Today’s date always brings with it a slight element of sadness for me. The note on my calendar reminds me that, three years ago today, Fr Gabriel Bunge OSB converted to the Russian Orthodox Church. It seems to have been an extremely fulfilling move for him, but I was disappointed that he was not able to find his fulfillment in the Catholic Church.
When I read Fr Bunge’s Earthen Vessels about ten years ago, it changed my personal prayer life radically. For one thing, it helped me to understand better my affinity for the expressiveness of ‘charismatic prayer.’ The bodily actions and gestures in prayer about which Fr Bunge taught in Earthen Vessels enable me to be more deeply self-giving to the Lord in my personal prayer time. As Fr Bunge said in Chapter Four:
Like sacramental actions, the methods and gestures in prayer must also be meaningful, that is to say, the body must reproduce visibly what is taking part in the soul.
I first learned to be open to what Eastern Christianity has to offer from my first visit to Mount Saviour Monastery in 1984. The monks of Mt Saviour have incorporated some Eastern Christian practices and images into their monastic life. Reading JP2’s Orientale Lumen increased my openness. Matthew the Poor’s Orthodox Prayer Life was also very helpful (and is among my rotation of nightstand books). Even now, I’ll periodically stop by the Orthodox Way of Life blog, or occasionally listen to a talk by Fr Thomas Hopko or Metropolitan Jonah, which can be found at the Ancient Faith Radio site. Orthodoxy has many obscure but admirable practices worthy of emulation, not only in Church life, but also in home and family life. Here’s one example which Fr Bunge relates in an interview (he was still Catholic priest-monk at this time):
I stayed two months in Greece on Lesbos. There weren’t many tourists then and, therefore, we were lodged among local families. I lived in a family of a priest. And of course, I was going to church every Sunday. The family knew I was a Catholic, but because there wasn’t any Catholic church around, I was going to an Orthodox one. Everyone in the family was kind to me and treated me with much love. On the small entrance, they even brought me the Gospel to kiss as if I was an honorable guest.
Imagine the surprise of my pastor (or any priest) if, upon arriving at our house, we offered him a book of the Gospels to kiss!
If you’re interested, you can read more about Fr Bunge and his conversion here and here. You can get an indication of what he teaches in Earthen Vessels by reviewing the excerpts available at its Google Books site.Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized