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silent night

Richard Rohr’s emailed devotion today was the first gift I got to open. shh
Oh the glory of being grandparents!
We’re the ones who wake up first now
and then wait in the silence…

Do what it takes.
Grab some silence today.
Your soul needs it.

When peaceful silence lay over all, and when night had run half way her swift course, down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word. –Book of Wisdom 18:14-15

Words are necessarily dualistic.
That is their function. They distinguish this from that, and that’s good. But silence has the wonderful ability to not need to distinguish this from that! As in the magnificent quote above from the Catholic Bible, the divine word itself can only enter the world in silence and at nighttime. Silence can hold impossibilities together in a quiet, tantric* embrace. Silence, especially loving silence, is always non-dual, and that is much of its secret power. It stays with mystery, holds tensions, absorbs contradictions, and smiles at paradoxes—leaving them unresolved, and happily so. Any good poet knows this, as do many masters of musical chords. Politicians, engineers, accountants, and most seminary trained clergy have a much harder time.

Max Picard, in his classic book The World of Silence, says, “The human spirit requires silence just as much as the body needs food and oxygen.” As a general spiritual rule, you can trust this: The ego gets what it wants with words. The soul finds what it needs in silence. The ego prefers full solar light—immediate answers, full clarity, absolute certitude, moral perfection, and undeniable conclusions. The soul, however, prefers the subtle world of shadow, the lunar world that mixes darkness and light together, or as the Book of Wisdom more poetically puts it above, “When night had run half way her swift course…”!

Robert Sardello, in his magnificent, demanding book Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness, writes: “Silence knows how to hide. It gives a little and sees what we do with it.” Only then will it or can it give more. Rushed, manipulative, or opportunistic people thus find silence impossible, even a torture. They never get to the “more.” Sardello goes on to say, “But in Silence everything displays its depth, and we find that we are a part of the depth of everything around us.” This is so good and so true!

When our interior silence can actually feel and value the silence that surrounds everything else, we have entered the house of wisdom. This is the very heart of prayer. When the two silences connect and bow to one another, we have a third dimension of knowing, which many have called spiritual intelligence or even “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2: 10-16). No wonder that silence is probably the foundational spiritual discipline in all the world’s religions, although it is only appreciated as such at the more mature and mystical levels. Maybe the absence of silence and the abundance of chatter is the primary reason that so much personal incarnation does not happen. Christmas remains a single day instead of a lifetime of ever deepening realizations.

* tantric – yes it’s one of those eastern religious words; new to me. Evidently a combination of “elaboration” and “liberation,” I’ll take elaborated liberation any day! Tantric beats tantrums…

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Posted by on December 25, 2014 in Quotes

 

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come here, you scrumptious little beauty

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Series 6, “The Doctor’s Wife.” LIKE.

It’s a repeated Whovian theme.
There are no unimportant people.
Every creature, every person encountered is a wonder to behold.

Come here, you scrumptious little beauty!

John Duns Scotus called it haecceity (pronounce it “heck-city” – and don’t say you didn’t learn anything today) – the doctrine of “thisness.” It’s the Latin translation of the Greek to ti esti = “the what it is.”

Haecceity embodies the distinct characteristics that make something or someone what it is which was a radical thought for the times – times in which significance rested with the upper crust of society. You just didn’t make a fuss over the lower classes, the individuals, the nobodies. In fact, despite Jesus’ introduction of the concept of the individual almost in passing in such stories as the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine to search for the one, Christian thinkers (and doers) for the most part missed it, as momentum flowed in the other direction towards identity derived from an institutional collective.

Haecceity is full-on incarnation, refusing all vague abstractions and revealing itself in concrete particularity, a radical thisness. “If nature abhors a vacuum, Christ abhors a vagueness. If God is love, Christ is love for this one person, this one place, this one time-bound and time-ravaged self” (Christian Wiman). Sink your teeth into that one for a bit.

Rohr observes: “When we start with big universal ideas, at the level of concepts and –isms, we too often stay there – and argue about theory, forever making more distinctions. At that level, the mind is totally in charge. It is then easy to ‘love humanity, but not any individual people.’”

