2015. december 25., péntek

Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life


'Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life.' (St Leo the Great) This is a great consolation. Indeed, this thought has re-centered my feelings and experiences of this Christmas day when I visited few of my close relatives. They are aging. All of them suffer from some kind of illness. This experience of decline has made me said and inwardly inert. Yet, St Leo's encouragement, though it does not change the bare facts of life, changes my perspective.

I suddenly understand the importance of prayer. When we pray, this is en extension of today's birthday of life, Christmas. This attention, we are encouraged to believe, will embrace as a lasting help our beloved ones.



2015. november 3., kedd

Messianic gates and vision

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:...A time to weep, and time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

"Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?" (Lk 20:2)

There is a time to recognise God in our life. These are sensitive moments when we are not only offered the opportunity to 'name' him, but we are called to confess him as our Messiah.

This self-revealing Messiah, first, always heals us. In order to be perceived and responded by us, Jesus wants to heal our relationship with 'time'. We need to regain our sense of life itself. That is, the control over the time of life that we are given. This is a tremendous effort in itself: to take off the clothe of a distorted time. Cyber-realities, gadgets, flickering news, and the anxieties of our work (or of our being unemployed) do not allow to fix our gaze on what is real from our God; what is real from our life.

Prayer, the physical reality of the Eucharist, our compassion for those who are in need are 'messianic gates'. We must breath freely in our life, in the real time of our existence, with this clear consciousness.

Luke's is a painful account of how the 'authorities' are lost in a fictitious reality. Their blindness not only is a blindness to God, but also betrays the missed 'messianic gates'. The moments of compassion for others sensitise us or make us blind depending on our response.


2015. október 27., kedd

In the circle of fertility

"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."

"I tell you, Nay: but except ye shall repent, ye shall all likewise parish... 'Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.'" (Luke 12:56; 13:3) (Tuesday after Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, Matins)

Day-to-day exhausting work and its effects on our spiritual well-being and personal relationship are well known to all of us. It is tempting to give up all effort to keep the balance right. Prayer-life, spiritual focusing seem to be a luxury.

Yet, contrary to all expectation, it is through the extra effort to 'pray' which gets the balance right. Investing into our spiritual wellbeing on a daily basis is indeed a hard investment. However, this is the only way. It is 'slowing down our anger', minding our often wounding words which make the human heart alive. When the heart (the centre of consciousness) is focused, then can we enter into our life ('again'). Strength and resource is gained through the daily work of remaining a Christian disciple. For this is discipleship which makes the passive Christian in us active and alive.

Spirituality alive is the state when we are able to 'discern this time' in which we live.

However lifeless or inert we feel ourselves, incapable of producing any 'growth', we must never give up. 'I tell you...except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish' (Luke 13:3) We have been given a powerful encouragement. The 'dresser of the vineyard' intercedes for us: 'Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dug it: and if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.' (Lk 13:9) 'This year' as our last year is given to us. Full of chance. We can read this intercession as the words of our guardian angels. He has 'dug about us'. An angelic presence is writing the circles of fertility around us. (We are always standing in the middle of this circle; paradoxically, in the middle of the Kingdom of God!)


2015. október 26., hétfő

The pendulum of the Spirit

"The simple believeth every word... A wise mean feareth and departeth from evil." (Proverbs 14)
"...for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say."
"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Lk 12)

We need both experiences: the laborious effort to live up to the desired goodness that we express in words; and the joy of being fully transparent when touched by the Father's love. Hard work and full celebration will enable us to appreciate the gift of being a Christian in the here and now. These two experiences purify us.
This purification is vital in order to be able to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and really small) gifts. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German martyr theologian stresses that entering into the real life of grace is the ground of genuine Christian joy. As Bonhoeffer puts it: "The Christian community is not an ideal which we must realise; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we participate." "Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may appear great and glorious to God." (Life Together).
Seeing the numeric decline in our congregations can be extremely painful. Proverbs and Luke's Gospel remind us that the person and the community are always on a pilgrimage. These are not our high ideals and expectations that define reality but always God's generous Providence. Being unfinished can be God's glory, precisely because it shatters the dream that it is we who are the source of life and who can 'create' the otherwise rightly desired growth and rebirth.
Cranmer's masterful composition makes us realise that this is time for moral growth (through effort). This is also a time for full reliance on external life (as little flock). And the middle way of the pendulum between the two is when we will start to speak, judge, and reflect freely. This is when "the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say." For this 'hour of the Holy Spirit' is worth working and waiting.


