Thursday, July 31, 2008

Seeing God in everything

"Broken Mirror"

Not long ago I offered you a post in which I said that we do not need to pursue God because God pursues us. Here is something else on that same theme:

I suddenly saw that all the time it was not I who had been seeking God, but God who had been seeking me. I had made myself the centre of my own existence and had my back turned to God. All the beauty and truth which I had discovered had come to me as a reflection of his beauty, but I had kept my eyes fixed on the reflection and was always looking at myself. But God had brought me to the point at which I was compelled to turn away from the reflection, both of myself and of the world which could only mirror my own image. During that night the mirror had been broken, and I had felt abandoned because I could no longer gaze upon the image of my own reason and the finite world which it knew. God had brought me to my knees and made me acknowledge my own nothingness, and out of that knowledge I had been reborn. I was no longer the centre of my life and therefore I could see God in everything.

-- Bede Griffiths

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Something about liturgy

"Miriam's Dance"

Brandon Scott, a theologian who is on the faculty of Phillips Seminary right here in Tulsa, wrote an article in which he explores the true function of liturgy. I really like his point about "a new asceticsm":

Liturgy is not about the past, but life in the present. Liturgy should not recreate a dream world, a romanticized past, but symbolize and ritualize current struggles and life. We need rituals for cancer, 12 step programs, and divorce. We need to celebrate and mourn. And we need liturgy that celebrates the scientific worldview as our own. We need a new asceticism that helps people become silent and turn off the media roar that drowns out our true life. The challenge today to religious experience is not science, but Disney. The media has created a fantasy that wants to surround our every waking moment. We must learn to turn it off, if we are going to hear the still quite voice.

--Brandon Scott

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Angels transcend every religion, every philosophy, every creed. In fact angels have no religion as we know it ...their existence precedes every religious system that has ever existed on earth.

-- St. Thomas Aquinas

Monday, July 28, 2008

A teaching of great consolation

Oh my. So many people who come to talk to me are full of dismay because they can't fix the wrongs of the world or even their small bit of it. It is so easy to get discouraged when our little effort seems like a drop in the vast ocean of suffering and need and we are tempted to think that our contribution to the betterment of the world can't possibly matter. But do look at this and think about it:

Even though I never did an evil deed, yet, if I have the will to do evil, I have the sin as if I had done the deed; and I could, by a total will, do as great a sin as if I had killed the whole world, though I never actually did anything. Why, would the same not be possible to a good will? Yes, indeed, and even much more so. Surely, I can do all things with the will. I can bear the sorrow of all men and feed all the poor and do the work of all men and whatever else you may think of. If it be not the will that fails you, but only the power, then truly, before God, you have done it all, and no man can take it from you or even hinder you for a moment; for to will to do as soon as I can is the same before God as having done it.

-- Meister Eckhart

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"This alone is Reality"

"Boy and Girl"

To see the words "Reality" and "Infinite Charity" in the following passage capitalized is wonderfully illuminating. They are names for God. Sometimes we need a more expansive language than the usual anthropomorphic words we commonly use:

When we look out towards this love that moves the stars and stirs in the child's heart and claims our total allegiance, and remember that this alone is Reality and we are only real so far as we conform to its demands, we see our human situation from a fresh angle; and we perceive that it is both more humble and dependent, and more splendid, than we had dreamed. We are surrounded and penetrated by great spiritual forces of which we hardly know anything. Yet the outward events of our life cannot be understood, except in their relation to that unseen and intensely living world, the Infinite Charity which penetrates and supports us, the God whom we resist and yet for whom we thirst; who is ever at work, transforming the self-centred desire of the natural creature into the wide spreading, outpouring love of the citizen of Heaven.

-- Evelyn Underhill

Friday, July 25, 2008

The search for meaning


At the end of Session 5 of the Foundations class I teach at St. John's Center, I always say, "Next week, we're going to learn 'the meaning of life'." Everybody laughs because those words have become such a cliché. But, in fact, the reason they are a cliché is because the search for meaning is so universal and the feeling of meaninglessness is so painful:

What we are looking for on earth and in earth and in our lives is the process that can unlock for us the mystery of meaningfulness in our daily lives. It has been the best-kept secret down through the ages because it is so simple. Truly, the last place it would ever occur to most of us to find the sacred would be in the commonplace of our everyday lives and all about us in nature and in simple things.

