Posts Tagged ‘sacred spaces’


This week I had the privilege of joining with members of our parish bible study group on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady by the Sea at Manorville NY.

Besides time in dialogue on the origins of the rosary and its many forms, the highlight for me was strolling on the sites’s “Rosary Walk”. This circular path begins at a statue of Our Lady and circles back around to the statue thus mirroring the structure of the traditional 5-decade configuration. Beads are physically simulated with bushes: larger ones for the cruciform beads at which we announce the mysteries, and smaller ones denoting the 10 Ave Marias between each.

The way the mysteries were laid out at the mystery stops that separate the sets of 10 was striking. Bronze markers presented each of 4 mysteries: one joyful, one sorrowful, one glorious and one luminous. This accommodates whichever set of mysteries any given pilgrim is reciting on a particular day. The traditional expectation is that one set of mysteries is in mind per round.

With 4 possible mysteries confronting me at each station, however, I found myself reflecting across all of those presented without regard for staying within any given set.

This had an interesting effect on me. I felt moved to see the intersections and interdependencies among them in a fresh way.

Much of our spiritual lives is paradox. In fact, Christianity is full of irony and paradox: a crucified god, a messiah born to poor circumstances, a soter focused on the laity and forgotten of society, and teachings that collide constantly with usual thinking. My walk became a meditation on living at the intersection of the mysteries and not appreciating them singularly.

In great art, the play of light and dark is what renders images striking. In like fashion, the sorrowful moments deepen our receptivity to light, the rare luminous epiphanies when we see so very clearly. The joyful mysteries ( Mary’s “yes” to God) foreshadows the deep sorrows to come in accepting what is unthinkable for any mother: the death of a son. Likewise, the glorious mysteries point to the way of seeing into and beyond the time of sorrows:

” Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” ( Jn 16:20)

Carl Jung spoke of”shadow work” as crucial: examining our inner darkness, facing it, and working through it. Making conscious what is unconscious is spiritually essential or our spirituality remains at the surface and we miss the deeper dive.

In future, I will once again allow the full spectrum of mysteries to parade across my mind as I enter into the paradox filled mystical heart of the Rosary.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »


With a rich and diverse history dating back to around 800 AD, the practice of saying the rosary (or a  place where roses grow) blossomed rapidly.

Over the centuries, many forms  emerged. It was St. Dominic who first referred to the practice of reciting  three bouquets of  fifty prayers each (prayers tracing back to the lay Medieval practice of prayer after  monastic chanting of each of the 150 Psalms of David).

The symbolism is deeply rooted in Western consciousness.

As most species of roses have five petals each, it came to represent the five wounds of Christ and became quickly associated with the Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven. The rose is the national flower of England and the U.S. state flowers of New York, Georgia, North Dakota, and Iowa. It is the recognized flower of Valentine’s Day and is often associated with love. It’s fragrance too has come to connote transcendent self offering, humility, grace and peace.

A walk in a rose garden with a set of rosary beads in hand is a wonderful way to invite all of one’s senses to open to the sacred mysteries.

It is the very essence of simplicity: walk slowly through the garden, slow down your breathing. Stop on each bead and breath peace. Bathe in the silence. No need to use a lot of words or any in fact.

Simple, easy, open and thankful.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

The Sun was in full expression for most of Easter Sunday here in the Northeast U.S.: a special treat after so many days of heavy fog and rain. The weather on Holy Saturday was bleak, a day full of shadows. The Sun was out one moment and gone the next, rain came and then lifted and then very dense fog rolled in toward evening. The cadence, the rhythm of all this was so synchronistically well-calibrated to the spiritual import of the transformations of which the Trideum is emblematic. Holy Saturday is a time of expectant waiting and still one of regrets and dark moods.

Sunday was a day of tiny miracles as the Sun shone down and our bed of day lilies and tulips opened up, as if on cue, for the first time this season: a grand opening that moved me to snap a few quick photographs to mark the moment.

At one point in the afternoon, it was downright hot. I opened my front door and just left it open, and sat facing out for just moments of quiet contemplation on the bright Light, emerging colors, fragrances and the promises of long ago planted bulbs fulfilled. The birds were out in force and their choir seemed especially sonorous and full. It was a perfect, if fleeting and fragile moment of synchronized living, and then the need to travel intruded, with all the necessary flurry of things to take along on the journey to make the obligatory visits for the holiday.

Now, at the end of Easter Monday I reflect back on yesterday and find myself drawn to the memory of those precious few moments at the doorway blessed with an ever so brief taste of heaven presented for any and all who took but a moment to put aside all other agenda to bathe in it.

