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Inner Light

We have grown accustomed to next versions and new models of everything. As a society, there is a seemingly insatiable appetite for new tech. This is an extension of the growing need for external stimulation with ever greater realism. At the same time, there is a diminishing interest in the classics and ancient wisdom. Yet, truth is truth and it is timeless despite the popularity of relativism.

Believing that truth is relative to the perceiver leaves no solid reference points as guides to a meaningful life. Before long, meaning is reduced to materialism and consumption and immediate gratification of needs. The consequence of all this is isolation in the shallows of life. But, the deep remains.

Reorienting ourselves calls for establishing a rule of life that acts as the latticework by which to guide our spiritual growth. We see increasing reference to ideas such as seminaries and monasteries without walls and the growth of a ”contemporary catholicism”. We can learn much by looking at the practices of monks and friars and repurposing these for creative use. As a Franciscan Tertiary, I am blessed with a community of companions on a journey to spiritual liberation around the examples of Saints Francis and Clare.

Regularly revisiting my own rule of life, I bring the question to prayer and reflection today: What is the essence of being a ”monk/friar in the world”?

Quiet time on the question resulted in the following differentiating principles in contrast to the customary norms of American culture:

1. Seeing time as a gift from God to be used for slowing down to better listen to the substance of deeper and otherwise hidden things.

2. Cultivating the art of being a living presence of the timeless past in a society more often suffering from an amnesia about abiding truth.

3. Practicing simple acts of sacred remembrance to live the day ”sacramentally” and manifest the abundance of the Spirit.

4. Listening for the whispers of the Spirit on the wind and watching for the many miraculous signs of His Presence.

5. Framing our day with scriptural bookends to unleash the Hearts deepest desire to enter into Holy space and time.

6. Downsizing the distractions and external clutter to support the decluttering of mind and heart.

7. To silence the ego with an open hearted embrace of the other as Oneself as antidote for the afflictions of fear and disaffection.

8. Acting in ways to magnify the Light of the World in thought, word and deed.

9. Redefining oneself in the context of a supportive community of brothers and sisters, companions on the ” Road to Emmaus”, helping each other to see the Christ in each other.

10. Establishing a disciplined way of Being that liberates heart and mind for inspired Doing in Christ.

11. Finding meaning in unencumbered silence – beyond all words.

12. Cultivating a loving and radical hospitality and an eagerness to be both a student and a teacher.

It is good to also examine our daily intake of information and interrogate its value. Much of what’s in print ( online or in print) is either a confection or a rehash of far older ideas best read in the original. We are on firmer ground if we search for the roots of our ideas and beliefs rather than accepting them at face value.

Truly, all our thinking tests on the shoulders of giants.

© The Harried Mystic, 2019 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Praises of Creation

 Praise the Lord from the heavens;

Praise Him in the heights!

Praise Him, all His angels;

Praise Him, all His hosts!

Praise Him, sun and moon;

Praise Him, all you stars of light!” Psalm 148 1-3

 

Our local book and Bible study group is exploring the Book of Psalms with the aid of Anglican Archbishop NT Wright’s good book, The Case for the Psalms.

The Psalms are a foundational gift that give voice to the heart of Faith. It was the Hymnal used and likely memorized by Jesus from which he drew comfort, reassurance and meaning. It embodies the worldview of a people who placed all events in their lives within the context of their covenant with God. Everything ( all events, emotions and circumstances ) were seen through the lens of a defining sacred intimacy. Made to be sung (chanted), the psalms are a vehicle by which to be transported into God’s space and time.  They are designed to engage our whole being as we resonate to the rhythms of poetic praise and supplication. 

On the night of January 20th, the heavens gifted us with a precious reminder of His grandeur and the mystery of Being echoing the joyful strains of the psalmist. Beginning around 10 PM, the shadow of Earth was cast onto the lunar surface as our orbit brought us between the Sun and the Moon. It was visible across all of North America (where skies permitted).  On this occasion, it was an especially striking event, a so-called Super wolf blood moon eclipse: happening in Winter, with the moon at its closest approach, and glowing a dark orange as our shadow was projected onto the lunar surface. 

