Beauty Calls Us

Two things of beauty captured me today.

In Vienna, there was a meeting to remember and transcend awful events of 500 years ago. There was a meeting of Catholics and Anabaptists to “commemorate the martyrs of the Radical Reformation.” The invitation to the meeting was: We no longer address each other as members of two different sides but simply as brothers and sisters. Despite the weight of history and all our theological differences, we come together as Christians who have found each other and want to learn from one another how we can faithfully serve Jesus Christ today.

The Catholic representative, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, read from Psalm 51 and they prayed “We thank you, dear Father, that we can gather today with joyous hearts, but also with broken and contrite hearts. Forgive us, dear Lord, wherever we have harmed your children in the past, those who are our brothers and sisters. Heal the memories of those Christians who were persecuted here in our country. Forgive and redeem the injustice that has taken place here. Grant that we may now, in this country, bear witness to the unity among Christians who belong to different confessions. For your glory and the building up of your kingdom,

The Anabaptist representative, Heinrich Arnold, said “Jesus’ final prayer for unity among his disciples in John 17, “That they may all be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you,” is so vital and important today. Are we all one today? What does Jesus mean by that? How can we be one? What a tragedy that we Christians today are still so divided, not just because we have different traditions and doctrines, or call ourselves Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Anabaptists, but because we don’t have enough love for each other. Why is it that after two thousand years we still have not arrived at the unity Jesus prayed for?

He then quoted Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “We cannot bring about unity in the church by diplomatic maneuvers. The result would only be a diplomatic structure based on human principles. Instead, we must open ourselves more and more to our Lord Jesus Christ. The unity he brings about is the only true unity. Anything else is a political construction, which is as transitory as all political constructions are … This is the more difficult way, for in political maneuvers people themselves are active and believe they can achieve something. We must wait on the Lord, that he will give us unity, and of course we must go to meet him by cleansing our hearts. … Together let us allow the Lord to cleanse us and let us learn the truth from him, the truth that is love, so that he can work and so that he brings us together.

A representative of the Hutterites, Eduard Geissler, said, “Spiritually, both groups shared roots in late medieval mysticism and the lay movement Devotio Moderna. They both had the same basic conviction that a personal relationship with God or wholeheartedly following Jesus presupposes a commitment made with a mature faith. For the Anabaptists, this meant believers’ baptism. For the Jesuits, this meant a prayer of total surrender after completing the spiritual exercises. Suddenly Catholicism had a counterpart to believer’s baptism, a factor that probably also contributed to the success of the Counter-Reformation. Moreover, both groups looked to the model of the early church. The Anabaptists wanted to recover this model, founding churches on the principle of “new wines in new wineskins.” The Jesuits wanted to renew the church so that the Catholic Church would be a “genuinely spiritual church with genuinely spiritual Christians.” Neither wished to return to the church that existed before the Reformation. Both emphasized putting faith into practice in everyday life, following the directives in scripture as “doers of the word,” which presupposes knowledge of the Bible. And both sides invested in education, forming their own high-quality schools.

This commemoration not only remembered the great tragedy of persecution, but looked beyond persecuted/persecutor to recognize the commonality of the faith of all those believers – and the healing that can only come from Jesus.

The second thing of beauty was a reflection of how beauty captured the imaginations of the nation of Aztecs. The picture shown here is a modern work done in the style of those Aztecs. While the Aztecs did not have knowledge of Jesus, they still saw in beauty something beyond this life. In one of their ancient songs they said,

Certainly, it is elsewhere in the hereafter where there is true joy …
Truly there is another life in the hereafter.
I wish to go there, I wish to sing amongst
the multitude of precious birds.
I wish to enjoy the holy flowers.
The fragrant flowers, the ones that please the heart
Only their intoxicating fragrance makes one happy, their fragrance intoxicates.

In the midst of all the tragedy around us, hopefully we can pause to see the beauty around us in all its different forms, and remember the author of that Beauty

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