Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Person, Communion, and Christian Culture

I have written about the miracle of Christian friendship. This unique kind of friendship leads to a unique kind of sharing of life, which St. Paul calls koinonia, and which we translate as "communion"--it is a communion of life, from its center to its many particular expressions. Communion is not an invasive smothering of the person, but an interpersonal environment in which the special vocation of each person is discovered and flourishes. Since the person discovers his or herself and realizes his or her freedom through self-giving love, there is always a reciprocal relationship between the authentic realization of personal freedom and the building up of communion. Communion and liberation. They are inseparable. Thus Christ, who creates communion of life, fulfills the destiny of the human person and the human community.

This Christian community of life is "the Church," lived concretely. In our time, the Lord is calling us to new ways of "tapping into" that profound bond that unites us, really, "physically" in Christ. This life pertains first and always to our eternal destiny. But what will also emerge from it in the midst of the world is the reality of "Christian culture." We think we know what Christian culture means.  We think it's "the way things used to be" in the Age of Faith. And it must be said that the reality of "Christendom"--as it was once known--was a living fruit of real faith in Christ. But I believe that our basilicas and cathedrals of the past, and our wayside shrines and saints' feast days, and all our social and cultural symbols from the past are just a preview, a taste, of what a Christian culture might become if we begin to live the mystery of the Church in a more consciously committed, freely embraced way that expresses itself in interpersonal solidarity.

We would have our new, beautiful external expressions of Christian life (as well as our reverence for history), but they would be expressions of a bond that is recognized and lived in a more integrally human way, with an awareness and a mutual love which would generate a common missionary impetus to the world.