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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.

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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.

 

Listening to the musical legacy of Abbess St. Hildegard von Bigen, 12th Century mystic, writer, diplomat and counselor to Bishops, Kings and Popes.  Beautiful.

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Spiritual development is the birthright of every man and woman … the world as a whole tends to neglect and forget the knowledge of how to pursue and live a spiritual life. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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Can there be wisdom and leadership without a spiritual component to one’s life?  No.

We are more than intellect.  We are spiritual beings.  Denying this, we are left less intelligent, less human and less healthy – flat and without insight necessary to make wise decisions on complex matters – or any matter.

Contemplation is the way to spiritual development for a contemplative life and life itself is a spiritual experience.

Contemplation leads to the full experience of the human experience.  In mass culture or any culture, contemplation requires that one lift himself or herself above the fray of mundane existence which so often captures us moment to moment, hour to hour, day after day – year after year.

Yes, attending to the demands of the world keeps the Christian from the mystery of Christ and the timeless message of the Gospel, and from knowing our self.

There is no full development of the human person without contemplation, no self-examination either – and hence no fullness of being, of human being.

In contemplation, the self is examined and understanding follows, and one is no longer trapped by the errors, follies, divisions, temptations and corruptions of the mundane world and the voices of its most vocal members.

Indeed, does contemplation not require the voiceless silence of solitude!  Yes, in contemplation there is a silent respite from all that interrupts our healthy, full development and greatest state of being.

In contemplation, God is real and immanent and those who are disoriented are no longer free to be housed within us.  Free – free at last.  Thank God Almighty “free at last.”

Shalom.

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.

Aristotle

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Throwing money at institutional “education” has set us back in that last five or six decades.  Yes, education of the mind and not the heart presents us with not whole people but slivers of indoctrination – in our case … with small-mined ideologues, life un-examined.

The heart.  The heart.  The heart.  We are more than a brain – which is but a secondary organ.  People survive brain injuries, no one survives without a heart.

Wonder why you see the sights and hear the sounds you hear in contemporary media and culture?  We have poured dubious ideas into college students but little to reveal what Aristotle knew 300 years before Christ.

Great damage is done by those who have not done the work of understanding who they are and what the purpose of a lived life is.  When we neglect the mystery and truths about mortal life, when we ignore what has been complied on this subject in the last 2500 years and in many cultures all along that time line – we are far less “educated” than we reckon.

Such is the cause of the nonsense we see daily … of the foolishness and hostility of those who vie to lead this nation, influence others, advocate all manner of mischief.

Best you see where we are and how we have missed the mark very substantially.  And better yet – best we are to listen critically and discount all those whose sing-song rhetoric does not witness in the speaker wisdom of a life fully lived and the humility and calm that such experience generates.

Shalom.

 

Theology is not made by mystics; mystics are formed by theology.

Thomas Merton, in Ascent to Truth

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In a sense the above proposition raises the question as to one’s journey to God.  Is this trajectory intellectual or does it require an ascetic disposition?  Does one think oneself to God, or is there a personal disposition that brings one to God?

As to the latter question, I suppose that when one’s life is absorbed by, and full of, the satisfaction of all personal desires then one might think of the importance of an ascetic disposition – a sparser life.  That is to say – a life void of multiple distractions and endless obligations, a simple life of few attachments and tasks – one with privacy and quiet might be better than a fully engaged life if one desires God.

As to intellect, it seems that thinking alone will not of itself bring us God for God is not a mental proposition but far more the totality of all that a human is, and can be by their mere (divine) creation.

So where does that leave us – or at least – me?  A modest life fully lived, accepting of all that comes one’s way (good or bad) is necessary for the experience of God.

By a life fully lived, I mean one that is examined so one comes to know one’s faults, short-comings, personal history honestly seen, one’s gifts and deficits and the mysterious joys of having been helped, nurtured, taught, loved and accepted by those placed in one’s life without whom each of us would be far poorer and more likely lost than found.

What am I saying?  Yes, intellect plays a part in our journey to God – we learn from our narrative and all those who over the Ages unbundle the mystery of a Loving God.  Yes, maintaining a life that is prepared in its honesty and humility to find God is also essential.  And yes, the acceptance of life as it is presented is the essential ingredient of obedience that brings us to God for this acceptance says clearly – “I accept my gift of being … I trust in the Gift-Giver.” In this, it seems to me one meets God …

Do not underestimate the value of acceptance and obedience.  Is that not the humbling road we must choose?

Friends, journey well and wisely this year.

Shalom.

 

Remember Pearl Harbor, 1941/Remember Benghazi Too

It is cold and the sky is clear, the colors true and the mountains firm and sure.  December and the Son is near.  Despite the public nonsense, it is Christmas time … and Holy Silence is here.

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Man … a wanderer and wayfarer … in search of a … holy place, a center and source of indefectible life …

the Irish monks “… simply floated off to sea, abandoning themselves to wind and current, in the hope of being led to the place of solitude which God himself would pick for them …”

Walker Percy, in “From Pilgrimage to Crusade”

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Have you seen your life as a pilgrimage?  Have you imagined it so?  Have you been given to live what God has given?  Are you so blessed by the grace of that gift to come to that place He chose for you?

Live properly and fully lived, life is a pilgrimage.  And I have come to realize this as I come to my 73rd year this month.

