Archive for November 27th, 2009

Among the Nag Hammadi archives is the Secret Book Of James ( SBJ). In a number of earlier meditations, I have made reference to teachings contained in other apocryphal texts such as the Gospel of Thomas and Thunder Perfect Mind. In much the same spirit as those, SBJ has a number of powerful sayings that stimulate rich contemplation. I briefly share and explore one of them here.  [ One of a vast variety of interpretations that these words may inspire.]

The Lord said:

” I tell you the truth: no one will be saved among those who fear death. For the Kingdom of death belongs to those who put themselves to death. Be superior to me! Be like the child of the Holy Spirit!”

The Teacher admonishes his disciples to embrace the Cross. What meaning can we intuit from this saying that is, once again, koan-like?

The saying has three big ideas:

  • fear of death,
  • putting oneself to death, and
  • being a child of the Holy Spirit.

To fear death is to be preoccupied with one’s own well-being as an end in itself. One of the largest and growing sections of any bookstore is the self-help section. Written by so many soothe-sayers, there is something there seemingly for every condition imaginable. While there is certainly nothing wrong with them per se, there is a fundamental narcissism that these books feed, and that is the more interesting thing. After all, those books sell for a reason. There’s a big market out there of people looking to make themselves better through some ready-made formula.

What is the alternative? Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with taking good care of yourself, right?

Surely not, the body is the temple of the soul and we should care for it. Part of that care, however, is to relate to the body as the theater on which the mind outwardly presents the inner play. Once again, body and mind struggle to be reunited. If the mind is sound, the body’s journey through life is certainly benefitted. However, what needs more attention is generosity of spirit, the charitable heart, and service to “all sentient beings.”

Fear of death or denial of the Cross is rejection of the inconvenient moments of someone else’s need. Consider the missed opportunities in all of our lives when someone needed something  and we were too pressed for time, or otherwise too preoccupied to offer a hand.

It is well established that acts of true charity, without seeking recognition of any kind, is a profound elixir for what troubles the soul. I find that when I am distressed over something, turning my gaze out to how I might make someone else’s distress a little lighter lightens the weight of my baggage. Fear of death is me-centered. Love of life and the way of the heart is other-centered. Buddha and Christ alike refer to the central importance of being for others ( man and animal), and doing so is a true reflection of being “enlightened.”

What does it mean to put “oneself” to death? We are what we have made of ourselves in thought and deed. We are a construction built up over many years of being rewarded for certain things. We attached ourselves to certain signature behaviors, values, and dispositions that were pre-potent by virtue of our unique biochemistry and psychogenic make-up. To “put oneself to death” is to rise about the allusions, illusions, and attributions of the self, and to recognize our far greater identity in Christ-Buddha.

The self is a study in complexes and contradictions, conflicts and dilemmas, that we navigate and look at in our therapies and meditations. The dance to which we are invited is one designed, like the practice of the whirling dervishes, to lose oneself in the mystery. Then, we can try on many selves realizing that we plug into a deeper ocean of identity with Mystery.

“Be like the child of the Holy Spirit” and “be superior to me”:  What is the Teacher of Righteousness saying to me here? The heart of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven is within. It is our’s to miss or rediscover. The Spirit beckons always. The still small voice is ever chanting in the dark so we can find our way.

It is our Call to Action to make our way through the inmost cave, and discover our transcendent parentage, and the voice of deep ancestral legacy.

We are called to be Christics: children of the Cross of Light. We have nothing whatsoever to fear except turning away from the path of discovery.

What do you hear in the Teacher’s homily?

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Too few churches have preserved the practice of ordaining to the minor orders prior to the diaconate & the priesthood. To my knowledge, only the Liberal Catholic Church, many Old Catholic denominations, and my Order, still do so. These are preparatory, esoteric stages that afford contemplative development as foundation for the major orders to follow. They invite a peaceful abiding and an unhurried time of discernment and a re-conditioning of Psyche.

The minor orders are sacramentals that function as scaffolding alongside the core unfolding of personal Spirit and deepening readiness for the more challenging times and responsibilities ahead.

They are the Orders of:

  • Cleric: A 1st charism that invites the postulant to enter a period of “clearing,” a time for examining motivations and practices, and an emptying that makes room for the Holy Spirit.
  • Doorkeeper/Porter: The 2nd charism refers to attending to the doorway to one’s heart, and the experiences and relics of personal history that may be blocking the way to true compassion and empathy.
  • Lector/ Reader: The 3rd sacramental that focuses on becoming opened to the Logos, the Word, and the development of prayerful scholarship and theology.
  • Exorcist/ Healer: The 4th sacramental with emphasis on tapping into the innate capacity in us all to exorcise and heal through intention, beginning with the healing of one’s own neurotic fixations, preoccupations, and egoistic motivations.
  • Acolyte: The 5th sacramental on the ladder of spiritual development invites us to experience what it is to serve, and presupposes a thoughtful and deep experience of all the earlier stages of the journey.
  • Subdeacon: Time spent experiencing the Eucharist, time in prayer, and summative retreat into the heart of contemplation before receiving te first of the major orders, the diaconate.

As in so many things, the impatience we see in all walks of post-modernity has crept into all areas, including preparation for Holy Orders. In essence, ordination has nothing to do, at least mystically and spiritually, with getting a job, a title, or an office.

