I’m currently reading Martin Thornton’s Christian Proficiency, a book much discussed here at various points. My spiritual director (yes, we found it mutually agreeable despite his forth-coming swimming expedition) lent me a copy and said that the place to begin was reading this book.This section from the opening chapters jumped out at me:
The second point is that the efficeincy of the work of [the Church’s] members, its hands and legs, eyes and lips—again interpreted either universally or locally—depends entirely upon the general health of the whole Body. The redemptive channel of grace flowing from Christ on to the world—or town or parish—is not the individual Christian but the Church. Really effective prayer is not so much that of the contemplative saint and the “sincerely devout” Christian, but the total prayer of the integral Body. Two further very practical and very modern pastoral points follow: all the prayer we offer, every act of corporate worship and every “private” prayer, is but a part of the total prayer of the Church. Neither the mystical heights of the contemplative saint nor the routine office of the dullest proficient have any great value in their own right, yet both have supreme value in that they add to the prayer of the Church; they are inter-dependent, the latter shares in the former, which in turn, depends on its support.
These seems so obvious, and yet isn’t.
I am glad to hear that you worked things out with Fr. and are reading Thornton.
I have always thought that one of the most wonderful things about the great mystics is that so many of them wrote of their experiences. And why write? Because each of them in his/her own very unique and highly personal experience(s) was utterly aware of the commonality of communion.
And it interests me further that relatively few of them wrote “how-to” books. They just said, “Here is what I have come to know” and left it there for the rest of us.
As I read them, I have an almost video-like vision of this web emerging which, like a gathering of blood vessels connecting me to them and them to each other and all of us to Christ. There is no “exclusivity” in their writings, and inevitably they have been enfolded in the corporate and communal prayer and life of the wide Church at the same time that they are moving personally into deepening links with God in Christ.
I think this is why Benedict reserves his eremitic permissions for those who have spent many years in community! Neither the personal nor the communal works by itself.