But we know and are known by a haecceitistic (!!! Yes, I am having far too much fun with words here) God who delights in the thisness of everything. He counts hairs – marveling at each cell; hairs that we readily pluck and discard, or pull out of our hairbrushes in large swatches as we mutter “gross.”

He feeds crows and watches sparrows fall – creatures we flatten into pancaked roadkill under our tires without so much as a thought.

He clothes wild grasses with splendor that we happily weed whack into oblivion.

And he beholds all the thisness of me, of you, of people who pass us as no more than blurs.

Now, all this talk about thisness could easily steer into yet one more burden, one more guilt trip piled onto our already overloaded backs – and you no doubt thought that’s where this is headed. Ah, but this havering was launched by a knock at the door in very, very deep space.

It is opportunity that knocks here.

Thisness is knocking at our door, inviting us to open and see it – in this face, this flower, these swaying branches, these high wispy cirriform streaks across the sky, this apple that just toppled to the ground, this blessing, this tragedy, this moment – knocking on the door of my heart like a bright box, inviting me to pause, to take it in my hands, and to see.

I’ve got mail!

Come here, you scrumptious little beauty…

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Posted by on October 3, 2014 in haverings

 

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Seraphic Doctor

Had to follow up yesterday’s theology havering with this Rohr observation from Eager to Love. Had to. I’ve been sipping on this read 9781473604018-2through the summer, and this portion was timely on this perfect patio reading morning:

Bonaventure is called “the Seraphic Doctor” of the Church because his writings are so filled with the warmth and fire that was associated with the Seraphic order of angels. He is probably an exemplary Franciscan mystic because he so effectively pulls his brilliant head down into his fiery heart, and integrates contemplation with an extremely active life, as we hear in one of his more oft-quoted verses, all the more amazing because he was such an intellectual:

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Bonaventure’s theology is never about trying to placate a distant and angry God, earn forgiveness, or find some abstract theory of justification. He is all cosmic optimism and hope! Once it lost this kind of mysticism, Christianity became preoccupied with fear, unworthiness, and guilt much more than being included in – and delighting in – an all-pervasive plan that is already in place.

In Bonaventure’s world, the frame of reality was still big, hopeful, and positive. One reason he was able to do that, as we can see in many Catholic mystics, is that he was profoundly Trinitarian, where the love always and forever flows in one positive and forward direction. That was both his starting point and his ending point. Most of Christian history has not been Trinitarian except in name, I am sad to report; it has largely been a worship of Jesus who was extracted from the Trinity – and thus Jesus part from the eternal Christ, who then became more a harsh judge of humanity than a shining exemplar of humanity “holding all things in unity” (Colossians 1:17-20).

After reading Bonaventure, the crossed lines of the crucifix henceforth become a geometric metaphor for all the seeming contradictions in the world – which, if held with compassion, create deep wisdom in the soul.

Oh what need we have of “Seraphic Doctors” skilled in the art of pulling brilliant heads (or at least passably intelligent ones) into fiery hearts, hearts burning with optimism and hope and seeing his unity everywhere –
true Trinitarians sensing the pulsing, beating, throbbing heart of Love beating at the center of all existence, and whose every consequent word and deed are forged in such a flame emanating from a deep wisdom in the soul.

Whew.

Behold the Seraphic Doctor! Complete with dancing action…

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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Books, haverings

 

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dangerous preachers

 

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How’s that as a test for one’s true orthodoxy?
Not your letters.
Not your grasp of languages.
Not your mastery of classic works of systematic theology.
Not your memorization and recitation of vast tracts of Biblical text.

But your appreciation of beauty.
Your ability to say with Christ, “Behold the lilies of the field” or “Consider the ravens.”

Rohr observes this about St. Francis in his most recent book Eager to Love:

Those who have analyzed the writings of Francis have noted that…

…he uses the word doing rather than understanding at a ratio of 175 times to five;
heart is used 42 times to one use of mind;
love is used 23 times as opposed to 12 uses of truth;
Mercy is used 26 times while intellect is used only one time.

