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Archive for the ‘Practical Spirituality’ Category

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.

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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.

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Colossians 2:6-12

6. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

The Word of the Lord.

The lectionary New Testament reading for morning prayer January 1, 2019, is St. Paul’s warning to us about the seductions of the “human tradition” and ” elemental spirits of the universe” as expressed in the philosophies that lead us away from the Light.

Our times are replete with such philosophies: materialism, nihilism, cynicism, and capitalism that place the focus on aggrandizing self. These philosophies preach fear and hopelessness, glorify narcissism and hold up the fruits of greed as artifacts of success.

We are charged with the hard work of discipleship – to put first things first and realize that the truth requires flipping the conventional logic on its head. We are instead to be artists of joy, hope, possibilities, and the pursuit of grand ideals of living more perfectly. We are called upon to be minstrels of inspiring song and to inspire our children to dream, to wonder, and make the world ever more reflective of God’s presence.

May it be so.

© 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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A New Years Day Prayer:

Beloved Spirit of Joy, Light of the World, bless and power my intentions for this new year according to your Will:

+ to live my rule of life with loving attention;

+ to more fully embody radical hospitality;

+ to be deliberate each day in being a child of Light – a blessing to my sisters and brothers;

+ to simplify and make more space for You to speak in me;

+ to uncover your Word within through reflection and contemplation.

Inspire me, dear Mother-Father, to travel ever deeper to be the one you call me to be!

Incarnatio:

1. Set aside more time daily to enter sacred silence.

2. Deepen community in the holy circles  in which I find myself.

3. Increase the gift of being present for those I meet.

© 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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Leaps of Faith

In a year of living joyfully ( with the birth of our first grandchild), this Septembeadded the blessing of the marriage of our son. Adding blessing to blessing, my son and his fiancé asked me to officiate at their wedding (as did my daughter and son-in-law just a few years ago). We have so very much to be grateful for and I am overwhelmed by the huge privilege and gift  of being asked to serve in this way as a father.  

The wedding was at the Old Stone Mill in the heart of the NY Botanical Garden. Graced with a beautiful, sun drenched, and thankfully cool Autumn day, the elegant and simple service opened before a flowered archway framed by great trees all around and the sound and sights of the fast running Bronx River behind us. 

This was for us all a welcome oasis hideaway well beyond the hustlebustle of the asphalt jungle that lie all around the Garden and that, delightfully, was nowhere to be seen or heard from once inside the confines of this special place. It was, for all eightyfive plus folks that made their way there, a place beyond time: a fitting sanctuary for the celebration of love. 

Such moments as these are always elevated by the small details that become etched forever in memory. I shared the gift of my memories with those gathered of my son’s love of facts and discovery and his passion for the big questions, and stories of my new daughter- in-law’s grace and artistry in making everything she touches beautiful. I celebrated their complementarity, their different gifts, and the way those differences combine now to form a new braided reality, a garland of joyful intention that will now reshape the future and define its textures and contours.

It was, after all, at a wedding in Cana, at the request of his mother Mary, that Jesus performed his first miracle of changing water to wine: a miracle in response to a mundane challenge  they had run out of wine. This got me to thinking about what the sacramental union of partners is really all about. It is, without question, a divine alchemy: turning a thing of silver into gold. 

On Saturday, along the banks of the Bronx River, two worlds quietly kissed to form a new and greater reality that wasn’t there before. Such an alchemy happens at every Eucharist when bread and wine are consecrated to form something new: a perpetual act of recreation. It is a transformation powered by love and hope. 

In making their vows to each other, Bride and Groom boldly announced their intention to be made new, with God’s help and with their tender yet unshakable resolve to always be for each other. The real magic happens in choosing to help each other become the best versions of ourselves possible! 

When they first met,  my son and daughter in law enjoyed a first date at the movies. They brought with them a hidden beverage, a favorite of theirs, in an unremarkable thermos to be enjoyed as they watched the film. It was a gin and tonic. So, befitting their styles and good-hearted sense of humor, and in celebration of how their relationship all began, they surprised guests with a new take on the unity vase. 

Instead of colored sand or two candles lighting a third and larger one, they chose, instead, to pour gin and tonic into a a now remarkable vessel to share this mixed drink to one another just before a final blessing. It was unique and everyone enjoyed their signature fun moment. 

Taken alone, tonic is bitter. With added gin, it becomes a zesty and celebratory concoction full of more complex notes of taste and sensation, and such is the blessing of marriage. 

So, my wife and I give thanks for the delicious happenings in this blessed year  new life, great hope, and a deep conviction that God invites us all to full engagement with all the simple acts of grace and the gifts of loving fellowship that elevate our simple moments to something wonderful! 

Peace and Joy.

© The Harried Mystic, 2018 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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So asks the good Doctor who delighted me as a child, and grabs my attention once again, reigniting my imagination as I share his wisdom with our grandbaby Zoey.

Time is a funny thing. There’s never enough of it when there’s something we want to do or need to do. It seems time plays the hare when we are having a good time (“my, where did the time go?”) and the tortoise when we are bored (expressed by a child who repeatedly asks, “Are we there yet?” every few minutes of a long car drive).

Weekdays move slower than weekends and holidays, and vacations almost always seem to end just when we are getting into the spirit. When we are young, time stretches out before us like endless yarn. After 60, we wonder about how many yards of yarn are still left on the spool. As often as not, time seems more like an enemy than a friend.

Here’s the kicker: time itself isn’t real. We made it all up. Albert Einstein wrote: “The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Yet, on this side of paradise, it seems time’s passage and measurement rules! If it is an illusion, it is a powerful one.

