Sunday, December 23, 2007

Get behind me Santa!

Christmas is a time when I normally find myself listening to Sufjan Stevens 'Songs for Christmas' (also available on iTunes) at some point. This year was no exception (he's normally playing as people arrive for the Service of 9 Lessons and Carols).
Anyway, he's just appeared in the Guardian with a list of his favourite Christmas songs (the article is entitled 'Get behind me Santa' which made me chuckle). Read it here.
(update: for some reason blogger isn't letting me add links so if you're really that interested then search the Guardian site!)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Quiet Time

One of the peculiarities of my job is that even though I am a priest in the Church of England, Christmas is quite a quiet time for me!
Our little community is largely made up of younger adults for whom it is a time of year to go away to see family etc.
So our big event for this time of year is our Service of 9 Lessons and Carols which we had last Sunday evening. After that things tend to quiet down considerably.
So I am trying to use the time to do some reading, particularly as next year we hope to launch some spirituality material for unchurched people.
This week I have read some Bernard of Clairvaux (pictured here). One thing he said that I found particularly interesting is the stages of love that we go through in our spiritual journey. He characterised them like this:
Stage 1 : we love ourselves for our own sake
Stage 2 : we love God for our own sake
Stage 3 : we love God for God's sake
Stage 4 : we love ourselves for God's sake
I'm not sure I totally get the last one and indeed Bernard says that it's very rare in this life. But the others make a lot of sense to me.
I'm very aware of how easy it is to love God and 'do all the religious stuff' for what I get out of it (stage 2) though of course we never put it in those terms. And I'm not sure that's a totally invalid thing (echoes here of the Westminster Catechism where it talks about 'enjoying God' which John Piper also talks about although I'm really not a fan of his).

It's interesting to hear this common theme emerging in the mystics which can basically be summarised as a turning from the self as the focus of attention (stages 1 and 2 in Bernard's schema) to a focus on God (stage 3), which involves a kind of emptying and forgetfulness of self.

Anyway, maybe I'll post some more tidbits as I uncover them.