Understanding and belief key to Grant’s works

Published March 1, 2002

FROM THE VERY beginning the Cross of Jesus Christ presented a dilemma. Gentiles considered it a “foolishness” while for Jews it was a “stumbling block.” For believers it revealed “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Over the centuries it became a symbol of triumphant hope for believers but also, too often, a symbol of fear and even terror to unbelievers. Modern Christians seem mostly to take it for granted. The crosses in our churches, the renditions in jewelry, the pictorial accounts in books and stained glass seem a far cry from the realities of a rough wooden cross for executing criminals. How deeply have we understood what such a death reveals about the nature of God’s power and wisdom? How should we respond in bringing that power and wisdom to effect in daily human affairs? All of which brings me to George Grant and the Theology of the Cross by Harris Athanasiadis. George Grant was a child of privilege whose education and experiences during World War II led him to become a questioning and prophetic presence in Canada. One of those experiences, as he was finding it almost impossible to cope with the chaos and anguish of war all around him, was to ride his bicycle one morning through a farm’s gate and suddenly he knew: “God is.” “Grant explained the meaning of this experience later in his life. It was a belief that all was finally well, that ‘beyond time and space there is order,’ that ‘ultimately the world is not a maniacal chaos.’ It was the realization that ‘I am not my own’ but belong to an ‘Other.'”[pullquote]This experience is the key to all that followed in his life. Credo, ut intelligam: understanding originates in belief. The search for that understanding in philosophy and theology, in politics and social policy, made for an uncomfortable bedfellow among his family, his peers, his fellow Christians and Canadians generally. His widely read Lament for a Nation continues to haunt the Canadian conscience. Harris Athanasiadis proposes that it is the theology of the Cross, as understood by Luther, and the influence of Simone Weil the philosopher / activist / mystic which provides the foundations for his critical thought and the underlying optimism of his faith. This book is a great contribution to the ongoing study of George Grant’s thought and will be rewarding for all those who, through an experience of the reality of the resurrection, find it necessary to struggle with the deeper significance of the Cross revealing the power and wisdom of God. The process of renewal in the church is hazardous and certainly that has been the experience of all those who have engaged in the work of liturgical renewal over the past 60 years. The enthusiasm for renewal has been vastly overestimated in many parishes while the power of inherited culture has exerted an influence that was not fully contemplated. Louis Weil, a knowledgeable and gentle liturgical scholar, has written A Theology of Worship in which he tackles most of the questions which can (and do) become problems. He begins with how we understand the Christian community, how it is shaped and what it represents as people come together week after week. He calls for “The Recovery of a Baptismal Ecclesiology” in which the church understands itself as “a people called together in the name of God. The people of God express that identity with a special intensity in gathering for corporate prayer, where through word and sacrament their unity in Christ is signified and strengthened.” What takes place in baptism is defining and fundamental. He calls for this recovery because that identity has become obscured over the centuries by ecclesiastical structures and an understanding of “mutuality of ministry” has been eroded. He then looks at the various aspects of how worship is planned and executed in parishes in the context of raising questions. Who celebrates? Whose culture? Whose music? Whose sacraments? These chapter headings open the doors for examining how we view what happens in worship and in assessing our own understandings. The chapters on culture and music are particularly illuminating as the challenges of multi-culturalism increasingly confront the Christian community even in the most isolated areas. This a book about change and the author’s contention is, “We should not lament that change, but see it as a gift and challenge from God to us as we seek how we may live and proclaim our faith in what is still God’s world.” An excellent book for groups and at the end there are questions relating to each chapter to stimulate a lively dialogue.


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