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It’s New Years Day 2021, and we mark it’s arrival with the Times Square countdown . We celebrate it with champagne, dance, music, fireworks, kisses and best wishes.

Some still make resolutions that are, for the most part, high-minded intentions with low probability of fulfillment. Nevertheless, it is a time when we look to turn the page. But, really turning the page is a far heavier lift than is the ebullient declaration of intent.

January 1 on the church calendar is also the day on which we commemorate the naming of Jesus in the Temple. The name “ Jesus” derived from the Hebrew verb “ yasha,” meaning “ to deliver, save, or rescue.”

Naming is a profoundly sacred act. There is synchronicity in it that so often correlates with the nature of the child as s/he grows into adulthood. My wife and I saw this very early in the lives of our two children: their differences and the degree to which they embodied their names.

Though they were named prior to birth, their names uncannily captured something of their character, personality, and temperament. The name “ Marc, ” for example, traces back to the Latin “Marcus” connoting “a warlike visionary with keen leadership qualities”. People with this name tend often toward competitiveness: aspirational, serious and goal-oriented. They are quick to challenge and debate. Our son has consistently shown these qualities from day one.

Kristen means “anointed” in Greek, and “ follower of Christ” in Latin. Our daughter demonstrated natural empathy and social intelligence very early in life. She is drawn to the helping professions and forms strong and enduring bonds. Creating moments of deep feeling and an affirmation of the dignity of other people has always been among her signature qualities.

Looking into the history of names reveals clusters of attributes that mirror the archetypes that undergird and inform them. It is interesting that in many religious traditions, second naming accompanies significant life passages.

In Zen Buddhism, one is given a new name by the Roshi upon receiving the Precepts. Traditionally, Confirmation was a time in the Roman Church when the confirmand would select a “ confirmation name”. Upon taking vows in Religious orders, monks and friars take on a new name that signify their sense of spiritual calling alluding to affinities for certain aspects of their chosen spiritual path.

Naming is both inspirational and aspirational. It focuses on the gift inherent in the Call to celebrate our uniqueness and work continuously on uncovering our true natures and best destinies.

I find myself wondering about the Call to become more truly ourselves with each passing year. I do so at the close of this “annus horribillus” in particular. Our life’s mission is to uncover our central tendencies from among the panoply of virtues (along with the shadow that accompanies them).

This is a good and meaningful focus for the New Year: an inflection point at which to look back at the pages we’ve written in our life book so far. Then, after honest recollection, we can ask:

1. What do the pages I’ve already written point to as things needing pruning, and where are my growing edges in answering the Call?

2. Are there better questions worth asking as I lean into this New Year?

But then, this annual discipline begs the question: why not engage in it more often?

Why mark time against rotation around the Sun when we can punctuate each 24 hour rotation of the planet with the same reflection?

This way, the annual summation will indeed be rich and fertile ground for new growth.

I wish you many illuminating new dawns and revelatory night watches that unpack the mystery inherent in your naming.

A Blessed New Year.

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The theater of the mind comes most fully alive in stories. The myths of all cultures are magnificently rich deposits of the many-layered projections of mind. Much as great art has the voice of the artists deeply embedded within it, so too do the repetitive storylines that we tell ourselves and each other with endless creative variation.

Myth is a phenomenon of passionate fascination for the analytically-inclined psychologist. Whether examining our dreams, or listening intently to the stories we tell over and over with idiosyncratic flourish, the evolving currents of consciousness can only truly be understood at the points where essential threads converge.

Psychic complexes have long been named after the dysfunctional machinations of the Greek pantheon. Freud personified psychic complexes with allusion to Greek myths such as Elektra, Oedipus, Adonis and Cassandra. Jung further codified the archetypes as patterning forces of the soul that shape our sense of meaning.

Jungian analyst and scholar, Marie Louis Von Franz, following Jung’s example, made a comprehensive study of the psychic roots of fairytales, number and even the place of matter in the world of psyche. The dynamics of consciousness give shape to our lives through emergent stories. They shed light on our perpetual quest to make sense of it all.