It’s the littlest things that contain so very often the true “magic” and sacrament, the real Presence of the Spirit, embodying the most authentic Call to Discipleship.

Read Full Post »

On a visit last week to Fort Lauderdale, I visited the Butterfly Garden with my wife and daughter. The weather was on the warmer side, the sun shone brightly, and the butterfly aviaries were a delight. We spent a few hours walking through the extensive property made up of a small bridge over a well manicured pond, colorful plant life and trees, and, of course, quite a few separate aviaries dedicated to diverse species of butterflies and one set aside for hummingbirds.

The best part of the experience was to sit quietly on a bench surrounded by tens of butterflies and letting them settle on my arms and clothing. Fortunately, the aviaries were not crowded with people so it was easy to sit for a while and appreciate the amazingly rich array of color and patterns. These are among the most fragile of life forms but few are as inspiring. Just before Easter, they served as a marvelous metaphor for resurrection and rebirth given the metamorphosis from caterpillar to taking flight on breathtaking wings ranging from pure white to spotted, turquoise, various pastels, full yellow, and a striking red and black variety ( see the picture above).

It is hard to imagine  being anxious (barring phobias) in such spaces. A sense arises of the inter-connection of all things. What a privilege it is to be conscious and able to savor for days weeks and months to come the experience of a quiet afternoon in the Florida sunshine with creatures such as these.

As I walked and took my many pictures using my cellphone camera (which, surprisingly, captured some wonderful shots), I came upon a white butterfly that sat on the ground in harm’s way already clearly having suffered wing damage. I became immediately saddened at the sight and then pensive at the scene as one tries to reconcile the tragedies of life with its glories. What came swiftly to mind is the rosary and the important juxtaposition of the Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous Mysteries. Almost without a thought, I felt compelled to pick up the butterfly and return it to a nearby leaf. It was clear that it was dying, and it felt right that it should do so on a leaf and not against the cold, unnatural pavement.

I am a panentheist and this moment brought that home to me once again. The Spirit runs through all the created. Each natural form is a face of the mind of Ein Sof, the otherwise unknowable. Once again, as creatures with personhood, we know the Divine Presence personally. We feel the Presence more so than we can adequately think the Presence. This is the Gnosis Kardia, the Knowledge of the Heart.

So, on a quiet March day, just a week ago, I was visited by a butterfly who stopped me in my tracks to consider my own mortality, the mortality of others, life’s mysterious transits, and the power of regeneration, resurrection, renewal and the true heaven that emerges in every moment illuminated by authentic compassion.

This is Holy Week in the Western calendar. May this week be a time for you of profound revelatory moments, of transformative experiences, and a deeper dive into the Heart of the Cosmos.

© 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.

Read Full Post »

Colliding Galaxies

I was awakened this morning by the sound of a serious car crash on the road beyond the fence in our backyard. It was early and it was raining heavily. I startled awake and then ran to the window to see only one car with the passenger-side, front right, completely collapsed in toward the driver. There was an eerie silence.

I called 911 and reported what I could see. Then, I noticed my next door neighbour running toward his fence. He leapt over it and headed out toward the driver. Based on the commotion, I assumed there were injuries. I was heartsick at the thought; a knot in the pit of my stomach.

My thoughts ran quickly to the kind of car I was seeing and all those that I knew and the cars they drive. My niece was due to stop by, and so I immediately wanted to rule out that she was involved. Fortunately, she gad already arrived at school and was not due to travel to see us until later. Nonetheless, it was all terribly unnerving.

The sounds, the continuous horn from the severely damaged car, signaling a bad accident, and then the quiet, brought forward a flood of memories: one of losing my younger sister many years ago in an accident by which I just “happened to be passing by” on one of the many major highways here. All the horror of discovering that a loved one was involved, the trip to the hospital, the cold demeanor of the physician telling me that my sister was dead, and my mother, who was driving, and her inconsolable state.

Then, my thoughts ran to wondering about the age of the people involved and their condition, whether their families were quickly notified, and how all of this would work out for them.

So we see, in a single flash, how the world goes from quiet to horrifying, and back to quiet again. I thought of Haiti and the series of aftershocks and the terror of people buried under rubble and those searching for them. There is no time to waste. Life must be lived now.

The Beloved must be felt and seen both in bright light and in the darkest night. There can be no waiting, no delay, no putting off until a presumed tomorrow. Either we wake up now or we might never do so.

