Search This Blog

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Always Winter

“Always winter, but never Christmas!?” is the response of the Pevensie children when they are introduced by Mr. and Mrs. Beaver to the state of the world in Narnia.  C.S. Lewis comments in this, his famous allegory, what many of us at some time in our life generally intuit—there is something really quite wrong with the world.  The world though it is all we have known and experienced, seems darkly off.  There is something unsettling, as if vague memories, shadows of some other context are informing our consciousness that the world must, should, be rather different than it is. 
As this notion is rather uncomfortable and a little depressing, most of us do our best to ignore it.  We drown it in education, science, success, pleasure, or oblivion, but none-the-less this feeling compels humanity to answer, to consider.  We have applied our collective intellect to this very end.   Historically we have called our thoughts on the issue religion or philosophy.  But it is not truly in this realm of thought that we see the truth about our quandary.  If we look and observe our behavior…  If we watch and consider our actual attempts at resolving the disquiet in the soul, we have one basic response.   We look for power to address it –to make the “wrongness” go away.  In uncertainty we find fear and fear must be repelled. 
All our greatest thought has been wrought to that end.  Science pursues power and becomes technology, which in turn has become weaponry or pollution; sometimes both.  Religion and philosophy join hands darkly in the search for power.   They have to often become control, manipulation, and deception.  Even when we have power, to what shall we really apply it? Having a saw what do I cut?  Having a chisel what shall I form?  The logical problems with this progression are obvious.  We pursue a vacuum, and find it as hard to reach as a shadow.  We grasp and kill for power by which to correct that which we cannot find, much less define.  Ultimately we turn on one another.  The testimony of this absurdity is misery: as so obviously written on the page of human history in ink of blood. 
Yet the answer to all this chaos is simple.  Something of the like a little child could understand.  Feeling a little like Paul, my Beloveds, I proclaim to you as known what you have pursued unknown.  There is something, perhaps someone missing.  It has been so hard for you to figure out because it is a nothing! It is indeed a shadow because it is the absence of light.  You have had trouble breathing easy in the vacuum because you have no air! The problem with Life is indeed that it is a cold dark winter without a Christmas. 
Wait a second! Surely this is folly! How can the answer to human suffering be so simple! Firstly let me clarify.  We in recognizing that we have not…that we are missing something is not yet an answer but merely, perhaps, asking the right question.  But this is a vital step.  In the search for true knowledge one cannot reach the right answer unless one asks first the right question.  So what have I lost? Who have I lost? This answer I suppose could take many forms so for argument’s sake let us return to our metaphorical situation.  We have cold and dark and no beautiful Christmas.  We have lost warm fires, big meals, mulled wine, family gatherings, and mistletoe.  We have lost progression, growth, a moving of the seasons.  It seems that in this sense we have lost some of what makes relationship beautiful,  what is a vital connection with others.  I have lost some Joy.  I, in short, have lost some bit of life itself.  Without which I am moving ever so slowly, inexorably, toward death.  In frigid winter cold must, in the end, take the bones. 
It is here that we must leap, dear friends, in our discussion.  We have a need to look to what is known and revealed in the Holy Scriptures as illuminated in the Tradition of the Church.  Don’t be alarmed.  We do not leap to an Antarctic philosophy that is cold and dry.  Nor will we turn to empty religion, which chills the soul and enumerates passion as chief sin.  No I would direct you again to the story of the Divine Heart.  Within Himself, God, a perfect family, self defined by love and Faithfulness.  He warms himself at an eternal hearth ablaze with the fires of a specific passion. This passion is for you.  Born of the overflow of God’s love you were made to romp and play through all the seasons of life and every inch of the world.  Everyday, every moment when we paused to catch our breath, God was there; loving, supporting, answering our questions, blessing our ideas.  This is the reality of human existence.  You were made, contrary to your experience, for paradise and His presence. This is our natural home.  Is it any wonder that we feel like loneliness is trauma and that shame hurts.  Created for relationship in harmony, could your soul be satisfied with anything less.  No instead we fill our days with temporary fixes and short term solutions.  Were did things go wrong? 
To you who know the story of the fall of humanity, this is where we weep.  We were infected with a disease in which we suffer still.  It is frankly selfishness.  It is simply pride.  We make choices everyday to follow our individual wills at the expense of the whole world.  We prefer our own agenda even if it will lead to broken relationships, disease, or dishonor.  This is what we have chosen since the very beginning.  Tempted by an empty, wandering, and purposeless spirit both literally and figuratively, we have chosen ourselves as unto ourselves -- instead of love and relationship with Life himself.  This is the crux of what happened in the garden.  Far more than it was about obedience to a rule or eating “forbidden fruit” it was about relationship first and foremost.  It was about Us. 
We must, for the health of our souls then ask the question why.  Why was the fruit forbidden?  Why would God hold back “something that could make us wise?” The answer once again is quite simple: because he cares, because He loves!  God established good and evil, right and wrong because he knows what brings health and life to us and to the whole world He made for us.  In complement to this, he knows what will bring his children destruction, disease, alienation, and ultimately death.  These things He named evil.  Think for a moment.  God is not like most of the authority we have known.  He is actually good, actually always looking out for the best for us.  Please understand!  law and rule in the mind of God is never arbitrary.  It always has substance to protect and provide for those whom He loves!  When we chose the “knowledge of good and evil” we did not choose wisdom.  We chose the most foolish and stupid thing in the world.  For us in our hearts at that moment we chose to be self directed, to say to God I prefer to seek my own knowledge and way in the world rather than enjoy all of it in relationship to Him.  I chose to be my own authority, my own boss, my own god -- how silly, how strange, how contrary to any real wisdom or knowledge.  Oh how under qualified I am for this responsibility.  This vicious, selfish independence is the root of all of the pain that I cause and that is caused by others. 
It was in this loneliness, in the winter of the world that God would arrive Himself to teach us another way.  The early ministry of your God in Christ was to stand toe to toe with the devil and reply to him in the way  Adam and Eve did not.  What is called the temptation in the wilderness is the great war of the Lion of Judah for our restoration of relationship.  Our Lord Jesus said in that place no thank you.  I would rather be my Father’s son than be my own.  I would rather be humble and love than proclaim my own way!  I would rather freely inherit the universe than take the world.  He came to help us to see.  But more than that to redeem what humanity could be.  It is here that I would invite you today.  To humble yourself to say I have been selfish beautiful God.  I have done what I ought not trying to fulfill my own desire.  God I want goodness.  I want purity! I want instead of all that is mine, what is yours.  I want you Jesus! and all that you are—the life, the love, and the relationship with God and man that I need.  I pray for all of us to be moved in this way.  Lord help us to see past a world so infected with selfish pride that we might choose was is good, truly what brings life and health—to receive Christmas into this cold, dark, and accursed winter. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mother Church

