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The life of the spirit is not your life, but the life of God within us.

St. Teresa of Availa, in Life Written by Herself

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Spirirual growth is aided significantly when we allow questions to arise in us.  What might that mean?

When something happens to us that we cannot quite understand, or when we experience something that is puzzling, even hurtful or disorienting – or something quite suprising and quite unexpected, it is good to pause and spend time asking yourself – what just happened?  Ask – why did that happen and what does it mean or what does it tell or teach me about life, others, interactions, me and the nature and history of my personal journey and the themes that have thus far emerged in my life?

In becoming familiar with your spiritual journey, you become familiar with yourself, your potential, your present personal settings as they orient you (most likely) partially to what is within you, what is your whole and presently unlived story.  And more to the point, in this questioning, you become wiser, more secure and find a relationship with God – your Creator.

Our journey is not so much about complete comprehension as it is about mystery – allowing the presence of mystery, and gaining stability in knowing not all things, but rather that – in growing in Spirit we need not know all things but only that all things are possible, even the things that we least expect and cannot predict.  In this state, we depart from the common installation of those things that are not certain – our identity in politics, career, education, title, wealth, status, political party, ideology, possessions, habits, gender, sexuality “identity,” etc.

Remember as to the Spirit and spiritual development – we do not and cannot unilaterally craft a life; to attempt to do so is bound to lead to frustration, chaos, unhappiness and failure.

In parting, I remind you of Mother Mary: “[Mary] was deeply disturbed [by the words of the angel] and wondered what they might mean.  Luke: 1:29 (Emphasis added.)

Ask questions.  Aim them particularly at yourself.  In this, you grow in the Spirit and peace, understanding and wisdom emerge.

Shalom.

 

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“The devout Christian of the future will either be a ‘mystic’ … or he will cease to be anything at all.”

Karl Rahner

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Have you ever asked yourself how Jesus might have experienced life, and faith, and His relationship with The Father?

Our life is more a question of fully experiencing the human and hence divine experience of being a human being than anything else.

Yes, our completion and fullness relies on the full experience of human experience for in that our gift is made for completion – for a joining of mortal and immortal reality.

We are made to know fully – from Aplha to Omega.  In this we enter the Mystery.  There is: Truth, identity and relationship with God and all others, all things.  Therein is contentment, peace, traquility and the absence of fear and doubt, and uncertainty, anger and hostility.  Therein is love – the all surpassing love that is of God, that is God.

But alas, we do not see and opt to divide one from another.  The lesser among us divide so as to control, claim authority, impose narrow views that they alone conjure up or acquire from some favortite figure whose wandering defied God.  Marx comes to mind.

In lesser “gods” is foolishness, conflict, ignorance and illness.

The land is littered with those who foolishly chose ideology over God and doing so they close the mind and heart, and alter all opportunity for wisdom, faith, tranquility, peace, truth, compassion, humility, understanding, the experience of human experience – and the transcendence that is available to all.

Yes, we are an odd lot – given fullness, we seek division and hostility.

It is far better to know how to know than be told what to know.  It is far better to know how to see than be told what to see.  This is the difference between the curse of ideologues and Christ, between the rote “believer,” and one who believes because he sees and knows from the experience God in the experience of human experience.

When we settle into division – the proclaimation of “me,” “me vs. them,”  “us vs. the others” we are the antithesis of fullness in being, we are less than we are made to be, blinded not sighted.  You see we are of the Whole, nothing less.

Shalom.

 

 

… it is difficult for churches, government, and leaders to move beyond ego, the desire for control, and public posturing.  Everything divides into oppositions … vested interests pulling against one another.  Truth is no longer possible at this level of conversation.

… you can lead people only as far as you yourself have gone …

Richard Rohr, in The Naked Now

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Richard Rohr writes of two monks of the 11th and 12th century – Hugh of St. Victor monastery in Paris, France, and Richard of the same monastery.  He tells us that these monks wrote that humans have been given three different ways of seeing.  One way arises from the eyes that produce thoughts.  The second way of seeing leads to reason, and to reflection and meditation.  The third way of seeing leads to true understanding and contemplation.