We need nothing more than we have. We are all that we have to be. All it takes is to open ourselves up totally in complete vulnerability to the Lover who calls out to us all day and all night. The Beloved is found both in the Heart, and in the wisdom of the poetic resonance in the mind, as we embrace words that point the way.

But, the words are just pointers. Consummation is not about words. We kiss. We embrace. We touch. We are one. We feel each other’s warmth.

That’s all. That’s everything.

We are as the flute, and the music in us is from thee;
we are as the mountain and the echo in us is from thee.

We are as pieces of chess engaged in victory and defeat:
our victory and defeat is from thee, O thou whose qualities are comely!

Who are we, O Thou soul of our souls,
that we should remain in being beside thee?

We and our existences are really non-existence;
thou art the absolute Being which manifests the perishable.

We all are lions, but lions on a banner:
because of the wind they are rushing onward from moment to moment.

Their onward rush is visible, and the wind is unseen:
may that which is unseen not fail from us!

Our wind whereby we are moved and our being are of thy gift;
our whole existence is from thy bringing into being.

Poems by Rumi, Masnavi Book I, 599-607

© 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.

Read Full Post »

Antoni Gaudi Casa Batllo

We have just today begun a series of home improvement projects. Our home was built in the 1950’s and, except for a great deal of exterior work and room painting, wallpapering and carpeting, the inner structure is in need of work. I find myself  excited and upbeat in having things being worked on around the house. Today, contractors ripped out old drywall, a shower fan, and a broken door to a guest room, and began the process of reinforcing tiles, inserting new sheet rock, a new fan, spackling, and, tomorrow, comes the painting.

While the process makes a mess while underway, there is something thrilling about starting over. The renewal goes deeper than simply a matter of decor. The feeling dimension tied to it is very real. I was struck by my sense of putting things in a fresh perspective, trying on new wall colors, and finally dealing with long-standing disrepair. Tonight, I am thinking about the spiritual analogue to new drywall, spackle and paint: the structures of thought, the smoothing of seemingly disconnected ideas, and the new perspectives and “shades” of meaning that personal renewal brings.

Though I do not subscribe to plastic surgery, except in the case of serious injury, disease and related disfigurement, cosmetic surgery revolves around vanity. Renewing one’s living environment can be vain, but is also as likely to reflect an inner movement; a need for a change, a fresh vantage point, or emergence of a new vista. Our own appearance remains the same, and  the emphasis instead is on our emotional, intellectual and spiritual landscape.

Logion 22 in the Gospel of Thomas says:

Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to His disciples,
“These infants being suckled are like those who enter the

They said to Him, “Shall we then, as children, enter the

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two one, and when you
make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside,
and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the
female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the
female female; and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye,
and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and
a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter [the

The day’s efforts bring this saying from Thomas to mind, especially in the phrase, “when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside.” Is my home a fitting reflection of what’s happening within me? How does the work to renew the “outside” mirror what’s occurring ‘inside”? Of course, they could be completely independent, but I doubt it. As synchronicity congeals all around us in every moment, the timing of work in our environment is likely to be coincident with movements in the deep structures of the psyche.

Perhaps the outer changes prompt the inner movement, or the inner movement shapes our perceptions and motivations to align the environment with it. Of one thing I am unequivocally certain: our home is canvas for our souls, and the time is now, this year, to slowly, deliberately, and exuberantly, to pick up our brushes and paints, fabrics and woods, frames and furnishings, and tell the story of the ways in which we are re-writing ourselves.

© 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.

Read Full Post »

As is the case with so many rituals and symbols, the Christmas tree has undergone significant evolution in its use throughout the centuries. The practice of decorating an evergreen goes back to pagan roots as a ritual in celebration of the Winter Solstice and in hopes of a good harvest in the season ahead among ancient druids, Egyptians, Hebrews, pagans and Chinese.

The choice of the evergreen revolves around the allusions to eternal life, so its later adoption by Christians was quite natural as the adornments took on the symbolism of the faith: an angel atop the tree and not the Norse practice of the spear signifying the God Odin. The German Lutherans decorated their trees with apples and wafers symbolizing the crucified God. Victorian ritual saw a shift from live fruit to the glass balls we are now accustomed to along with candles, allusions to the fire of life and Genesis, now more safely represented by the strings of multicolored lights.

It is among my favorite traditions of the season along with modest use of outdoor lighting. The colors red and green capture the mysteries of Divine love, the Presence of the Holy Spirit and the greenness of the biome. What we place on the tree matters a great deal. There are archetypal images along with those specific to our own sense of meaning and personal unconscious.

