Body Politic of Compassion

samnkids[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.

8 thoughts on “Body Politic of Compassion

  1. Reblogged this on Howie's Blog and commented:
    “…and let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching!”

  2. Wow. You have made some fascinating points…deeply profound. Thank you for your perserverence in this communication!

  3. “Please, with me, says Eirene. 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.”

    I believe an important way we actualize the Body of Christ is to stand in solidarity with those who are marginalized as ‘alien’ in our society. Standing with those who are down-trodden and oppressed gives voice for the powers and principalities to take notice and right the wrongs of injustice. Identifying with our brothers and sisters in Christ by intentionally being vulnerable to negative feedback from friends, family, neighbors and others to risk the consequences of associating with ‘undesirables’ who make the privileged uncomfortable by questioning the status quo of ‘haves and have nots’.
    Consider the plight of Latinos in the USA: A new analysis of the record number of deportations during the Obama administration further reinforces claims that those who are removed from the country are overwhelmingly people who committed minor offenses or none at all.

    The New York Times says that since the beginning of President Barack Obama’s tenure, in 2008, two-thirds of the nearly 2 million people who have been deported had no criminal record or had committed minor offenses, such as traffic violations.
    This weekend, groups against the aggressive deportation approach rallied in cities across the United States, calling on Obama to stop them and stop breaking up families. The following is one action taken in the last several day to speak the truth to power: Today, hundreds of people who marched overnight from ICE headquarters in Chicago arrived at the Broadview detention center to shut down ICE operations, demonstrating until the police arrived and made arrests.

    Right now, 11 people are in jail, locked up for calling attention to the deportation crisis. ICIRR Executive Director Lawrence Benito is among those arrested. Today’s action was in concert with scores of #Not1More Deportation actions across the nation.

    Today’s action stopped business as usual at the Broadview detention center, but it won’t stop ICE from deporting 1,100 people across the country each day. The President has the power to stop these deportations right now.

    We need you to support this kind of bold action to demand an immediate end to the deportation crisis that has torn apart countless families over the past six years.

    This is an upcoming action for this coming weekend for another opportunity to stand together as the Body of Christ witnessing to the world together in peaceful protest (civil disobedience as warranted) as a cohesive force against the evils done on our behalf.

    The point, I think, is not about giving up power, but rather to embolden the disenfranchised to embrace the power God has implanted in them to claim the human rights all must have equal access to live fruitful lives.

    • Thank you, so much, for this Carolyn! This is definitely the type of action that I mean. I do think it also does involves someone giving up power. In this case, ultimately, those who have the power to make changes at the legislative level, might lose their positions to make a stand for what is right. Sadly, too many are motivated by their position of power (and money) do so.

  4. Follow-up this is the upcoming April 14, 2014 Action I was referring to in my last comment:
    People Are Not Illegal Campaign and March

    Episcopal Diocese of Chicago CROSSwalk leaders, along with many other faith- and community-based organizations, will join North Park University to walk in solidarity with those who have been deemed “illegal” in our society on Monday, April 14. The “People Are Not Illegal March” begins at 2:30 pm at Anderson Chapel at North Park University and ends at Cook County Jail, with a stop in Humboldt Park (5:15 pm at New Life Covenant Church Spanish Campus,1665 N Mozart). Supporters are welcome to join for all or part of the march. If you’d like to participate or have more questions, please email Sarah Jordan (sjordan@episcopalchicago.org).

    On Sunday, April 13 at 8 pm, the night before the march, North Park University will host speaker Joshua DuBois, former head of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for the White House, at Anderson Chapel. The event is free and open to the public, more here.

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