It is in this season of repentance, especially, that our mind turns to issues of fasting and mortification as directed by the Church in her wisdom, applying for us the great inheritance of the fasts and feast of the Old Covenant.  We have in Her teaching the width and breadth of Natural law and Philosophy applied to our souls.  Her prescribed penance is medicine not for the making ill but for the curing.  Our Lord has made sure in His faithfulness to give us good things, meant for our Joy not our sorrow.  I am reminded three days into Lent, on my own Mother’s birthday, that one of the greatest Gifts we have been given for our life and sanctification is the Church.  The Church is second only to the gift of Himself that God has made, every way manifest in Christ.  She is our best Joy and Penance in this life.  We nurse at her Breast.  We find comfort in her arms.  We are disciplined in our excess.  We are opposed in our pride.  She is Mother.  She is Family. She is Body. She is Bride. She is Ark.  She is Salvation.  Because She is of Christ. 
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” In the Scriptures we are instructed by the Poetry of God.  He has pictured for us in this verse the tender nurturing of His great heart.   It was from this place that Man was birthed into the world.  He made the picture and metaphor complete when he took a rib from near man's heart to make woman.  Eve is the living metaphor, a natural extension of the Heart of God. 

Even though through this Eve humanity would be marred and motherhood equated with pain, God's will in manifesting him self cannot be thwarted.  The picture stands redeemed in Mary.  It is she who faithful and humble, receives from God the gift of fellowship with Christ.  As living metaphor she recieves Christ into her by faith; in this she is Proto-Christian and the example of Salvation by faith in Christ to all.  She is the example of redeemed femininity and the model of womanliness, for all humanity.  All faithful Mothers remind us of her as she points to God.  She is as the Early Fathers teach us “the new Eve” and the fulfillment of God’s manifestation of His nurturing Heart.   We united in Christ’s body partake with her in the redemption of ‘Jerusalem’ the City and Family of God.  Born anew in Christ’s Righteousness we are the Church:  Mother and Family to all who call on His name.  God promises us this new Mother and community in Isaiah 66:
“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her,
   all you who love her;
rejoice greatly with her,
   all you who mourn over her.
 For you will nurse and be satisfied
   at her comforting breasts;
you will drink deeply
   and delight in her overflowing abundance.”
 For this is what the LORD says:
   “I will extend peace to her like a river,
   and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm
   and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
   so will I comfort you;
   and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
The genius of God’s poetry does not stop there.  The Church is the Body of Christ.  We find by His wounds access into a new life, in His One Body.  “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”[ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph:5:30)” Entering into Him by faith, we will be carried unto our salvation. We are baptized into the flood that purifies, and the Ark that saves. We drink from One Cup the blood that was shed and eat from One Tree.  The cross is the fulfillment of the tree of life-- the fruit, one Body that gives eternal life.  This tree is the wood of Elisha, that cast away was able to resurrect our hearts of iron from the depths (2Kings 6). 
How then should we relate to Her then? Surely as He requires, for this all comes and flows through Him, but this is not as though it is contrary to nature…We should acknowledge her and care for her as our own body.  She is all around you: your fathers and husbands, your wives and mothers, your children, your friends, and through repentance and grace likely even your enemies.  We must live with her and learn from her.   And let us trouble her only a little.  We should commit ourselves to her when she troubles us.  She is our penance and the means of our purification and on occasion our mortification --As when she rebukes us.   We must submit faithfully, trusting God our Father to right Her when She is wrong.  We should go to her for succor and sacrament.  We should work for Her life and purity.  We should die for Her and for Her “little ones” for we are the very same.   We are the little ones.  My best fast is to live for Him by living for Her -- First in my own family then the rest of the family of God.  I thank the women in that Family for reminding me of Her and communicating Her, and therefore Him, to me.  I love you dear Lissa and Happy birthday Mum! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

True Context

