Sunday, 25 March 2012

Christians and Muslims

In the light of the Common Word initiative, in which 309 (and counting) Muslim leaders and academics from all branches of Islam agree on the truth that Islam and Christianity share common ground in the love of the One God, and love of neighbour, I thought the following passage from the late Fr Marie-Dominique Philippe's book Wherever He Goes: A Retreat on the Gospel of John (pp. 183-5) might be of interest. Fr Philippe is the founder of the Community of St John, and some years ago made several visits to Oxford.
"Apologetic arguments do not carry much weight today – fortunately. The Lord never did apologetics. He spoke the truth. 'The truth will set you free.' This is to be preferred; it is more evangelical. Apologetic arguments are always somewhat rhetorical and express but a partial truth. Today we are in need of a discovery of the truth in all its fullness. 'Why am I a Catholic and not Buddhist?' There are great Buddhists. I have encountered some. [And] I had a Muslim friend who, from what I could gather, had a mystical life, a
veritable life of adoration, an astonishing prayer life. Each time I saw him he would ask for a blessing and would say to me: 'We are brothers in God." Indeed, in the Creator, we are brothers, but I do pray that he one day see the fullness of light. Why are we not Muslim? It is something quite great. In a certain respect, Islam has kept adoration much more than we Christians have. When we visit Damascus for example, a holy city, we see things never seen at home. When the bells ring for prayer, the barber has his client step out – even should his hair not be completely cut! – and, in front of everyone, roll out his prayer mat and adore. The adoration of a true Muslim who believes is marvellous to behold. Thus we may ask: 'Why am I a Christian?' The profound reason is that Christianity unites man to God. It is God who comes towards us and raises us to himself. The heart of man is the heart of God. Love for God and love for neighbour are but one. This love is what is characteristic of the Christian life, what is unique to it. There is but one love. Love for God and love for neighbour are the same love. We find this in no other religion. The heart of man has become the heart of God, and the meeting place for man and God is Christ, in whom man and God are united in substantial and personal unity."
Thus A Common Word is correct, and this common ground can be the basis for a true friendship between peoples, yet it is only the beginning of a conversation between the faiths.

Fr Philippe goes on to distinguish faith in Christ from any religious tradition whatever. Christian faith binds us not to a law or doctrine but to a person. "The Christian life is above all, contemplation," and "to give primacy to religious tradition is to materialize the Christian life, for the Christian life is not primarily religious tradition." Traditions inevitably "undergo a certain materialization". Fr Philippe perhaps has the Traditionalists in his sights; yet he is a deeply traditional writer. He is not against, nor does he deny, the reality or value of doctrines and traditions. "We must not suppress religious traditions by being opposed to them. We must purify them, sift them in the light of faith."

No comments:

Post a Comment