The science of psychology struggles to explain the rationale for human behaviors and our complex, conflicted, and paradoxical ways of being. While our experimental and neuroscience brothers and sisters offer interesting perspectives, it is only in entering deeply into the full theater of the soul that life can be understood. It is for this reason that fiction is crucial. The stories created out of our imaginations contain the essential tensions that seek resolution.

A return to the stories of Greek Myth can shed light once again on what we are living through as a country.

2020 has been a year of living on a razor’s edge, defined by an out of control pandemic, on the one hand, and an unhinged, megalomaniacal executive on the other. Making matters exponentially more horrible, we have been trapped in a cultural cult of Trumpian madness: a derangement we might well refer to as an Eris Complex.

Eris ( or the Roman equivalent, “ Discordia”), was the goddess of chaos, and strife. According to the myth, as told by Homer and Hesiod, Eris was the only one not invited to the Olympian wedding feast for Peleus and Thetis. She was excluded from the festivities owing to her reputation as the ultimate drama queen.

In an act of vengeful rage, she showed up anyway to toss a golden apple into the crowd. It might as well have been a hand grenade. Inscribed on it were the words “ to the fairest”. In spotting it, the other female Gods, (Aphrodite, Athena and Hera) began fighting over who deserved the Apple.

This gave rise to the famed “ Judgment of Paris” who was asked to adjudicate among them. He awarded it to Aphrodite. The Trojan War is said to have thus been set in motion. [ This is of course the archetypal inspiration for the story of “ Snow White” with evil personified by the poisoned apple given to her by the evil witch. ]

Trump (and those who have come under his toxic spell) is the all time grandmaster of tossing apples of discord into crowds to divide and foment war. Many of our fellow citizens took the fatal bite and are now seemingly locked in a state of perpetual and inconsolable quarrelsomeness.

There is no practical cure from this distemper save the need for the full throated arrival of Harmonia, Eris’s opposite. This is the spirit that clearly sets Biden’s promise apart. We need the counter-balance for all things Trump/ Eris recognizing that these oppositional forces will forever be engaged in a misery-producing tug of war.

The psychic milieu of Donald J. Trump replicates that of Eris. Trump’s only solace on losing the election is relentless rage. The only effective salve for his wounded ego lies in successfully hurting anyone and everyone he can that doesn’t enable the delusion that he won ( and by a landslide).

The most important question to ponder is whose voice inspires us ( the cries of Eris or the encouragements of Harmonia)?

Absent a true eradication of the dis-ease, we must rely on our daily spiritual practice to throw light on our own story and examine the dynamic forces at work in shaping it.

We need to watch out for the seeping poisons of pride and enmity that taint Trump’s endless supply of noxious apples. Even having these apples anywhere nearby is a problem. We have to choose wisely in deciding with whom we should spend time. If they have an apple and, like Gollum in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, they start referring to it as “ my precious,” run as fast as you can!

The best way to defeat the chaotic and discordant spirit of Eris is to not take her bait. This isn’t easy because the apples are just so shiny and inviting. Let us recall the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

When presented with a golden Apple designed to inspire pride and divisiveness, our prime directive must be to simply walk away.

Who is the fairest of them all?

We are when we celebrate our community together and embrace one another; when, to quote a favorite holiday movie of ours ( Love Actually) we see that “ love really is all around”.

A blessed and harmonious New Year to us all.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplications of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

… the student appears.

This inversion of the customary cliche comes to mind on this fourth day of twelve-tide ( or the 12 days of Christmas).

An apocryphal meme has it that this day commemorates the gift of the gospels ascribed to the four Evangelists of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John ( the four “ Calling Birds” of the popular carol “ the 12 days of Christmas”). While factually untrue, it does provide a timely heuristic for reflection.

