Contemporary Messages of the One Great Tradition
by Father Peter of the Community of the Servants of the Will of God
Father Peter is a member of a small community of Anglican monks living in Crawley, UK, whose origins go back to 1938. The community has always had Christian Unity as a primary focus.
Messages of the Tradition
As I began to read these Conversations with Jesus, my first response was that of relief. They did not contain exaggerated or eccentric expressions of Christian Faith, as can sometimes happen in this kind of visionary literature. In fact, they seemed in their content to be quite 'on-centre,' even orthodox. It was as the reading progressed that the change occurred: I kept meeting words like 'metanoia', 'repentance', 'grow in holiness', 'love', 'joy', 'peace', 'forgive', 'reconciliation', 'constant prayer', 'the Holy Trinity', 'the Holy Spirit', 'abandonment'. The Beatitudes were invoked, as was the need for urgent prayer, in view of the imminence of the Lord's coming. The whole culminates in a call for unity and a common date for Easter: 'Orthodox! Catholics! Protestants! You all belong to Me! You are all One in My Eyes', 'Bend to be able to unite', 'unify, for My sake, the Feast of Easter'. I found prayers and love-songs that echoed for me the biblical Song of Songs, and the hymns of St Symeon the New Theologian (c.950 - 1022). Parts of the messages echo the Hebrew prophets (Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos) and one gets an intuitive sense of how their own words came to be given and written down. Other parts manifest an uncanny resonance to the Tradition in their prophetic character and exalted mystical and nuptial love-poetry: of St Symeon the New Theologian from the East, and St Catherine of Siena in the West. I concluded that this was no marginal expression of faith: this was everything I have been taught as a monk. This was the One Great Tradition and all encapsulated in these Messages from the Lord Himself. If before there had been any trace of uncertainty, from that moment it vanished, and I never looked back.
'It is the Lord'
How do we know these messages are from God? When you read them, you will be convinced: they are in that sense self-authenticating. Personal confirmation came to me unexpectedly early as, following the received advice to begin at the beginning, I started to read Volume 1. I discovered on page 8 an account by the Lord himself of his Passion. I thought as I read it - and it is not easy reading: Vassula herself relates how difficult it had been for her to take down - no human being however inspired could have written this imaginatively. This comes from the inside, from the consciousness of the One who actually underwent it. Again, one morning as I was preparing the Gospel reading for Lauds - it was from St John's Gospel - something suddenly hit me very forcibly. I realised that the Person of whom I was conscious as I read through those words was the very same Person I was conscious of when reading these messages. I found myself responding in the words of the Apostle John on the sea of Tiberias: "It is the Lord!" (Jn21:7).
What is the content of the messages?
Vassula's own description of the messages is a "re-spelling of the Gospel" (Brighton Conference, October 2003), that is, a fresh statement of the Gospel. What you will find is the same Gospel we hear in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but with an immediacy and a contemporary ring. It is the Lord speaking to us now in 2004 with all the ethos and ambience of our modern world and culture. It is what the Church means by the Tradition: the Holy Spirit speaking directly to each age and culture through chosen instruments as well as the Church's own teaching authority. It is the one original Gospel that is teased out, made explicit and clear. St John of the Cross once wrote that God has spoken to us in his Son and having thus spoken, he has nothing more to say. So there is no question of something new, even less, innovative. The messages then are a Reminder: The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you' (Jn 14: 26).
A gift for the whole Church
The charism of Vassula is a gift (Gk. charis) from God for the whole Church, if only we will be humble enough to receive it from God. With God's gifts come also a test and a challenge. First, there will be a real temptation to doubt. We will have to meet this doubt within ourselves as well as in the response of others, even those set over us in the Lord. Some will be moved to encourage, but from others there may be simply silence, an absence of response. Nevertheless, these messages are not for a few individuals ('if you like that sort of thing'), nor for one particular part of the Church, which would divert from their true purpose. The Lord is quite clear that the messages are for everyone, every Christian, indeed every human being. A faithful response on our part is the guarantee that what the Lord purposed in giving them will come to fruition. For every doubt coming into our minds, or proposed to us, our question will need to be, Is this thought coming to me from Truth Himself, or is it something in my old nature, looking for a way to avoid such a challenge?' There is the ever-present danger, especially for our age, of rationalising the event. The Lord has much to say concerning the Rationalism of our age.
A challenge to insincerity
In addition, one can understand that this presents a challenging word for the Church, not altogether unlike that presented to the Seven Churches by John in his Revelation (Rev: 2 & 3). As there, the Lord is calling for the purification of His Church - 'I want you to live holy as I am holy' - so it may become like the primitive apostolic church: 'I intend to clothe you all in my garments of old and rebuild my church on its old foundation'. There is a continuing challenge to all insincerity in the Church, so it may become more truly servant to the world, proclaim the authentic Gospel, and minister healing and salvation to the world's real ills. It is not comfortable reading at times. Tell my people that I do not want administrators in My House. They will not be justified in My Day because they are the very ones who have industrialised My House.' The Lord is deeply concerned about those 'who seek chairs and authority, rather than the salvation of souls' and all 'traders' (cf. Mt 21: 12-13, and parallels).
Institution and charisma
For the Church, reception of these messages presents the age-old problem of the tension between the institution and the charisma of her members. St Paul bids his fellow-Christians: 'Do not quench the Spirit' (1 Thess 5: 19). He also urges the Corinthians: 'Be eager to prophesy' (1 Cors 14: 39). The prophetic role is deemed second only to that of the apostle: 'The Lord has appointed first apostles, second prophets...' (1 Cors 12: 28). 'The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets...' (Ephes 4: 11). The prophetic role has not readily been recognised nor accepted in the Church, as indeed the old Israel had difficulty in accepting those chosen servants with their message, sent to it from God. Those responsible for the institution are concerned to maintain proper order, yet there is the need to receive the challenge of the prophetic word and take it on board. This must happen if a way forward is to be found through dialogue and growth, working through love. Is not love after all the heart of the Gospel (1 Cors 13)? 'Let love be present in all your acts. Your love should not be just words or mere talk but something real and active.' The question remains whether the challenge can be met so that a charism is not kept under wraps for fear of the consequences.
Comfort and strength from heaven
These messages will be a strengthening for all who have wondered how God is viewing recent struggles in the church, and in the contemporary world. For it is that very world of wars, famine, oppression, abortion, and ecological imbalance that we meet in these messages. The same Lord who first spoke to (he Hebrews, and proclaimed his Gospel to the whole human race through his Son speaks to us with exactly the same urgency, compassion, searching penetration. 'Love is missing among you.' 'Let love be the principle of your life, let love be your root. Beware of your thoughts. Do not judge each other.' The messages like their 'parent' the Gospel, confront us with the unique challenge of Christian faith. This is the challenge of "hearing the word (will) of God and doing it." 'Live the messages' is a continuing refrain spoken by the Lord's mother. The call is that of our common baptismal calling, to grow in holiness and all its attendant elements: forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, humility, continuous prayer, those dispositions (poverty of spirit, meekness, mercy, purity of heart) which the Lord asks of us in order to receive the blessings (Beatitudes) he desires for us. It is an invitation for each one of us to become the man or woman in Christ we were baptised to become: a unified person within the Body of Christ, the local church to which we belong. That and nothing less would represent the completion and fulfilment of this 'revelation' from God.
Father Peter CSWG