2015. október 25., vasárnap

A definition of being a Christian in the age to come


"I will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it." (Ezekiel 14)

Ezekiel's words can be read as "spiritual hunger" sent upon our culture. A community, which does not live up to its true potentials, necessarily ends up in "famine". That is, several aspects of its life can end up as futile, even self-harming.

God, even in these circumstances, creates a community, when people wait patiently and make a genuine attempt to re-focus their hearts. "Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters... and they shall comfort you, when ye see their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord." (Ezekiel 14)

Thus, when "word goes through the land" (when violence and endless wars spread worldwide), we are called to contemplate the "writing of God" amongst us. That is, how he has already started planting eternal peace in our yearning hearts.

This dignity of the "holy remnants" (their responsible preparation for the future) is shown in Luke's Gospel. God, who invited the powerful to the wedding feast, and who failed in living up to their potentials, now invites the "blind", the seemingly powerless. This blindness shall prove to be the clearest sight of grace, very soon.


2015. október 24., szombat

Becoming full of light

"The wicked desireth the net of evil men: but the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit. The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips..." (Proverbs 12:12-13)

"No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light." (Lk 11:33)

"But woe unto you, Pharisees!... Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently and to provoke him to speak of many things: laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him." (Lk 11:42.52-53)

One cannot but admire Cranmer's inspired paring of the old- and new-testament readings of the morning and evening prayers in the Book of Common prayer. After the past few months' wrestling 'with the issues of global history' − in the book of Kings and Judges − now there is a shift to the 'personal'. Earlier we focused on the struggles of the people of Israel to keep God's commandments and not let themselves be diverted from the Covenant by political powers. Now Proverbs brings to focus the state of mind of the individual. The underlying conviction seems to be that it is not only history which affects how individuals feel and think. The brave suggestion is that our union with 'Wisdom' is always retroactive. Step by step, through the inner peace which the contemplation of Truth creates, we can regain mastery over our history. And finally, we can alter its course. Proverbs pronounces also a judgment. We must face our personal involvement; our complicity, contribution and accountability.
Jesus in Luke's Gospel addresses the 'collective' and the personal levels at the same time. A whole generation can lose its ability to see and speak "wisely". No wonder that our present history exhibits the most shocking dead ends. Wars, the inability to reconcile and create peace are constant markers of our derailed journey. Contemplating the 'inner Light' is made a central task by Jesus. "The lighted candle has to be put on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light." Our passage insinuates the healing power of contemplating the Light. It is through internalising this 'wisdom' that alone can heal the 'outside world'. (The Saturday Eucharistic Exposition, Adoration and Benediction at St Mary's is a genuine experience of being lead by the "Light of the world". Our global history, through our hearts, can anticipate when the "body, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light".)
However, the Gospel passage ends with a sobering realism. The conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees and layers (the cocksure experts of the world's ways) shows that pointing out our blindness provokes a fierce resistance. Any correction of direction which may alter the inertia of history (personal and collective) is more than a laborious work.

2015. október 23., péntek

God in the Mirror/Moment


"Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live....Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:5-6.8-9)


"Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret places is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell" (Proverbs 9)


"Though hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:10.15-17)


Cranmer, in the lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer assembles these passages together with a genius of stroke. They sum up, with a striking resemblance, the logo-therapy of Viktor E. Frankl. (He is known as the founder of the 'third' psychoanalytical school after Freud and Jung.) Our readings reflect the two dimensions within the human being to which Frankl draws attention. These are the 'instinctual' and the 'spiritual' aspects of the self. The real tension however, he highlights, lies not between the two. The conflict is within our spiritual part. It is this spiritual dimension, according to Frankl, which determines the human person. It is the ability of becoming responsible for others that makes us humans.

Frankl divides the spiritual aspect of the self into two. These are the 'conscious' and the 'spiritual unconscious'. The latter means that our responsibility and our purpose in life can be hidden from us. In this case, we have to find this lost Meaning. He adds, our life becomes ours only in as much we become responsible for it. Frankl's logo-therapy states that if we lose the meaning of existence, the person becomes ill.