In out last blog we talked about the story of eternity -- The narrative of Father Son and Holy Ghost and how in their great love there was an overflow.  His holy family expanded and became us.  As this story including the tragedy of our prodigal lives unfolded God reached out and finding human voices he engaged us to explain the story.  He even wrote to us to help us understand our reality.  Many of us, however, have lost context to understand our world.  Most of us know it only by our experiences or the narrow dictates of our subcultures.  Perhaps the lucky ones may have a sense of history or knowledge of science, but these do not comfort us well.  Despite life and education, a disconnect exists between the original context of the best ideas in the world and our experience of them.  These include love, truth, and beauty; virtue and grace.   Other philosophical words like relationship, faith, religion, hope, or joy are taught us by our culture yet they seem to float through our collective consciousness like greeting card slogans: quaint but without depth of meaning. 
It is interesting that the concepts which most transcend us both either to unite or divide us are the ones that we deeply personalize.  We often hide them away, locked in our souls, unless birth, death, trauma or falling in love drags them out of us.  We staring inward look to our own understanding of the deep things of life and apply them with the limitation of our own experience.  If we go to the old, who have lived more than few decades on this planet, their philosophies either trend toward bitterness or love.  Let us assume for a moment that being old and bitter does no one any terrible good, then we can focus on the love.  The regrets the aged will espouse are never, “ I wish I could have bought that third condo…” but tend toward, “ I wish I had spent more time with my kids…” or “ I wish I would not have given up on that marriage…” If we listen to them we learn that there are ideas, truths that remain, and which the enlightened would pursue before old age and death overtake them.  Though we die, the next generation speaks the same testimony. 
I believe that these ‘best things’ arise during our worst and greatest moments because they are not personal, not hidden, at least not exclusively.  They are within us, tied to the substance of our souls; but they are also outside us and help to define us.   Love, beauty, Truth, hope….these have a density to them, like bed rock, and our feet search for them during the upheaval in our lives.  They remain present and faithful to catch our feet because they do not depend on us to exist.  How we feel about them, or how we were taught them cannot change what they are.  Our perspectives change only how we relate to them.  Truth and Faith will remain warm and bright even when we are at our most morose.  They will whisper comfort even when we will not hear.    Like monuments they remain beyond us, truly transcendent.  They do so because they are imbued with a life that came before us. 
All of the very best in life flows from that first story.  Love and Joy were built into the world before humanity was.   They existed, defined by the heart of God.  When we were born, we did not step into a vacuum, but into a world in relationship.   Our first and most definitive context is the best of all things: God’s love and relationship in Himself, overflowing to us.  Virtues and graces, life and love all have a context that informs what these words mean and how we engage them in a healthy way.  The easiest example is that of love.   Wonderful, glorious and good, but love leaves and relationships disappoint.  We try and wrap our mind around the pain.  We grieve.  We sometimes harden our hearts or lower our expectations.  We try to make sense of these things inside our own heads and are left with wounds that don’t fully heal.  What if….?   What if there was a different strategy? What if love can be known differently then how my parents modeled it or my significant other demands it.  What if we could reach outside ourselves and experience love the way God defines it -- A love that has more than enough and that overflows to bring life in other people.  How do we step outside our experiences and find this original context for our feet to rest on.  Perhaps best of all how can we build on that context – a sure foundation?   So that when life gets intense, we can respond well, full of good things as opposed to only fumbling through.  Now a little wiser, but still mouthing regret in our senescence. 
Love, Virtue, Hope and Faith: it is truly a worthy journey to find the full meaning of these things.   Let us then push the limits of our opinions and judgments which have been cheapened by our culture, and rather touch the source from whence these come.  Lord I repent for living from the dogma of my mind -- The meanings I have foolishly made for myself for love, or hope or truth.  I pray embolden our hearts to let go of distraction, empty philosophy and shallow religion and look past our base experiences, guided by your prevenient grace.  Teach us what even this word grace means, Lord, and how much more your love. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In the Beginning God