This is a very new perspective that is clearly different from (and an antidote to) the verbally argumentative Christianity of his time, and from the highly academic theology that would hold sway for the next thousand years. He took prayer on the road and into the activity of life itself.

May we all be such dangerous preachers with our path as our pulpit, the wide world our sanctuary, and our Sacred Text writ large across heaven and earth…

 

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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in haverings, Pastoring, Quotations, Religion

 

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shape-shifter

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Richard Rohr.

Just started reading his latest offering from which this is adapted –
Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi

Yes, Richard. Just, yes.

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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Quotations, Suffering

 

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free fall

A convergence of excerpts.

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love this. courtesy of Slavica Dolasevic

Read (reread, actually) this excerpt from Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places about Rick Bass, “a very good writer…another Montana neighbor of mine.”

He lives in the Yaak, a wilderness area seventy miles north of my home. Besides being an excellent writer, he is a fervent environmentalist. I don’t know him personally but have seen him in action, and like very much what I see. Environmentalists care deeply about this creation; but a lot of them are also pretty mean – angry, sometimes violent. Rick Bass is small of stature, elf-like, energetic and laughing, it seems, most of the time. He holds parties for the loggers and miners, working for common ground, developing a language of courtesy and understanding.

The Rick Bass tribe needs to increase.

Why is it that often those most passionate about protecting the earth and the civil rights of other human beings can be so unmercifully snarky in their handling of their fellow human beings who aren’t on the same page yet? And by what love and logic does such rough treatment cause us to think we will accomplish anything more than further feed mutual antagonisms while merely accumulating at our feet our own dittoheading crowd? How does this ultimately advance the ball on the field that really matters?

falling upwardThen this quote from Rohr. More spacious, second half of life musings that serves like commentary on the elf-like Mr. Bass:

Your concern is not so much to have what you love anymore, but to love what you have—right now. This is a monumental change from the first half of life, so much so that it is almost the litmus test of whether you are in the second half of life at all. Inner brightness, still holding life’s sadness and joy, is its own reward, its own satisfaction, and your best and truest gift to the world. 

Such elders are the “grand” parents of the world. Children and other adults feel so safe and loved around them, and they themselves feel so needed and helpful to children, teens, and midlife adults. And they are! They are in their natural flow.

Strangely, all of life’s problems, dilemmas, and difficulties are now resolved not by negativity, attack, criticism, force, or logical resolution, but always by falling into a larger “brightness”—by falling into the good, the true, and the beautiful—by falling into God. All you have to do is meet one such shining person and you know that he or she is surely the goal of humanity and the delight of God.

Adam’s fall so needs to be met by this fall “into the good, the true and the beautiful.”

God how we need to fall.

And then, topping off this convergence of excerpts, this (Peterson channeling Paul in Philippians, phear not):

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Yes, we need to fall.

Oh how we need to fall into such brightness, such expectation, such hope, such beauty.

And if this is what “falling into God” truly meant for us, who would want to hold by clawing fingernail to such dark and bitter perches?

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Books, haverings, Mercy, musings, Unity

 

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spacious life

Sitting on my patio, listening to nature’s symphony – crow cawing, sparrows – or are they finches?
The sound of grandchildren giggling inside.
And green. So much green.
And green smoothie.

And my eyes fall on these Rohr musings about the second half of life.

And it so fits.

Life is much more spacious in the second half of life, the boundaries of the container having been enlarged by the constant addition of new experiences and relationships. Now you are just here, and here holds more than enough.

If we know anything at this stage, we know that we are all in this together and that we are all equally naked underneath our clothes. When you are young, you define yourself by differentiating yourself; now you look for the things that we all share in common. You find happiness in alikeness, which has become much more obvious to you now; and you do not need to dwell on the differences between people or exaggerate the problems. Creating dramas has become boring.

