25. A Deeper Solidarity

Is there any need greater - other than food, clothing, and shelter - than the need to belong? At the end of Chapter 14 we asked what chance there was of solidarity in a world bent on individual self-interest. To survive human tensions, solidarity needs to be rooted in a sharing of life that transcends human origins and has its source in God.

A sharing in Christ’s life is the source of that solidarity that is needed for a civilisation of love. After his resurrection, the disciples of Jesus continued to gather. They experienced what he meant when he promised to be with them whenever they came together. Coming into his life and coming into each other’s lives were part of the same experience. The name we now use for this is “communion,” which means a deep sharing of life with Christ and with one another. Christian life simply cannot be a private experience.

It is not through self-centered introspection that we discover our real self. It is through the experience of being called and being sent that we discover who we really are.

This communion extends to every aspect of our lives; what we do or fail to do for one another, we do or fail to do to Christ (Matthew 25:31-46). Knowing this affects the way we pray. It is hard to be at ease in God’s presence if our relationships with others are wrong.

When we are with one another at prayer we experience solidarity in the same needs, fears, joys, and yearnings, and we find ourselves supported by one another’s faith and hope and love. This can be an experience that is deeply moving, strong and convincing. It is an experience of solidarity with others that does not impinge on each other’s privacy or freedom.

It is an experience that liberates us from the isolation of individualism, and makes us more willing and more able to be “for others.” In turn, other people’s acceptance of ourselves helps us to know that the meaning we believe our life has is not just an idea in our own head.

The community’s rituals, teachings, and ministries draw us out of the isolation of private belief into the faith and spirituality of the Christian community. Above all, this communion is an experience of God’s presence and of our coming alive because of it.

The glory of God is human beings fully alive, and being fully alive is [comes from] seeing God.
(Irenaeus)

Sometimes people might not have clear, articulate ideas about any of this. They just know it through being in touch with the reality itself, i.e., through their union with Christ and one another, especially in the community’s worship - its liturgy.

Christian liturgy is not designed by the community for particular agendas or needs - not even the natural human need to worship. It is much more than gathering for prayers or sermons (even good ones) or fellowship. Liturgy connects us with events that took place in history - the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. This is why its central prayers and symbols point to those events.

In the liturgy, our lives are connected to those events. The connection is real because the presence of Christ is real and the power of the Holy Spirit is real.

And so what began with the Father sending the Son and the Holy Spirit into the world now returns to the Father, through union with the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are drawn into what God is doing in human history and its wonderful outcome.

Through its liturgy the community itself is continually created, nurtured, and formed. We discover this personally through our “participation,” letting ourselves become absorbed in what is taking place in the liturgy, taken up into it, given over to Christ present in it.

All this comes into focus especially in the celebration of Eucharist where we become “one body, one spirit in Christ” (Eucharistic Prayer III). This is our Christian identity. It is belonging at the deepest level of ourselves. In the experience of solidarity - being for one another - we glimpse what it means to be human. This glimpse of what it means to be human helps us make the whole of life more human.

It is not through self-centered introspection that we discover our real self. It is through the experience of being called and being sent that we discover who we really are. And so the Christian community gathers (Chapter 26) in order to be dispersed (Chapter 27).

For Practice

  • Read John 15:1-17. What does this passage say to you about solidarity? What does it say about communion?
  • Put aside, for the moment, all your images of the “Church.” Now try to re-imagine the “Church” as an event: the gathering that happens around Jesus; who calls each of us to a personal relationship with him; that creates a new relationship with one another; in all our diversity; and draws us into the events of his life. The community which comes about in this way results from what Jesus and the Holy Spirit are doing in the world. (The English word “church” derives from the word the first Christians used to mean the “gathering” or “assembly.” It was similar for the Jewish people; see Leviticus 23:4-7.)

For Prayer

Sing to the Lord a new song,
a hymn in the assembly of the faithful…
Let them praise his name in festive dance…
For the Lord takes delight in his people.

Psalm 149:1, 3, 4