It is interesting that a question in my own mind is related to 'what do I see / desire in the "church"?' This is a very difficult question and one that almost should not be asked - or should be unasked once asked. For who can judge the quality of the bride? She is by definition without spot or wrinkle. Who can even allow my question with its gender-specific image?
Yet I must answer. Some list rules for behaviour and commend them - but rules do not make the grade. Some consider the community - and certainly this is comforting (sometimes). Some consider the form of worship - and with great skill. But one thing is needful...
The pious image of Mary at the feet of Jesus is too misleading - I need something beyond piety - a real transformative experience - out of sin, stupidity, or whatever else one can imagine - and into these gifts of community, liturgy, worship, learning etc. I need to consider that others also carry heavy baggage with them into presence - they can put the baggage aside... I recently read a book by one who is old on his youth. Who helped this man relieve himself of the burden accumulated and carried through the collapse of Empire...?
There it is - we are alone with our burdens - and we are together. Community may be experienced everywhere - but Christ names the need as does Rashi - forgiveness - a new creation. I think the name must be named - but in naming it, we must not assume we have control of it.
In my notes for Psalm 48 (the city) which follows the bride (45), the destruction of war (46), the ascension (47) - all these more tightly related than one word will allow, I wrote this:
On the surface, we must be engaged in faithfulness to what we are called to. Under the surface, we are the kings of Psalm 2, with empty muttering, yet disturbed in our engagement, one by one, in the holy city. The provocation is inevitable and unavoidable. It is painful like birth, or, appropriately as a consecrated offering, like death, our death (T. S. Eliot, Journey of the Magi). But having been born, (the closing bracket for this major cell of the Psalter will be seen in Psalm 87) we also are in Zion, and observers of her towers and ramparts, so that we may recount them to a generation to come. We are in all roles in this redeemed creation. Rashi, as usual, has an important insight. Why is the city the joy of the whole earth? Because of the north side where the sin offerings and guilt offerings are slaughtered. The sinner ‘receives expiation and he departs from there happy. Thus by virtue of the sacrifices, happiness comes into the world.’ Rashi is rightly seeing what is there, of course.