It was an especially cold January night across the country. In Florida, it was in the low 40’s. My wife and I decided to bundle up, go out to the car armed with blankets and pillows, and open up the sunroof that gave us, on reclining in driver and passenger seats, a great angle at which to watch the spectacle. (It certainly didn’t hurt that we could turn the car heater on from time to time.)

We were not disappointed!

The sky cleared completely of earlier cloud cover and the full super moon was brilliant in the sky against the backdrop of the canopy of Winter stars. 

So, a reasonable person could well ask: what’s so special about all this that warrants stepping out on a cold night and so late to stare up at such an event? 

Well, as the show began, moving from a small sliver of shade to the fully shadowed Moon (turning blood orange), I found special meaning in reciting the last of the Psalms, psalm 148, the first lines of which I’ve given above. 

These words held special meaning for me and were made so much more more powerful as I considered the mysterious and improbable miracle of our being at all. Only at times like this, do I really fully consider the fact that I am floating in space on this old “ship” positioned perfectly for life by the enigmatic force of gravity and an ideal distance from the Sun ( the “ Goldilocks Zone”). How amazing is it that we can calculate to the minute when such events will occur, and we can do so many years in advance owing to the predictable rhythms of the solar system. 

In the same way, I find great delight in so called occultations and transits: when planets seemingly line up, relative to our perch in space, so we see them as if all in a row, or when one eclipses another, or one or more of their moons become especially visible. Everything is moving by an order set by the forces that originated five billion years ago, the age of our solar system. 

We watch this cosmic dance and imagine infinities, and consider worlds hurled across unimaginable distances. It is in precisely in these moments that I think again about the “Imago Dei” – the image of God in which we are fashioned, made to wonder and imagine the vastness of God’s artistry.

All this occurs during Epiphany, the season that the Church defines in terms of a troika of events: the Magi, arriving to greet the Christ child at his home when around two years old, as scholars figure, the baptism of Our Lord in the river Jordan launching his ministry, and the Wedding Feast at Cana. All three events were manifestations of Emmanuel, God with Us. 

Though we pass through this life largely unaware of the great patterns and events that define the universe, the miracle of our being and the gift of wondering invite us continually to deep prayer. An eclipse is just one special natural reminder of the precious gift of life and consciousness: eyes to see it, and a mind that reaches out well beyond itself. 

As the reflected light of the Sun returned from the Moon as the Earth moved past it, my mind drifted back to a statement made by one of the great souls of the 20th century whose worked shaped so much of my thinking: paleontologist, Jesuit Priest, mystic and theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He said, reflecting on the stuff of the universe that we can see: “ Matter is Spirit moving slow enough that it can be seen!”

Amen. Praise God! 

© The Harried Mystic, 2019 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

In Daniel 2:1-19, King Nebuchadnezzar calls his astrologers and counselors together and demands that they interpret a troubling dream. Seemingly quite irrationally, he demands they interpret it without the benefit of knowing what it was. He asks three times and then orders their execution, along with all the other wise men in the community, for their insolent refusal to fulfill his seemingly bizarre demand.

On hearing what the King ordered, Daniel seeks a meeting with the King and them brings the situation to prayer. With his faith in God so grounded and deep, Daniel himself takes the matter into sleep and the answer is given him ” in a vision”.

In so many ways, Alice in Wonderland has something of the quality of this scriptural passage from Daniel. Alice could only unravel the mysteries of Wonderland by believing in impossible things. Impossibility is our arrogant judgement and the carbon monoxide of imagination and great discovery. Christ after all admonishes us to ” be again as little children”.

So, I am asking myself this morning: How many impossible things have I considered already before breakfast? Our powers of sight (insight, foresight and hindsight) can only be enhanced by such a mindset.

