Tao Fong Shan Christian center has just published a collection of Spiritual exercises from the Courses and Retreats under the heading “CHRISTFULNESS”.
Preface by Areopagos director Dr. Raag Rolfsen
Faith is a desperate act. At certain times, nothing testifies to the promises of faith. When the word reaches you that someone you know died, the memories of the close ones you lost bursts forward. It blows to pieces the protecting covers that you have built to contain the pain. The grief returns with a power that is almost as strong as the day she passed away. In this very blast of sadness, the fragility of your own life also becomes evident. You live, and one unknown day you are gone.
The ridicule of faith also reveals itself when we realize the injustice and suffering around us. The inequality of wealth leaves us without words. How can it be that some few people can control most of the riches and resources of our world? Indifferent leaders crush the hopes of more political freedom with a shrug. Soldiers use rape and abuse as weapon of war. A world that we believed would move forward to humanity is today taking consistent steps back to the most ruthless heritage of our past.
The pain is also inside. The wounds inflicted by a brutal and insensitive father just reject to heal. They remain a lifelong cause of suffering and mental confusion that we cannot control. Many times, it steers us in directions we do not want to go. An uncontrollable power forces us to go to places where nothing awaits us but our own destruction.
Buddhism represents the wisdom tradition and religion that accepts this situation as real. It teaches us that the longing, striving and craving to change this condition only adds to the pain. It therefore invites us, as a decisive step on the way to peace, to accept this situation as real. The emptiness that mindfulness seeks is a state of mind and body that admits this reality. It is neither an abstract nothingness nor a destructive and negative denial of values. It is an insight into and acceptance of how life is.
This insight is not unbiblical. The first words of Ecclesiastes read, “’Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless,’” (Ecclesiastes 1:1). The biblical teacher continues to proclaim how the wheel of life continues to turn with no purpose. There is nothing new under the sun.
The coming of Christ, and thus Christfulness, is not an escape from this reality. Christ represents God’s action when approaching this reality seriously – and lovingly. Christ is not a hero or a king solving the problems of human reality with his might. He is essentially the embodiment of this human condition, of this pain, this desolation, this poverty – this desperation. It is only when seeing this reality as it is incarnated in Christ, that we can catch a glimpse of that which supersedes it. In the vulnerability of the human condition we can learn to see the possibility a love that transcends this reality.
Christfulness, seen in this way, presupposes mindfulness. To experience Christ can only happen through accepting the emptiness of existence, and, in that very wisdom, to be imbued by a stubborn hope for release. Somehow, the eastern and western traditions meet in this experience.
Faith is a desperate act. Christfulness is a practice that can give us strength to cling to the hope that says that goodness, fellowship, and love is a possibility in the world as it is. The Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge has given expression to this insistent hope that is inherent in human reality.
IT IS THAT DREAM
It is that dream we carry within us
that something wonderful will happen
that it has to happen –
that time will open up
that the heart will open up
That doors will open up
that the rock will open up
that springs will burst forth –
that the dream will open up
that we one morning moment shall slowly sail
into a bay we did not know were there
 Olav H. Hauge, «Det er den draumen», in, Dropar i austavind (1966).