 This is how it begins.  Before my story was.  Before old men spoke seriously to up-turned faces, or young women laughed at the account of the day. Before philosophy, religion, or culture, a tale has been unfolding.  It is the story and it flows from the imagination of one being. 

It begins, like all really good stories, with love. Most authors I suppose would like to think disaster or some mild tragedy might make a better start.  Don’t be fooled, this story has plenty of its own drama, but it begins simply and profoundly well, with love. It is a story of a Father.  A One, who has a kind of grace about Him, which betrays his much rougher countenance.  The first thing you notice is his beard.  Full, more than a little wild, but it seems perfectly honest and well kept.  Wilder are the bright eyes that seem always a bit happily surprised.   Still, you get the impression they had already seen it all.  Thick arms end in large calloused hands; each moving slowly but deliberately.

It is in watching these hands that the most is revealed.  Their constant attention is toward his family.  They never miss a moment to give its members encouraging gestures.  These same hands become so animated in dialogue as the family discusses its thoughts and dreams.  Although one who is given to day dreaming himself, he is quick to bring his reverie to an end in order to caress those he loves – his right hand falling almost always on the head of his son.

Above all his pride and most definite Joy is His Son.  He shares everything he has with him.  His bright boy is one of action and passion and he can’t help but smile as he looks at him.  What draws one’s attention to the favored son is something special, quite different really.  It might be his intelligence.  It seems he can do a million things at once.  But I think it is something of the intangible, a kind of singular purpose or sense of integrity.   There is an intensity that is almost disturbingly heroic. He is as wise and creative a son as his Father could ask for.  He obeys his Father before he is even asked, as testified to by the overt lack of weeds in the garden.   Yet what makes this good boy smile, what is his chief pleasure, is to enjoy every gift his father gives him.

Gratuity and free giving is a hallmark of this whole family, and perhaps pails only in comparison to their creativity.  In the midst of the artful bunch flows a kind of liveliness and creative energy like the personification of originality.  Their family is full and complete including a hearty, nurturing maternal affection.  They do not lack the fiery passion of wife for husband or the enchantment of a feminine laugh.  It is indeed out of that very mother heart that the son finds his strength; only begotten.  From his Father’s smile he receives daily his empowering Joy.  There is wisdom and depth of thought in that family.  There is contentedness with one another. There is humilty and self-sacrifice.  There is sustenance and refresment openly shared wherever they go. 

This tale is the story of God himself.  For he is three in One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It compels a telling that goes on forever, love abounding from one moment to the next. It is in this very telling that love itself was first given substance. In this great soul relationship received its name.  Every best kind love and joy existed first and only in the midst of Him.  And in His overflow all things were made.

From the Father and head of our family we find identity, good will, strength, resolve, kindness, and nurture.  He is our boundary and provision.  From the son we learn submission, the ability to receive good things, and how to live with honor. He participates in everything and does so without control or selfishness. He is the spoken word of love and the wisdom of God abounds in him.  The relationship of God in Him self is also a person.  The three in one are known and know each other with and through one Spirit.  The Spirit connects fills and empowers everything that God does.  He is the life giver and teaches us how to birth new things.  He communicates heart to heart and searches the deep thoughts and feelings of God. 