Our readings invite us to contemplate this 'logo-therapeutic journey' (when our 'Meaning', individually fine tuned to us, recovers who we really are). 'Stolen waters are sweet...but we do not know that the dead are there'. As persons, and as a culture, we might not even know that there is a lost dimension in us: what and Whom we have lost as part of our self.

Proverbs 9 and 2 Timothy tell us something even more. This is just as radically novel than Frankl's discovery of the 'existential unconscious'. Namely, the Bible as God's Word constitutes us as humans! This Divine Presence-Wisdom-Meaning, as a permanent dialogue partner, is literally part of our self. All aspects of our life belongs to him. Or, putting it in other words, we belong to our truer self through this personal dialogue with Him.

This dialogue of Love connects conscious and unconscious in us. This dialogue integrates our instinctual life (with all possible manifestations) into a life, which confirms our deepest call. The latter is that spiritual celebration which stems from the encounter with the very ground of our self, God and his grace. This celebration and encounter is described in St Paul's words. The focus, which we should not miss, is on the moment when 'the man of God becomes perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works'.



2015. október 22., csütörtök

The other side of the human face

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, o sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man." (Proverbs 6:6-11) "Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids" (Proverbs 6:4)

It is said that the strongest instinct in us humans is not sexual but "social". This is the desire to be in the presence of others, to work and co-operate together. Proverbs draws this line further. The most intense desire in us, however deeply buried it might be, is to "work for God". This is a yearning and determination to comply with 'grace'. As Gerard Manely Hopkins the Jesuit poet puts it: "I say more: the just man justices; / Keeps grace; that keeps all his goings graces;/ Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is − Christ./ For Christ plays in thousand places,/ Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his/ to the Father through the features of men's faces" (As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Dragonflies Draw Flame, undated poem, c. March-April 1877).

A person, it is said, necessarily has his social persona. This is the role we play in society; in the workplace. Wearing this "mask" is part of our adult life. In reality, it can never be fully removed. However, to this, as a balance, our graced "persona" needs to be added. Fulfilling our desire to "work for God" is an important day-to-day event of healing. Indeed, healing is the proper word. For it is inevitable that wearing our social persona (mask) distorts the living person. Proverbs show the hindrances, the obvious signs, that our "social face" has become dangerously heavy. "Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth... These six things doth the Lord hate: ...A proud look, a lying tongue , and hands that shed innocent blood, An hart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren." (Proverbs 6:2.16-19)

Without fulfilling our desire to work for God's community (which extends from Church to the wellbeing of mankind) we become ill. Through this service, God's Face restores us. Being active in his Kingdom is an exchange: his desire towards me to lets me truly be myself.


2015. október 21., szerda

Incarnation on Wednesday (On God’s daily touches)

“So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding…than shall thou understand the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 2). “For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead” (Proverbs 2)

"Wisdom" is the main objective of the person who lives in faith. When we 'lift up our voice for understanding', we are caught up in an existential dynamic. "Wisdom", for which we strive, is existentially vital. "Wisdom" is the life underneath the surface of our words. "Wisdom" is life in us; it is life in a hidden, unnoticed (definitely unmarked!) corner of history. Where our life merges with God's vision on history. "Wisdom" is a connection between us and the One who has a broader understanding of ourselves. "Wisdom" is the experience of being embraced by Meaning; by a meaning which lasts, which does not disappear under the pressure of the fast changing appearances of the world.

Biblical wisdom, its experience, is about establishing a connection with our 'outer body', History. "Wisdom" is the precious moment when we are active parts of history. When we are not buried under its heavy weight.

Thus, "wisdom" in us is the ability to speak. "Wisdom" is our ability to hope. Biblical wisdom is our ability to speak of God's continuous incarnation into his history; into our present. Actually, "wisdom" is the ability to name our wounds and losses in hope. "Wisdom", and this is the wisdom of the Cross, is the ability to celebrate our joys − always in view of the One, who sanctified the path leading to our celebration.

Living this "wisdom" thus makes us realise that God's Incarnation is continuous. It has been taking place up until now. Till this second of pain, till this second of joy. "Wisdom" is just a window on this our being inhabited by God. Whatever happens in our life, joy or challenge, Jesus' incarnation, wisely or unwisely from God's part, continues. It challenges us with its full weight: his Incarnation was never intended to be a one time event.