We always leave the decorating until the day before Christmas eve; today, as it turns out. With music playing and a wood fire in the fireplace, we each place decorations on the tree, and there are always more decorations than the tree can accomodate.

What images find their way there, first:

  • the ornaments with the name of our two children inscribed along with the year of their birth,
  • ornaments that are old, and go back to the earliest days of our marriage,
  • those hand-made by my wife’s late Aunt who made them each year as gifts for the family,
  • many delicately made images of angels,
  • ornaments of saints,
  • nativity scenes,
  • many beautifully crafted song birds and parrots,
  • small cottages dusted with snow,
  • and the untold number of glass baubles and balls, flutes, and stars, and a goodly number of ballerinas.

Throughout the central room where the tree resides, there are the many nutcrackers, larger angels, a separate smaller tree for special bird ornaments, and other seasonal objects far too many to list. What matters is what they all say and create. In this moment of family artistry and creative decorating, the point is to suspend time and allow the system unconscious its full expression.

We delight in the rainbow display of color, in the symbols of dance, movement that celebrates being alive and conscious, joyfully surrounded by imagery of nature, mystical union and spiritual vitality, the memory of loved ones and things past, and loved ones in the here and now engaged in the high play of celebrating the deep mystery of the Incarnate G-d.

For a few days, time has no meaning. The past is alive with us in the quickening of memory. The present bathes in the deep roots to which color reaches into our personal and collective unconscious, and the symbols dance like so many sugar-plums on the stage that we construct together.

We are artists in action. We awaken the creative muse that whispers in our ears of simpler times. We stimulate all the senses and prepare for the mystical rebirth that surely happens, beyond ritual and Liturgy, in the timeless realm of soul and spirit, in the Heart of the Cosmos that continually renews itself.

The Evergreen miracle, the moment of the Star of Bethlehem, the end of our waiting, and the spark of inner knowing are upon us.


© 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.

Read Full Post »

The sixth trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks.

One of the great tears in the fabric of our psyche is the intellectual split between body and soul. Western religious traditions seem especially fixated on wrestling with the body, and giving supremacy to mind and soul. Catholicism is notably obsessed with the body and with sexuality as something to contain, constrain, and deny. There is a great tragedy here in creating  a schizoid way of living.

The mind-body-spirit constellation is One indivisible reality. What we do to one, we do to all. We are creatures after all, and our sensations are the doorways to all experience. Sensuousness is more wholesomely embraced in Eastern traditions. Certainly, Eastern Orthodoxy places a premium on it. Hinduism is profoundly sensuous, as are yogic practices and traditions. In these, the body figures prominently.

The Kama Sutra is one well-known expression of the path of sensuousness to the Beloved. In many ways, it is vastly superior to those of Mind that can easily find us getting tied up in ideas and becoming overly enamored of our own mental machinations. I celebrate those special sensuous moments that lead us to the  re-integration of mind-body-spirit, acting as one in the fullness of now:

  • gentle, lingering and deeply warming touch;
  • an unhurried kiss with an authentic and abiding embrace;
  • sensuous and lasting love-making that luxuriates in the timeless rhythm of union and separation;
  • slow and exquisite movements of the Tai chi long-form or yogic postures ( especially when performed by couples);
  • simple cuddling without expectation, the feeling of complete and utter safety and total belonging.

In these moments, so fleeting and increasingly elusive in our times, we experience greatest proximity to the Beloved: the One who fills our deep well of longing with the capacity to abandon ourselves to the Other. This is authentic Communion that inspires us to reach beyond the finite to its mystical analogue.

Jesus of Nazareth was profoundly sensuous. His teaching was intimately tied up with closeness. His gracious and loving response to having his feet dried by Mary of Magdala is a case in point. The miracle of the loaves and fishes, and the conversion of water to wine for the wedding at Cana, are testaments to his insight into the central importance of thanksgiving and feeding of one another. This sacred physicality appears in many places and is writ even larger in the apocryphal Gospels and texts.

Many years ago, as an under-graduate, my part-time job was to deliver a 16 MM projector to classrooms where movies were being shown as part of the class session. On one occasion, that I still remember vividly, I walked by two lovers standing off to the side of the doorway that I had to pass through on my way to the awaiting class.

They were simply holding each other. It was also December then, and the night was very cold. As I walked by them, I passed through the area around them. It was noticeably warmer. To this day, I remember feeling the heat of their love literally filling the night air all around them.

