T.S. Eliot’s, in his poem, from the Four Quartets, ‘Little Gidding’ points to the endpoint of all genuine pilgrimage: ‘where prayer has been valid’. When and where we pray, prayer has been valid, because it sums up all the Church. Prayer cannot take place outside the Christian community.
In the weeks following Easter, through the passages of the Acts of the Apostles, a special ‘epiclesis’, the inviting of the Holy Spirit, is taking place. As if through windows into history, we can follow, how the early church was spreading. More and more dots of light lit up in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
These Easter readings give us today a tremendous encouragement. We need this special consolation, when ‘praying Christianity’ disappears. Cultural Christianity, the remnants of the organising ethos of Europe, still remains with us. But ‘praying Christianity’, ‘where prayer has been valid’, where human existence has been valid and authentic is in the retreat. And the consolation is this: those first communities brought to life by the apostolic work of Peter, Paul, and the other apostles, have an extremely strong, valid presence. These passages make us realise that when the Eucharist is celebrated, the whole church, throughout history, including those earliest ‘dots of Christian light’ have been celebrating with us! Our churches are never empty − despite the painful numbers of attendance.
But is it a ‘spiritualisation’ of the situation, or, indeed, there is something more to it? I believe so. The presence of past Christian generations is a real strength, a real presence, and a warning sign. They tell us, enter that spirit ‘where prayer has been valid.’ Enter the single-minded quest for the Absolute which is the perennial characteristic of monasticism; of the early church, and of the first disciples.
If there is a new beginning for a declining Western Christianity it begins with the return to the discipleship, those early ‘dots’ on the map of Europe. Saint Benedict’s innovation, to frame our life with a Rule, and its discipline of prayer, work and charity is the simplest and only solution to begin anew in Christ. Everything starts from creating those places, ‘where Christ’s presence has been valid’. For our hearts have become valid, and pulsing in that validity.
21.05.2019, Edgware Abbey
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..