2015. augusztus 29., szombat

Detail on the wall (‘Kaukasi’ Beth Midrasz)


This detail of wall is from the former synagogue, the ‘Synagoga Kaukaska’ or the ‘Kavkas Synagogue’ in Krynki, North Poland (built in 1850). The name ‘kaukasi’ Beth Midrasz comes from the merchants who were bringing the leather from Caucasus local tanneries. This fragment, we can read it in this way, is a powerful symbol of history. Of that history, which has been happening right now to us.
When there is a wound (when fellow human beings are wounded, including us, by external, uncontrolled forces in history), somehow, our horizon becomes narrow. From the big picture we cannot see more than this compressed fragment of reality. This close-up does not allow us to see the building, the wider streets, the wider environment of ‘Krynki’ ‒ what is going on beyond the immediate moment.
Yet, and this is the power of the human eye, the more we focus on this enclosure, the more we want to see of the ‘beyond’. We want to reconstruct, regain reality; a better understanding of history. What happened to this Jewry; how did these people live?; how this village would look like if the Nazi occupation and their deportation had never taken place?
The crisis caused by ‘illegal immigration into Europe’ or the ‘refugee crisis’ is a similar wound on our wall. What world is it in which we live? What forces are controlling it; what forces control us, our judgements and hearts and minds? In brief, who is in control? Now, among many, the incomers and the locals, fear grows large. But what is beyond this fear? What is the message of this compelling, most of the time unseen and un-contemplated, detail written on our walls?

2015. június 4., csütörtök

Praying with the Book of Common Prayer (Note 2 on the 'Catholica')')


We can make an important observation about individual joy in the Old Testament. Whenever there is genuine joy over God's gifts, the individual celebration always points beyond itself. Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), who compiled the lectionary of the BCP, with a masterly skill of composition, set in parallel these 'individual celebrations'.  The contexts vary, but the song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2,1-8), Mary's Magnificat (Luke 1,46-56), and the song of Zacharias (Luke 1,68-79) are praises to God for he answered their prayers for a son. It is worth observing that the moments of (almost uncontrollable) personal joy also draw the image of a renewed community.

These parallel images (individual joy; renewed community) are Biblical expressions of the 'Catholica'. The image of God, which Hannah (the mother of Samuel), Zaccharias and Elisabeth (parents of John the Baptist), and Mary see through their intense joy − is also a striking full vision of the 'Kingdom of God'. This joy articulates the vision of the 'Catholic fullness' of God's Rule. A living icon is drawn: how the community should live. The lost balances get right. Justice starts to prevail, 'He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap.' (1 Samuel,8) Solidarity and righteousness emerge, 'He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things.' (Luke 1,52-53) Liberation from harmful powers takes place, 'we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear... The tender mercy of our God...will break upon us, to guide our feet into the way of peace'. (Luke 1,73.78). What we see is that the collective history of Israel surfaces in individual joy.

The same 'joy' awaits us. Our call today is to experience the same vision of the 'Catholica'. Through our individual thanksgivings, in depth of our heart, the fullness of the Kingdom will be witnessed to. It will be an exciting experience to stand between two worlds and be partakers of both. When personal joy and community's joy when the order of love and justice is restored fuse into each other.





2015. június 3., szerda

Praying with the Book of Common Prayer (Note 1)

'Thou shalt shew me the path of life; in thy presence is the fullness of joy: and at thy right hand there is pleasure for evermore.' (Psalm 16,12) The joy of the 'Catholica' is expressed here. It seems that one of the most timing agendas for our divided churches is the recovery of the 'Catholic nature' of the churches. If we live in a post-Christendom, that is when Churches are no longer the main cultural players in organising people's lives, this agenda should be natural. The 'Catholica' was a pre-Christendom paradigm, and with the loss of the Constantinian 'supports', Christians should return to this principle.
Recovering the sense of the Catholic unity and diversity of the churches will also become the orienting centre for the different spiritualities. I read Psalm 17 ('Exaudi Domine') as the expression of that cultivating this sense of Catholicism requires a tremendous effort. The images of fight against threatening human powers ('the wicked') teach us how difficult and continuous task it is. For it compels us to revise all the layers of Christian cultural memory. Almost the whole of the cultural canon (Tradition) was affected by the splits within the body of Western and Eastern Christianity.
Our use of Jewish Psalms in prayer is also an important reminder that the 'Catholica' must contain the recovery of the Jewish heritage. That is the 'fist love' of the Jewish people for the God of the Covenant is a powerful resource. A 'Catholic embrace' must contain the desire to be enhanced by this 'first love- and Passion-story' of Jewish generations.
There is no other way of spiritual recovery but the return to the 'Catholic', that is, all embracing nature of God's love. 'But as for me, I will behold thy presence in righteousness: and when I awake up after thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it.' (Psalm 117,16)


