Passing Through

Two or three friends on social media were drawn to one of the non-Biblical readings assigned to the Easter season. My occasional sense of alienation was poked by this passage, a small part of the larger text:

They live in their own (parishes) as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as (servants), but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any (parish) can be their (home), but for them their (home), wherever it may be, is a foreign country.

The reading has only the simple designation “letter to Diognetus” in the Liturgy of the Hours. No author. I had never heard of Diognetus. Interesting: an anonymous letter written to a person otherwise unknown to the ancients. I was surprised to find the LotH title was enough to locate this link.

I suppose more people of faith will see themselves in the political situation in the wide world rather than a relative few who abide in the insular world of ministry. I did find it a curious serendipity that two friends, a priest and a consecrated virgin, each noted this separately. I suspect neither shared my sense of it as a lay minister. Though I know the parade of assignments from place to place can wear on a priest. Some clergy I know have become rather hardened by the experience and never find roots. Others root too deeply.

I read this Monday after my morning lectio, and I was moved to return to it again yesterday. The full passage troubled me, and I try to attend to those affective responses. They usually mean something’s afoot.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Passing Through

  1. Liam says:

    Thanks for point this one out; since I long ago gave up the LOTH, and never had the full Office of Readings, it’s not something I recall coming across from my years of engaging the LOTH.

    For me, this is a corollary to that magnificent 11th chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews, which is in so many ways foundational to my spiritual understanding. (First up, while Faith gets loads of mentions in that chapter, it’s actually Hope that is the font – Faith is defined as the substance of Hope – something on which Miguel de Unamuno dilates at length in The Tragic Sense of Life.) Abraham and Sarah have a home that they embrace/welcome/salute [the Greek – ἀσπασάμενοι (aspasamenoi) – has a few shades of meaning] from afar, but don’t abide in it in a worldly sense: and this is an indicator that such an odd way should be understood as the normal way for the disciple. Faith and Hope share a quality of what might be called a gap, the former filled with trust and the latter with desire. Gaps invite us to feel anxious itchy and alienated*, but God invites us to embrace them as opportunities for desire and trust; I believe that’s what behind the Ignatian praxis on desire and Incompletion as a sign of God’s presence.

    * Which consumer capitalism primes us to itch with temporary salves of consumption.

  2. Devin Rice says:

    The Letter to Diognetus is often lumped together with the writings of the “Apostolic Father”, secondary generation Christians writing from roughly 80/90AD to 150AD.

    Here is a good edition to add to the library.

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