During my first year or so of seminary, a good friend and I had a running “argument,” which simply went like this: he would say, out of the blue, “scripture,” and I always would respond with “theology.” A gentle ribbing argument grounded in my affection for the seminary’s theology professor and because I lived and breathed theology—“faith seeking understanding”—St. Anselm’s definition that summed up my life; grounded in my friend’s love and knowledge of scripture . . . and grounded in the both of us being smartasses.
As a Master of Arts in Religion student, I had the option to take a theology class before the MDivs did; I started backwards, by taking Theology II first, with permission. I also took the scripture class with the MDivs. And theology is grounded in scripture, as my friend took loving pains to remind me. But theology was always first for me.
This past Thursday was the feast day of another of my theology heroes, Thomas Aquinas, who came to mind as I was thinking about the word “caritas,” which is the theme of the lovely anthem our choir sang this evening, Ubi caritas. Often, caritas is translated as “charity,” which then gets construed as “benevolent giving.” But I love Thomas’ definition—“friendship of man for God.” I’m going to leave aside a deep discussion of the rest of Thomas’ argument for this evening—his Summa is one heck of a rabbit hole.
Instead, I’d like to reflect briefly on this evening’s readings, in which we have examples of faith seeking understanding—Paul, who is trying to help those in Galatia understand this new faith, this new way of life and relationship with God; and Mark’s parable of the blind man combined with the question that Jesus asks of the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” That question still resonates with us as we seek, with faith, and sometimes without, what our relationship is with God. I think of St. Jack’s—better known as C. S. Lewis (feast day is November 22)—lament that friendship is a lost art.
Mark, Paul, Thomas, and other theologians through the millennia have written volumes on scripture, trying to understand. But as one who loves words and wondering and considers herself a theologian, I just want to say that in this moment as we gather in friendship with God and with each other, I don’t wonder, I know, here God is.
FYI, near the mid-point of his first semester of theology, my friend confessed that maybe I was right, that theology almost trumped scripture, almost. Friendship, what a gift. Just read scripture–David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi. . .