The actual authorship of the Gospels themselves is still a matter of scholarly debate. What is crystal clear is that their authors were passionate about weaving a compelling narrative that would faithfully embody the heart of the ministry and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

In their retellings, parable is the frequent device attributed to the Teacher. Allegory, analogy, and symbol are prayerfully hewn from relatable local agrarian and sociopolitical experiences. These were explanatory allusions to the ordinary everyday situations that punctuated peoples’ lives in the time of Jesus and his Apostles.

What particularly strikes me this evening is how often the twelve apostles ( the students) are portrayed as just not “ getting it”. They were, like us, not altogether ready to take in the full import and substance of lessons offered.

Many Gospel teachings struck them (as it does us) as counterintuitive or even in conflict (at least on the surface). Over the years, I have come to appreciate the teachings as more akin to Zen Koans intended to reach well beyond reasoned thought to intuitive or tacit knowledge.

Christianity is at its core an initiatic tradition. The teacher endeavors to arouse the knowledge of the Heart in the penitent seeker. While the teacher is an essential and great gift to the student ready to learn, s/he is as great a gift to the teacher ready to share his or her experience of the Sacred. The teachers understanding challenges the student whose questions help clarify the teacher’s narration.

A profound revelation has little meaning if it is left unspoken. Teaching is also the surest way to gain clarity oneself about what one is attempting to impart.

I recall complaining to a university undergraduate physics professor after a particularly abstract lecture that I understood very little, if anything, of his lecture. He responded: “ I understand. So, come next week ready to teach a 20 minute segment on it to the class”.

I honestly thought he was joking! Wishful thinking, I suppose.

My startled reaction made clear to him (and anyone within earshot) that I thought he completely misunderstood me. On the contrary, he suggested that preparation to teach it would be the surest way get me over the hurdle.

Well, I feverishly worked for days to put together a 20 minute lecture. When the day came, I nervously advanced to “ teach” the material. He added much to my explanations but, bottom-line, I was in a far better place and recall to this day what he added to make my explanations clearer and more complete.

Famed physicist, Richard Feynman, suggested that the best way to learn anything is to teach it to a child without jargon of any kind. So, indeed, when the teacher is truly ready then and only then will the students who can receive it fully appear.

Our society celebrates the contributions of great women and men who seem often to find their genius in their 30s ( if not younger). Regrettably, we see way fewer celebrations of experience and knowledge that finds its full voice much later in life ( after age 60). This of course says more about our cultural expectations than it does about wisdom.

Our elder saints have a treasure trove of accumulated life experiences and reflections to impart if only we work to tap it. In reaching out to our elder saints in the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, we have been calling on them ( many of them octogenarians) to tell their stories. The depth of the well of talents and insights has been awe-inspiring, and we are still skimming the surface.

Chronological age is an impoverished metric in itself. After all, one often tells a story many times in a lifetime before we get it just right. Each retelling raises the odds of revealing a nuance missed in an earlier rendition that makes all the difference. This is the power of the oral tradition.

It opens toward revelation resident lying many fathoms deeper than accessible on a first hearing. Consider the practice of reading scriptural passages many times over yet never exhausting their power as lenses on life experience.

When each teacher is truly ready, their stories sample from the swiftly moving currents of the river of life. It is a great blessing indeed for the teacher, uncovering some delicious epiphany, to find a student eager to embrace and ponder it.

Only by giving voice to a shift in one’s understanding can the sacred spark that flows among us be made truly alive. I recall Thomas Merton’s autobiographical Seven Story Mountain, a tale of a young man’s conversion. While compelling, Merton himself critiqued it years later for its obvious triumphalism and overly abundant certitudes.

These are the usual symptoms of youthful autobiographical writing . One can clearly see the deeper layering and nuance in Merton’s later writings (such as New Seeds of Contemplation).

Let us be telling and writing our stories often and allow them to ripen with time like fine wines. In this way, we can acquire the gifts awaiting us on the fifth day of Christmas: “five golden rings.”

