Archbishop Rowan is in Rome for three days. Yesterday evening he addressed the Synod of Bishops. He chose as his theme the importance of contemplation as the foundation of evangelism. The Archbishop’s springboard was the hope engendered by the Second Vatican Council and in particularly the renewal of the Christian understanding of what it means to be human (Christian anthropology).
the Council built on the greatest insights of a theology that had returned to earlier and richer sources – the theology of spiritual geniuses like Henri de Lubac, who reminded us of what it meant for early and mediaeval Christianity to speak of humanity as made in God’s image and of grace as perfecting and transfiguring that image so long overlaid by our habitual ‘inhumanity’. In such a light, to proclaim the Gospel is to proclaim that it is at last possible to be properly human: the Catholic and Christian faith is a ‘true humanism’
A key part of being human is therefore to contemplate God’s goodness, grace and love and in that contemplation to forget our pre-occupation with ourselves and be caught up into service of God and the world.
To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.
The Archbishop drew attention to places of spiritual depth in the contemporary world – such as Taize and Bose – and to the new ecclesial movements and communities which flow from the discipline of the contemplative life. It is a rich and inspiring address and worth reading and re-reading. The habit of contemplation is foundational to evangelisation:
The enemy of all proclamation of the Gospel is self-consciousness, and, by definition, we cannot overcome this by being more self-conscious.
It is hard to communicate what a significant mark of respect it was for the Archbishop to be invited to address the Synod for 30 minutes and take questions for a further 30. This is the first time such an invitation has been given to an Anglican in the 50 years of the Synod’s existence. All contributions to the Synod by the Roman Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops are limited to just five minutes. This was both a significant honour and an opportunity.
The address was very well received and matched the theme of the Synod exactly. The Synod Fathers have returned again and again to the need to begin afresh from the face of Christ, to reflect more deeply on their own faith, to the need for the evangelisers to be evangelised. The Archbishop spoke from the theologians who themselves resourced the Second Vatican Council to resource their successors in their vital task.
Archbishop Rowan is regarded here will immense respect and affection. His legacy of a stronger link between Canterbury and Rome is seen as vital for the future. Ecumenism and Evangelisation continue to walk hand in hand: to be one so that the world may believe (John 17.24).
The full text of the speech is here: http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/2645/