It is the third way of seeing that is the rarest and most evolved.  Whereas the first way of seeing is common, it produces little depth of experience, is more concrete and binds one to the immediate without nuance.  The second way of seeing allows one to relish his or her power to conceive of the material disposition of the world.  Ah, but the third way of seeing allows one to do more – it allows one to “taste” existence, to be in awe before the underlying mystery, coherence, and spaciousness that connects one with everything!

The third way of seeing is seeing as a mystic sees – seeing as God has designed us to see.  This seeing exceeds the senses, does not rest on knowledge and intellect alone – but rather sees in a manner that expands his or her consciousness – and in this is transformed, made whole, lives in and above at the same time, is mortal and immortal, contented, whole and wise in ways that neither the senses nor intellect can offer.

In commenting on this Rohr says “I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the separation and loss of these three necessary eyes is at the basis of much of the short-sight-edness and religious crises in the Western world.”  Hence the above quote that leads into today’s blog.

The view that Rohr shares, Dear Friends, highlights how and why “identity politics” is so destructive, so wrong-headed, so primitive, tribal, hostile, aggressive, hateful and unappetizing.  Those with greater depth of human experience cannot abide that which pits one against another in a death struggle.  We are, after all, not made to be enemies to one another but rather brothers and sisters to one another.

This historic moment requires us to see as the mystic sees.

Shalom.

Life demands for its completion and fulfillment a balance between joy and sorrow.  But because suffering is … disagreeable, people naturally prefer not to ponder how much fear and sorrow fall to the lot of man.  So they speak … about progress and the greatest possible happiness, forgetting happiness … is poisoned if the measure of suffering has not been fulfilled.

Carl Jung, M.D., in Psychotherapy and a Philosophy of Life (Collected Works, Vol. 16)

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Where are the adults and wisdom figures today?  Not in politics.  Not in higher education.  Not in media.  Not in journalism.  Not in public life.  Not in the law.  Surely not in the established bureaucracies of the government.  And most assuredly not in entertainment.  Not among the Leftists and the whining ideologues, nor among the “professional” advocacy class and the liberals on television or the products of “identity politics.”

Nope, we are short of mature, wise adults.

In large measure this is due to having few people with honestly examined lives.  Few who are familiar with human psychology, philosophy, the history of Western Civilization or history itself, few familiar with the Classics of literature, and fewer still who are spiritually developed and hence engaged in faith and guided by a religious narrative.

Super-power notwithstanding, a nation does not survive that is not populated with those who are broadly educated and are humbled by a life in which both joy and sorrow have been experienced.

When I look at the assembled collection of Democrat presidential aspirants I think only of this – “what a motley crew!”  Not a one to whom I’d feel comfortable giving a sharpened pencil.  Likewise, I prefer not to give attention to anyone in journalism – such is the state of that enterprise today.

So where does this leave one?  To the task of independent self-education – becoming familiar with a range of disciplines that instruct as to the collected understanding of the human person for good and ill.  And from this base – to the individual life lived to experience and know both joy and sorrow … which renders us sober, grateful, insightful, steady, humble, wise, courageous, faithful and joy-filled.  

Alas the miss-mash we see in the nonsense of a secular society stripped of wisdom and insight ought to call us back to common sense, more silence than chatter, and quiet application of life dedicated to proper education and conduct now simply honored in their abandonment.

Shalom.

In the long course of my life I have come to realize that the disorder I have encountered is virtually always the product of an unexamined journey, an unexamined life.

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The Lord, your God, has blessed you in all your undertakings; he has been concerned about your journey through this vast desert.

Deut. 2:7

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Journey is one of the great themes in Scripture.  Think of these journeys – the journey of Abraham, of the Jewish people to Egypt or Joseph and Mary to Egypt, Jesus to Jerusalem and St. Peter and St. Paul to Rome.

Our lives are a journey with a lengthy story that attaches to us as each day comes and the weeks, months and years accumulate.  Here is the question: Have you looked at your journey?  Come to understand its elements, what themes the journey has assumed?

Have you grown in self-understanding and done so without being trapped by the trendy ideology of the moment?

Have you sorted your past out in reference to the grand journey narratives of human history?  In short, have you examined your life?  Have you grown in maturity and come to understand the nuisance of life and its journey?  Have you discovered faith in the process and abandoned the contemporary and fleeting discourse that has no historic root – no universal truth and hence little application to life in contemporary secular culture except that in conforming it deceives?

