Fr. Thomas Colyandro
The Problem of "Active" or "Busy" Love in Modern Theology
Western Christianity seems to have acculturated to the noisy, busy behavior of the wider secular culture such that well-meaning Christians are actually engaging in theological attitudes and spiritual practices that tend to pull them further and further from God. Now, to be fair, we are not saying here that the entirety of Western Christianity is without pockets of extremely devoted, deeply faithful Christian bishops, priests, and laypeople. However, we cannot ignore that there have been far too many movements over the last 60 years that have embraced a reductionism that forces a false choice between forms of "spiritual healing" and "fulfilling social service initiatives" over and against true, deep mystical prayer that leads to union with God, Here are a few examples of what we mean.
First, "contemplatives in action" prayer movements that try to convince their adherents that merely incorporating sound bites of prayer into their otherwise busy lives will make contemplatives out of them. What's worse is that believers are often taught that it is they who control their ability to contemplate, as if they had to tune into a kind of 'contemplation channel' in their mind to commune with God.
Second, "centering" prayer movements tend to utilize the language and behaviors of non-Christian religions (Hinduism and Buddhism in particular) to explain spiritual theology. What's worse is that believers are taught to perform mantras and abandon Christian categories in order to achieve some promised form of higher consciousness outside of Christ.
Third, the "social action" movements attempt to convince otherwise devout Christians that the busier they become providing for the social welfare of others, the closer to God they will become. What's worse is that believers are simultaneously convinced to support social movements and government programs that, in the end, are contrary to Christian teaching (e.g. abortion and contraception as methods of population control to reduce famine).
As you can see, while we are sure to find a love of God and man in the motives and actions of the people involved in these activities, we also discover that there's is a false love because, ultimately, these movements tend to lead people away from the Christian tradition, which leads them away from the deeper, mystical love that man can share with God, and each other. What we need then is to make sure these movements and these people understand that a "hesychastic" love (a love which is grounded mystically in stillness and silence) must undergird everything we do or our actions will end up looking no different than those of social service agencies, or worse, distorting our faith so that it doesn't look like anything Christian at all.