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Archive for the ‘Practical Spirituality’ Category

On this past Good Friday, after returning from a simple service at an Episcopal Church that we’ve not visited before, I returned home in fastchanging weather. The skies were menacing, and rains were likely not far off. The daylight was cut short and the wind started to pick up. 

The neighborhood was very quiet, quieter than usual. Not much seemed to be going on. I went inside and got settled. Just as I was going to sit down, we heard a loud knock and our Ring camera at the front door went off. It was late, so I checked the camera first and saw no one. Maybe it was an animal on the roof, we thought. Worse, maybe it was an animal up inside the crawl space (something we’ve had happen elsewhere before). 

A little time passed, and it happened again. This time, the knock was even louder, seemingly more insistent, and it clearly was at the front door. Weird!

Once again, the security camera was triggered, but showed no one. So, I finally went to the door to check. Opening it, there was simply no one around. Everything seemed calm and so the mystery continued. Then, turning back, now facing the front door, all became clear. 

We had hung up a wooden plaque on the door that said, Happy Easter!

Apparently, occasional strong gusts of wind shook the wooden plaque and it struck the door sounding like a quite purposeful knock. Ok, both of us felt a little foolish with our imaginations going so quickly to worse case scenarios: a prowling animal or someone playing a joke, or an unwanted salesperson. Nope. It was just the wind. 

Or, was it?

Well, sure, it was caused by the wind moving a dense wooden sign. But, then again, I believe in synchronicity: Meaningful coincidences that, on their face, mean nothing more than the obvious but signify somehow a larger, invisible movement. I often say that I stopped believing in coincidences long ago. So, the timing of it all, the Good Friday Service and prayers of Compline with the rest of the Triduum ahead, all converged in my Heart with one significant result:

Yes, someone WAS knocking at the door. He’s been knocking for a long time and He will keep on knocking until the doors of my heart swing wide open with unhesitating welcome and Love!

It all sparked some quiet and prayerful meditation. 

Now, at the moment of His death on the Cross, tradition has it that the Temple Veil, separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple where people gathered, was ripped in two, top to bottom (Matthew 27: 50-51a). No longer was there a divide between the prayerful and the place where God dwelt. No longer was the Holy of Holies open only to the High Priest. Heaven and Earth were One in Christ and, at His passing, we were joined with Him to the Father for all eternity!

Maundy Thursday is among my favorite Holy Days. It brings back the Cenacle where Jesus celebrated His Passover with the Apostles. He prepared, first, by washing their feet. He longed to celebrate this Passover with them and offered Himself in Loving service. Divine hospitality was henceforth the mark of one who follows the Path of Christ!

In the depiction of the Last Supper, Michelangelo interprets the moment immediately after Jesus predicts betrayal. He shows the Apostles clustered all together in groups of three. In one group, we see the full picture of our humanity, its grandeur and its frailty. We see Peter (the “Rock,” yet the one who would Deny Him three times), John (who swoons, a symbol of full devotion and love) and Judas Iscariot (with the spilt salt on the table in front of him, the betrayer). These frames of mind are part of us all. Jesus knows our hearts, and though we have our times of forgetfulness, doubt, distraction, anger and egodriven motivations, His love is unconditional, and He expects us to love in precisely the same way!

So, yes, He was knocking at our door as He does every day. He is inviting our self-knowing beyond all fears, illusions, delusions and confusions. The signs of His calling to us are everywhere if we otake time to watch and listen for them.

In any event, I give thanks this Easter for the lesson of the Wind on Good Friday that asked me, quite pointedly, if I was Home!

© 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.

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 …. darkness was on the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  Genesis 1:1

 

Cruising to the Western Caribbean this month, I made sure to book an aft balcony so I could sit by day to watch the sea and by night to watch the stars.The turbulent waters of the ship’s wake is strangely soothing and has always had a special allure for me. I wonder at the dark depths of the ocean while transfixed by the sonorous and chaotic foreground of foaming waters churned up by the ships great propellers.

Many times I’ve thought of this image as a perfect metaphor of our lives: teeming activity and movement on the surface of an otherwise silent ocean. This year, I am experiencing the Lenten Season as a quiet search for what lies hidden, wrapped in silence and timelessness. Rather than hectic excursions ashore to just do more things as we island hop, I find myself content to just be on the ship, sailing – doing nothing in particular, except: watch cloud formations, islands in the distance, turquoise water, the beauty of occasional approaching squall lines of rain at sea, playing delightful silly games with my granddaughter, and taking in the miraculous canopy of stars. All of this is especially enriched by morning and evening prayer with the Canticles and the Psalms as companions adding particular depth, punctuation and resonance. 

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord, * O heavens and all waters above the heavens. Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever.Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew, * all winds and fire and heat. Winter and Summer, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever. Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold, * drops of dew and flakes of snow Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever. {p. 89} Glorify the Lord, O nights and days, * O shining light and enfolding dark. Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord, * praise him and highly exalt him for ever. Canticle 12, I, The Cosmic Order

I am also taking an online course with Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr that is cleverly titled: The Franciscan Way: Beyond the Birdbath”. It is well timed with the cruise and my intention to look ever more closely to find God in everyone, everywhere, and in everything without exception. Saint Francis intuitively discovered the unity of all being as he so eloquently expresses in his “Canticle of the Creatures”. When every breath we take is a prayer, we come closer to what Jesus knew  the profound intimacy of a direct experience of the Great Lover. After the Resurrection, Jesus promised to ‘be with us always’. He is in the Light all around us, in the air, pervading everything with his loving Presence. Being fully alive to His miraculous Presence in the here and now is to live in imitation of Him!

We are the “Imago Dei”. In His image are we made. Lent is our time to get back to that essential truth and peel away the many layers of distraction. It is all about making room for Christ to fill. Brother Richard Rohr speaks often of an “alternative Franciscan orthodoxy” that places primary emphasis on Incarnation over Redemption, Original Blessing over Original Sin. In His first act of creation, God created light out of nothingness, the “void, and He declared that “ It Was Good”. The chief sign of true conversion in Christ is Joy. 

All matter and energy emerged from Light– Goodness and, at the core, we too are LightMay we do what stars do and may your Eastertide be filled with arising!

© 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.

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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.

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 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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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