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When the apostles preached, they could assume even in their Pagan hearers a real consciousness of deserving the Divine anger.  The Pagan mysteries existed to allay this consciousness, and the Epicurean philosophy claimed to deliver men from the fear of eternal punishment.  It was against this background that the Gospels appeared as good news. (Emphasis added.)

C.S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain

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This from the chapter entitled “Human Wickedness.”  Reading it is some indictment of us today.

Think about it, Lewis notes that the Pagans 2000 years ago were conscious of their faults and thought themselves deserving of divine punishment. Further, Lewis points out that this was state of mind and consciousness that allowed the Gospels to be received as “Good News.”  

That said, one must ask: Are we anywhere close to such consciousness?  I think you know the answer.

We seem to lack the humility of the Pagans. This, I observe, is the price we pay for our intentional separation of man from God.  Indeed I would say that the last seven centuries have put us on a steady trajectory away from God and humility. Imagine having less humility than unbelievers.  Imagine today that we lack the consciousness to receive the Gospels as men and women once did when Christ appeared and Christianity flourished.  Such a thought is worthy of our contemplation.

It may well be that we need a radical abandonment of our egocentric life in favor of the humility we once possessed in earnest.  When we think less of ourselves we might think more of God.  That cannot be anything but helpful today.

Shalom.

 

 

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Writing is like oil painting.  You work in quiet and create a picture.  Time means nothing.  It stops.  Everything is just now, and now is eternal.

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O soul of mine, will you never be good and sincere, all one, all open visible to the beholder more clearly than even your encompassing body of flesh?

Will you never be fit for such fellowship with the gods and men as to have no syllable of complaint against them, no syllable of reproach from them?

Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations, Book Ten, Para. I

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Most of what you see and hear is chaotic.  Most people make noises and do things that say: “I am sick.  Disordered.”  The wise man knows that having this warning it is best to say free of these people and their noise lest he becomes sick too.

Washington and other large cities are like glass jars full of heated molecules with a tightly affixed lid.  When you listen to the noise of the sick, you reside in that glass jar constantly assaulted by molecules over which you have no control.

Why enter the jar?

Find a quiet place to be alone and sit.  Calm yourself so that you might hear the rhythm of your breath, your heart’s work.  This is the predicate for meditation. In silence look at yourself – your habits, expectations, desires, history – from these come your discontents – the heat that hastens the speed of your molecules.  Discard these things, and accept yourself – your sacred being itself – a being that divinely created cannot be harmed but by you who have expectations dependent on the conduct of others.

Marcus Aurelius lived more than a century before Christ.  He saw the glass jar with lid and heated molecules.  Emperor of Rome, he lived on the extreme edges of his empire so he might know peace and quiet, so he might know himself, others and the gods.

Knowing your divine being your needs drop away, contentment comes to be and you see others as ones in injured state … but when you are free of expectations, housed in your sacred being compassion comes freely.  Nothing those sick ones who routinely behave in hurtful and upsetting ways can rile you, upset you, suck you into their chaos, their drama … nothing that they might do can throw you off stride.

Separation, quiet, solitude, self-understanding, knowing your divine self, suspending wants and expectations (unnecessary to the divine self which is our natural and independent state of health and existence).  In separation, quiet, solitude, self-understanding we see the jar, its lid and its heated molecules – but we are not captured.

… Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness to pray.

Lk 5:16

Marcus Aurelius, Zen and Jesus.

Shalom.

 

The loss of the Christian religion is why the West has been fragmented for some time now, a process that is accelerating … (we are) stripped of ancestral faith.

Rod Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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What in particular has been lost?

To answer this question is to chart a course back to health and stability, joy, meaning and purpose, resolve, determination, responsibility, identity, intimacy, strength and courage.

So what is the answer?  Well here is part of it.  We once identified God with Creation – with our beginning, our origin, and this nexus of God and Creation placed God in the present moment of each day.  Having disconnected God from Creation, we are lost.

Lost, we are without stability, comprehension, understanding, hope and certainty.  We lack vitality.  We have nothing to fight for or to defend.

In our present state, our capacity for belief and the ability to have a full human experience are absent.  Yes, some among us have become like the Zombies in the Walking Dead – mindless, soulless stumble bums.