A journey examined is intended to connect you with the length and width and depth of time and the mystery of human existence and its Divine nature.

Shalom.

Observation and Prediction – First, this: the American economy grew 3.2 percent in the first quarter of 2019 even with the shut down of the federal government.  With a smaller, less intrusive government we’d likely have healthy growth year in and year out. 

Second, this: Joe Biden is such a loose-cannon campaigner that his time on the public stage will discredit him and Old Bernie Sanders as both will be deemed, by today’s Democrats, as “old white men” whose time has long since passed.  Conclusion – the Democrat candidate will be younger and more “out there” as to public policy, and “life style.”  Expect division and strange ideas to be spinning it the air – the kind of ideas that will make Donald Trump look “mainstream.”

The core task of all good spirituality is to teach us to “cooperate” with what God already wants us to do and has begun to do.  In fact, nothing good would even enter our minds unless in the previous moment God had not already “moved” within us.  We are always and forever merely seconding the motion.

Richard Rohr, in The Naked Now

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God moving in us in “the previous moment.”

This probably has never occurred to you.  It never occurred to me.  However I can recall two distinctive and very important moments where this most assuredly occurred in my life.

The first was when I was a small child maybe three or four and I was in my mother’s bedroom at a period in her life when she was ill and suffered from depression.  The room was dark in midday with the curtains drawn and my mother in bed asleep.

I recall most vividly seeing my mother, the thought entered by mind that “I had to take care of my mother, help her.”  Out of nowhere in particular this thought materialized.  I could not have reasoned this as a small child.  Yes, I experienced “the previous moment” of God’s presence.  Needless to say, I carried that task of caring for my mother, watching out for her from then until her death many years later.  Of course, I am happy to report that she recovered from her depression, continued her development and became a strong, stable, fully loving mother and smart, confident person and a terrific grandmother to my son.

The second of my experiences of “the previous moment” of God’s presence was when I sat with my wife in a doctor’s office when she was diagnosed with cancer.  Upon hearing this a clear and immediate response resounded in my head – it was this simple declarative sentence “I can do this.”  Instantly, I knew (as only God can reassure) that I had been through so many losses and hardships that walking with my wife and caring for her was something I could do very well.  Apropos, I walked with her everyday in the three years of her illness until she died.  Never missed one protracted three-month long visit to Sloan Kettering Hospital where she underwent treatments and I was bedside each day and night of her hospitalization being singularly present when she passed away.

In each of these most blessed thoughts and their subsequent fulfilling actions I was graced to “second” God’s intention.

Shalom.

 

 

Holy Saturday

” … You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.  He has been risen; he is not here.  Behold the place where he laid.”

Mark 16:6

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Jesus was plunged into sorrow, but triumphed over this world and all its vices and deceits.  This said, as a Judeo-Christian culture – how can so many who say they are Christians act as if what Jesus did does not matter today?

Is it not true that if we actually believed would we put so much trust in politics, government, in seeking power, and focus all our efforts on material goods, or destructive pleasures and addictive vices?

Western Culture and this nation will rise or fall in direct proportion to our belief in God and, as Christians, our relationship with Christ Jesus.

Today our faith and traditions and founding propositions are under attack … and for Christians it will be our relation to Christ which will decide the day.  One of our two major political parties and our once reliable press advances perspectives and policies that are hostile to what the West is and the place of God in our lives and public our affairs.

Speak not and act not and you will have assumed the posture of Judas.

Dear God, help us to see the glory of the empty tomb and to act upon that glory each and every day.

Shalom.

3:03 a.m. – how nice it is to awake in the full night of silence to think about faith

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Faith is a backward-looking virtue.  It concerns who we are … “the mystical chords of memory.”

Deirdre N. McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues

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In faith you are connected with those who have come before you – with a stream of being that reaches to the very distant past, the sacrifice of others, their fidelity.  Their story is our story.

In faith we belong to others – to Saint Peter and Saint John – to Abraham and Martha and Mary and Lazarus … to Aquinas, St. Augustine, to Simon of Cyrene, the men on the road to Emmaus – to centuries of faithful Jews and Christians.