Tradition has it that these represent the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, or the Pentateuch. May we come to plumb their greater depths through the lens of the Four Gospels to better appreciate the sacred subplots running though our daily lives.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplicationsd of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Yuletide Expressions

A Humble Christmas 2020

“ Deck the halls with boughs of Holly, fa la la la la, la la la la,‘tis the Season to be jolly …”

This oft played classic Christmas carol captures the secular tradition of decorating our homes, businesses and main streets with brilliantly colored lights and ornaments. In almost every town, there are those that go “ Baroque” with as many sometimes award winning displays of lights, inflatables and even animatronics designed to awe passersby. It is an annual expression of the American appetite for competitive flamboyance.

I am always struck by the juxtaposition of the luminous eye candy against the humble beginnings of the “ Prince of Peace” in a cave. St Francis of Assisi embraced Lady Poverty and celebrated simple joy in all creation as it is naturally adorned. Nothing fancy was needed, just the recognition of the delicious surprises of sacred Presence.

Rather than happiness, Francis and his brothers and sisters pursued “ perfect joy”: the inexhaustible delight that transcends the character of events that occur. As followers after the example of Saints Francis and Clare, we are drawn to the simple and we find in it authentic liberation.

On Christmas Eve, we were blessed with quiet time with my daughter, son in law and granddaughter, Zoey Ava. Owing to Covid 19, there was no travel agenda as might usually be the case. We had a lovely day of being together accented by a smorgasbord of painstakingly prepared delights for Christmas Eve. Her wonderful dad, Stephan, labored for hours to prepare a spread of scrumptious hors d’oeuvres.

We had creatively prepared meatballs in a balsamic glaze reduction, French Brie with an onion cumin and coriander marmalade, cream cheese stuffed baked jalapeños ( seeds carefully removed) and air-fried eggplant. It was indeed a grand feast!

Surprisingly, Zoey seemed to really enjoy a few bites of the Jalapeños. Then, asked if she wanted more of one or more of the specially prepared treats, she took a few moments of quiet thought and then enthusiastically declared:

“ I want Mac N’ Cheese for Christmas!

We all had a hearty laugh at her honest and simple request for a favorite food, and her Dad promptly complied. Children have an arresting and endearing way of bringing us back to light-heartedness, the beautifully simple and unadorned. They are honest, spontaneous, direct and uncomplicated.

On so many occasions these days , I find myself reflecting on the words of Jesus captured in Matthew 18:3 – “Truly I tell you,” He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Special holiday foods are, of course, great fun. What I walked away with was a sense of the sheer joy of even sharing the simplest foods with loved ones. That sharing is the quintessential transformational spice as a moments reflection back to our own childhood Christmases attests.

This is the true and living Eucharistic repast. With love as the principal ingredient, the simplest food and activity enjoyed together becomes a storied memory. As our hearts are converted, the whole world becomes radiant.

I hope you too have many such moments in this sacred season and in the year to come.

Christmas Blessings.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplications of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

iPhone photo taken on 12/22/20

On the evening of December 21st, we were witness to the rare “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn. The astrophysical phenomenon is a function of orbital mechanics whereby their rotations around the Sun produces an apparent visual separation of just .102 degrees at very predictable intervals.

While the conjunction of the two gas giants happens every 20 years, it is quite rare to have a visual separation this small. The last one like it took place on March 5th, 1226. What that practically means is that these two largest planets in our Solar System appear to the eye as one bright celestial object. With so small a visual arc of separation, both planets can be seen in the same field of view in the lens of a telescope.

Astronomers speculate that the “ Star of Bethlehem” may well have been a conjunction like the one seen in these last few days before Christmas. Visible in the southwest sky around 6:30 pm, the conjunction was most dramatic on the 21st of this month ( the date of the Winter Solstice).

Sky conditions on the 21st, unfortunately, made it impossible for me to spot it. However, I did get that chance to view it on the 22nd. This occasion was made all the more exciting for me as I did so with my two and a half year old granddaughter, Zoey Ava, her mom and dad, and Linda.