In the second half of life, it is good just to be a part of the general dance. We do not have to stand out, make defining moves, or be better than anyone else on the dance floor. Life is more participatory than assertive, and there is no need for strong or further self-definition. God has taken care of all that, much better than we ever expected. The brightness comes from within now, and it is usually more than enough.

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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in haverings, Quotations

 

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hold the pain

Saved this draft three weeks ago and forgot about it. Nice follow up to stone…from Richard Rohr

Don’t get rid of the pain until you’ve learned its lessons. When you hold the pain consciously and trust fully,
you are in a very special painliminal space. This is a great teaching moment where you have the possibility of breaking through to a deeper level of faith and consciousness. Hold the pain of being human until God transforms you through it. And then you will be an instrument of transformation for others.

As an example of holding the pain, picture Mary standing at the foot of the cross. Standing would not be the normal posture of a Jewish woman who is supposed to wail and lament and show pain externally. She’s holding the pain instead, as also symbolized in Michelangelo’s Pietà. Mary is in complete solidarity with the mystery of life and death. She’s trying to say, “There’s something deeper happening here. How can I absorb it just as Jesus is absorbing it, instead of returning it in kind?” Until you find a way to be a transformer, you will pass the pain onto others.

Jesus on the cross and Mary standing by the cross are images of transformative religion. They are never transmitting the pain to others. All the hostility that had been directed toward them—the hatred, the accusations, the malice—none of it is returned. They hold the suffering until it becomes resurrection! That’s the core mystery. It takes our whole life to comprehend this, and then to become God’s “new creation” (Galatians 6:15). The imperial ego hates such seeming diminishment.

Unfortunately, we have the natural instinct to fix pain, to control it, or even, foolishly, to try to understand it. The ego always insists on understanding. That’s why Jesus praises a certain quality even more than love, and he calls it faith. It is the ability to stand in liminal space, to stand on the threshold, to hold the contraries, until you move to a deeper level where it all eventually makes sense in the great scheme of God and grace.

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This is a huge part of this whole perspective of casting a wide net into the world, this filter through which we are always looking for the gift.

Who said gifts are positive?

Some of the greatest gifts are wrapped up in the deepest pain. But we typically try to exorcise pain rather than be exercised by it. It’s a no brainer. Pain and the negative, hurtful and crushing experiences are obviously bad fish to be summarily cast aside, yes?

Ah, but what a gift can be found waiting for us in the gaping mouth of pain…

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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in Faith, Suffering, Uncategorized

 

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beginner’s mind

Beginner's Mind_RohrThis is probably a repost.

I need it reposted on my brain – daily.

If I did have a list of resolutions for 2014, this summarizes one of them nicely.
(Just what does it say about you when it takes a paragraph to summarize a new year’s resolution?)

Another Rohrism…

Holding what I know together with what I don’t know, and doing so with humility and patience.

There. Got it down to a sentence.

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Posted by on December 29, 2013 in Quotations

 

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road narrows

Perhaps the most powerful addiction of all: addiction to our own mental grids.

Oh, this is good grist for our mental mill. So what do you think?

From Rohr…

Contemplation is meeting as much reality as we can handle in its most simple and yes andimmediate form, without filters, judgments, and commentaries. Now you see why it is so rare and, in fact, “the narrow road that few walk on” (Matthew 7:14). The only way you can contemplate is by recognizing and relativizing your own compulsive mental grids—your practiced ways of judging, critiquing, blocking, and computing everything.

This is what we are trying to do by practicing contemplative prayer, and people addicted to their own mind will find contemplation most difficult, if not impossible. Much that is called thinking is simply the ego’s stating of what it prefers and likes—and resistances to what it does not like. Narcissistic reactions to the moment are not worthy of being called thinking. Yet that is much of our public and private discourse.

When your mental judgmental grid and all its commentaries are placed aside, God finally has a chance to get through to you, because your pettiness is at last out of the way. Then Truth stands revealed! You will begin to recognize that we all carry the Divine Indwelling within us and we all carry it equally. That will change your theology, your politics, and your entire worldview. In fact, it is the very birth of the soul.

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Posted by on December 18, 2013 in Quotations

 

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