Sunday, August 28, 2011

A steady illumination

Artist: Poul Friis Nybo

The explanation of how the words "prayer" and "precarious" are related is what prompted me to want to share the following with you:
“Precarious” comes from the same Latin root as the word “prayer.” Here prayer does not mean pleading with a distant deity who may or may not pay attention. It may not even be a request at all. Prayer in this sense means rather that we reconnect with the very Source from which we come. We open the eyes of our heart to the inner light abiding in everything. We feel connected to this Source – through a hovering hummingbird, a toddler’s giggle, the aroma of fresh-baked bread – yet in a flicker, the connection seems gone and we are plunged into grief. This teaches us to let go, courageously, again and again. None of us would have the heart for this task if we did not begin to see that the light has a steady presence in spite of appearances. With joy we realize that the radiance we glimpse flows steadily and illumines all creation in an everlasting glow.
This is from a marvelous essay called Grief/Joy on the site.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rejoice, O Virgin

Ah! Just let yourself be cradled by this soothing and gorgeous music.

Rejoice O Virgin, Theotokos [God-bearer],
Mary full of grace, the Lord is with You.
Blessed are You among women,
and blessed is the Fruit of Your womb,
for You have borne the Savior of our souls.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A prayer for us all

Here's another re-post for you. (Different art work though.) Somehow, this seems to fit with what I posted yesterday:

Quite a number of years ago, someone gave me a prayer on a little card that seemed just right for me. I was deeply moved by it and taped it to a bookcase in my office so that I could see it often. Later, I came across it on line. Here's the prayer:
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
It is, of course, by Thomas Merton from his wonderful book, Thoughts in Solitude.

An editorial review on Amazon says this about the book:
What has made this book such an enduring and popular work is that it recognizes how important solitude is to our morality, integrity, and ability to love. One does not have to be a monk to find solitude, notes Merton; solitude can be found in the act of contemplation and silent reflection in everyday life. Also, this is not a pious book that assumes that a relationship with the divine can be obtained only by denying our humanity and striving for saintliness. Instead, Merton asserts that connection with God can most easily be made through "respect for temperament, character, and emotion and for everything that makes us human."
Sadly, a lot of common approaches to Christian formation do suggest that we need to deny our humanity in order to please God. Of course, paradoxically, that has the effect of making us more self-conscious rather than less. Making friends with ourselves is an important first step on the spiritual path. Think about it. Why would we give a self that we hate as an offering to God? I actually like that old T-shirt that says, "God doesn't make junk". So do remember this wonderful saying of Irenaeus: "The glory of God is the human being fully alive!"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A spacious environment

This is a repeat from a while back. But I think it is actually quite timely given the political and religious climate of today. And so I offer it again.

It has grieved me for some time now that the fundamentalist expression of Christianity has held sway in the public imagination and has conditioned many people in our society to believe that Christianity is all about condemning others and controlling its own. And so I really loved this quotation when I stumbled upon it - particularly the last sentence:

There are a number of Hebrew words about salvation which also mean "to bring into a spacious environment", "to be at one's ease", "to be free to develop". "Salvation" can be seen then as the new life in Christ, in which we are to be "free to develop" into Christ-like people. For this maturing to take place, there needs to be a breaking down of barriers, a breaking up of the soil of our personalities, and a healing of inner wounds and hurts. The soil is softened, the clay becomes malleable through the experience of the tender love of God and the accepting, non-judgmental love of Christians. We cannot be beaten into shape.

--Michael Harper

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why certainty is not really an option

Artist: Gentile da Fabriano

Truly among the more helpful things C.S. Lewis ever said:
Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask - half our great theological and metaphysical problems - are like that.
Therefore, I would assert that it behooves us not to become too attached to our theological constructs. From our limited viewpoint, we can't really know if they actually make any sense or not.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Speaking rightly

Artist: Simon Ushakov

Yes, it's a paradox:

Teaching about Christ begins in silence.... In so far as the Church proclaims the Word, it falls down silently in truth before the inexpressible: 'In silence I worship the unutterable' (Cyril of Alexandria). The spoken Word is the inexpressible; this unutterable is the Word.... Although it is cried out by the Church in the world, it remains the inexpressible. To speak of Christ means to keep silent; to keep silent about Christ means to speak. When the Church speaks rightly out of a proper silence, then Christ is proclaimed.

This was said by the great Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Side roads in the mist

Artist: Claude Monet

Some years ago, I came across the blog of a clergyperson who calls himself Real Live Preacher. He is a very interesting, thoughtful writer indeed.

Here are just a couple of quotations:
Every path may lead you to God, even the weird ones. Most of us are on a journey. We’re looking for something, though we’re not always sure what that is. The way is foggy much of the time. I suggest you slow down and follow some of the side roads that appear suddenly in the mist.
When someone is giving you their theology, their God words, you should listen hard and be very gentle. The time to deliver your God words is when you are asked.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A little levity for something different

Artist: Wolfgang Krodel the Elder

Goodness! I have to admit I never thought about it quite this way before:

God tells Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If this was the only way they could understand the difference between good and evil, how could they have known that it was wrong to disobey God and eat the fruit?

--Laurie Lynn*

* I can't seem to find any information on this person but I found the quotation right here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Something about missing the obvious

Today's gospel reading is the story of Jesus (and Peter) walking on the water. Here's something I found on Lindy Black's site that is both humorous and intriguing. There's actually a lot here when you think about it:

There is an old story that has often been re-told in especially the Eastern Orthodox part of the church. According to the tale, a devout abbot from a monastery decided to take a prolonged spiritual retreat in a small cabin located on a remote island in the middle of a large lake. He told his fellow monks that he wanted to spend his days in prayer so as to grow closer to God. For six months he remained on the island with no other person seeing him or hearing from him in all that time. But then one day, as two monks were standing near the shore soaking up some sunshine, they could see in the distance a figure moving toward them. It was the abbot, walking on water, and coming toward shore. After the abbot passed by the two monks and continued on to the monastery, one of the monks turned to the other and said, "All these months in prayer and the abbot is still as stingy as ever. After all, the ferry costs only 25 cents!" Humor aside, the point of the story is that it's amazing how easily we may sometimes miss the significance of something that is right in front of us. It’s the kind of thing that could motivate one to take a fresh look at even the very familiar, like the story in Matthew 14 about Jesus (and then Peter) walking on water.

-- Scott Hoezee


Thursday, August 4, 2011

The meaning of a blessing

Artist: Helen Allingham

I continue to be grateful for the life and writings of the Irish poet and philosopher John O'Donohue. His unexpected death at the age of fifty-two came as a shock to those of us who had discovered his contribution to the world-wide community of those who joyfully participate in contemplation and who embrace the spiritual journey. Here's something he said that speaks to what we want for ourselves and each other when we go to the deepest place of wisdom within:

"Our longing for the eternal kindles our imagination to bless. Regardless of how we configure the eternal, the human heart continue to dream of a state of wholeness, that place where everything comes together, where loss will be made good, where blindness will transform into vision, where damage will be made whole, where the clenched question will open in the house of surprise, where the travails of life's journey will enjoy a homecoming. To invoke a blessing is to call some of that wholeness upon a person now."