Wednesday, July 7, 2010

like the universal sky...

Summer seems a good time to refresh and renew one's view of what church is.  For many of us, we are such church lovers that we rarely pause to consider why.  Here is part one of Samuel Longfellow on:


The household of God ... an habitation of God, through the Spirit. — Ephesians ii. 19, 22.

The whole body, fitly joined together, according to the effectual working, in its measure, of every part. — Ephesians iv. 16.

"The original meaning of the word church is convocation or assembly. The very term implies some common idea or purpose. It represents something more than a mere aggregate of persons such as individual and separate errands may bring together at any hour in the crowded streets of a city. It implies, I say, a common, uniting thought or feeling or aim ; and if this be permanent, there results a common spirit and life which form an organic whole. We limit, however, the word church to that unity whose central idea is a religious one, — the idea of God. The Mohammedan church, the Parsee Church, the Buddhist Church, the Christian Church, are each that society whose common life is in those forms of the religious idea which each derives from him whom it regards as its founder, and whose thought and influence it perpetuates. Through and above all these churches exists that universal Church of the race — man in his religious relations — which is founded on the ground-idea of God that lies at the root of all the various conceptions of God ; whose common life is in that mysterious disposition, that irrepressible tendency toward the invisible and the infinite, that universal sentiment of dependence upon a superior Will, that consciousness of God, which make man to be, by force of his nature, in all place and time, a religious being. Overarching all, like the universal sky; encompassing and inspiring all, like the universal air ; vitalizing and informing all, like the universal electric force, this idea of God, this religious consciousness, unites earth's millions in the attitude of prayer. Whenever it becomes vital in any human soul, it invests a citizen of the spiritual world, it initiates a member of the heavenly society. Every heart-throb of aspiration and devout reverence, every struggle to surmount the limits of the actual and the material, every sacrifice and martyrdom for the eternal and invisible, for right, truth, and good, — these attest the common life, and are the sign of the spiritual brotherhood. The oldest books and the most foreign tongues record my personal experience of this hour, and my inmost emotion comes to me matched in traditions beyond the circle of books.

Modern philosophers have invented the term solidarity to express the idea of a common life of the human race, distinct from the life of its individuals. To this common life all individual lives are contributors. No life is isolated ; but each is influenced by, bound to, dependent on, each other. So the race grows as the individuals and generations pass away. So each age inherits the thought, attainment, culture of the previous one, and transmits its own to its successor. So the past survives in the present, and the present prepares and makes possible the more perfect future. So are all human souls and destinies bound into one.

The same idea in the religious sphere is expressed by the unity of the Church"


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