Nothing is more important than holding fast to the unchangeable truth of Jesus Christ. In a sense, one must stand still and put down roots in the faith, the stories of Scripture and the treasures of Christian tradition. Something like a vow of stability is required of every Christian as a safeguard against the temptation to flit from one spiritual interest to another, one provisional commitment to the next, until all energy is exhausted and nothing is gained or learned or even sacrificed for a higher good. One must sit with the truth, stay where Christ is, and pray in the land of silence. This requires time and patience under the watchful eye of providential grace and guidance. It requires also a few dear and honest friends in the faith.
The longer one stays with Christ, the more the world of Christ opens up as a grand and incredible landscape: beautiful, inviting, strange, frightful, wondrous, infinite. This gift, this talent, once given, must be used and invested. Thus, even if one remains in contemplative stillness, one must move, go out, and explore. The more one sits, the more one must grow and develop and move.
The Lord spoke to Abram as he speaks now to the disciples of his Son, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:1-2). Jesus called his first disciples from their established lives and their homes, “As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea — for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people” (Mark 1:16-17). The calling of James and John seems even more dramatic, “They left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him” (Mark 1:20).
Discipleship is felt in the tension between two legitimate and apparently contradictory ways of responding to the call of God. One is to remain stationary and rooted; the other is to move and grow. True discipleship, however, is the deep integration of Christian teaching, which is itself both unchanging and ever growing. Thus, a disciple must remain rooted while growing into the new humanity, a lifelong project of both ascetic effort and divine grace.
St. Vincent of Lerins is of great help in elucidating legitimate growth in dogma and discipleship: “Is there no progress in Christ’s Church? Certainly, all possible progress. For who is there, so envious of humanity, so full of hatred toward God, that he would try to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, and not an alteration of the faith. For progress require that the subject be enlarged into itself, alteration, that it be transformed into something else” (Cap. 23). Growth is necessary and inevitable if one is to be faithful to the deposit of faith and faithful no less to one’s vocation as a disciple.
Why bother with this new life? Why not ignore Jesus as he issues his call? Why not leave well-enough alone? When Jesus calls, his words are water and Spirit and rushing wind. He opens the heavens to descend and opens them to ascend again, and he calls his beloved to be reborn as sons and daughters of God. His call is his grace; his grace is the irresistible summons of love, “My beloved speaks . . . ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away’” (Song 2:10).
Look It Up: Read Song of Solomon 3:3.
Think About It: You stay with and grow with the one you love.