Monday, October 01, 2012

Encountering the Light

Saint Hildegard von Bingen
Liber Scivias
Cod. Sal. X,16 Folio 111r

Saint Hildegard von Bingen

Saint Hildegard of Bingen, O.S.B.  (1098 – 17 September 1179), is to be proclaimed a Doctor of the Church this Sunday 7th October 2012

The announcement seems to have come out of nowhere.

 Its significance is underlined by the fact that it is taking place on Rosary Sunday, and on the opening of forthcoming Synod on Evangelisation. The Pope himself said:
“Especially in light of the project of the New Evangelization, to which the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be dedicated, and on the vigil of the Year of Faith, these two figures of saints and doctors are of considerable importance and relevance.” 

Unfortunately there have been and there are  attempts to recruit her into a New Age icon See the Wikipedia entry

But the Church has for many years tried to counter this perverted idea of what St Hildegard and others of her ilk

In 1989 the then Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the CDF published his Letter on some aspects of Christian Meditation (15th October 1989) (Orationis formas)

"III. Erroneous Ways of Praying 
8. Even in the first centuries of the Church some incorrect forms of prayer crept in. Some New Testament texts (cf. 1 Jn 4:3; 1 Tim 1:3-7 and 4:3-4) already give hints of their existence. Subsequently, two fundamental deviations came to be identified: Pseudognosticism and Messalianism, both of concern to the Fathers of the Church. 
There is much to be learned from that experience of primitive Christianity and the reaction of the Fathers which can help in tackling the current problem. 
In combating the errors of pseudognosticism the Fathers affirmed that matter is created by God and as such is not evil. Moreover, they maintained that grace, which always has the Holy Spirit as its source is not a good proper to the soul, but must be sought from God as a gift. Consequently, the illumination or superior knowledge of the Spirit ("gnosis"), does not make Christian faith something superfluous. 
Finally, for the Fathers, the authentic sign of a superior knowledge, the fruit of prayer, is always Christian love. 
9. If the perfection of Christian prayer cannot be evaluated using the sublimity of gnostic knowledge as a basis, neither can it be judged by referring to the experience of the divine, as Messalianism proposed. 
These false fourth century charismatics identified the grace of the Holy Spirit with the psychological experience of his presence in the soul. 
In opposing them, the Fathers insisted on the fact that the soul's union with God in prayer is realised in a mysterious way, and in particular through the sacraments of the Church. Moreover, it can even be achieved through experiences of affliction or desolation. 
Contrary to the view of the Messalians, these are not necessarily a sign that the Spirit has abandoned a soul. Rather, as masters of spirituality have always clearly acknowledged, they may be an authentic participation in the state of abandonment experienced on the cross by Our Lord, who always remains the model and mediator of prayer. 
10. Both of these forms of error continue to be a temptation for man the sinner. 
They incite him to try and overcome the distance separating creature from Creator, as though there ought not to be such a distance; to consider the way of Christ on earth, by which he wishes to lead us to the Father, as something now surpassed; to bring down to the level of natural psychology what has been regarded as pure grace, considering it instead as "superior knowledge" or as "experience." 
Such erroneous forms, having reappeared in history from time to time on the fringes of the Church's prayer, seem once more to impress many Christians, appealing to them as a kind of remedy, be it psychological or spiritual, or as a quick way of finding God. 
11. However, these forms of error, wherever they arise, can be diagnosed very simply.  
The meditation of the Christian in prayer seeks to grasp the depths of the divine in the salvific works of God in Christ, the Incarnate Word, and in the gift of his Spirit. These divine depths are always revealed to him through the human-earthly dimension. 
Similar methods of meditation, on the other hand, including those which have their starting-point in the words and deeds of Jesus, try as far as possible to put aside everything that is worldly, sense-perceptible or conceptually limited. It is thus an attempt to ascend to or immerse oneself in the sphere of the divine, which, as such, is neither terrestrial, sense-perceptible nor capable of conceptualization. 
This tendency, already present in the religious sentiments of the later Greek period (especially in "Neoplatonism"), is found deep in the religious inspiration of many peoples, no sooner than they become aware of the precarious character of their representations of the divine and of their attempts to draw close to it. 
12. With the present diffusion of eastern methods of meditation in the Christian world and in ecclesial communities, we find ourselves faced with a pointed renewal of an attempt, which is not free from dangers and errors, to fuse Christian meditation with that which is non-Christian. 
Proposals in this direction are numerous and radical to a greater or lesser extent. Some use eastern methods solely as a psycho-physical preparation for a truly Christian contemplation; others go further and, using different techniques, try to generate spiritual experiences similar to those described in the writings of certain Catholic mystics. 
Still others do not hesitate to place that absolute without image or concepts, which is proper to Buddhist theory, on the same level as the majesty of God revealed in Christ, which towers above finite reality. 
To this end, they make use of a "negative theology," which transcends every affirmation seeking to express what God is and denies that the things of this world can offer traces of the infinity of God. 
Thus they propose abandoning not only meditation on the salvific works accomplished in history by the God of the Old and New Covenant, but also the very idea of the One and Triune God, who is Love, in favor of an immersion "in the indeterminate abyss of the divinity." 
These and similar proposals to harmonise Christian meditation with eastern techniques need to have their contents and methods ever subjected to a thorough-going examination so as to avoid the danger of falling into syncretism."

It would seem that Fr John Chandler of St Edmund’s Church, Southampton,was quite right to  cancel the yoga  classes which had been booked for his church hall.