Ushering in the New Year, we participate in the Big Countdown along with thousands of people around the world. We celebrate with music, dance, and varying degrees of inebriation, complete with noise makers and a panoply of carbohydrates. Our own personal ritual is to watch the “ball drop” in Times Square on network TV, enjoying the way the new year moves across the planet in a wave with the televised celebrations from Mumbai, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Karachi, Moscow, Athens, Berlin, London, Rio, and Mexico City. We make sure our corks are ready to be popped right at the stroke of midnight followed by calls to family and friends (at least those who are still awake).

As Epiphany approaches, I am once again reminded of the story of the three Magi drawn by a star in the East who “bearing gifts, traverse afar.” Their wondering propelled their wandering. I cannot imagine their being bored on the trip. When we are arrested by wonder, something different happens to time. It stops. While performing with certain rhythms and according to ordered patterns, the truly great expressions of artists, musicians, poets, dancers, craftspeople and singers transcend time.

Last summer, Linda and I stopped into a St. Vincent de Paul shop in Clermont Florida. Standing over in a corner was an old Seth Thomas grandfather clock. It caught my eye and was being sold for a song. The cabinet was in great shape as was the clock face. The romance of such a classic timepiece overwhelmed us and so we bought it. Getting it home, we set up the pendulum and the solid brass weights that power the movement, but nothing happened. So, I called a horologist (a master clockmaker) who stopped by just before Christmas.

This clock master, Ed, is a classy gentleman who took his time. He completely and lovingly dismantled the movement to diagnose it. He tested the chimes (such beautiful sound, the Westminster Quarter or Cambridge Quarter, derived from the chimes at the Church of St. Mary the Great in Cambridge). His diagnosis – the clock needs a new movement that he will install this month. His promise is that the clock will be as good as new and he will come prepared to tutor us in all the workings of the clock.

What stood out to me is that time flew by as we spoke. He talked about the history of clockmaking in Connecticut, the role of the Dutch, and the likely history of this grandfather clock manufactured in New Jersey. His passion was infectious. Several hours later, this craftsman became a friend.

Our time ministering to this old clock was itself precious time. Our shared wonder about time and timepieces was a moment of shared celebration about beauty and artistry that reminds us that time is a movement that rests on timelessness!

As we all celebrate Epiphany, I pray that you find moments of such timeless rapture that inspires imagination and an ecstatic dance with the sacred mysteries of Being.

© The Harried Mystic, 2018 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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Flash-Sense

I was too long inside, busy with work and having lost the sense of time. I needed a stretch. I opened the front door to take a short walk and get fresh air when I was blinded by brilliant sunlight. For a bit, I couldn’t see a thing and it even hurt as my eyes struggled to adapt. Everything was bathed in intense light; so bright in fact that, for a split second, I too was light.

We’ve all had this experience on especially bright days as we first step outside. It passes quickly, our eyes adapt, and we get on with it. But, this time, it got me to thinking. The long night ends as the Son rises in the East, making all things luminous.

Each dawn reminds us of this central mystery. The night ends in a flash from the East as a new day begins; the moment when dreams are renewed. On Long Island, many of us have traveled out East to Montauk Point to see the “green flash” seconds before Sunrise. Analogously, the first Easter also came in a flash, after the dark time of sorrows.

I imagine the moment as Mary greeted a man she first assumed was the gardener. As he stood at the opening of the now empty tomb, the light behind him obscured his features. Imagine her sudden realization in hearing him call her by name that he was her Lord. In a flash, tears of mourning dissolved into expressions of joy.

Dwight Kalita wrote a quite captivating and insightful book some years back entitled, “Light Consciousness”. He tracked all the references to light in both the canonical and apocryphal gospels and he saw light used as metaphor for revelation over and over again.

Light is mentioned 90 – 97 times in the New Testament ( depending on the translation). “ Darkness” is mentioned, on the other hand, around 41 times, less than half as often. This contrasts with the physical reality of the universe where light makes up less than 5% of what’s out there. All the rest is an unknown dark stuff that bears no resemblance to the matter we know and are made of ( electrons, protons, etc). Light is dwarfed by all the darkness from which it emerges.

The compelling message strikes me with abundant clarity: Resurrection is the triumph of light over the persistent darkness. I think on these things with special focus as March 2018 saw the loss of famed Cosmologist, Dr. Stephen Hawking, whose life was a passionate dance with the mysteries of light and darkness. While not a religious man, he spent the time he was given contemplating the mind of the Cosmos.

Among his contributions is the notion of “Hawking Radiation,” the realization that elementary particles do emerge from black holes from which otherwise nothing (well, almost nothing) escapes. The triumph of the light is more glorious when placed in the context of ineffable and pervasive night. Even “black holes” ultimately cannot contain an exuberant fountain of energy.

The perpetual tension between light and darkness quickens our senses and feeds our hope as we awaken each morning to the task of being children of that same light in the world. Ours is the joyful obligation to be bearers of light in imitation of the Wayshower.

What form does this “light” take? Well, interestingly, the word “ love” appears 221 times in the New Revised Standard New Testament. Pure and simple, Light Consciousness is love consciousness and recognition that my brothers and sisters are everyone and everything, everywhere. The work of conversion rests in locking arms and, to quote the character Yvaine, from the movie, Stardust ( an incarnated star played by Claire Danes): “Let’s do what stars do … Shine!”

I pray, my dear friend, that your time be filled with the Light of Love that overcomes all despair, hopelessness and the otherwise crushing darkness of our times.

© The Harried Mystic, 2018 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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