Zoey had no idea why Pop-Pop was all worked up about going outside in the cold to look to the southwest sky, but she eagerly joined me anyway. We enjoyed taking in the neighbors’ displays of Christmas lights along the way.

The word “planet” derives from the Greek, planetes, meaning wanderer, and it struck me that this is an apt characterization of all creatures. We are all of us moving through space-time in an expanding cosmic web wrapped in profound mystery.

Gazing at Jupiter and Saturn, our vision reaches out to points of reflected light coming from some 365 and 746 million miles away, respectively. While that may be a remarkable thing to ponder in itself, what is truly astonishing is that all of the drama is actually happening right here inside of each of us.

We are, after all, the stuff of stars made conscious. The elements of which we are made were forged in thermonuclear stellar explosions in a distant history. Here we were, just days before Christmas 2020, drawn to look out into the grand enigma to celebrate products of the same origins as we.

From the vantage point of consciousness, all that seeming distance between us and the planets and the stars is totally irrelevant. Thinking in terms of inside/ outside, or above/below is but the product of dualistic illusion. A quote from St Francis leaps to mind: “What you are looking for is what is looking.” We are indeed privileged participants in a grand entanglement.

As Zoey and the family walked to find a good angle from which to see the conjunction unobstructed and out of the glare of street lights, one of my favorite Christmas Carols leapt to mind: “I wonder as I wander out under the sky”.

My daughter spotted directly overhead another bright object. It was Mars with its unmistakable red hue making a bold appearance. We were treated to a planetary triptych.

Zoey picked up on my sense of the thrill of the moment. My enthusiasm was certainly further aroused by the fact that we will not see a conjunction this unusual again in our lifetimes. It was a one off for us and so it was particularly auspicious.

Despite the dazzling bright display in the sky on this crisp and clear night, it paled by comparison to the the sparkle in Zoey’s eyes. She had no need of understanding. It was sufficient to be present, under the canopy of heaven, as we gazed at the spectacle together. Thus, the moment was made holy.

I imagine it was just so for the Magi.

They were drawn toward mystery but not motivated to do so alone. The magic of the moment was that they each joined with two other like-minded wanderers. In the annual telling of the tale, three of them made the journey east: a mystical number indeed. The prize, on arrival, was “ Emmanuel”- God with Us.

Zoey and I, Linda, Stephan, and Kristen walked in the Spirit of the Living God. Love transfigured the night air, warming the chilly evening, and elevating it all to something so much greater.

where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:20

We Franciscans often chant the “ Ubi Caritas”: “ Where charity and love prevail, there our God is found. “

Amen. Merry Christmas!

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians5:17-18

Physical measurement systems “ drift” and require regular recalibration. This drift in sensitivity and accuracy is often a function of heat and other changes in ambient conditions. Our psychical system is not so terribly different.

We need frequent tuning. We drift off the mark. We need “standards” against which to assess the degree to which our inner compass is reading true. For that, we need guides, brothers and sisters who can listen and help us navigate back to “ true north”. This is a core pillar of our Rule of Life.

A relevant lesson for me goes back many years to the 1990s. On a clear and quite frigid Winter’s Day in Anchorage AK, I rented a Cessna from Merrill Field with intent to travel North to the staging area of Mt. McKinley, the small town of Talkeetna.

I wasn’t long out of Anchorage when ATC contacted me to check in on my direction. It seems I was off my published flight path by more than a little. I should have been heading North but was actually heading East: an error about which I was totally unaware.

After a few back and forth adjustments, we came to the conclusion that my Directional Gyro was defective. We made the needed recalibration and off I went.

On arrival at Talkeetna, I met an unassuming and affable aviation mechanic who replaced the DG while my wife and I went to lunch. He charged me nothing for the help. ( I discovered later that he was a quite famous pilot himself).

I learned something about DGs that day, but also about the virtues of having extra eyes on my flight path and the support of fellow pilots. One should never fly alone!