2015. május 6., szerda

Strong winds; a visit to T. Carlyle

Strong winds above London. So strong as if the globe would be blown a further away. The thick grey clouds give only slowly way to the light. Rain mixed with plains landing at Heathrow. Almost a Biblical image of the struggle to break open the skies to see again what is beyond.


'And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying onto me, Saul, Saul, why pesecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutes.' (Acts 22,7-8) 'I am your History whom you are passing by without understanding'.


Paul's story is an encouragement that suddenly we can face reality as it is. That all the chaotic motives of life, with their thousand loose threads, suddenly begin anew.

If only as individuals, and as a culture, all of us fell into those interior, in which Paul's and Christ's clarifying conversation took place. Just like the winds outside my window; all what is outside is excluded, everything is internal now in this conversation: 'Those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.' (Acts 22,9) Facing what should be faced face to face. Paul had the strength.


We need to recover the intensity of his attention. He saw Christ because he was determined to observe and learn from the Lord of history.


But how to create this ability? How to re-create this ability of ours to give prime attention to 'history', just as well as our stories? We need this Biblical silence. My visit on an equally windy to Thomas Carlyle's house in Old Cheyne Row gave a sense of this 'school of attention'. Carlyle was praised for his ability to bring persons from the past alive. Oscar Wilde said of his The History of the French Revolution that Carlyle made music of history. Events and characters became alive and vivid, as a fruit of his contemplating past history. The secret is paying prime attention. It is very telling, Carlyle built a sound proof room in their attic – otherwise he was unable to work. I am just marvelling the intensity of this listening while reading his classic, the Friederich II. Of Prussia.   

This is almost a Biblical imagination. Carlyle is a good encouragement to learn to focus on our own 'Biblical' history. We will never be able to see God again unless we learn to devote ourselves fully to this listening, this focused vision. The silence of Carlyle's house at Cheyne Row has deeply marked me and speaks since. Those semi dark but festal interiors utter the words, '…Regain your sight!' (Acts 22,12)




Thoughts on the 'apostolic succession'



The old Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, its readings of Matins and Evensong after Easter, focuses on the very beginnings of the Church. It is worth observing the first brush-strokes in the priming of the icon of the Church. This is the genius of Cranmer, who composed the Book of Common prayer: he forces us to read the Bible continuously, in the full length of the texts. This ascetism leaves no room for distraction. We are compelled to repeat the subtle movements of history in God's hand, our 'icon writer'.

These first coatings became invisible underneath the layers of later institutional and doctrinal development. Yet recalling the origins of the Christian kerugma is a vital orientation for today. If it is true that we live in a post-denominational age, there are indeed great lessons to learn. Our world has become irreversibly pluralistic and complex. There is no point, for us who arrived from a once homogeneous Christendom, of denying it. Every attempt would only throw us back to the futile hells of redrawing our self-centred legal and doctrinal borders. (Which borders are only ghettos self imposed upon us. In them, Christianity can but shrink ever more into the uncomfortable postures of secularisation.)

Revisiting the core-doctrine of 'apostolic succession' can offer a positive motivation to face our world ‒ in a renewed hope. Understanding the 'apostolic' nature of the Church can indeed generate fresh energies for the mission which not only singles us out from the world as Christians but also reassigns the true borders of the Church. This new 'priming' might offer a fresh orientation. Even though it does not offer a complete programme, at least, it is an inevitable starting point for facing the (complex) crisis which Christians face.

