“Go Francis, and repair my house.”

March 14, 2013 § 8 Comments

Long ago I had a dream.  It was some time after we moved away from a spiritual home, a contemplative Benedictine monastery.  I was bereft.  Challenged – in my new work of learning psychotherapy.  In the dream I was faced with a ruined monastery, a pasture strewn with weathered stones.  Which I felt compelled to somehow rebuild.  Stone by stone.  It was an impossible task. But there it was!

I am reminded of this dream by the election of a new Pope, who has chosen the name, Francis, and by words spoken to his namesake, while praying:

Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.

Having pondered these words, in the light of the crisis currently gripping the church of Rome, I cannot but consider all their portent as a key to what this new Pope faces and must try to tackle.  Like my dream, admittedly, an impossible task.  This post is an effort to ponder a bit, in the light of scripture, the meaning of those words:  Repair my house.

House, as a concept, is rich in meaning throughout the entire Bible.  In addition to a specific dwelling, house in the Hebrew Bible often refers to a lineage or an entire people.  It’s a common figure of speech, where a “part” stands for the “whole”.  So, for example, the House of Israel, which can stand for the lineage of Jacob, given the name Israel after his encounter with God.  Or House of Israel can stand for the entire Jewish nation as we see over and over, for example in these psalm verses:

He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.                                 [Psalm 98.3]

The Lord has been mindful of us; he will bless us;
he will bless the house of Israel;
he will bless the house of Aaron;            [Psalm 115.12]

O house of Israel, bless the Lord!
O house of Aaron, bless the Lord!         [Psalm 135.19]

There is another meaning for house in the Bible.  It can stand for the dwelling of the Holy One.  And along with that there is a strong admonition that no man can build such a house, without the express direction of YHWH, the Holy One.  There is a long story about this in the Book of Samuel and you can find a pretty good explanation of it here.  The long and short of it is found once again in a Psalm:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.

St. Francis would have been aware of this admonition.  Pope Francis, as well.  But there is another, perhaps even more important, aspect to the story from Second Samuel, which concerns a prophecy, one which bears on the use of the term house in the New Testament:

12When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.

Christ identified himself with the Temple in Jerusalem, which is another way of saying that Jesus is the true dwelling of YHWH, the very residence of God’s Glory.  Revealer of God’s word and will.  Capable of imparting Divine Life to willing souls.  And Paul took up this image for the ecclesia, the assembly of Christians, which we now term, the church.

Thus, if you are following along here, there is a progression from the concrete (an actual house, an actual lineage or people, an actual Temple) to a metaphor, which is a Spiritual Reality, the assembled People of God, which constitutes the Living Christ, the Divine Life (of promise) embodied in each and all of us.  Assuming that we allow ourselves to be built, fashioned, in the Divine Image.  This is the mystical understanding of John’s Gospel and of many passages in Paul’s letters.  It is not a work we can do on our own, any more than David could build a house for the Lord on his own.

This requires Divine initiative.  A calling.  And humble response.

Now I am no prophet nor seer.  But it does not take a lightening strike to see the state of crisis in the church of Rome.  And it doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to interpret the name “Francis” and the choice of that name by a humble, newly elected Pope, faced with a church falling into ruins – to come up with an accurate interpretation – for our day – of words (and a calling!) first given to St. Francis, and now inherited by Pope Francis:

“Go Francis, and repair my house … falling into ruin.”

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§ 8 Responses to “Go Francis, and repair my house.”

  • Fran Schultz says:

    He chose the name Francis. Why? I cannot answer that now. It is too early in his Papacy to really say. Wasn’t there an Inquisition during the time of St. Francis? Haven’t we been witnessing one within the Church these days? Who will Pope Francis support and who will he reject?

    Time will tell. I just read that the Vatican spokespersons would rather not discuss issues and that we keep silent and not discuss anything. Just obey them.

    Are we so desperate a people for leadership that has integrity and is truly humble that we will start believing in those who talk the talk but never truly walk the walk themselves?

    With regard to the treatment of women in the church, the Church has already died. This new Pope gives honor to Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and to all his Cardinals in a Church that is in complete ruins and they are just too blind to even see it.

    Read the new Pope’s address to the Cardinals at Blue Eyed Ennis web page.

    I am glad that I do not rely on my Faith in God by whoever is in leadership in Rome or anywhere else.

  • Fran Schultz says:

    “Assuming that we allow ourselves to be built, fashioned, in the Divine Image. This is the mystical understanding of John’s Gospel and of many passages in Paul’s letters. It is not a work we can do on our own, any more than David could build a house for the Lord on his own.

    This requires Divine initiative. A calling. And humble response.”

    I know that I have had a humble response. I can not say the same for those I have met on the supposed road to Emmaus who claim to be following Jesus who left me by the side of the road to rot and die a few winters ago. Where were the Good Samaritans when I needed them?