Losing the presence of God, nothing is sacred – when once all was sacred.

Having lost sacramental consciousness, the Spirit suffers – we are less than we have been created to be … more uncertain, anxious, frightened, confused.  We have been hollowed out.

Our medieval ancestors had it so much easier.  Imagine that.  They saw God in all things, revealing Himself through people and events, in places and things.  In contrast, we live starved of full human experience, and the experience of the Divine.  A pathetic and tragic disposition.  Those “with less” had so much more.

Think about it.  Without God we lose humility – sit and stand alone – dependent on self; this a desperate state given too frequently to addictions, suicides, violence, desolation, hopelessness – crushed by the burden of life without God, without belief.  In our midst stand sad clowns and crazies, and those in a stunned stupor – flat, nonsensical, troubled, unpredictable, explosive.

So what might one do?

St. Benedict reacted to the corruption and chaos produced by the fall of Rome by removing himself from the destruction and concentrating on his faith life, on Christ, prayer, living a modest, careful and caring life.  He dedicated himself to living his faith daily and in all things.

You can do the same and you need not flee to the desert or take a place in a cave.  No, you can “hunkered down” in place.  Make space between the confused and you, between you and Christ and those lost to belief.

The times call for a Benedictine presence.  Your witness can save others and sustain Christianity just as St. Benedict did.  Fear not.  This, too, shall pass.

Shalom.

 

There was a time when people were not concerned about self.  It was a time of simply being.  (Emphasis added.)

Gerald May, M.D., in Simply Sane

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It is said by some that when Adam and Eve partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that this is the moment when consciousness is born, when man and woman see themselves as “self” – as living in a state of being “separate” and “apart” from God and one another.

That said, Dr. May in his book Simply Sane examines the evolution of the human being once he and she discovers the self and other.  

May sees this as a very significant turning point that posts a false state of being and creates very difficult tensions, and problems, for the human person.

In particular, May reminds us when we were less conscious of self we are more aware of being itself, and life and creation as we were but a part.  Says May, when we focus on self our awareness fades and thought clutters our mind.  This transition, I offer with May’s help, creates distance between one person and another, imposes particular burdens on a single person and makes intimate experience far more difficult for the distance consciousness of self fosters between one person and an other, or all others – and in relationship with the Divine. One might ask in this context, Can one know the “I Am” when one must be the I am?

Yes, in self comes estrangement.  In a way, consciousness of self makes another a potential threat, an enemy.  Perhaps this is why we seem to prefer that “God is dead” or forgotten in the present secular age.

I have come over the years to see the loss of intimacy as a major and very damaging issue in modern life.  My observation has me think about so many of the modern horrors and disordered behaviors and wonder if it is not the estrangement from our divine and whole being and the resultant loss of intimacy that gives rise to so many modern illnesses and murderous escapades.

I ask for instance: What explains the homicidal rage of ISIS?  What empowers the need for nation states, like Iran or North Korea, to fortify themselves against “others” as they do?  Why is a flawed ideology like Marxism so embraced by “educated” people who should know it’s ugly and brutal history?  Why is pornography so prevalent?  How can homosexuality can exist in a vowed religious community?  How can women justify the killing of an innocent, unborn child in the womb?  How can the Left justify their lying to secure political power at the expense of their dignity and honor?  How can once great nations, where freedom was secured and debate welcomed, become so divided, so at war with their citizens with whom they do not agree? How can obvious dangers be ignored and incidents be overlooked because they are at odds one’s distorted political view of what is “correct?”  How can people lie to themselves and live what is false and a lie itself?  Cover up and excuse horrible crimes?

Self.  Self more than other.  Thought replacing awareness.  The other as enemy. Estrangement. Loss of relationship.  Loss of intimacy. Distance from others. Distance from one significant other.  Sickness on display.  Sickness excused, justified.  Sickness.  Decay.  Decline.  Death.

Think about it.

Shalom.

Question: When can we prosecute Hillary for national security breaches, or at least get her psychiatric help?

‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but in every word the proceeds out of the mouth of God.’

