Friday, 29 May 2015

The End of an Era

Yesterday was my last day of class at seminary: an hour of musical repetition for Corpus Christi and two hours of General Sacramental Theology.

For a moment I thought that my days of school were over, that twenty-one years of formal education had come to an end. It was not so; next year I will still have to take some weekend classes. But the balance of my life will shift to real-life observation (initially) and practical assignments (as my internship advances).

In a way, I am looking forward to it, despite feeling quite unprepared. There is much I still want to practise, many questions I do not know the answer to, many books I would still love to read. But perhaps the point of the past twenty-one years consists in that realization.

Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine contains the following exchange:

‘Well.’ She started pouring tea. ‘To start things off, what do you think of the world?’
‘I don’t know anything.’
‘The beginning of wisdom, as they say. When you’re seventeen you know everything. When you’re twenty­-seven if you still know everything you’re still seventeen.’
‘You seem to have learned quite a lot over the years.’
‘It is the privilege of old people to seem to know everything. But it’s an act and a mask, like every other act and mask. Between ourselves, we old ones wink at each other and smile, saying, How do you like my mask, my act, my certainty? Isn’t life a play? Don’t I play it well?’

So what have I learned at seminary, besides living a liturgical life? Partly, to be more tolerant and patient. And this at a seminary which has the reputation of being strict and conservative. Whatever they tell you, you were not born to change the world, only to help some people take some small steps, hopefully without doing too much damage in the meantime. As St. James says,

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness. For we all make many mistakes…

But (not to end on too depressing a note) also this: the Bible is much more interesting than I thought. It is a patchwork and a whole, it stimulates but eludes interpretation: call it ‘hard-to-get’. It is a pluripotent stem cell of meaning with many offshoots that are interesting in their own right.

During my years at seminary, I have also gotten to know the human dimension of the Church. That makes it possible to joke about religion, even if Humor ist, wann man trotzdem lacht. Jokes about religion are the best because there is always something that the joke does not cover, something to return to after laughter, a solace and a challenge. I came into the Church because She inspired reverence, and now I paraphrase Tertullian: credo quia absurda – but these are two permanent aspects of the same creation, two sides of one moon.