Tuesday, August 7, 2018

In Gottes Einsatz leben

“Are there jobs for you theologians?” asks the doctor, who will heal the body too often neglected in the search for that which is not bread. (Although the search for bread is a perpetual and very seriously meant quests, let me assure you.) And I wonder, as I spin my theological training into marketable expertise for non-academic positions, if this is not—in many ways—the purpose of studying theology in the first place. “What else are they looking for in me, if it is not a spark of faith in love and light?” asks Balthasar.

If one thing is for sure than there certainly is a job market for light-bearers. It is not a traditional workforce, nor does it come with the desired package of benefits. But it is maybe the only work, in the end, worth doing.

In fact, it seems to be the only task that is truly scriptural in its warrant—the call to be to the world light and salt—seasoning and enlightenment that our environment cannot muster on its own. Thus the study of theology finds its job market as a field where the Christian can cultivate herself into this light and this salt. While there is certainly a value in tending to the field, and in the careful cultivation of the source, it seems that the purpose of the study is like the purpose of most things in creation—to become a source of life for that which is other, to shine some light on the dark world out there.

Balthasar describes the ministry as the church's skeleton, the interior structure that supports it and holds its form coherent and the parish as the church's skin—these varied, particular planes where the Word meets the world. Theology seems to be part of the Church's ministry; it is a resource which gives the structure shape. It is also part of the parish—it is a plane of encounter between the world's philosophy and the Church's thought. But perhaps it is something different as well—the muscles which silently undergird all the movements on the surface, the organs whose repetitive and quiet responsibilities ensure the continued survival of the body.

There is no sure guarantee that studying theology is reaching towards the source. But there is a certainty in a path that tosses the believer back and forth, that shifts the wheat from the chaff, that in sifting out the immaterial or extra material leaves the remainder purer and sterner: a clearer light and a sharper salt. While there are many headwaters of the streams of life, if the light is to remain strong and the salt fresh, then the Christian must derive her light from the true source and not from a watered-down variant or dimmed periphery.

The overriding force that drives these light-bearers is the imitation of a Christ for whom the will of God was, to quote Balthasar again, “the pedal note, sounding beneath all the intricacies of the fugue of his actions, controls and steadies the rhythm of the whole movement.” This steady drone-note is the foundation of the entire piece, and without it there is a deeper dimension of the music which is lost. The witness of the Godman is the irruption of that source of light and that single origin of the salt into the world in need of seasoning. In his presence the world choir recognizes the voice that has been missing all along, the integrating presence that will tie together the tapestry of their harmonies.

So there certainly is a task, even if the jury is still out on employment. That task is the fundamental one which gives the unpalatable world the savor of creation and renders an inhospitable cosmos bearable again.

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