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The Ordination of Saint Hilary. From a 14th century manuscript.

The Ordination of Saint Hilary. From a 14th century manuscript.

The world often tells us that in order to keep from making waves we would do well to GO ALONG, TO GET ALONG. Today, January 13th is the Feast Day of Hilary of Poitiers and early father of the Church and a central figure in the struggle against Arianism and one who refused to heed the call of compromise or capitulation.

The Arian heresy was named after Arius, an early figure in the Church who claimed that Jesus was not, in fact, God but appeared to be of ‘like substance’ to God.

Arianism , had it gone unchecked, would have undone the doctrine of the Trinity as wel know it and would have rendered the Nicene Creed an historical anomaly rather than what it is, and enuring statement of belief in the nature of God as three distinct, equal and coexistent persons.

One of the hallmarks of Hilary’s contributions to the resolution of the Arian Heresy, was his ability to maintain relationship and credibility as a person and intellectual interlocutor with folks across the spectrum. His realtively calm demeanor, without compromising his beliefs in the face of enormous pressure to denounce the Trinitarian view, is one of his remembered as one of his most outstanding qualities. Though he was thoughtful, gentle, humble, and pastoral; he was no pushover theologically or in his commitment to the Truth as revealed in the Church. He endured exile and maintained faith in his position that Jesus was both fully human AND fully divine.

He was not alone in his endurance, but still remains and example of quiet confidence and faith in the face of secular pressure on the Church to compromise on its beliefs in order to consolidate power and avoid conflict. In many ways it was his commitment to the doctrine of the Trinity as the divine embodiment of mutuality in relationships that I suspect sustained him in the darkest hours and gave him the faith to endure to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Some 80 years later, the Council of Chalcedon (451 CE) affirmed his position as one of orthdoxy and we remain Trinitarian Christians to this day due to Hilary and others of his ilk who had the courage of the convictions and the spiritual strength to stand on them, believing that God would set all things in order in God’s time. Thanks be to God for Hilary…might the Church learn from him the virtue of patience in the face of our ongoing conflicts, assured that God’s love is not dependent upon our being ‘right’.

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There is special significance for this Independence Day in our house. As many of you will know, Jonathan, our beloved son turns 13 tomorrow. The rite of passage that being a teenager is not lost on any of us. That this rite of passage comes as we celebrate American Independence from Colonial Rule as a nation is an interesting coincidence.

For some 200 years we as Americans have relished our Independence and the glorious success that Democracy has been for us and for countless others across the globe. And for good reason.

Having said that, I think we can fairly make the case the complete Independence, on any level, is a myth at best. The fact of the matter is that isolationism has never worked for America as much as we’d like it to. The same holds true with children, adolescents, and adults. This is especially true with the spiritual life. It is true that God’s presence is everywhere. I cannot deny that as a basic tenet of the religious life. We all, by virtue of our kinship with Jesus have access to God in ways that our Hebrew forbearers could not imagine. It is easy, and a bit dangerous, to think that we can have the fullest experience of God possible all alone. John Donne, famous Anglican preacher and poet penned these words,

“No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”

 

We have existence in God apart from others, but we cannot claim the fullness of fellowship that God desires for us all individually if we choose to make God and our relationship to God a private matter. As Christians the centrality of relationship is central to our belief. That’s why the Trinitarian understanding of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is part of our ordering our common life. We are created for relationship.

I guess my point is (and I do have one) this: Independence is a step toward maturity, but it’s just a step and not the end to which we’ve been called. As we understand ourselves independently we are offered a great and noble choice, that is to choose interdependence. We cannot do without one another. We cannot experience God’s fullness outside of community. We cannot worship fully in our tradition without relationship. The Eucharist, by definition, is the community expressing its thanks to God for all that is.

Regardless of where you find yourselves tomorrow, I hope that in the midst of our Independence Day Celebrations we’ll remember that we depend on one another and indeed on everyone that is in ways that we can never completely understand.

Blessed 4th! May you have the courage to seek Interdependence!!!

 

Just a note with this video. I was stunned by the disconnect between my expectations and the reality I witnessed. Another lesson in humility and standing back from judgement (and the Lord knows I really need all the reminders I can get).

Have a grand day and dream big dreams.

–Warren

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