Mt 4:4

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This is the response of Jesus to the first desert temptation of Satan.  The word more important than bread.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This, of course, is the opening line in the Gospel of John.  It asks us: to what do you give primacy?  To money?  Power?  Politics?  Yourself?  Celebrity?  Your sexual desires?  Drugs?  Alcohol?  Food?

Food?  Yes, is obesity not a sign of self-deprivation?  Self-consumption? Emotional starvation, and spiritual suffering?  Would not God fill us to satisfaction so much better than food can?  Does Jesus not so very clearly say this?

There is nothing wrong in American society that cannot be radically altered for the better if God and the Word of God is not given primacy to each of us, and to this nation and its culture.  Nothing.

The Toltec Mexican writer Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. reminds us that in our head two entities reside: one is a parasite and the other is an ally.  Each speaks to us.

The parasite is the one who reminds us of the negative things others have said about us or done to us – the words and deeds which would have us think negatively of our self, impose on us the sense that we are deficient, less worthy. The ally offers, in contrast, thoughts that we are valuable and that voice comes to us from the voices and deeds of those who have seen our value.

Don Ruiz reminds us that we must dismiss the parasite and listen to the ally, but more to the point he reminds us that “neither voice represents your whole Authentic Self” for you are not your thoughts …

In our Christian tradition, its story and its truth: you are an extension of the Word of God, a child of the Master – a word in God’s vocabulary.

There is NOTHING in you, or this nation and its culture, that cannot be corrected by simply placing God at the center of our being – the defining reality of our life, this nation and its culture … and of life itself.

Ignore the many among us who speak as godless parasites.

Shalom.

… that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in me and I in You, that they may also be in Us …

Jn: 17:21

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” … that they may all be one … “

We often think we must find God, as if God is hiding somewhere or is distant and far from us.  But does God require our search?  What if God is nearer than we are to ourselves?

What if God is in “the all?”  What if the Creator is in “all” that is created – in the visible and invisible, in us and without us – in all time, without absence or pause?

In Jesus words, he is saying that we can be one with God, in God as The Son is in the Father.  Does this not suggest an “allness,” a divine inclusiveness?

In Eastern religions, the human is thought to be able to go beyond all ignorance, fear and change to a stable state in which “All things are Buddha,” the Divine is known and experienced in “all things are without self.”  Yes, where we dissolve into the One that Jesus speaks of in the above words.

Imagine this simple thought: If God makes all, is God not in all, is God not All? And from this, we might ask: Are we not in God and is God not in us?  And this: Is our search necessary?

If we are in God as the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son, would we not change in a drastic and fundamental way how we lived, thought, interacted, spoke?  Would we listen to the godless and uninformed?  Would we pursue matters of discord or division? Would we experience loneliness?  Despair?  Or would we not live in calm, with a quiet inside, softness in our voice?   Would we ever lack for intimacy?

Finding God in All.  Think about it.

Shalom.

The Holiness of Rain

The rain falls hard today in the mountains.  Hard enough to give it voice, a steady presence in a quiet room.  There is a peace in its persistence.  It seems to “hush” with its music, its patter –  coupled with its consistent, rhythmic din.  To match rain, the skies are close in; clouds and their gray dim the light as if to call us within.  Peace is at hand.  God visits today.  Being alone takes on its holiness, forcing the Truth of God’s eternal, everyday – day and night, year in and year out existence.

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” … my … pilgrimage has come clear and purified itself … I know I have seen what I was obscurely looking for.  I don’t know what else remains but I have now seen and pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and the disguise.”

Thomas Merton

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These are Merton’s words upon visiting a cave adjacent to the ruins of ancient temple buildings near Polonnaruwa, Ceylon, and entering the cave to find large renderings of human beings and a giant reclining Buddha.

He felt in this excursion into this place an “inner clarity.”  He referred to this as “an aesthetic illumination” allowing him to see “beyond the shadow and the disguise.”

This was Thomas Merton’s last journey.  He was to die at 58 in a matter of days.

Is your life a pilgrimage?  Do you seek what you are created to seek.  Or are you captured by what is not Truth, not of the soul, of God, or of your divine nature?

Do not let the thought-police take you captive.  Your warden is a Loving Father.

For Merton the great stone figures were “in full movement,” beautiful and holy.

How does the world look to you?  What do you see?  Hear?  Feel?  Experience in the rain and the clouds?  Do you see “full movement” in motionless stones?