    They took off. They left me stranded. They preferred silence to communication in a human way. They preferred walking across the street because they felt they were more superior, more learned, more this, or more that.

  • Fran Schultz says:

    Divine initiative. We should discuss this.

  • Fran Schultz says:

    And how many people there are throughout the world who suffer and the church and the world just looks the other way, crosses the street, passes by, ignores the cries? I realize that Faith and the readings of the Scriptures are a God-send. For were it not for these writings I fear nothing would make any sense. How often all the day & night I plead with the Lord for understanding. My life lately seems as if it is in Job mode, if you know what I mean.

    First, people need to find the people that are not going to mess them up even worse than they are! LOL!!

    St. Francis is my patron Saint. I feel he is very near. I’ve felt his presence for quite some time. The real one. Not the Pope. We’ll have to see about this Pope Francis. It is quite a name to be named after. I want to read all the books about him. I feel him in my stroll throughout our little grounds here. Some years ago I saw a statue of St. Francis at a store and I should have grabbed it but was very frugal at the time out of necessity. Next time I went to the store it was gone. I feel he is a gentle soul. Wildlife is all around him. Birds singing. Butterflies dancing around. Fireflies lighting up. He’s all about life. Flowers even bending towards him. He had no fear of even menacing wolves. He definitely seemed to be able to calm any spirit. He saw the world through a piece of heaven.

    What world would not want to welcome him into their life?

    That is, I suppose, the sort of power that God can provide for those who love our Divine Creator as much as he did.

    Since we are the Church, it is not just the Pope that gets to rebuild the Church. We get to also. Each of us to the best of our abilities with the help and grace of God given to us in His Divine & Loving Mercy. Through our Baptism and our Faith.

  • Fran Schultz says:

    And by loving the Divine Creator I mean by contemplating the majesty of the creation of this world we live in. There is also the other side of the coin, which is the devastation of this world we live in with its wars, guns, poverty, abuses of all kinds. If I dwell on its destructive nature it will do me no good. Yet I can not hide my eyes from those who suffer from it. And so I must look at the darkness and try to shine the light on it. Most people are too busy to notice or side-tracked. I have so much joy now from realizing that those who have the courage to look upon these things are also trying to make it a better world. Some might call that whining. It is not. It is telling it like it is. I do cry out to the heavens that mankind will be kinder. I pray that I will be kinder. It is hard to be kind towards those who condemn. That is what Jesus had to bear. So we must also. Are we chosen for this work? Is this the calling, to see the madness all around and see the possibilities for heaven to get through somehow by Divine initiative, through our works? Depending on one’s philosophy and world view, one could cook up some craziness or peace and love.

    The state of the Church has been of no help for too many. It has become stale and stagnant, cold and has a hardened heart. It most definitely needs the light of Christ in it in concrete ways that will add value to the lives of people everywhere on the planet. I am so damn tired of all of the destruction and the men running things to oblivion.

  • TheraP says:

    Clearly, Fran, this post has struck many chords in you. And brought to the surface much suffering.

    This morning I read a quote from the new pope’s press conference, where he talked about how so many have left the church due to people in the church who acted more like walls than bridges. I have a feeling, Fran, that you and the pope would disagree over some things, but that nevertheless he would seek to bridge the differences – in the light of Christ. I think you and he would share concern for creation and for the poor and the suffering.

    While you and I may disagree with the pope on certain matters, this man speaks more to the heart than to the head, it seems to me. Saying things like: “We must never lose hope” – rather than: “We must never use birth control.” Those sentences are light-years apart! And when he says: “I wish for a poor church, a church for the poor.” Well, that sentence is heart-warming! And very hopeful. And the bishops and cardinals cannot but listen and feel obliged – no matter how poorly – to follow suit.

    This morning’s press conference, just from the look of the journalists, who brought families and children, and who clapped and cheered… it was clear the audience came feeling privileged to witness the sacred, to venerate, to learn. It was very moving.

    Never lose your ability to feel the world’s suffering. It’s a painful path. I find myself on it as well. Sometimes I can hardly bear it. But in the end, there is no better path. To be in solidarity with the suffering.

    Bless you, Fran!

  • Dear TheraP – three years ago you left a comment on a post where I outlined the early stages of my book on the Psalms. http://meafar.blogspot.ca/2010/11/hibernating.html. Thank you again. The book is now published. I am so glad to see the psalms being cited here. I have added you to my reader and I hope you are still writing.

    • TheraP says:

      Dear Bob,

      Congratulations on the publication of your book! And thanks so much for your kind words here.

      I see your comments here and there – on occasion. It’s always nice to “see” a friendly face on the web. 🙂

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