How about you?

© The Harried Mystic, 2019 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Speaking with Songs

News of enmity and hatred, bitter division and vitriol, seems to define our times. Paul admonishes us to be careful about what we take in and how it affects us. Angry sentiment is a slow poison and it numbs the soul.

The cure is song: ” making music in our hearts”. The Psalms are a cornerstone of living life with the sacred in mind. Daily recitation of the Psalms matters especially when storm clouds gather. If we sing of Joy and revelation, we can break through the fog of fear and anxiety. We can recenter ourselves in love.

What songs will I sing in my heart today? How can I share that song as a medicine for disaffection and malaise.

Peace.

© The Harried Mystic, 2019 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Vigilance

There is much in this Psalm but verses 19-20 especially grab my attention.

To know ” the Law” ( His statutes and judgments) is to be mindful of His movement in and among us. Keeping watch is at heart an act of devotion. Yet the distractions are legion and we miss what we are not looking for. We can go days, weeks, months and even years blind to the miraculous Presence unfolding right before our eyes.

Lisa Randall, elementary particle physicist at MIT, has spoken of the essential human quality of not seeing and so assuming that what isn’t seen just isn’t there.

We struggle to believe in what we cannot discern with our five senses. “Dark matter,” so called, comes to mind. It is passing through us and is all around us constantly but, as it is ” transparent matter,” as Randall puts it, it eludes detection. Yet, visible matter is only 5% of the stuff of the universe!

Scientists must train to see the invisible by creative means including mathematical constructs. The musings of theoretical physics have conjured up multiple dimensions well beyond the observable three, and multiple universes ( infinities within infinities) and the maths involved have revealed possibilities that go well beyond what we would ever be able to directly perceive. What does not seem obvious is, simply “not obvious to us, ” says Randall.

The same applies to the way theology works to extend our reach into Mystery. Our speculations and scholarship give us eyes to see with our imaginations. We excavate meaning and attend to nuances and in doing so live our Faith ever more richly and deeply.

And so, I pray:

Spirit of Love, Matrix of all Being, you give me eyes to see and ears to hear. With so many distractions, I surely miss much. Bless me with the grace to keep watch.

Let us keep vigil for the divine movements that ebb and flow in perpetual currents all around us and within us.

© The Harried Mystic, 2019 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The iconic story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears has long been a children’s favorite. It has been interpreted from many points of view including psychoanalytically. These esoteric interpretations seem to me to be way too fussy.

What is most striking about the tale is the law of three: three bears, three chairs, three bowls of porridge, etc. I have long been advised and have so advised others to never have more than three clear points in mind when giving a talk, a sermon, or telling a story. But, this advice has deeper import than that.

In life, isn’t it true that so often the middle path is the best one. It is wise to test the limits either side of a position and then find the fulcrum or balance point that feels “ just right”: not so much this way or the other.

In Christianity, the Law of Three rises to central significance: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is interesting that the first and the last Persons of the Trinity are more theologically abstract. It is in the person of Jesus that the defining attributes of the divine are enfleshed, made manifest, and profoundly personal.

The “ Imago dei” refers to the first calling of God to humanity- the emanation of Love from which we are fashioned. It is the Incarnate Word, the Word made flesh, that is the essence of who we are and what we are in God’s time.

The Lord said, “ it was Good” or, as Goldilocks herself expressed it, “just right”!

© The Harried Mystic, 2019 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

Oneness is the heart of the message. The world has endless ways to divide us. The illusion of separateness is strong. Too many are walled off from Brothers and Sisters and become sickened by the anxieties that accompany the lonely heart of self-protection.

The voice of Love cries out in pain at the erection of yet more walls. Before they learn to fear, little children reach out to embrace what they encounter. Let us remember the wisdom of their innocence and do the same.

© The Harried Mystic, 2019 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.