I have been typing and saving selections from our late Bishop Morse’s sermons and writings into Word files to be published soon by the American Church Union. As I type, I can see him saying the words, see his gestures, hear his tone and cadence, his deep and sonorous voice as he preached from the central aisle of churches and chapels.
There are several themes emerging from the lined yellow papers, all spinning around and within the Love of God, but the one that I have found especially true in my own life is the sanity of belief, the ordering of chaos, the means to a meaningful life. Sanity is rooted in the Latin sanitas, health. It has come to mean mental health, the ability to reason within the realm of reality. For the bishop, such sanity led to traces of sanctity.
It does strike me as odd and also tragic, as it did Bishop Morse, that so many don’t see what seems so obvious to many a Christian. It is heartbreaking to see hearts so broken and bleeding in our secular culture today. It is, I suppose, the cost of freedom and love and choice, all intrinsic to the whole cloth of Christian belief. But even so, as I journey into Christ I journey deeper into His tears, weeping for those I love, scattered like lost sheep in the deepening dusk at the end of the day.
There is much in the Gospels about seeing and hearing, watching and waiting, seeking and finding, asking and answering. Because these matters matter so much but are also tightly bound to the world of matter, they are often unseen and half-understood. Christ teaches in parables to help us understand how God has acted to redeem us from our selves, our selfishness. He is expressing the inexpressible, so that we can see and choose Him or not. Poets attempt this realm. I have found in the bishop’s sermons many quotes from Christian writers, from T.S. Eliot and St. Augustine, Boris Pasternak and Fyodor Dostoevsky, words that reflect the great themes of St. Paul who also tried to feed his flock in ways they would understand.
Many do not believe in Christ the Son of God because they think His life and death and resurrection unproven, and belief to be irrational and even insane. To me the Resurrection of Christ has been shown to be reasonably and historically true, certainly as true as the grass is green or the sky is blue. That’s enough for me. That’s enough to set me on my journey of faith and see where it leads. I have not been disappointed.
It leads of course to Christ’s Body on earth, the Church. For the Church, in spite of being composed of imperfect human beings, is the best ark we have. Within this sacred vessel bound for Heaven we feed on Scripture and sacrament, prayer and praise. We have mentors to guide us, brothers and sisters whom we love and who love us, each one finding his own unique God-given identity and purpose. Traveling this Way and with this Truth, I will fully know Life. I will learn love’s demands. With this Family of God, this Body of Christ, I will travel into the heart of God, and He into me.
We are creatures designed to search for meaning. Without meaning we begin a journey into despair, for the path only stretches forward to life or backwards to death. Deep within we know this, and we search for meaning in little isms, so desperate are we to have a sane reason to continue living. Today there is an array of “meaningful” pursuits that don’t involve belief in God or His manifestation on earth among us. Unbelievers, casting about, create their own religions, whether they be of the earth or of man.
But Love demands freedom to choose. So God gives us choices, and some we make are insane and make no sense and some we make are sane and make complete sense. Some choices allow evil to fester and grow. Some choices distort and maim and kill.
As we try to choose sanely what or whom we believe and how we should order our lives, we should consider whether we desire our short spans to make a difference in this world or the next. Anyone can embrace good works without God (although such efforts are often short-lived and disingenuous), but to say yes to Christ, to ask our Creator to guide our choices, is to allow us to become our true selves, the persons we were made to be. So we ask ourselves, are we traveling in the right direction? Are we knowing joy? Can we say that we we are sane or are we living in a fantasy, phantasmal world of our own creation?
The word fantasy has roots in the Latin phantasia, imagination or appearance, and later phantom from phantazein, to make visible. Phantoms made the invisible visible. Today a fantasy is deemed untrue, imagined.
It is crucial to face what Bishop Morse calls “Reality,” to live a life of sanity and in the end, of sanctity. We are challenged to face the fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth who called himself one with God the Father. We must look with eyes that see regardless of whether current correctness calls such facts fantasy. Have we not eyes and ears? Can we not see and hear? Have we not minds that can reason? And we must be humble enough to seek help from those who have made the journey before us. So much is at stake. We must ignore the phantasmal shapes, beware and be aware of the watering down of history to suit cultural mood and personal need, and steer away from phantasmal ghouls wailing the sirens’ song.
We must face these truths and choose the path to Heaven. Then and only then can we know sacred sanity and genuine joy, even embrace traces of sanctity. We can, if we choose Love, sculpt our time on earth with magnificent meaning. Life is so short. We don’t want to miss one second on this reason-able pilgrimage into God.