A few years before I began going to Saint Martin’s (patron of soldiers, alcoholics and beggars) there had been a major fracas within the parish over the decision by the bishop to allow priestly blessings of same-sex unions within the diocese, with roughly half of the community – while by no means necessarily happy the bishop’s decision – willing to live with it, with the other half being unable to stomach it. It ended with the disaffected half “seceding” from the diocese, organizing themselves into a new community under a new saint, namely Saint Timothy, patron against intestinal disorders.
Along with many other Anglican communities throughout North America which were alienated upon similar grounds, they sought shelter under the traditionalist primate of the ecclesial province of the Southern Cone of America, a huge area covering the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, having in total a reported 22,000 Anglicans thinly spread over six dioceses in as many countries. The primate of that province was no doubt mightily pleased to swell the ranks, even if the considerable inflow was not quite what you would call a physical reality. Anglicans after all are in short supply in this area of the globe. The rector of St. Martin’s, meanwhile, who had strong Calvinist leanings, a rare condition amongst Anglicans I would say, withdrew to Switzerland with his Swiss Calvinist wife, presumably to re-configure himself with a more concentrated study of the monumental Institutes of the Christian Religion. The other half of the parish, the half left behind, the less outraged-half, were a subdued – or so it seemed to me when I first arrived – somewhat dispirited group.
Now, why do I mention all this? Not because I find myself for or against blessings by the Church of same-sex unions. The issue simply does not stir me to run to the barricades on either side. Besides, strange to relate, it seems to me that both parties, quite apart from all the sparks flying, have their claim of truth. No, the reason I mention this is because of what Christ told his Apostles. He told them that his followers would be known by their love, giving them a new commandment that summarized not only his teachings, but his whole life and death, his descent into hell and resurrection: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Morton Kelsey writes somewhere that the Church, despite nearly three centuries of persecution – a persecution often unbelievably brutal – triumphed over the Roman Empire for three simple reasons: that “the Christians out-died, out-lived, and – more to the point – out-loved the pagans.” Yet, already, a little over three centuries after the above words of the Master, very soon after the persecutions ceased, we have, according to Sulpicius Severus, the hagiographer of Saint Martin, these words of Martin’s pagan father, when he learned of his son’s decision to become a Christian:
People who flatter themselves on finding the true faith should start by agreeing on what it is! Maybe then we’ll be able to believe them! What a spectacle they make of themselves now: people tear each other apart, think only of taking sides, endlessly debate the questions that divide them, and sow discord and dissention everywhere.
And so it was, for the religion of love by that time was racked with controversy, the Christian community torn apart by different voices proclaiming different understandings of Christ, those understandings being unable to find reconciliation with each other, even though everyone pretty well agreed that love was the foundation of Christianity. The devil, it would seem, really is to be found in the details. Dia-bolon (hence the English “diabolical”) is a Greek word meaning “one who separates”, hence the Church east and west separating over the filioque clause that was added to the Nicene Creed by the West; hence the West separating into Protestant and Catholic over issues of reform; hence the Protestants dividing into Lutherans, Calvinists, and Zwinglians over issues of doctrine; hence the Anglican church going its own peculiar way (via media) over the issue of a denied request for an annulment of a King’s marriage; hence who knows how many thousands of denominations over the last few centuries dividing over who knows what and how many issues; hence the parish of Saint Martin splitting down the middle, with half its people marching off to the bottom half of South America (in a manner of speaking) over the issue of ecclesial blessings of same-sex unions.
We have issues and separations, we have countless issues, countless separations, hence countless “communions” and “confessions”: this despite the words in the Nicene Creed – “I believe (credo) One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”.
Even papal authority, for all its claims to represent the fullness of faith through its founding upon the rock that was Peter, acknowledges this scandal of division amongst Christians. Pope Paul VI, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi exhorts:
As evangelizers, we must offer Christ’s faithful not the image of people divided and separated by unedifying quarrels, but the image of people who are mature in faith and capable of finding a meeting-point beyond the real tensions, thanks to a shared, sincere and disinterested search for truth. Yes, the destiny of evangelization is certainly bound up with the witness of unity given by the Church. . . . At this point we wish to emphasize the sign of unity among all Christians as the way and instrument of evangelization. The division among Christians is a serious reality which impedes the very work of Christ.
All this division makes the head dizzy, don’t you think, and it wrenches the heart. Of course it hardly soothes the aching conscience when, among esotericists, we have some standing well- and comfortably apart in their castle-towers of privileged knowledge, within their little fiefdoms of lectures and study groups, speaking breezily of “ecclesiastical” Christianity having had its day. As if living in a world of shopping malls, tract housing, freeways and sports arenas, a world without visible churches, without the Holy Eucharist beckoning poor souls, were a consummation devoutly to be wished, a condition which, for Hamlet, who in a certain sense is a type of esotericist himself, amounts to death.