Shalom.

… the first Christian hermits abandoned the cities of the pagan world to live in solitude.

Thomas Merton, in The Wisdom of the Desert

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Why does a man live alone in nature, removed from the population and the city?

‘Tis a useful question.

As for the 4th century men who did so we can say, as Merton does, that they sought their salvation, saw its individual characteristic and their own responsibility for its solicitation.

Indeed, they saw that the pagan society that they knew offered little to further their salvation.  Rather, they concluded that it impeded access to it.

These men would not let the ways and values of the pagan culture destroy them, co-opt them.

They took no comfort in the Cross becoming part of the presiding temporal powers.  This, itself, is particularly interesting.  They seemed to know that civil matters where not spiritual in nature, that to The Divine alone belongs the primacy.

Think for a moment: these men saw Christian life as spiritual, as “extramundane” – as simply existing in the Mystical Body of Christ … and they saw that their responsibility was to seek life in Christ.

These men stood for the idea that man was personally responsible for his life and what it said of him and of God.  

Contrast that with today – when so many are captured by the common denominators of secular culture, its herd, its folly, its untruth and its destructive, conflictive and unsatisfying ways.

These men did not wish to be ruled by the decadence.  They did not see themselves, mind you, as superior to others but rather only more intent on living in accord with their faith. They lived socially in aid of one another and strangers as governed by their faith and “the charismatic authority of wisdom, experience and love.”  They “sought … their own true self, in Christ.”

Today I live on a ridge looking out on rolling pastures, forest, and mountains. Minutes ago the sun rose in the East over mountain peaks announcing once again that God reigns eternally …

Each sunrise – unique in its colors and hues – raises up God the Creator … enkindles my gratitude.

In my solitude, quiet makes the music so much sweeter and evocative.  In the solitude, I think of God in a daily silence, and meet the Desert Fathers.  In solitude, I have good company.

Shalom.

A Post Today for Parents and Children

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Our consciousness does not create itself.  It wells up from unknown depths … it wakes each morning out of the depths of sleep …

Carl Jung, M.D., in The Psychology of Eastern Meditation

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Jung would say that we are not born tabula rasa – with a clean state.  No, his views is that each person’s brain has a history of human experience and within each person is a psyche that will seek expression, fulfillment, realization of personhood.

Jung would say that each of us is born with “a high complexity” and “existing determinants” that persist throughout each life.  Yes, in many ways we play out our particular being within this divine design.

The fact that we share this excursion seems, it appears to me, to promise our completeness provided we accept life, its lessons and – listen to the cues we observe within – evolve as we are uniquely called to life within this divine design which is itself made to insure uniqueness and commonality.

It follows, in my mind, that relationships with others, intimacy, marriage, love, family, fellowship, friendship, community and nation flow from this magnificent divine design.

What a gift is this life and its living.

Shalom.

Would any seed take root if he had not believed His promise when God said,

“Dears, I will rain.  I will help you.  I will turn into warmth and effulgence,

I will be the Mother that I am and let you draw from My body and rise, and rise.”

St. Thomas Aquinas

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If there is no God, how can these words from the 13th century survive, interest us, speak to us, make us think, perhaps alter our consciousness, orientation to daily life, and the meaning of our existence?

Aquinas thought that contemplation and solitude were among the greatest gifts we are given.  But alas we are very busy, and noisy.  So easily distracted, indeed to a state of exhaustion and impatience.

He became a Dominican monk and lived a vow of poverty with complete devotion to God.  Even in the 13th century this was a radical departure from what was.

His family kidnapped him and held him in isolation for two years in their castle to try to dissuade his choice of a monastic life.  This only strengthened his will and his faith.  In his solitude and forced imprisonment, he memorized Holy Scriptures.

Released he became a master at the University of Paris and focused his attention on Aristotle’s writings on metaphysics.  From this he learned how to make the profound seem simple to his audience.

In his studies his faith deepened and matters like the growth of a seed or the expanse of the human being came to form and to his understanding and he shared his insights with all.  To this day his words survive.

Are you not the seed promised life-giving water and eternal warmth?

Shalom.

Tomorrow’s Post: How the Democrat Left lost and Trump became President.

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