In faith we have identity … a place in a long story that has no end.

In a world too often focused on the immediate, the immaterial, on desire, immersed in anxiety, loneliness, doubt and worry – we have in faith: certainty, confidence, cause, connection, and a call to life.

In faith we have as Aristotle says “another self,” – in faith is solidarity and union with one another now, in the past and in what is to come.  In faith we know love – a love that runs to what has come before, what is now, and what will be in all the tomorrows yet to come.

In faith, particular differences do not matter for the faith others possess is the faith we possess.  Ethnicity, race, age, social status, wealth and such do not matter to those who share a faith.

The broad identity of faith is the union of belief.  We are, in faith, what we believe.  Therein is our solace, our identity, our purpose, our meaning, our stability and our happiness.

Shalom.

“Faith is first of all intellectual assent.  But the assent of faith is not based on intrinsic evidence of a visible object … Statements which demand the assent of faith are simply neutral to reason … Faith brings together the known and the unknown so that they overlap: or rather, so that we are aware of their overlap … The function of faith is not to reduce mystery to rational clarity, but to integrate the unknown and known together into a living whole.”

Thomas Merton, in New Seeds of Contemplation

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Faith is not intended or can it be reduced to “rational clarity.”  If it could be, it would not be faith.  Yet, it has its place in our life, in our thinking, in our understanding and negotiating existence among mortals.

My point is this: faith is real and the reality it presents is too.  And this it has been for ever and a day.

To situate faith in your life, think of what St. Thomas Aquinas said so well:

“The theological virtues are above the nature of man, whereas the intellectual and moral virtues belong to the nature of man … Therefore the theological virtues should be distinguished … The intellectual and moral virtues perfect the human intellect and appetite in proportion to human nature, but the theological virtues do so supernaturally.

Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologiae

The point?  We live above and below intellect and moral existence – we yearn most deeply in a theological way, in a manner that is implicitly invoking a search for and expression of the faith planted within us.  We live from the soul out, not in the head or in an articulation of a moral disposition that is no more than an expression of our personal predilections aimed at a mere defense of our bias, preference or wants.

You are made for faith, and the richness of your soul kindly expressed in this mortal realm.  Be of faith … of soul – fullness and calm follow.

Shalom.

 

Thank God we are the imperfect image of a perfect God.  With this in mind I ask those who read the blog to forgive me for anything I may have written that might be off-putting.  And I ask you to think of me as the whole body of my writing and my desire to ask the questions that must be asked, speak as bluntly as is needed, risk being wrong in order to try to be right.  I ask you to see in me this core: I wish that we might speak candidly and seek a good and healthy result for one another, our self and our family, friends and neighbors – known and unknown.

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Friends are always chance meetings.

Steve Guttenburg

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There is a grace in the “chance meeting.”  I had such a meeting today.

By total chance I encountered a fine man seated next to me at the local coffee shop.  And what an informative and delightful conversation ensued!

Yes, chance meetings are gifts – in some sense divine in nature.  There is in life always things that suggest the mystery of life itself … how fate finds us, messengers appear, friends emerge in the guise of strangers.

In my circumstances today, I had a delightful conversation with a man who has embraced life, let it come to him … a man who studied the experience of his life and enkindled in this insights, wisdom and the deep experiences of living fully.

It follows that we spoke of many things – but one in particular was our care for children, those younger than us who seem less able to ask questions that give them meaning, understanding, maturity, insight, belief, stability, courage and gratitude.  Like me, my breakfast mate has been a father to successful children, had a mother who imparted to him great care, sacrifice, critical lessens, encouragement and love.

Here we were two who shared much that is common to all people but too often overlooked by many.  In this we lamented that others (even those who do not know personally) suffer without insight and direction, without clear purpose and meaning.

You know you have a friend when one you meet is one who lives in care of others, in gratitude for what he has, and compassion for those who seem lost, in need of care and confidence.

Yes, today God was present in the gift of a chance meeting. 

Look around you.  We have more family than we recognize.  More brothers and sisters than we realize.  The sanctity of Chance Meetings make this so.

So today, I have had the care of God in this chance meeting.

Be of good cheer.  Life is better than you may realize.  We need one another to know what it is to be fully grown and eternally grateful.

Shalom.

 

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