Today is my brother Fred’s birthday.

It is also the feast day for St. Helena (the Emperor Constantine’s mother, and the most prominent active Christian of her day), who is the patron of the Order of St. Helena – who’s breviary I am using.  I’m exploring the possibility of Associate status with them.  So it’s a first class feast for me these days.

Helena is not in the calendar of the Episcopal Church.  William Porcher DuBose is remembered today on that calendar.  I found myself quite taken with what I read about him.

In “Brightest and Best” Sam Portaro writes that DuBose, who was born in 1836, was “one of those persons born seemingly ahead of his time …  At the heart of his faith DuBose held a tenacious and fundamental belief in the Incarnation, the premise that in Jesus Christ God places before us not just the image of what it means to be human, but the very person who fulfills God’s intention for humankind.  Dubose would have had little patience for our spirtualizations of Jesus that make him an oddity, the exception rather than the rule of what we are to be.”

I found myself thinking of all the people I know and love who keep telling me that the saints (who fortunately all seem to have their deficiencies, as well as their strengths), let alone Jesus, fall into a different (odd) category than we normal people.  So there is no call to us to emulate their lives – since they are so clearly out of our reach.

This is in sharp contrast with what I’ve been reading about the early church, in Diana Butler Bass’s book “A People’s History of Christianity,” where the imitation of Jesus in what they called “the Way” was the point of the Christian life.  They were (on the whole) pretty disinterested in the theology of being a Christian.  They were focused on how being a Christian in their daily life (following Jesus’ way of life) changed their lives (for the better).  They were focused on how, concretely, they could better love God and better love their neighbor – which was seen as the heart of “the Way.”

I think DuBose and Bass and the early Christians are right in seeing this as where our lives need to find their focus and meaning.

I was also impressed to read, in an excerpt from DuBose’s treatise “High Priesthood and Sacrifice,” which I found in J. Robert Wright’s “They Still Speak,” the following:

We have our religion through the medium of languages that have been long dead … there is a growing disposition to relegate the ideas, the entire symbolic expression and form, of Christianity to the past.  The modern world calls for modern modes of thought and modern forms of speech.  We have to meet that demand and be able to answer and satisfy whaterver reason or truth ther is in it.

Revelation, if it was to come at all, had to come at a time, and in the ideas and language of the time …  and the best time would be the one whose ideas and language would be .. the most convertible into the thought and speech of all other times.  From the Hebrew into the Greek, and thence into all succeeding forms of knowledge and expression …

… we must take measures to preserve [our traditions], and the onlyh way to preserve them is to make them as living to-day, as much part of our thought and our speech and our life now, as they were two thousand years ago.

In order to do that, we must cease to treat the phraseology, the forms, definitions, and dogmas of Christianity as sacred relics, too sacred to be handled.  We must take them out of their napkins, strip them of there cerements, and turn them into current coin.  We must let them do business in the life that is living now, and take part in the thought and feeling and activity of the men of the world of today.

To which I can only say, Amen!

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