Why go to Church?
The Church is called to be “an oasis of leisure and silence and gratitude” (Timothy Radcliffe, What is the Point of Being a Christian? p. 128). We come here seeking our true home and, perhaps, the sense of enchantment we have lost.
We come here with many other seekers, wayfarers on the journey to God. They too are on the way of charity, of friendship—the Christian way.
Christ, who has called us friends, nourishes us with his own life. We break bread together, and we share a common cup: in this way Christ himself becomes the food and drink of our common life. We stretch ourselves open to love others. We deepen our care one for another, loosing the bonds of accusation. Little by little, we draw nearer to God.
God is our rest. Catherine of Sienna said in the fifteenth century that God is “a bed in which we can rest” and “the peaceful sea”! (Radcliffe p. 55).
God is our joy. Meister Eckhart, the fourteenth century German mystic, said “The Father laughs at the Son and the Son laughs at the Father, and the laughter brings forth pleasure and the pleasure brings forth joy, and joy brings forth love.” We are called to participate in this joy!
We look to our true homeland, where our joy will be complete. Our scriptures say it will be something like a wedding banquet. There Jesus
“will give sweet wine to those whose souls are suffering bitterness through thirst of love; he will wipe up the water of this sad and savourless life and replace it by the holy and fruitful wine, that noble wine, the wine which makes the human heart glad, that wine with whose sweetness the beloved of God are inebriated, I mean the wine of everlasting joy: the rare wine, the new wine which the Son of God, blessed for ever, pours out for his elect at the table of the court of heaven.” (Radcliffe, p. 59, quoting Jordan, the successor of St Dominic, founder of the Dominican order).
We who live in secular time - time that is ordered to production - need to step regularly into sacred time. We need to keep rhythms of rest, of recollection, of charity, of mercy, of reconciliation, of sharing, of community life.
We keep sacred time. Perhaps you will observe the Christian Sabbath, the daily offices, or the feasts and fasts of the Church. In ways like this, we step out of the secular world, with its flatness and illusion. We remember what life is all about.
The Christian Sabbath is a day for resting and rejoicing. Sunday “is aimed at the idolatry of work. Just as all idols are ‘the work of men’s hands’ so … work may always become an idol, a means of alienation. The Sabbath is there to stop you being absorbed in the success story, to prevent you being enslaved to productivity and profit.” (Radcliffe, p. 194)
In the world of liquid modernity, the Sabbath helps us to find our security—not in our work, but in God, the One upon whom we rest. (pp. 195-8) This is our sure footing, our homecoming.
The scriptures say that God is like a sower, who plants seeds deep in the human heart and waits for them to grow. This is how God reigns—through deep time. We ourselves are called to till the soil and to water the sprouting seed.
We come to Church to learn patience with time. In a world of instant gratification, we wait. We wait, as if through a long gestation, discerning what is coming to birth within us—in visions, in dreams, in moments of inspiration. Timothy Radcliffe says, “God comes from within, inside our deepest interiority. God comes to us as a child comes to a mother, in the depth of her being, through a slow transformation of who she is.”
So we discern God’s meaning for our lives. We come seeking ourselves, knowing that when we find ourselves, we will find God. Our scriptures say that God bestows unique gifts on each of us. We come together to discern our gifts—and to work out how we can share them with our brothers and sisters!
We discern, too, God’s future for the world. We become seers and prophets, telling what God is bringing to birth in the life of the world, perhaps with painful birth-pangs. We become co-creators with God. We who have shared in the feast of Christ’s life are indeed pioneering the future of humanity.