Synodal time: a call to awaken our vocation

November 11, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes

There is a model of Christian life in the Orthodox Tradition that can illuminate this ecclesial period in which we live marked by the call to all the baptized to participate in the building of a synodal Church. I am referring to those Christians who, through an ever deeper deepening of baptismal grace, enter into communion with Christ through the anointing of the Spirit in such a way that the Spirit guides their existence to the point of participating and being a sign in this world of the risen humanity of the Lord. In them, the divine energies, the Spirit in action-what in the West we call grace-illuminate their humanity in a palpable way, radiating the light of the Transfiguration in the reality of this world through charity.

Known as the "spiritual men and women," the elderly, the fathers in the faith, the starec or "madmen of God," have been linked to the monastic tradition for centuries, but in recent decades they have also inspired new forms of life among the laity, hidden and immersed in the big cities, engaged in the world of work and family, in the teaching of theology and dialogue with culture, making of daily life a true liturgy, gathered in small fraternities and at the service of the poor of our world. This expansion of elements proper to monastic life into the life of the Christian people reminds us that the monk is not a cleric, but a baptized person who has taken his dignity seriously.

What is peculiar within the ecclesial structure of Orthodoxy is that these spiritual figures enjoy true authority within it. Some theologians go so far as to qualify their ecclesial mission as a true personal charismatic apostolate that perpetuates in time some genuine traits of the Pauline apostolate, in which we see the accentuation of the charismatic and prophetic perspective, and of the Johannine apostolate, sealed by the marial and contemplative charism.

At the birth of the Church these apostolates were exercised in full communion with the Petrine dimension, without opposition or contradiction but in mutual listening and collaboration. However, throughout the history of Christianity, and also in the history of Orthodoxy up to the present day, tensions have arisen between these two dimensions of the Church, emphasizing the charismatic perspective, to the point of falling into a spiritualization whose consequence can be democratization; or, on the contrary, favoring clericalization that forgets the real priesthood of the baptized. These dangers are not foreign to our current Catholic reality and, in fact, the synodal renewal seeks to get out of these polarized positions that distort the being of the Church communion.

The hierarchical dimension and the prophetic or charismatic dimension are regulated by the certainty that the whole Church is subject to obedience to the Spirit and also by the recognition that true prophecy is born of communion with the Body of Christ, which is where the Spirit descends and gives himself to all the members united and assembled. Thus, communion and freedom are harmonized through the anointing of the Spirit who, when we listen to his voice and allow him to blow - even if we do not know where he is leading us - always orients the personal conscience of each Christian towards the communion of faith and charity.

We also have in the Catholic Church with the witness of holy men and women who have incarnated this marial, charismatic and prophetic ministry in the Church in communion with and, in many cases, encouraged by the hierarchical ministry. In this sense, the reference to St. Catherine of Siena is classic or, in our times, it is easy to think of Mother Teresa of Calcutta or Brother Roger of Taizé, in which case we can also add the ecumenical perspective that, starting from the common recognition of the sacrament of baptism, allows us to welcome and listen to one another among Christians of different confessions who, anointed by the Spirit and by the condition of children of God, can be bearers of a prophecy and word of grace for one another.

– Supernatural synod stage in which we find ourselves at this ecclesial moment is a call to awaken in all Christians this vocation of "spiritual men and women. God has entrusted to all his children a word, a gesture, a gift and a personal charism to give to the Church and to the world, so that the impulse and fire of the Spirit that we received on the day of our baptism may rekindle our participation and ecclesial awareness, making us all feel responsible, in communion with all the members of the Church, for the urgency of being a witnessing presence in the midst of our contemporary world.

The authorSister Carolina Blázquez OSA

Prioress of the Monastery of the Conversion, in Sotillo de la Adrada (Avila). She is also a professor in the Faculty of Theology at the San Dámaso Ecclesiastical University in Madrid.

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