Home > Uncategorized > City of God Study Guide Week 5

Lent 2019
Chapters 11-13
Prepared by the Rev. Ian Burch
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church | Milwaukee, WI

“…Spirit mongrelizing irrevocably with flesh to create new life.”  p.150

+What did you make of her discussion of mestizaje? How is that related to Incarnation?

“She is Delores, Mercedes, Soledad, Consuelo, Milagros, Estrella, Luz; our lady of sorrows, mercies, solitude, comfort, miracles, stars, light; or, as Paul simply says, “Herself.” Mary is everywhere.” p.151

+What did you learn about Mary in this chapter? What beliefs about Mary did you bring to this chapter?

“And what is going on here, really? Have the stupid, pagan Indians who venerated an Aztec goddess now turned to Our Lady of Guadalupe and finally become real Christians–or has the Mother of God, through mestizaje, slyly converted the European Church?” p.154

+How do you see God working through stories like Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe?

“At its borders, St. Peter’s liturgy, neither formal nor pious, expresses almost exactly what I love about the Mission itself–where heaven and earth are revealed as part of a continuum, and faith not as a performance but an extension of real life.” p.157

+How is our liturgy an extension of “real life?”

“‘…there was just this cosmically silent comfort and reassurance coming from her presence all around me. I felt peace, calm, stillness. She wasn’t my mother, but she was the mother. She was centered, like a mountain of steadiness and I knew it was okay.’” p. 163

+Kevin talks about Mary with some of the attributes one might give to a mystical experience of God. What do you make of Kevin’s experience? Have you had one like that?

+The author connects Mary of Guadalupe to immigration, the AIDS epidemic, and those feeling lost or left out of church. Describe this connection in your own words. Is it something you’ve ever felt?

“When I told Paul about this liturgy later, he laughed in astonishment. “‘That is just the most perverse thing I’ve ever heard,’” he said admiringly.” p.167

+Do you share Paul’s assessment of the liturgy that Anibal the Candomblé priest lead?

“‘Yes. I’ve been someone who can stand back and observe on the side of the river…and now I want to wade in.’” p.172

+Describe a time in the church where you’ve stood back and observed? A time when you waded in?

“Singing, praying, eating, weeping, I enter the current of Holy Week with my whole Church to swim in kairos time, out of control.” p.174

+Talk about a Holy Week observance that is important to you. How is that observance related or not related to “regular time.”

“Our little group seemed to separate into two: those used to serving in churches, who wanted to remain by the altar waiting for people to come to them, and the more free-range Christians who couldn’t wait to peel out.” p.175

+Have you ever been a “free-range Christian?” Have you ever wanted to stay by the altar?

“Being on the street opened a space that was, mercifully, less about liturgical performance and more about devotion; less about my pride and perfectionism than about the shared experience of God.” p.183

+How did you feel when you were reading about the author’s walk through the Mission, imposing ashes to all who asked? How did the phrase “liturgical performance” sit with you?

“It didn’t sound that odd to me; perhaps my religious-nut radar was becoming hopelessly jammed, but wanting to confess on Ash Wednesday seemed pretty reasonable. I wish I’d done it more myself.” p.185

+Do you have a religious nut radar? What do you suppose sets it off? How is it that some public observances strike us as icky while others seems beautiful?

“Church is small. Church is so much more cowardly and less imaginative than it has to be; it’s so mindlessly stubborn about its own correctness, proud of its own power, petty, judgmental, and unkind toward those who disagree. But these failures of the institution, as the experiences of Ash Wednesday reveal, are precisely the same as my own.” p.194

+The author pulls no punches in her critique of the church. Do you agree? Have you experienced church as proud or judgmental? What is the remedy she suggests? What is the remedy YOU suggest? What is the remedy Jesus suggests?

“But a spiritual life is a physical life shared with other people.” p.195

+How is the author weaving the spiritual and the physical together in her argument? In her story?

“But there is no area of life from which God is shut out, and the “proper form” can’t be contained in a manual, limited to the actions of official priests, or contained in a service inside a sanctuary.” p198

+Are there places in the Church where we try to shut God out? How can the “proper form” be an impediment to faith? How can it bolster faith?