Yes, I have been overcome by the length of time and its passing speed, but more so the unusual continuity and scope of my life … from betrayal and poverty, to death and homelessness, to conversion and many who loved me to that place … In it all I see my gifts of interest in others, and the will to survive life’s constant and bitter combat and the desire for God in all of it.

Lately I have sought peace and quiet after years of battles – defense of others with my lawyer’s trade and growing faith – seeking truth and a just result … standing alone as loneliness prepared me so.

Seeing life as a pilgrim’s journey is a blessing that overwhelms, producing tears of wonder for the divine gift of consistency that was in me and this life so on track to be just what I had been made to be.

Imagine the innate mystery of consistency and the companionship of the right values and the best goals of service to others  … a life like the Irish Monks submission to the winds and currents of a life Godly given.  Imagine too the sight of God in those who loved me to this place.  My shepherds … my shepherds – so many, so many … angels given, angles given …

Looking back now I see one astonishing grace – that I was given to accept life as it presented and to do so without complaint or bitter feeling – but rather to accept it as what it was – the gift of challenges that built with each hard event courage, wisdom and greater strength, greater depth, greater faith, greater insight and the reward of solitude, certainty of the soul and peace which conquers all conflict.  Once lonely, I could stand alone because of Him … I am who Am.

A pilgrimage – previously unbeknownst to me.  But for the grace to walk one step at a time over hills and through dark valleys for all these years I would not know how grace delivered consistency to me … and now I see that God has done as God intended … and my unwitting collaboration with His Desire for me … grace … grace … grace – the mystery of grace.

Looking back I see through tears of awe and humility for I have done by the Grace of God what God has asked of me – simply to journey as a pilgrim would.

I pray you know the same.

Do not get bogged down in the daily voices of nonsense – they hold no sway, no mystery they.

Shalom.

 

Well Friends, I missed posting yesterday.  You see my friend needed use of a computer and I gave her mine so she might do some work that needed to be done on a deadline.  So no post yesterday – but in absence … a good deed.

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Have this attitude for yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equally with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and in being made in the likeness of men … humbled Himself by becoming obedient even to the point of death … (Emphasis added)

Phil 2: 5-7,8

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At the end of your life will you have emptied yourself?  Or will self-importance made you a prisoner – a prisoner of what is false and insignificant?

Life is intended to introduce us to humility – hence suffering and betrayal, loss and mistake – calamity and worse.  But it is made also to teach us who God made in us and in this to reveal God to us.  Yes, we carry a sliver of the Divine in us for we are created by God.  That said, so many live as if they are the author of their own life.  Foolishness – complete folly – beware of the misbegotten.  They cannot not lead for they know not.  Chaos is the fruit of their mortal days.

For the Christian, Christ is our narrative – our template, our Teacher, our lesson – the pathway to God.

Those who live well to the end are those who have emptied themselves.

We have been instructed – forewarned.

Shalom.

Early November Morning, Mulching Leaves … such are the chores of life amid the trees and the hills, and the brisk autumn wind.

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Usually grace begins by illuminating the soul with a deep awareness, with its own light.

Diodicus, in Spiritual Perfection

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Grace – the Divine action within us.

If I were asked to describe grace I’d go right to something that happened to me when I was a small child – not old enough for kindergarten – probably about two or three.

As a small child my mother suffered from depression and often remained in her bedroom with the window shades drawn.  We lived then with my grandmother and grandfather – by mother’s Mom and Dad.

I remember the darkness of her room and I remember feeling that I must be careful to be at my best so that I might help my mother.

This sense of needing to help my mother blossomed to an attitude that I did not want to add to my mother’s hardships.  I became ever sensitive to giving her no reason to worry about me.  I was always considerate of her throughout my life.  She deserved nothing less and God supplied me with the insight I needed to love and care for her as I grew in age.

What I am talking about is not the result of reasoning for I was too young for such thoughts.  Nor was it because of others cautioning me.  Rather, it was just a recognition – a sense that I would help my mother – not give her reason to worry about me, cause her pain or worry.

Yes, this was grace illuminating my soul … giving me an awareness that a boy of my age could not come by through his own capacity to reason at such an early age.

Grace is real.  It supplies you with insight and understanding that is perfect for the situation you face.

I do not know how God dispatches grace to this person and perhaps not another.  I know only this: I was given insight that I could not have mustered on my own – and I have come to believe that it was indeed the grace of God – an awareness that God desired I have so I might serve my mother as a loving and reliable son.

That relationship with my Mother was such a blessing to me – she got well in the course of her life and was a wonderful mother to me – I often say: she saved my life.

Shalom.

Want to be dumbed-down?  Watch TV and accept without discretion what people say.  Case in point: Joy Behar of The View offered this stunningly stupid opinion: the Republicans won more seat in the U.S. Senate because of “gerrymandering.”

God, good!!!  Memo to Ms. Behar: under the U.S. Constitution every state is represented by two Senators.  Ergo – it is impossible to gerrymander when each state is afforded two Senators elected state by state.

Behar and the people on chatty-TV shows – along with many in the news media and the press subtract from the sum of human knowledge when the open their mouth.  Any performance of the White House press corps pretty much establishes this all by themselves.  Yesterday’s behavior of that crew destroyed any reason for holding these “Q and A” briefings anymore.  We have enough foolishness floating around, no need for more.

 

 

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