Alice O. Howell in The Dove in the Stone

Thursday, July 24, 2008

God the friend


I found this on a blog called Poetry, Prayer and Praise. Seeing God as a friend is very consoling, very strengthening, very joy producing, I think:

God The Friend

God in the bad times
God in the good
God in the flame
And God in the wood.

God in the labour
God in the rest
God in the shallows,
God in the crest.

God in the healing,
God in the care
God on the wing
And God in the prayer.

God in the living
God at the end,
God the faithful
God the friend.

- Veritas

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Something about forgiveness

"Earth Angel of Forgiveness"

I want to call your attention to a marvelous iconographer and jewelry maker named Sofia Christine who works with copper. I am posting this and sending you her way with her permission. I just love her work! Please go check it out.

Above is one of my favorites. Here's what Sofia says about it:
Earth Angel of Forgiveness is the messenger from God ready for our invitation to be a presence in our lives. One arm reaches downward in compassion while the other reaches up for the heart knowing that allows us to "give for" the Highest Understanding. Thus heaven truly touches earth.
I'm very moved by the idea that it is through forgiveness that heaven touches earth.

Maybe this is why:

It may be infinitely worse to refuse to forgive than to murder, because the latter may be an impulse of a moment of heat; whereas the former is a cold and deliberate choice of the heart.

-- George MacDonald

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

St. Mary Magdalen's Day

Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalen, "apostle to the apostles". The Lentz icon above has long been my favorite image of the Magdalen and I have a paper copy of it somewhere.

Mary Magdalen is frequently pictured holding an egg. Here's the legend behind that:
After the ascension of Christ to Heaven, Mary Magdalene preached the gospel to many and among them Tiberius Caesar, who it is said, proclaimed publicly to Mary Magdalene as she attended a feast at his palace that it was no more likely that Jesus rose from the dead than it was that the white egg she held in her hand would turn red. As Mary stretched out her hand the egg turned blood red. This was the beginning of the tradition of exchanging red colored eggs at Easter.
This has always been a special day for me because it is the closest major feast day to my birthday. And Mary Magdalen is greatly inspiring as an independent woman who fearlessly proclaimed the gospel.

How can I keep from singing?

My life goes on in endless song
above earth's lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear its music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness 'round me close,
songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I'm clinging.
Since Love is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble sick with fear
and hear their death knell ringing,
when friends rejoice both far and near
how can I keep from singing?

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I'm clinging.
Since Love is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?

My life goes on in endless song
above earth's lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
How can I keep from singing?

How can I keep from singing?
(Hat tip to Elizabeth Kaeton)

Monday, July 21, 2008

The eternal Logos

In principio erat verbum et verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat verbum.

Yvonne Perez sent me an email today about a book called Success Intelligence by Robert Holden, Ph.D. Holden includes a thought-provoking quote from a book by Danah Zohar who is a pioneer in the field of SQ - "Spiritual Intelligence". The quote is:
Logos has traditionally been translated as word .... but there is an earlier and more original Greek meaning of logos. This is translated as relationship .... Imagine logos translated in the Bible as relationship: 'In the beginning, there was relationship.'
I'm accustomed to Logos being typically explained as meaning Principle, Wisdom or Reason. It is also sometimes translated "ratio" and, of course, we see the relatationship angle right there. You can't have a ratio without relationship.

I agree this is wonderfully thought provoking.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

"Descent of the Holy Spirit"
Artist: Christopher Smith

St. Symeon the New Theologian prayed to the Holy Spirit:

Come Down, O True Light.
Come down life eternal.
Come down hidden mystery.
Come down ineffable treasure.
Come down O constant rejoicing.
Come down Light that never fades.
Come down Eternal Joy...!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A prayer to God the lover

The mystics of the Church often used very erotic language when trying to verbalize their prayer experiences. Teresa of Avila was a prime example. Here is one of her prayers which is clearly meant to offer great consolation:

O true Lover,
with how much compassion,
with how much gentleness,
with how much delight,
with how much favor,
and with what extraordinary signs of love
You cure these wounds,
which with the same darts
of this same love
You have caused!
O my God
and my rest from all pains,
how entranced I am!

— Saint Teresa of Avila

Friday, July 18, 2008

The blessings of the ordinary

"Still Life with Simple Things"

I want to give you two quotations today because they are so very connected in my mind:

The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things of life.

-Robert Louis Stevenson

And here's the other one:

Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.

-Abraham Heschel

Learning to be ordinary and to appreciate it was a spiritual breakthrough for me because I was brought up with the expectation that I would be special, exceptional. As one of my meditation teachers used to say, "Not necessary!"