In the same way, travel along the spiritual path takes a vibrant and engaged community. Our brothers and sisters are there to help us recalibrate to be sure our own inner DG isn’t off the mark. [By the way, trade secret, it always is! ]

How often do we need a tune up psychically?

In our Third Order, the minimum check-up period is annual. In my experience, it is best to seek reconciliation monthly. For the same reason, we must ALL have a Spiritual Director with whom we connect regularly ( monthly or bimonthly).

The “ drift” in calibration of the soul’s compass is as much a function of heat as that in physical systems: the passions, the conflicts, the habits of mind and body, and all of our addictions and attachments.

In these last few days of Advent, my one question is simple: Is my DG up to snuff as I lean toward Bethlehem?

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A constant fidelity in small things is a great virtue.

St. Bonaventure

Striving to make a difference is indeed among the noblest of pursuits. Those doing so among us stand out, now with special luminance, given the contrast with the daily displays of flagrant public narcissism and studied indifference.

As the dawn of Christmastide approaches, I find myself reflecting on a special form of difference making: the subtle generosity of attention to the little details.

Standing so much taller than grand magnanimity are the small gestures of quiet kindness, conscientiousness and authentic regard. These cost nothing and take no time. They require no ornate wrapping nor a well fashioned card announcing the gift-giver. Not seeking reciprocity nor even notice, these are the quintessential Moments of Christ.

The opening quote by The Seraphic Doctor, Saint Bonaventure, captures the heart of this virtue: “fidelity in small things”. This is the discipline that ensures the vitality of the wellspring of kindness.

If we learned this, we did so very early. We were encouraged to pay attention to such detail as: putting things back where they belong after using them, being timely, clearing away one thing before taking on another, listening completely before speaking, and being quick to praise and slow to criticize.

A resonant feature of religious life is fidelity to the small points of our rule of life. We recite the Office unhurriedly each day. We stop to pray throughout the day regardless of the press of business. We see the person before we see the urgent task. We delight in seeing someone and letting them know it before we get down to the work of the moment. We think of one another each night before bed.

Right order and pacing are essential ingredients to having space in our heads and hearts for our sisters and brothers. The true aptitude of “ obedience” in the Spirit is rooted in an enthusiastic readiness to be open to the next moment of Christ. Such faithfulness to the small things is surely prerequisite to fully seeing, receiving and celebrating the miraculous.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”.

Ephesians 1:18

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The Truest Gift

In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended but a gift to be shared.

Henri Nouwen

In this Holiday Season, we spend a lot of time looking to get those we love something special. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give is our time. There is no greater gift than undistracted attention. A kind heart, one ready to celebrate what is beautiful in someone else is the highest form of priesthood.

Peace

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The more we can strengthen our sense of identity with all humanity, the more we extend our sense of territory from our homeland to the planet, the less likely we are to be possessed by the archetypes of war.

Carl G. Jung

Father of Analytic Paychology, Carl Jung, wrote compellingly of the cultivation of “ global consciousness”. This refers to a growing sense of being an “earthling” inspiring fidelity to the common cause of protecting our planet. I recall John Lennon’s “Imagine” that celebrated the vision of no divisions among us whatsoever.

To see the world in the depths of its true interdependencies is to break through to the next stage in our evolution as a species. This is epitomized by Jesus forgiving his murderers from the Cross and his prior admonition to Peter to put away his sword in an attempt to defend Jesus upon his arrest at Gethsemane.

These Gospel moments of truth echo the graciousness of the Living God in passing by Moses, admonishing him to close his eyes, as God voices His name:

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin… .

Exodus 34:6–7

Our baser nature swiftly goes to war with this mindset. Tribalism kicks in swiftly to push away as quaint, impractical and hyper-idealistic folly the idea that we can ever really live among our brothers and sisters ( human and otherwise) with genuine agape.

The meaning of Koinonia is a community defined by love. It is the emergence of the Kingdom of God in the here and now rather than positing the celestial city as a never quite reachable asymptote that we get to enter in the next life.