While reading Acts, the vivid presence of the first converts strikes us. We have inherited a mindset from Christendom which tends to focus exclusively on the apostles. Though it is indeed important what Peter, Paul and the others did, it is only half of the story. Their witness to Christ fully merges with the lives of the first converts. What we see is in Acts is how their whole being is immediately absorbed into the 'apostolic nature' of the 'first Twelve'. 'Handing over of tradition by the Apostles, based on the leading role of Peter, is inseparable from the life of the first Christian communities. This is the network of the newly founded churches, their unfolding life, which bears and nourishes the apostolic paradosis, the handing over of faith. This 'subsists' in the life decision by ordinary people like Ananias,Tabitha, Simon, Cornelius, Rhoda, Sergius Paulus, John, Lydia, Silas, Timotheus, Dionysios, Damaris, Aquila, Priscilla, Justus, Crispus, Apollos, Gaius, Aristarchus, Sopater, Secundus, Tychius, Trophimus, Eutychus, and many others.

We need to rediscover in us this 'apostolic community of succession'. The idea of 'apostolic succession' cannot remain an isolated element of doctrine or 'canon law'. In our post-denominational age, when the rediscovery of Christian unity is the utmost call, the concept must be re-read. We live in an age, under cultural conditions, when the classic Roman Catholic (hardly challenged) position must be liberated from the narrow 'ritualistic' reading. Apostolic succession simply cannot be constrained to 'the laying on hands'. Accordingly, the authenticity of the church is solely defined by the chain of 'touches' in 'priestly ordinations' starting from the 'apostles'. Surely, there must be other factors like the commitment to the unity of the Church and the work of the Holy Spirit in ordinary peoples' life.

From Acts, a further widening of 'the apostolic tradition' is a group of nameless people. It is so easy to lose sight of them. They are the ones who were healed from different diseases, the lime, the blind, and the crippled. Their 'archetype' is 'the man lame from birth… at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate' (Acts 3,2).

In rereading of the successio apostolica, our unexpected focus is what Peter said to the lame from birth and the reaction to it. 'I have no silver of god, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.' (Acts 3,6). 'All the people… were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.' (Acts 3,9-10). Peter's widened the notion of the 'Levitic succession', the way Tradition, its safeguarding and interpretation was conceived by the Jewry. (This 'patriarchal succession', safeguarded by the religious elite, can be seen as a kind of equivalent of our core doctrine.) Peter's act is driven by the same dynamic that we saw above: the need of bringing the community of faith fully alive.

What is surprising in the apostolic age is the understanding of their mission. There is no distance between Christians and their world. This immediacy in the Spirit can happen again, and actually does happen, in our sight. The 'apostolic succession' is about sensitising everyone in the church to extend the healing embrace, which we have experienced, to our world.






2015. április 29., szerda

‘We endeavoured to go into Macedonia’

Overlooking St Barnabas', Pimlico (foto: balintbeckett)

This is almost a paradigm for mission what we read in Acts. ‘And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the Gospel unto them.’ (Acts 16,9-10).
Our age is full of images. As if our culture lived in a constant ‘fantasy eruption’. We are trying to grasp a secure position in an unstable, fast changing world. We try to understand where we are, where we should arrive to, and what we should do. That is why the feverish images ‒ fragmented attempts to tell our story.

Among the fantasy images of the age, Paul’s historical vision re-emerges. We Christians should hold to this Biblical example. Literally, this is our founding vision. Without this, the teaching of Christ would have never arrived from Asia to Europe.

‘There stood a man of Macedonia’. I read it as a profound cultural symbol. Our culture can be seen, personified, in this ‘man of Macedonia’. This ‘man’ can have many names. There stands the postmodern person; the post-religious person; or our post-denominational culture. Name does not really matter. What matters is the new missiological situation. Are we brave enough to enter the unknown ‒ our culture under many names?

The passage of Acts (Ch 16,6-end) becomes a new paradigm precisely at this point. It is an archetypal image of what happens when the Christian kerygma (proclaiming our redemption by Christ) relies on God’s providence. ‘After we had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia’ (Acts 16,10).

What happens when there is a full dependence on God’s ‘unknown love’? Acts profoundly (unconditionally!) encourages us. See what happens: people in this strange new land welcome Paul’s arrival. Names are not simply historical here but profoundly symbolic. Lydia ‘heard us’. With many others, she was one of them ‘whose heart the Lord opened’ (Acts 16,14.) What is the symbolic element? However secular our culture is, or it might become, there always remains a ‘feminine’ responsiveness at the heart of it. However rigid our culture be on its ‘animus’ surface, its ‘anima’ is always desiring ‘to be judged to be faithful to the Lord’ (Acts 16,15).