Let it be okay to be. Just to be. How wonderful!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Coping with adversity

"Edge of Darkness"

I was taught quite some time ago that probably the most important monastic virtue is perseverance. I think that's true of spiritual practice whether one is a monastic or not. What really counts is not throwing in the towel. Here's an observation that will help:

It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.

-- J.R.R. Tolkien

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Everything swirls with meaning


I first learned about Richard Rohr when I was living in Ireland in the early 90s and someone gave me a tape of Fr. Rohr speaking on the parable of the weeds among the wheat. I can't tell you how many times I listened to that talk. I subsequently made every effort to obtain recordings of his talks and retreat addresses and later to read his books.

Here's something he said that is worthy of considerable pondering:

The work of religion is to open our eyes to see a world where everything swirls with meaning.

— Richard Rohr in Quest for the Grail

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lord of the Dance

I love the image of the Divine Dancer. I often think of God in this way:

God is the lead dancer and the soul is the partner completely attuned to the rhythm and patterns set by the partner. She does not lead, but neither does she hang limp like a sack of potatoes.

Thomas Merton

Monday, July 14, 2008

Faith - the real thing

Carolyn Loomis sent me the following a while back and I just re-discovered it. I so agree. It's from a book entitled You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right:

When faith simplifies things that need to remain complex, instead of giving us strength to live with complexity, when it gives answers where none exist, instead of helping us appreciate the sacredness of living with questions, when if offers certainty when there needs to be doubt and when it tells us that we have arrived when we should still be searching--then there is a problem with that faith.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The imperative of justice

"Lady Justice"

Here's something that is very often forgotten or overlooked by religious people in the United States today:

More than a few Christians might be surprised to learn that the call to be involved in creating justice for the poor is just as essential and nonnegotiable within the spiritual life as is Jesus' commandment to pray and keep our private lives in order.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Saint Benedict

Today' is the feast day of Saint Benedict of Nursia, well known for his famous Rule. It is often remarked that the true hallmark of this rule is its moderation and balance. Here's a wonderful passage:

This rule is a school for learning God’s ways. It was meant to be gentle, not harsh or burdensome. If it seems a little strict at times, try to remember its purpose — to heal faults and safeguard love. Do not grow afraid of its discipline and run away, for these teachings are a road to inner freedom and peace.

Rule of Benedict

Here's something else about the Rule:

The wisdom of Benedict's Rule lies in its flexibility, its tolerance for individual differences, and its openness to change. For over 1500 years, it has remained a powerful and relevant guide for those who would seek God in the ordinary circumstances of life.

When Benedict wrote his Rule, society seemed to be falling apart. Though materially prosperous, the Roman Empire was in a state of decline. After Benedict's death, barbarian hordes would overrun Europe and the very survival of Western civilization would be called into question. Benedictine monasteries—with their message of balance and moderation, stability, hospitality, and stewardship—were credited with the preservation of Western culture, and Benedict himself was named patron of Europe.

-- Sr. JM McClure, OSB

As a solitary myself, I often find myself reminding people that Benedict started out as a hermit and was later prevailed upon by other monks to abandon his solitude in order to lead them. Both expressions of monasticism are important: the solitary life and life in community.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The sounds around us

"Listening Carefully"

I found a blog just now that has a posting on Lectio Divina that includes this paragraph:

Sometimes in preparing for prayer, relax and listen to the sounds around you. God’s presence is as real as they are. Be conscious of your sensations and living experiences of feeling, thinking, hoping, loving, wondering, desiring, etc. Then, conscious of God’s unselfish, loving presence in you, address God simply and admit: “Yes, you do love life and feeling into me. You do love a share of your personal life into me. You are present to me. You live in me. Yes, you do.”
As I write I am in bed and the frogs outside are singing. It is a wonderful sound and I'm about to go to sleep listening to it. How lovely it is to know that it is God's own life within me that makes it possible for me to have this consciousness and this very real pleasure.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Spiritual quest

"Golden Road"
People are looking for something and cannot seem to find it. They say they want more but cannot describe what that more is. This essentially is a spiritual quest.
— James W. Jones in In the Middle of this Road We Call Our Life

The title of the book quoted above is the first line from Dante's Inferno. Although this amazing medieval poem is in one way about the punishment of sinners, it is also about the inner journey. It reminds me in many ways of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008



Sometimes when another person does not see our vision, that person may very well subject us to an interrogation - demanding that we somehow justify our ability to see what we see. Here's a wonderful passage that explores what this means:

We of the modern time live much more in the attitude of interrogation than of exclamation. We so blur our world with question marks that we lose the sense of wonder and sometimes even of vision. It is refreshing to note how frequently the great spiritual teachers of the New Testament introduce their message with the word "behold!" They speak because they see and they want their hearers and their readers to see. Their "behold" is more than an interjection — it has the force of an imperative, as though they would say: "Just see what I see. Open your eyes to the full meaning of what is before you," which is the method of all true teachers.

