Rowan Williams on Romero

Speaking on the recent 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Oscar Romero, gunned down while saying Mass, Archbishop Rowan Williams delivered a remarkable homily in his memory. Among his reflections:

Sentir con la Iglesia: ‘feeling with the Church’. This was Oscar Romero’s motto as a bishop – you’ll see it in many photographs inscribed on the episcopal mitre he wore…

His breakthrough into a more complete and more demanding vision came, of course, as a result of seeing at close quarters what the wolves were capable of, and so realising the responsibility of the shepherd in such a situation. The conversion that began with the vicious slaughter of innocent peasants by the Salvadorean National Guard in 1974 and 1975 came to its decisive climax with the murder of his Jesuit friend Rutilio Grande in March 1977, a few weeks after Romero’s installation as Archbishop. From that moment on, sentir con la Iglesia had a new meaning and a deeply biblical one. ‘The poor broke his heart’, said Jon Sobrino, ‘and the wound never closed.’

‘Feeling with the Church’ meant, more and more clearly, sharing the agony of Christ’s Body, the Body that was being oppressed, raped, abused and crucified over and over again by one of the most ruthless governments in the western hemisphere. In the early summer of the same year, 1977, in the wake of the atrocities committed by government forces at Aguilares, he spoke to the people in plain terms: ‘You are the image of the divine victim…You are Christ today, suffering in history’. These words were uttered in a town where the soldiers had shot open the tabernacle in the church and left the floor littered with consecrated hosts. There could be no more powerful a sign of what was going on in terms of the war of the state against the Body of Christ.

You can find the full text of his message here.

Rowan Williams on Noah and the Environment

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, recently gave an address on environmental justice and the urgent need for a recovery of human self-understanding: as called to connection with the material world and responsibility for its future. Beginning with a reflection on the story of Noah, he travels “some way from Mount Ararat” to the current ecological crisis and offers some incisive criticism. Here’s a snippet:

So we must begin by recognising that our ecological crisis is part of a crisis of what we understand by our humanity; it is part of a general process of losing our ‘feel’ for what is appropriately human, a loss that has been going on for some centuries and which some cultures and economies have been energetically exporting to the whole world. It is a loss that manifests itself in a variety of ways. It has to do with the erosion of rhythms in work and leisure, so that the old pattern of working days interrupted by a day of rest has been dangerously undermined; a loss of patience with the passing of time so that speed of communication has become a good in itself; a loss of patience which shows itself in the lack of respect and attention for the very old and the very young, and a fear in many quarters of the ageing process – a loss of the ability to accept that living as a material body in a material world is a risky thing.

Reading the Bible

Rowan Williams delivered a lecture in 2007 called, “The Bible: Reading and Hearing.” I think it’s the best (though very dense) explanation of the nature of Scripture I’ve ever read. It’s well worth reading. Here’s a taste:

If it [the Bible] is not the present vehicle of God speaking in the risen Christ, it is a record only of God speaking to others. For it to be an address that works directly upon self and community now, it must be given to us as the continuation of the same act, the re-presenting and re-enacting of the same scriptural reality of invitation and the creation of a people [that we see in Israel and Christ …]

If you read it closely, carefully and repeatedly, you will have saved yourself many books.