Man and women from this culture will always welcome this encounter. This desire ‘to be touched by’ and our new state of ‘being sent’ into this ‘happening history’ or history in the make (M. Buber) transcends inherited forms of prayer and ecclesial forms. Let us be brave! Let salvation history happen. Let God be God among us. Let us see God in the ‘Macedonian man’. Let us come to God by understanding the desire of the ‘Macedonian’.
The ‘endeavour to go into Macedonia’ was confirmed by powerful signs. The imprisoned Paul and Silas escape from their imprisonment. ‘And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s hand were loosed.’ (Acts 16,25-26) A very rich (symbolic) image indeed. The diverse, often destructive, forces of our culture can coalesce in the service of renewal.

The conversion of the prison guard is a bonus. It tells the unlistened to question of the true self of our culture. ‘What must I do to be saved’? (Acts 16,30)


2015. február 26., csütörtök

‘Because it is the price of blood’


“And the chief priests took the silver piece, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.” (Mt 27,6)

This decision reveals a sense of that certain deeds should be separated from the life of the community. There are decisions and morally questionable acts which, if not separate, remain infectious. The point is that a morally questionable solution (political, cultural, local decision) should be reflected upon. The above biblical scene of Judas’ betrayal when he returns the sign of his betrayal is such an attempt. The arrest, trial, and planned execution of Jesus, from the part of the Jewish religious leaders, was a corporate decision. It was morally wrong; also with dubious motives in the background when they handed him over to the Roman authorities in order to kill him. The recognized need for this ‘separation’ by the Jewish leaders, however unfinished their solution remained, offers an important moral to our present.

Our age, our Western culture, our particular political culture, tends to forget that wrong acts need to be mourned. ‘The price of blood’ remains invisible and mingled with the life of the community. The way in which the prime minister (D.C.) finds a solution to sell weapons to Ukraine, via a ‘third party’, an Arabic country, is the apex of hubris and hypocrisy. Christians, in all circumstances, should give voice to the ‘innocent blood’, on behalf of the victims. If we Christians do not cry out for peace and reconciliation, who else would? In a global world, burdened with endless conflicts, every deed should contribute to stopping violence and the threat of war. Biblical gestures, far deeper than that of the chief priests in our passage, should be performed. As gestures of reconciliation, common sense, and profound desire for peace. Why is it, that the acts of justice, rooted in love and self examination, do unmask whenever and wherever ‘there is a price of blood’? Through prayer, surely, we will recognize any collective act, which contributes to violence, should be recognized and removed from the life of the community. However painful they might be as the signs of our betrayal of ‘the innocent blood.’


26 February

2015. február 25., szerda

Psalm 119

“Thy statues have been my songs: in the house of my pilgrimage. I have thought upon thy name, O Lord, in the night season: and have kept thy law.” (Psalm 119,54-55)

There is such a profound need to examine and clean our inner history. This is an elementary need to merge our whole being with the Lord of history. His Laws are purifying us. Our vision gets purified and wholesome: we can see  more of our truer self.

‘And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy commandments’ (Ps 119,45). Seeking this inner law of History, seeking the commandments of the Lord of history, is freedom. Freedom can be understood in terms of getting closer to the genuine ‘self’, individual and collective, which God desires for us. That is why, the Psalmist can say: “I made my humble petition in thy presence with my whole heart.” (Psalm 119,58) This ”striving” brings about a change. We become capable of interceding for ourselves and the needs of our world, particularly those of our local history. The fruit of this attempt to synchronize our self with that of God, that we become responsive. That is, we can see these needs, and respond promptly. This is the way that history is being healed, it is less and less legged behind God’s vision of our history. ‘I made haste, and prolonged not the time: to keep thy commandments.’ (Psalm 119,60)

These are the closing lines of the Psalm, which are most telling of our present. “O learn me true understanding and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments” (v.66) This attempt to embrace God’s vision of “the whole heart” which is called to see and pray, leads us to feel pain whenever this inspired self-knowledge is refused. For Christians it is time to pray for their political leaders that they may understand: selling weapons to conflict zones, like Ukraine, is morally wrong. Every troop, every weapon sent to the region is a powerful symbol of our blindness to payer and our truer self.

