thinking out loud here really: this has been a topic I’ve been challenged to
consider recently and I’d appreciate some feedback from others.
What is it about the role of the priest in terms of the distinction between being and doing? Being v doing? What does that mean? How am I being? What am I being? What do we mean when we talk about the inner life as balanced against the external life?
I suppose it seems obvious to note that although teachers, doctors, social workers and solicitors etc. can be Christians and therefore have a spiritual element to their lives there is no expectation that this will be the case. It is a given for the priest.
book, The Fire and the Clay: The Priest
in Today’s Church, Peter Allan, George Guiver et al. note, If priesthood were simply a matter of doing
certain jobs on behalf of the church, it would be natural to think of priests
as no more than people delegated by the church for certain functions from time
to time. But priesthood is a matter of becoming a certain sort of person: and
it is by the gift of God that any Christian is able to grow into personhood and
it is God’s call and that person’s response that initiates growth.
So, to recap: what am I doing when I am “being”? We are in danger of getting all ontological here and so it strikes me that there are two possible approaches:
You can, of course have one without the other, but they are not mutually exclusive. Either way the basic requirement is time and privacy. I’m really not sure how we can be responsive to the call of God in all the busyness that surrounds us if we are not taking time to be still and quiet. Surely to be otherwise would lead me to act from my own agenda and in my own strength?
I have always had an interest in the link between spirituality and personality types. My Myers-Briggs profile is ENFJ and, apparently, I can expect to be bored by routine approaches to spending time with God. This has certainly been my experience and I have berated myself down the years for the unsatisfactory nature of my prayer life. I find the daily office largely a barren exercise. (There, I’ve said it.) I also regularly fall into the trap of seeing prayer as a means to an end (intercessions) rather than an end in its own right. I am a hopeless case and yet I need to be clear about the fact that I need that time just to be in the presence of God.
That said, I have to identify more with Barbara Brown Taylor who, in her writing, An Altar in the World, notes, I know a chapter on prayer belongs in this book, but I dread writing it. I have shelves full of prayer books and books on prayer. I have file draws full of notes from courses I have taught and taken on prayer. I have meditation benches I have used twice, prayer mantras I have intoned for as long as a week, notebooks with column after column of names of people in need of prayer (is writing them down enough?). I have a bowed psaltery - a Biblical stringed instrument mentioned in the book of Psalms - that dates from the year I thought I might be able to sing prayers easier than I could say them. I have invested a small fortune in icons, candles, monastic incense, coals and incense burners.
However, this isn’t the place to get side-tracked into discussions about models of spirituality and approaches to prayer. We need to concentrate on the nature of being v doing.