This is why the words of the Ubi Caritas ring so authentically for me:

” Where beauty and love are, there also is G-d.”

© 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.

Read Full Post »

Of the writers whose books fill my library, those of Thomas Merton are among the ones I most treasure and revisit often. Tonight I pulled one of his books off the shelves and randomly turned open a page to read:

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”

An elegant and enlightened sentence. Happiness is embracing things just as they are. All we need do is find the right tempo, take human bites each day, put things together that belong together, stop working at it so hard, make room for others, and live the life we’ve been given. Sometimes it seems the hardest thing to do is simply accept who, where, and when we are. Natural goodness springs from being natural.

I saw a very big spider on my wall last night. I startled at first and was just about to grab something to kill it, when I paused for a split second to really look at it. It was exquisitely designed. A work of art.

It was alien but impressive: built to move swiftly, flexibly, and with keen purpose. It just remained there on the wall motionless as I looked on. It was just going about its business.

Something in me changed in the space of a second or two.  I left it be, and went to bed. I was happy.

Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh said:

” Deep in the illuminated heart, there is no storm.”

Let us live well and sleep peacefully.

© 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.

Read Full Post »


At the center you’re on the edge.

Yes, that’s right. Whether you fancy Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Cremes, the true doughnut ( the one with a hole in the middle), is a fitting metaphor for the spiritual life. Forrest Gump’s good and ever wise mother notwithstanding, chocolates are not the most fitting symbol. What I am talking about is the geometry of the Spirit. When you travel along an edge of the doughnut, you are also moving around the center.

Mathematicians refer to the doughnut shape as a torus, and its shape is “liminocentric”. So, what’s the meaning of this obscenely multi-syllabic word? In the case of liminocentricity, traveling along an edge, or, an outside part of the shape, is paradoxically also traveling inside of it. Many who talk about this kind of shape refer to the “chinese boxes” by way of analogy, wherein a series of smaller boxes fit inside larger ones. To be liminocentric ( limen, denoting thresholds, and centric, for center) small and large details of the shape are also the same.

The term was first used by Psychologist John Fudjack in his 1995 paper, Liminocentric Forms of Social Organization. The word has caught on in circles as diverse as physics, art, and consciousness studies. So, what’s all the fuss about?

In living spiritually, thresholds matter a lot. The moments of insight are most often threshold moments: we feel on the verge of some discovery. Perhaps we see something with fresh eyes, as if for the first time, or we are challenged in a way that seems to pull us into a new, unfamiliar space. But in opening ourselves to it, we are somehow closer to the center of reality, nearer a compelling truth.

Moses’ metaphorical encounter with the “burning bush” was liminocentric. He was at an unprecedented threshold, having stepped on holy ground where nothing was as we generally experience it. A bush burns without being consumed, and his relationship with the One embodied in the heat of the flame is at once personal, transpersonal, and Other. According to the Jewish Study Bible, the voice of Yahweh signs himself by uttering the words,” I will be what I will be.” The  burning bush was wholly and fully present, and also alive to all possible futures at the same time.

Moses stood on a mountain facing an awesome and, no doubt, terrifying visage, face to face with the ineffable, and they spoke: A Divine Q&A. He stood on a precipice, an edge, a verge of unknowing, and, at the same time, entered into the Bridal chamber, was at the center, at-onement with the Intimate Mystery.

Mathematicians and astrophysicists have gone far in exploring the geometry of liminocentricity. In fractal geometric terms, it is an apt model for the topology of the universe. The torus shape is ubiquitous: storm systems, galaxies, and black holes. There is no finer meditation than to open one’s eyes to the shapes of nature all around.

As we perceive the varieties of beautiful forms, we come to fully experience the outward topologies in deeply personal ways. Consciousness, it seems, is shaped as nature is shaped. Gazing inward, we experience our own threshold moments in which we are traveling an edge, and yet are closer to the center. We are involved in something seemingly small in finite time and space, but mindful, as a result, of the incomprehensibly vast.

  • Being present at the birth of one’s child;
  • The moment of awe standing on the perimeter of a volcanic caldera;
  • Holding the hands of a loved one as they pass away;
  • Hearing a lover’s heartbeat while feeling one’s own;
  • Being really awake in that fleeting split second in between two thoughts and listening to true silence;

As I move through this last day of the holiday weekend here, I will be taking special notice of things liminocentric, and of those moments that are both edges and centers, and where the structure of small details mirrors the large.

In any event, my next doughnut promises to be a very special treat indeed.

© 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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »