Dignity Canada Dignité

A Christmas Message from Frank Testin, President of Dignity Canada Dignité

While I feel some guilt in quoting another author at length, he captures beautifully what I had intended to include in my Christmas message this year.  With gratitude, the following is taken from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for December 6:

We Franciscans believe that the first coming of “the Christ” is in creation itself. The Franciscan philosopher and theologian John Duns Scotus (12661308), whom I studied for four years, wrote that “God first wills Christ as his supreme work.”  Creation could not have been empty of Christ for billions of years. In other words, God’s “first idea” and priority was to make the Godself both visible and shareable. The word used in the Bible for this idea was Logos (from Greek philosophy), which I would translate as the “Blueprint” or Primordial Pattern for reality. The whole of creation is the beloved community, the partner in the divine dance. Everything is the “child of God”—not only Jesus. There are no exceptions. When you think of it, what else could anything be? All creation must in some way carry the divine DNA of the Creator.

At Christmastime, most people think about the birth of the baby Jesus as the “coming” of Christ. Yet Advent reveals more; it is about preparing ourselves for the Christ to come in personal, contracted, and visible form. Only a perfect, trusting individual could allow such greatness to focus and communicate through a human body. Modeling the entire divine pattern of incarnation, Mary had to trust littleness or, better said, bigness becoming littleness! Go imagine.

Mary could trustingly carry Jesus, because she knew how to receive spiritual gifts—in fact, the spiritual gift. She offers a profound image of how generativity and fruitfulness break into this world. We have much to learn from her.

First, we learn that we can’t manage, maneuver, or manipulate spiritual energy. It is a matter of letting go and receiving what is given freely. It is the gradual emptying of our attachment to our small “separate” self so that there is room for new conception and new birth. There must be some displacement before there can be any new “replacement”! Mary is the archetype of such self-displacement and surrender.

There is no mention of any moral worthiness, achievement, or preparedness in Mary, only humble trust and surrender. She gives us all, therefore, a bottomless hope in our own little state. If we ourselves try to “manage” God or manufacture our own worthiness by any performance principle whatsoever, we will never give birth to the Christ, but only more of ourselves.

Whenever the material and the spiritual coincide, there is the Christ. Jesus fully accepted that human-divine identity and walked it into history. Henceforth, the Christ “comes again” whenever we are able to see the spiritual and the material coexisting, in any moment, in any event, and in any person. All matter reveals Spirit, and Spirit needs matter to “show itself”! What I like to call the “Forever Coming of Christ” happens whenever and wherever we allow this to be utterly true for us. This is how God continually breaks into history.

Many of us have struggled with the isolation we’ve been asked to follow since the arrival of the Covid-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) in earnest in mid March.  In the first months, we were told to self-isolate and not to interact with relatives or friends living away from our households. Public spaces were closed. This included churches. For some, this created a major shock or setback in their own spiritual practices by denying them of being physically present at the Eucharist. (As found by Reginal Bibby and Angus Reid in their national survey of Catholics in 2015, 16% of self-reported Catholics in Quebec attend services at least monthly.  The corresponding attendance in the rest of Canada is 33%.)

Since I participated in the third assembly of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) in Chicago in July, 2019, I have started a (more or less) regular contemplation or meditation practice.  Every second Friday, we’ve been meeting on Zoom and recently moved our Friday gatherings to the online Meditation Chapel.  Information on our GNRC Contemplative Spiritual Formation committee can be found here. The facilitators come from three different schools of contemplation: Centering Prayer by Thomas Keating; Center of Action and Contemplation by Richard Rohr; and the World Community for Christian Mediation by John Main and Laurence Freeman. The practices all involve stopping our thinking, as most thinking consists of rehashing the past and worrying about the future. The Divine can only be found and experienced in humbly being present to Presence. (This is similar to Eckhart Tollee’s Power of Now.)

In this Covid-19 time or any other time, you can practice meditative or contemplative prayer - the prayer of silence - wherever you happen to be…whether in isolation at home, in a hospital, a continuing care centre, prison, mountain top or elsewhere. No Eucharist or church building is required. The key point as pointed out by Rohr is that the Divine indwelling accompanies you from birth to death and beyond. We are simply invited to let go of our small, separate egoic selves and recognize…become more conscious of… the amazing reality of the Divine presence in each one of us. It is a lifetime journey, as we are pulled by many sources back into our small selves.

Please note Rohr’s point that there is nothing that we can do or say in order to merit Divine Love.  It is freely given by the Creator to all , and no one – not even Pope Francis – is more favoured by Love than anyone else.  This may not be the message you hear from the institutional church, which has a vested interest persuading church members to follow the rules.  The main difference among us is the extent to which we are aware of God’s Love.

As Christmas 2020 and the New Year approach,  I invite all to become more conscious of the Divine in all of Creation, including you and me.  Attending services and receiving the Eucharist have been an important channel for some, which are not possible now.  In our Covid-19 time, prayers of silence are also ways to consciously encounter our Creator, and the holiness of ourselves, all others and the rest of Creation.

Frank Testin
Dignity Canada Dignité

Dignity Canada Dignité is Canada's organization of Roman Catholics who are concerned about our church's sexual theology, particularly as it pertains to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons. We work in collaboration with other Catholic organizations seeking reform in our church's leadership and teachings.