It seems that our churches are going to have a new task soon. Actually, this task was always there as ‘old task’… The local churches, with the spirituality of their communities have the call to become resources ‘in regaining the real’. The ‘still images’ that our churches offer - statues and images of saints, the order of the the church, its peace and the order of liturgy - powerfully counteract the restlessness of our culture. Indeed, it is true, that among ‘madly flickering images’, in the constant flux of screens of the internet, it is impossible to acquire a stable identity. This stability through and in Christ what is at stake.
It does not mean that the technologies of the modern world should be undone. It does not mean that in the medium of the internet (as a new master-medium of history) stable identity is not possible. But it means that the human heart must declare and recognise a higher reality than the technical possibilities of our age. By stating that our heart belongs to the ‘kingdom of God’, is an important way of framing and putting a constraint of the powers that organise our life. If this submission to God does not take place, by virtue of its nature, our submission to the powers of the age necessarily takes place. Then, assimilation to technology cannot be postponed.
It is against this background of identity quest, that John Henry Newman’s sermon, Holiness Necessary for Future Blessedness, comes strikingly alive. Holiness is that freshly understood category which severs us from the powers of our cyber-age. This desire, which can be instilled into us only in the church, connects us with what is real in human identity. Outside this desire to imitate God’s love, there is no stable identity. Without it there is no power to resist, to offer alternatives to the blind fates which our cyber world offers (forces upon us) through its non-divine algorithms. Facebook, google, ‘Cambridge Analytica’ shall be watching over us, instead of a genially liberating Divine Gaze. They will pulverise us into their desires, and their choices. Their Creed.
This task of regaining the ‘real’ stems from Saint Paul’s warning: ‘…The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but might through God pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thinking that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. ’
Newman’s homily is a fascinating read - about our Creed. He offers - from the distance of almost two hundred years - a resource in revaluating our identity both as Christians and as a church. He reflected in an age similarly shaken by the tectonic forces in culture. Actually, we can detect the emerging ‘cyber-reality’, the dawn of our present times, with the multiple options to create an identity outside God, regardless how lasting and real they are.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..