In fact, I am convinced that what is really needed is the “worker priest” who is not paid for his/her priestly service, but earns a living in some other way: lawyer, psychologist, accountant, engineer, clerk, secretary, truck driver, physician, police person, teacher, etc. What the ancients had that we need to rediscover is a deep and true sense of mystery. To bring that back will restore the full grandeur of our spiritual adventure.

Preparing for the Beloved, taking great pains to be at our best, is an act of true self-offering and purification, a commitment to giving all that we are, and not holding back or merely committing intellectually or academically split-off parts of ourselves.

Preparation makes the meeting with the Beloved an authentic conversion, a time of true union.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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…. just like the ones I used to know.

Forget the Eagle or Ben Franklin’s choice for the mascot of the American Nation, the Turkey. The better symbol would be the industrious, ever applied, always hard-working bumblebee.

A few days ago, I opined about the entirely wrong-spirited and unfortunate motivations and consequences of “Black Friday.” It is the perfect symbol of a society that has grown addicted to multi-tasking, and the cult of productivity. Today, I experienced its psycho-spiritual  opposite, White Friday:  a rare and exceedingly pleasant counterforce to the shopping day that has become emblematic of this holiday season.

We slept in after an early Thanksgiving day spent in food preparation. Awakening at around 11 AM, we enjoyed a late breakfast. We had a number of good movies to catch up on that we rented from a local Redbox for $1 each. We also caught up on DVR-recorded episodes of our favorite television series: Castle, Lie To Me, V, and Flash Forward. I started re-reading Joseph Campbell’s “Myths To Live By,” Paul Davies “How to Build A Time Machine,” and puttered around a bit straightening my office.

After bagels and coffee and the movie rentals, the total cost of our day, $9.

A day at home with my wife, precious!

After eating too much on Thanksgiving, and spending a lot of time talking, spending the following day in splendid quiet, with no stress, and without a compelling agenda, was an occasion of spiritual balancing. It has been better than any medicine for postmodern angst that money can buy.

Isn’t it refreshing that the best, most important, most impactful, and most meaningful things in life, cost absolutely nothing? Imagine a world where the “slow food” movement, which began in Italy, catches on globally. Imagine a time when the theory of “Enoughism,” as articulated by John Naish in his 2008 book, “Enough: Breaking Free from the World of More,” comes to represent an emerging ethic of right balance.

This would be a world re-enchanted by the simple pleasures of time “wasted” in just hanging with friends, spending quiet time being joyfully unproductive, and pushing aside the tyranny of the clock.

I do hope you get to “waste” some time this weekend.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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This is among my favorite holidays of the year. It is the simplest overall (despite the cooking), and the one that places greatest focus on the people who are closest to us.

The sheer busyness of the rest of the year makes gathering together a challenge. So, I give thanks for one holiday that is set aside to reconvene family and extended family. Thanksgiving is one of the last strongholds, in the U.S. at least, of undistracted family celebration and, in my experience, always produces special and unforgettable moments.

This year, after recalling our many blessings as a family, and then dining on foods contributed by everyone, we talked about Thanksgivings past. The dialogue centered around some funny and absurdly memorable moments.

As we exchanged recollections, my wife said something I will now long remember. As we spoke of the cost of the gift-giving Season officially now begun, she said that ” the greatest gifts we give each other and our children are not the toys and things, but all the special memories.”

This Thanksgiving is no exception.

There were a few such moments that will now be numbered among the classics for us:

  • a moment in our kitchen when I came into it to find my wife covered head-to-toe with velvet cake mix, wild-eyed, and on the verge of  screaming, with so many dishes on all the burners needing simultaneous tending ( now, that’s an act of love);
  • my baby sister’s distress ( as cooking is not her favorite thing ) at discovering that my wife made a pasta dish ( innocently, out of habit) after being tasked at the 11th hour to make baked Ziti for the meal by her big sister. The moment in which she saw the stuffed shells produced a few remarkable facial expressions and expletives from her that will be recalled and replayed for the rest of our lives (all meant in good fun of course);
  • our nephew’s genuine excitement as we pulled up in front of the house as he announced our arrival with such unbridled exuberance ( an announcement of which royalty would be jealous);
  • my baby sister, later on, asking whether we had, “oh, by the way”, sampled her baked Ziti, ( implying we hadn’t, of course) given all the hard work she had put into making it ( a delicious dish I might add);
  • reading my niece’s short story ( a very talented college-aged young woman with a gift for fiction writing in the macabre genre of vampires and werewolves);
  • the amusingly heated debate between myself and my wife on whether pre-slicing the Turkey, before traveling from our home to my sister’s and, again, before everyone had arrived, would make it dry out more quickly (one of those small items that can stimulate disproportionately passionate debate); and,
  • our lengthy, thoughtful conversation after dinner about the Thanksgivings of history, and the most amusing, dramatic, and unforgettable moments.

On the ride home, we talked about looking forward to the ritual of hanging ornaments on our tree, many of them made as gifts by my wife’s late Aunt. There are the ones dedicated to each of our children when they were very young, and the many richly storied decorations that will soon adorn the entire house. We discussed building a gingerbread house together with my daughter when she returns from college for the holiday in a few weeks, and doing the same with our nieces and nephews.

As my wise wife counsels, it’s the memories that matter, for truly, in the years to come, it will be tougher to recall the material gifts than the joy of all those quirky memories that warm us and make us glad in the lonely times, and on the gray days.

Memory is a child walking along a seashore.  You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.  ~Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal

Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume.  ~Jean de Boufflers

God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.  ~J.M. Barrie, Courage, 1922

May your Holidays be makers of enduring and uplifting memory.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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