Sister Joan Chittister

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To talk about a person’s spirituality is to examine a great deal more than their theology.  Theology is that system of belief that gives coherence to religion.  It explains and relates and inquires and defines….Spirituality on the other hand is what shows when no one is asking academic questions.  Spirituality is the very fabric and texture of the soul.  It does not explain religion; it demonstrates the presence of the sacred in life.  I have watched a Jain nun lift a ladybug out of harm’s way on a set of public stairs.  I have seen a Buddhist monk drink tea.  I have heard monastics chant.  I have seen Indian peasants walk up a mountainside on their knees to honor the place of the mother of Jesus in their hearts….In the very act of crawling toward heaven, or gentling the bug out of the way, or caressing the tea bowl, or murmuring the endless round of chants, I saw the spirituality that impels them all.  I saw awareness, I saw reverence for life, I saw globalism in miniature, I saw the shadow of the magnetized heart.

Matt Fox has that kind of consuming spirituality….Even at a distance I have seen his spirituality. It is light, heat, and search….When we live in a light that is darkness, in the kind of certainty that obscures what we don’t know and won’t ask by virtue of only those things we want to know and so refuse to ask, we do not have spirituality.  We have only religion.  In that world, power and authority substitute far too often for thought and understanding.  In that kind of world, the light goes out long before people realize they are in darkness….

Those who illumine the questions of life walk a dangerous path.  They hold up for examination the very pilasters of the systems that depend on them for its credibility. They threaten old paradigms and open new possibility where once only cocksure certitude had been.  Galileo did such things and suffered for it.  Luther did such tings and was exiled for it.  Matt Fox did such things and cast a light into the recesses of the medieval mind that was a whole world wide. He brought to light again the notions of basic wholeness and the essential goodness of creation. He gives us all new light into the nature of God in the nature of the self….

People talk and struggle and wrestle with ideas in droves but the person who pursues them, lives them out, shakes the foundations of the world, and in the end pays the cost of them for the rest of us.  It is people who live their ideas who give heat to the rest of the world, stir it up and boil it over, make it new and give it truth.

Light that glows but does not heat, Coleridge says, illumines nothing but itself.  To be what you say you think, however, is a searing kind of elegance.  It gives fiber to air.  Matt Fox is not simply a teacher, he is a model of what he believes with heat enough to melt worn structures and set dry roots on fire….

All great ideas begin in a single seeking mind, inflame the hearts of those for whom the old answers of an earlier world to new questions have long since failed to satisfy, and are rejected by the keepers of arcane systems.  But they eventually win the souls of a people who know the difference between spirit and structure.  It is the seeker who leads until the leaders are finally forced to follow.  Segregation didn’t work but until Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver and Martin Luther King shook the chains from their ankles in pursuit of equality, few saw the truth of it and most did nothing about it. Relics were good business until Martin Luther sought another kind of sanctity….

To those like Matt Fox whose spirituality is holy search, we owe a great deal.  They ask the unspoken and unspeakable questions, they bite the forbidden fruit, they commit the happy fault of which the Easter Exultet speaks, they scan the stars of heaven for us all and, in the end, their search shows us the way to conscience, to commitment, to nothing but the Christ….The light, the heat and the model of holy search that is Matt Fox will shine for many ages to see what it is to live the pursuit of truth trusting on in the Truthfulness of God.

Excerpted from The Making of a Prophet: Matthew Fox at Sixty, Mary Ford-Grabowsky, editor, copyright (c) Mary Ford-Grabowsky 2000