Our spiritual practice and disciplines, if rightly oriented, should be a perpetual conditioning of the Heart that leads to the inevitable eruption of true Koinonia NOW!

The goal is a “boundarylessness” that recognizes ourselves as a part of a global family of sentient life. The deeper our maturation in this direction the more we are inspired to do more to further the common good. Everything else is “ daemonic” inflation and projection of ego. It is transcending the territoriality of ego that Jung is speaking about.

If our way forward is true, we cultivate a discernment that moves us to expressions of wise compassion. The counterfeit egoistic variant has been called “ idiot compassion”.

Idiot compassion is rooted in a doing that is motivated by actually avoiding the pain of others. Finding it unbearable, we give to others at a distance to push inconvenient suffering away from ourselves. Such self-serving compassion seeks to avoid conflict and discomfort and often appeases sin and becomes codependent. This is an acquiescence to what is wrong-spirited.

True Koinonia is a sense of unity and fellowship with eyes wide open. It expresses itself as an openness to receive the moment and to respond out of true love to challenge what is not wholesome.

Jesus did this throughout his ministry. Global consciousness rooted in killing the ego does not lead to universal glad-handing and acceptance of things as they are. This perpetuates a false, hollow and tenuous peace.

Wise compassion is quick to confront the darkness and to starve it of oxygen while celebrating the One Light among us in everything we say and do. Combat does not dissolve away as no longer necessary.

What changes is our understanding of the combatants. It is not our brothers or sisters with whom we go to war. Instead, we boldly stand against the sinful conditions ( a plague of “ isms) that combine to produce an atrophy of the soul and a gathering darkness : (e.g., fascism, racism, sexism, narcissism, nationalism, and consumerism).

As we step onto the next rungs of the ladder of God’s graces, we survey a wider landscape into which we are called to project wise compassion. In this state, wanting indeed becomes absurdity.

Want is rooted in the insatiable hungry sense of need that stimulates an unwholesome and jealous competition. Tribalism rises as we see “ them and us” everywhere. We strive to “ protect our own” rather than to protect us all.

I turn to this Examen of consciousness as we approach the end of Advent and the arrival of Christmastide.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Often, the title phrase, attributed to St Francis, is completed, “ and, if necessary, use words”. Franciscan scholars generally find no support for the attribution. In fact, the phrase has been variously attributed to others. What is well documented is that Francis admonishes his followers to preach always in all that they say and do.

It strikes me that what matters is twofold: (1) words and deeds should faithfully mirror each other; and, (2) both should emerge from a deep interior Spirit-filled well .

Our shadowy times are a study in the very opposite condition. Words are spoken by ideologues primarily as instruments of artifice. Often, it seems clear that they themselves don’t believe what they are saying. The words are essentially vacuous talking points. These ideological acolytes and their dedicated listeners are content to blissfully wade in the shallows.

In its celebration of Light, this Holy Season poses a critical question: From where do our words arise?

Are our words just an exercise in lean verbiage for the sake of being heard: clever but hollow sophistries at best having only the appearance of plausibility? Or, are they more deeply rooted in insight and prayerful reflection?

Are our words the stuff of other people’s thinking that we feel compelled to repeat (made loud in our minds by their reputation and powers of persuasion) ? Or, are they the product of disciplined self-examination and personal experience.

Reflecting on the frequently referenced quote, though likely mis-attributed to St Francis, is nonetheless useful. It reminds me to look into the source of my words rather than to avoid using them. In this way, words can be made ever better and clearer expressions of authentic experience and meaning.

Many words are beautiful (especially in the hands of poets and mystics). In such instances, they become evocative signposts encouraging the deeper journey of discovery. They invite the listener to plumb the depths of mysteries themselves with mind, heart and will wide open.

This evening, I hear say Francis saying: ‘Preach the Gospel at all times and in all ways … so that thoughts, words and deeds flow together in praise of the Light.’

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.