Rufus Jones

Monday, July 7, 2008

A wonderful speculation about grace


We think of grace arriving like an ambulance, just-in-time delivery, an invisible divine cavalry cresting a hill of troubles, a bolt of jazz from the glittering horn of the Creator, but maybe it lives in us and is activated by illness of the spirit. Maybe we're loaded with grace. Maybe we're stuffed with the stuff. Maybe it's stitched into our DNA, a fifth ingredient in the deoxyribonucleic acidic soup.

Brian Doyle

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The whole of the Good News

This Little Light of Mine

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” --- Matthew 5:14,15

Here's an assertion I've never come across before. It really makes me think:
So the whole of the Good News of Jesus is in these two statements, 'I am the Light of the world' , and 'You are the Light of the world.'

Saturday, July 5, 2008

St. Teresa of Avila on love

If you look at popular novels, at gossip magazines, at syrupy soap operas and movies, you come away with the impression that falling in love is something that just happens. Here you are, sauntering down Fourth Street minding your own business, when suddenly you spy a certain someone coming out of a shop and you fall in love as if into a manhole. True love is much harder to come by than that.

The mystics are the world’s authorities on love. When Saint Teresa says “Amor saca amor,” she is giving us the basic principle: “Love begets love.” One of the most beautiful things about love is that even today it cannot be purchased. It cannot be stolen, it cannot be ransomed, it cannot be cajoled, it cannot be seduced. Amor saca amor: only genuine love begets love.

All of us have been conditioned, even though we may not put it in such crass terms, to believe that if you love me six units, I should love you at most six units in return. I can feel secure in loving you six units because you have already committed yourself that far. But if you get annoyed with me and stomp out, slamming the door, I should get annoyed in return – and pull back, at least temporarily, my six units of love. This is the type of bargain that more and more so-called lovers strike today. Saint Teresa would say uncompromisingly, “Don’t pretend that this is love. It falls more accurately under the heading of commerce.” Shakespeare put the matter in perfect perspective: “Call it not love that changeth.”

--Eknath Easwaran

I think one of the most painful things that can possibly happen to a person is to have a beloved's love change, stop, go away, simply not be there any more. This happens with humans - all too often. Not with God. Not with God. God's love never changes. It is always reliable, always passionate, always utter, total, accepting.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Prayer for the Nation on Independence Day

God of ages,
in your sight nations rise and fall,
and pass through times of peril.
Now when our land is troubled,
be near to judge and save.
May leaders be led by your wisdom;
may they search your will and see it clearly.
If we have turned from your way,
help us to reverse our ways and repent.
Give us your light and your truth to guide us;
through Jesus Christ,
who is Lord of this world, and our Savior. Amen.

Source: Prebyterian Church USA

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fidelity - the real thing

"Apple Blossoms"

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

-- Martin Luther

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I think I've mentioned Lewis Smedes on this blog before. He is truly excellent on the subject of forgiveness. I heartily recommend his book Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve. Reading it helped me a lot once upon a time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A capacity for love

"Tranquil Seashell"
There is in each of us, no matter how humble, a capacity for love. Even if our lives have not taken the course we had envisioned, even if we are less than the shape of our dreams, we are part of the human family. Somewhere, in the most inconsequential corners of our lives, is the opportunity for love.

If I am blind, I can run my hand across the back of a shell and celebrate beauty. If I have no legs, I can sit in quiet wonder before the restless murmurs of the sea. If I am wounded in spirit, I can reach out my hand to those who are hurting. If I am lonely, I can go among those who are desperate for love. There is no tragedy or injustice so great, no life so small and inconsequential, that we cannot bear witness to the light in the quiet acts and hidden moments of our days.

And who can say which of these acts and moments will make a difference? The universe is a vast and magical membrane of meaning, stretching across time and space, and it is not given to us to know her secrets and her ways. Perhaps we were placed here to meet the challenge of a single moment; perhaps the touch we give will cause the touch that will change the world.