Esoteric or not, all true Christians will surely acknowledge the need for healing. And for healing we must have wisdom. “To preach love is useless,” says Rudolf Steiner in Isis Mary Sophia: Her Mission and Ours (SteinerBooks, 2003, p. 67):
Wisdom makes a person open and receptive because it is a foundation from which love for all things grows. . . . (The Therapeutae and Essenes were wise; they were also most compassionate and loving.) When wisdom warms the soul, love streams forth; thus we can understand that there are people who can heal through the laying on of hands. Wisdom pours forces of love through their limbs. Christ was the wisest, and therefore also the greatest, healer. Unless love and compassion unite with wisdom, no genuine help can be forthcoming. If someone lying in the street with a broken leg is surrounded by people full of compassion, but without knowledge, they cannot help. The doctor who comes with knowledge of how to deal with a broken leg can help, for his wisdom transforms his compassion into action. Basic to all help provided by human beings is knowledge, insight, and ability. We are always surrounded by wisdom because wise beings created the world. When this wisdom has reached its climax it will have become all-encompassing love. Love will stream toward us from the world of the future. Love is born of wisdom, and the wisest spiritual being is the greatest healer. From Christ is born the Holy, that is, the Healing Spirit.
The Healing Spirit, because it is Holy, the Healing Spirit because it makes whole, because it makes you and me whole, because it makes the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church whole. Mary in her most pure humanity, Mary in her most lovely lowliness, Mary as the perfect vessel of the Holy Spirit: she is Sophia, she is Wisdom herself warming the soul. “She is initiated into the knowledge that belongs to God, and she chooses what his works are to be” (Wisd. 8:4), which is quite evident from the start of Christ’s ministry when, at the wedding at Cana, when as the Mother of the Divine Son, she initiates the healing miracle of the changing of water into wine. Healing miracle, because it turns the “water” of ordinary human relationships in their routine interaction into the “wine” of youthful enthusiasm for the divine in the other. Though “she is but one, yet [she] can do all things; herself unchanging, she makes all things new; age after age she enters into holy souls, and makes them friends of God and prophets” (Wisd. 7:27).
She enlightens the wise heads of kings through a living theosophy, anthroposophy and hermeticism; she also warms simple shepherds’ hearts with her appearances, beginning with her appearance to Catherine Labouré in the rue du Bac in Paris in 1830, on through increasingly apocalyptic appearances at Lourdes, Fatima, Amsterdam, Cuape, Medjugorje, San Nicolas, and Bentania to mention some places. Christopher Bamford, in his introduction to Isis Mary Sophia (pp. 40, 41), well summarizes her messages at all the places wherein she has appeared:
Announcing a new epoch – whose realization depends upon humanity’s returning to the universal spiritual law of prayer, love, and sacrifice – Mary comes as the mother of all humanity and the being closest to Christ, and speaks to her earthly children as a suffering mother. Her heart weeps for our human souls and our predicament. Healing mediator, comforter, queen, exemplar, and teacher, she calls for a new birth of Christ in humanity and the Earth. First, prayer; then, love and an open heart. Above all she calls for peace and the unity of all through mutual reconciliation and forgiveness. The messages are staggering in their simplicity and repetitiveness: pray, pray, pray; love, love, love; open your hearts; pray with your hearts; clean your hearts; fast and pray with your hearts; open your hearts to the Spirit. More specifically: “Each child of God must seek reconciliation with every other person immediately for the love of God.” And again: I invite you to prayer of the heart. If you pray from your heart, dear children, the ice-cold hearts of your brothers will be melted and every barrier will disappear.” And again, still more specifically: “I call you to love your neighbors, to love those people from whom evil is coming to you.”
And what makes us think that the Holy Virgin is speaking only to the faithful multitudes, to the Roman Catholic faithful? Why wouldn’t she be speaking to the Anglican faithful as well? Why wouldn’t she be calling upon each and every Christian esotericist to pray from the heart, from the simple shepherd’s heart each and everyone can uncover within himself?
Saint Martin’s is celebrating its centenary this year. Originally named Saint Thomas, when it was dedicated in 1910, it was at the end of the First World War that the church was re-dedicated to the present saint. Thomas the Apostle is patron of the blind and of souls in doubt, whereas Martin of Tours, as mentioned before, is patron of soldiers, alcoholics and beggars. The centenary celebrations will culminate on the Sunday of November 14 (November 11 being the actual feast day of Saint Martin, which is known also as Martinmas) with a visit from the bishop, with banquet to follow.
Meanwhile, beginning November 3rd, a few of us have been meeting at the church each evening to pray a novena together. On the last day of this novena – the feast of Saint Martin – the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated. The favor we are asking? That “the Lord Jesus Christ send His Spirit unto us, that a right spirit be renewed within us.” For these twenty minutes each evening, standing at the baptismal font, standing before the icon of the Holy Virgin, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, we are beggars of the spirit; we are poor soldiers of Christ seeking healing for the Christian community called Saint Martin’s; we are recovering alcoholics of the shut-down ego asking that our hearts be melted, that our carefully built barriers come quietly down.
As Steiner says, to preach love is useless. But when it is the Holy Virgin herself that bids us to return to “the universal spiritual law of prayer, love, and sacrifice”? This is not preaching, dear Reader, this is wisdom itself – this is Holy Sophia herself – coming to the heart of each one of us through the beseeching words of a suffering mother. How can we doubt that Mary is for everyone? How can we doubt that Sophia is for everyone? She who makes all things new? She who would enter the soul and make us friends of God and of prophets?
Pax et Bonum,