25 February

2015. január 12., hétfő

Late Night Tea With Bartok


The day-to-day events of life should not overwrite the normal course of our days. The shocking attack on the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, is such a disruption of 'normal' history. As a reaction to the unacceptable killing of the members of the editorial board, there were millions on the streets of France and Europe. As an expression of the shock we all felt.

Killing is unacceptable. This form of terror is rightly refused and protested with full force.

Yet, my feelings are mixed. This is equally shocking to see the arrogance of the French 'Gloire'. Why do I feel that the 'old reactions' of politics can no longer be trusted? I do not know the answer. Only a sketchy thought is outlining itself. What one can feel is the lack of a historical distance. We simply lack distance from the situation, that sufficient distance, which would provide us with genuine answers as to what has happened.

It is very difficult indeed to trust a political response which is unable to make a fundamental distinction. Namely, that the terrorist attack was a response not to a religious provocation, as the killers claimed, but to an erroneous foreign policy of the EU. The hubris of the EU (hubris in the sense of not being analytical of the complexity of situations and processes) resulted in a mess in the Middle-East. This warfare was not based on the collective decision of the citizens of the EU. The allies simply have been talking down to these regions from the 'superego of Western democracy'. We can not see that this terrorist attack is not an attack on Western values, the 'European man' or on the 'freedom of speech'. This was a form of military retaliation, a response to the war which our countries and with the underlying national-economical interests are fighting; with their sophisticated weapons and diplomatic machineries. Now the enemy hit back well beyond the front-lines.

Personally, I would be grateful, if religion would be left out from the public discourse in interpreting these tragic events. Europe's colonising attitude has backfired. How do we think that bombing Islamist extremists, destabilising the peace of distant regions, fragile status quos (conceived in blood and tyrannies) is something 'distant' for ever? Why is there such hubris in the power of our weapons and just cause?

What made me put these thoughts down in writing is an uncanny thought. Why is it that our Western political culture is incapable of the humility, at least now, when we are mourning the victims and denouncing the bastard act of terrorism, to make an apology, however small. Yes, to start with an apology, whatever we say afterwards, for offending religious sentiments and feelings. For while through the Muhammad cartoons, and their angry re-publication we provoke an extremist minority, nevertheless, we do hurt the religious sentiments of a balanced Muslim majority? Is it too difficult to see? Until Europe cannot start his denouncement of the barbaric attack with this apology, the old colonising attitude, the superiority of the 'white Gloire' remains. But I should really conclude now. I have no answers. I feel emptiness and anger. As if being caught up in the whirlwind of hubris: In the furnaces of karma, bad karma, which is our death mask on our truer face and self.


Bartók's music is a consolation. These nights, his Concerto for Orchestra and Third Piano Concerto are my guides. In the very last 1941 issue of the Hungarian literary magazine, Nyugat, I am just reading an appreciation of the 60 year old Bartok's musical achievement. The author gave an overview of the musical development of the Hungarian composer (who will die four years later in exile in the United States). Bence Szabolcsi, in the closing words of his essay, gives a profound understanding of this musical evolution. Bartok's unfolding oeuvre is a parallel ethical development. He handed over his heritage as a resource, 'perhaps still in time, in order to save Europe's truer soul. Bartok represents the nobler and immortal part of our perishing world, in that wider, renewed world, which shall be towering over the wreckages of the old one.' (Nyugat, 1941. 4.)

This music gives me the missing distance from these days. All of us, ordinary producers of the world's bad karma and its professional creators, our politicians who have lost the sense of history (the ability to think with the sense of historical distance), can learn from the vast spaces which this music reveals. Bartok, it is said, synthesised all the available musical knowledge of his age. He did even something more: he transcended this knowledge and created this heritage anew as a fresh message; a new voice indeed. It is a very rare moment within a cultural canon. In this space, in which life is imperishable, always safeguarded by a mysterious presence, we can relearn our presence. For me, this night, this is the message of the Third Piano Concerto, written on his deathbed, as a present for his wife's birthday. The distance from our present exists. This saving distance of love exists, it is within reach. Within a distance which we can equally miss. Which proves to be stronger in us: karma or grace?


12.01.2015, Bialystok, Poland.