Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Great Expectations?

Alot of things have come together in the past week or so to focus my thoughts on aspirations versus reality...For one thing, I had that wretched essay to write for the Bishop "Reflections on the Diaconal Year and Expectations of Priesthood"...It's that "E" word, isn't it? Here in this parish there is quite a high view of priesthood, such that I can almost see the pedestal under construction as some members of the congregation view my approaching priesting (others, of course, are busy building the bonfire which heretics deserve ;-) ). I hate to disappoint them, but there's no way that I will become the work of finished holiness that some seem to anticipate, this side of eternity,however much Grace is poured upon me on 2nd July!
But I wouldn't be here at all if I didn't have certain aspirations, would I?
To be an effective (oh no...now what does that word mean?) faithful minister of the Gospel in this place...to try to live, however falteringly, as a "walking Sacrament"...oh, I've plenty of aspirations, as well as a pretty good sense of the rather messy reality.
Now Preacher Mom is considering her life as a series of "let's pretend" games, in which she dons a series of masks, and manages to live up to her appointed roles, despite feeling rather different inside. And I know that I do that too...
Does this make me dishonest or brave? Is it hypocrisy to try to live up to one's aspirations, while knowing that the inner reality is still very different. I've tended to cling to some words which I read a long long time ago. I think they may be Augustine, but nobody has ever been able to confirm this
"Not what thou art, nor what thou hast been, but what thou would'st be, beholdest God in his mercy"
That feels like permission to aspire to much, and to try to hold together that sense of huge hopes and chaotic reality. In quite another context, someone quoted Catherine of Siena to me last week
"You are not called to perfection, but to infinite desire..."
I like that. It means I can go on dreaming...

8 comments:

Chris said...

I can identify with your thoughts. I am in my fourth year of ministry (in a church, incidently, a few miles from you) and I have often felt as if I am acting.

Eventually I came to the conclusion that sanctification (or holiness if you prefer a less scary word!) is all about acting. I have found that after a while of playing the part, the feelings and competence catch up.

It is like the Christian view of love. It is not entirely emotional, but is based on a decision. If you decide to love an unlovable member of your congregation, and act as if you do then the emotion follows.

Actions often precede words and emotions. Keep acting like a curate/vicar and you'll become one. And if you feel that's hypocritical, then good!! It means you're not a hypocrite!

Mary said...

As you know, the last thing I feel like at the moment is an ordinand - and churches have expectations even of us - but it's quite true that in those circs the only thing to do is to act, with God's help, and let ourselves be used as we were meant to be, whatever it may feel like underneath. All a question of trust again - and see Ps 139. I found when I moved into senior management that I could let the mask support me at least part of the time and that this still made us an effective (that word again) organisation. Humankind cannot bear very much reality - we can't/won't always feel as we should (CS Lewis is good on this in Surprised by Joy), but we can more often do the right thing - thus creating the kind of virtuous circle Chris refers to. And I also agree that as long as we recognise what we're doing it's OK.

Kathryn said...

Thanks, both of you: helpful input...
Chris, I'm now widly speculating as to where you are and whether I know you. Do tell, if it's not a closely guarded secret :-)

Chris said...

I'll keep you guessing just a bit longer!! Here's a clue: I sat next to you at the Ecumenical chapter in January (and I'm not Anglican). Apart from that (and the meeting rendered me semi-comatose) we've not met.

Kathryn said...

Eeeek. Chris that is just NOT FAIR ;-)
Now I will feel guilty that I wasn't aware enough to remember the (somnolent) figure beside me...though I'm kind of relieved that I've not been with you at all the Anglican clergy do's over the past months and failed to notice a single Chris. Assuming, of course, that you really are Chris at all...
My vicar is fantastic at remembering names and faces: I'm fantastically bad at it, though I will remember assorted peculiar details like whose aunt has emigrated to Katmandu and whose cat has had kittens. But I don't think anyone mentioned either of those at the Ecu Chapter....

Chris said...

Don't feel guilty, I was keeping my head down! I have a phobia of looking up, catching someone's eye and then ending up with a job!

I'm at Salem Baptist Church, but was reared Anglican. The college I trained at had strong links with Trinity, which means I did Hebrew with the Hopeful Amphibian (and so found your site). I know your church fairly well having been to a funeral there and my wife's grandparents worshipped there (a long time ago). I live in Leckhampton so I'm quite close and often cut through on the way to the A40 (you can boo me now!).

catherineosb said...

Dear Kathryn,

I enjoy your blog very much but all I have time to say now is to give you the reference for "not what thou art what thou hast been...": It comes from the Cloud of Unknowing - but I agree it is very "Augustine-ish". Catherine.

Kathryn said...

Catherine, thank you so very very much :-)
I've wanted to know that for years...will now have to trawl through The Cloud in search of it, but come to think of it actually reading Cloud properly might well be a Very Good Thing.