more dramatic mystical experiences of my life. The first part – the cognitive side of things – that I'm not shy of talking about: by unexpected twists in my life, that's turned into my career – the academic, intellectual, public explication of Christian thought. Christianity is inherently public: that is one of the things that is most distinct about Judaism and Christianity, in fact. It wasn't conceived in one person's head, the result of one person's mystical experiences, or drawing from (with the exception of earlier Genesis, for example) mythological stories set outside human history. Instead, Judaism and Christianity (the latter being inseparable from the former) are public reactions to public historical events, and therefore able to be investigated, analysed, and debated on a fair, intellectual playing field. But that other side of Christian faith, the necessarily personal and individual, and therefore occasionally mystical – the individual experiences of spirituality, well, that's often a bit too personal for easy sharing, especially, I suppose, in a public forum like an open journal.

Plus, of course, there's just the fact that this was when I was still young, and even mystical encounters with God still come into the historical context of who and what we are, and so some of this experience now looks and feels painfully youngish to me, which is a state that is much less enjoyable than simply being young. Becoming a teacher, I find, has been a great help for looking at, and trying to understand, the activity of God in a human life, especially my own. And it is reassuring to see that some of the great spiritual geniuses of the ancient Church also found that metaphor of God as a Teacher to be a very helpful one. And as a teacher, I know that you work with what you have got, at the level that a student is at, at a given moment, however much you hope to draw them upward to a higher level of insight through a given lesson. I was young enough then to still know everything, and so that fact that I could be teachable at all was probably in itself a great gift of grace.

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