On Wednesday of this week, Rowan Williams delivered the first address by an Archbishop of Canterbury to the Synod of Bishops in Rome. The Synod of Bishops, according to the vatican Web site, quoting Pope Paul VI:
is an ecclesiastic institution, which, on interrogating the signs of the times and as well as trying to provide a deeper interpretation of divine designs and the constitution of the Catholic Church, we set up after Vatican Council II in order to foster the unity and cooperation of bishops around the world with the Holy See. It does this by means of a common study concerning the conditions of the Church and a joint solution on matters concerning Her mission. It is neither a Council nor a Parliament but a special type of Synod
It’s a particularly noteworthy Synod, as it marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The theme of the 2012 Synod is “Nova evangelizatio ad christianam fidem tradendam—The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” Rowan Williams used the opportunity to point to the “revolutionary” significance of contemplation in the Christian life. There are many striking passages in the Archbishop’s address, but here is one of my favorites:
To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to all the fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our hearts. With our minds made still and ready to receive, with our self-generated fantasies about God and ourselves reduced to silence, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow. And the face we need to show to our world is the face of a humanity in endless growth towards love, a humanity so delighted and engaged by the glory of what we look towards that we are prepared to embark on a journey without end to find our way more deeply into it, into the heart of the trinitarian life. St Paul speaks (in II Cor 3.18) of how ‘with our unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord’, we are transfigured with a greater and greater radiance. That is the face we seek to show to our fellow-human beings.
I was away for two days for some family vacation when this address was delivered. I travelled with my boys to Bend, in Central Oregon, to be with my wife, Rev. Erin Martin, while she attended the Order of Elders meeting at Bend United Methodist Church. We enjoyed the outdoors during breaks in the meeting schedule, and we also had an opportunity to make a leisurely drive home yesterday afternoon, stopping along the way at the Dee Wright Observatory at the McKenzie Pass, and for a short loop hike to Proxy Falls. A picture I took of my son on the hike to Proxy Falls is, I think, evocative of the beautiful picture Rowan Williams has drawn in words—a picture of the life of Christian contemplation as a journey that draws us ever deeper into the glory of love divine.