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Center for Action and Contemplation

Spirituality of Change

Monday, May 29, 2017

Alternative Orthodoxy

Spirituality of Change
Monday, May 29, 2017

Metanoia, Jesus’ first message upon beginning his ministry (Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:17), is unfortunately translated with the moralistic word repent. Metanoia literally means change or even more precisely “Change your mind!” So it is strange that the religion founded in Jesus’ name has been resistant to change and has tended to love and protect the past and the status quo much more than the positive and hopeful futures that could be brought about by people open to change. Maybe that is why our earth is so depleted and our politics are so pathetic. We have not taught a spirituality of actual change or growth, which is what an alternative orthodoxy always asks of us.

CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault describes this process of transformation:

[It is] the full emergence of the glory of the mind of Christ. The alternative orthodoxy begins in a view that God is not opposed to us; God is for us. How is God served by people who fail to germinate? God is rapturously delighted in every human being whose heart breaks open and blooms. Then, as human beings come to their glory, the world comes to its glory. It’s a view which is inclusive, recognizing that human beings on all paths are called to glorification, to the full emergence of the human being. It’s evolutionary in that we are a work in progress, both individually and collectively. Creation itself is not static but dynamic. [1]

One of the CAC’s Core Principles is: “We do not think ourselves into a new way of living, but we live ourselves into a new way of thinking.” [2] However, much of religion doesn’t demand changes to our lifestyle or habits. The best way to avoid actually changing is to go into one’s head and endlessly argue about what “changing” means. Human minds love to argue, oppose, critique, judge, evaluate, and adjust—it gives our little minds a job. Academics, politicians, and seminary professors love to stay right where they are and rarely hit the streets of the incarnate or suffering world as Jesus clearly did.

Franciscan alternative orthodoxy doesn’t bother fighting popes, bishops, Scriptures, or dogmas. As stated in another of CAC’s core principles, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Oppositional energy only creates more of the same.” This alternative orthodoxy quietly but firmly pays attention to different things—like simplicity, humility, non-violence, contemplation, solitude and silence, earth care, nature and other creatures, and the “least of the brothers and sisters.” These are our true teachers. The Rule of Saint Francis—which Rome demanded Francis develop—was often thought of as “Tips for the Road” and hardly a rule at all. Like Jesus, Francis taught his disciples while walking from place to place and finding ways to serve, to observe, and to love in the world that was right in front of them.

Gateway to Silence:
Everything belongs.

[1] Cynthia Bourgeault, Returning to Essentials: Teaching an Alternative Orthodoxy, disc 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015), CD, MP3 download.
[2] “The Eight Core Principles of the Center for Action and Contemplation,”

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis (Sounds True: 2010), CD.

Image credit: Umbria, Italy.
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