As I was falling asleep last night, I was thinking about books and the Holy Spirit. I was thinking about how when I read books by Dallas Willard and St. Francis de Sales - two men from different time periods and different Christian traditions - I hear the same voice in them.
And this, I think, is how I know - apart from the intellectual arguments - that people on opposite sides of the schisms, people even from different parts of history, these Christians of whom I am one, are servants of the same Lord. Because you can read the work of an ancient Catholic saint and a modern Protestant and hear the same voice speaking through both men. You can hear the influence of the Holy Spirit in both men's words. You know that they are listening to the same Person and meditating on the same Lord's instructions and following the same Way.
I think this is part of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Because He deigns to be present in each Christian, we are able to recognize each other. I'm not saying this like He's a magical talisman that beeps when you pass someone else that has one. What I am saying is that I think this is some of how Jesus' statement in John 10, that His sheep know Him and know His voice, works out in our lives. Because the Holy Spirit really is in us, we can really see Him, and hear Him, in each other. We know Him.
Sometimes, of course, we don't listen to Him, and when we're not listening to Him, I'm guessing it's probably harder for others to hear Him through us. But doesn't knowing that give you something to aim for? That's what I want: I want a heart pure enough that the light of the Holy Spirit can shine through it. I've seen that in other people in my own life - I've heard it in the words of men like de Sales and Willard - and I want to be like that.
Not that anyone does it perfectly. None of us perfectly, not even these great saints. But you can see it in others, and isn't it heartening when you do? The great saints seem to me to be windows through which God's light can shine. Stained glass windows for sure, with streaks of black and odd-shaped sections colored by experiences good and bad. But God, as He always does, takes the mess we've made and - great artist that He is - turns it into something beautiful that shows His glory. Like a stained glass window.
And the church, "with schisms rent asunder/with heresies distressed", is still the church. And you can know it is so because you can look at the Orthodox or at the Catholics or at the Protestants and in all of those groups you will find men and women who are filled with the same Holy Spirit. He is, as Paul said, our promise, our seal, that Jesus will indeed return and make it all right again. We know He will return because He did not leave us on our own. God is with us. And He will come back and make it all right.
Peace of Christ to you,