Through profundity of that mind and from the generosity of his heart, that God chose for his life to be extended into a new thing. An Us. A world, with so many more tales to tell.  But above all he created an Us to know and experience the things of this heart.  He is building us up into and out of the life and love that flows out of his great story.  The tragedy and passion of the fall of humanity into loneliness and pain--the drama that so quickly unfolds in our story cannot even for a moment detract from the profound reality that this story belongs to Him.  If anything, our ridiculousness as broken humanity only throws this truth into high relief.  Let the kind intentions of the God of the universe encourage you for a moment.  God wrote your story.  But he did not write it arbitrarily or detachedly.  He wrote a story that is as much as about him as it is about you.  Because he wrote it you cannot un-write it.  No despair, no loneliness, no betrayal can come between you and His happy intentions.  He has written the romance of His lifetime and it comes into being from the very core of who he is.  So again, if you did not write it, you cannot mess it up.  God’s self is so big and strong and full, and so radically and treacherously safe that as His story unfolds you are free to be found in it.  To swim in it, to be ridiculously irresponsible in the very loveliness of it is the only proper response.  And though you are only part of the story you are the very heart of it.  As a matter of absolute fact, dear ones, you are defined by it. 

As His generosity hopefully begins to nibble at the corners of your soul, Brothers and Sisters, let us remember that this story has a point.  We were made as an overflow of perfect Spirit and life in God.  Any concept of humanity that is true and good has to come from an intimate knowledge of who this Person is. Out of the Son we were made to be good sons, who know how to trust our Father, and who go about his business. In imitating him we learn how to be mothers and Fathers and to spread love and integrity to others.  By His passionate longing we learn we are also meant to be the Bride of the Son. A little Holy romance will light up your life!

In the difficulty of what your life has become, make a choice even now to allow a little hope and faith to lift you out of the story inside your head.  If you will begin to let our Father’s strength and the Spirit’s life become, forgive me, your narrator; there is no limit for you. It is the truth, my Beloveds, that the Son, from whom our sonship is come, will do the will of his Father and bring transformation to your life.  This is to be your, Our story of the Father’s love. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Prayer for Ordinate Love

Lord I ask that you would help me love thee.
I would love thee for thy sake alone.
Lord thou art great, yes, and good, but it is purely for thy sake
         That I would love thee, this is the prayer of my heart.
Lord I would love thee as thou art
In thy peculiarity as Father
My safety and home
As Son, the lover
My Passion and Reward
As Spirit, the life giver
My Sustainer and guard
I would love thee. 

With room for naught else  
       There is no universe that can contain thee
       How can my heart love thee if aught exists in me but thee
       Any firmity but thy touch
       Any air but thy breath
     Any sun but thy visage 
Lord I ask that my thoughts be thy intentions
        And dreams, thy recollections

In loving thee only I find my life, my order and my serenity. 
Thy smiling face is every breath,
My brightness
My flank
My voice and sturdy hand

For the wife that thou hast given, that I have chosen 
I pray that I might love her from the overflow of thy wounds
And adoring her countenance in thine
Thy love overflows
I pray my touch may become thine, and Hers mine.  
       Together we celebrate thee. 
In you there is true Home, Life, and Glory

I thank thee for Children, my bright Sons, and beautiful daughters,
They are the Congregation that is wholly mine.
I saw them sweet and tender looking in your eyes.
Emboldened in thy love I pray, for them
And for myself, as I lay myself down to earnestly die
But you resurrect me in their faces, wet and warm
I hold in my arms Thy love formed. 

I pray for my Children, Sisters, Sons, and Brothers.   
In watching for your face I found my Fathers and Mothers. 
I ask for grace for these, thy least of these. Your beloveds.  
This is the Congregation that is Holy and Thine
I cling to thy heart and cross 
To find the grace for practice and discipline
I find grace to live and die for one and another
In thy church we feed
       From your hands we sup our need, and we know
We are each thy favorite and best.
Thine Only.

My hands are at the plow My Beloved, yet the Curse bites back at me  
Lord I reach for thee with pierced and calloused hands. 
Is there any tenderness left?
I work that my right Hand may not know or see 
       What You are doing. 
But the very Finger of God works in those who Love You
       Who are called to.
  He stirs my heart. 
            He holds me up,
            He drowns me in thy forgiveness and favor. 
            He is thy seed me in me.  
Lord let my eyes and my brethren’s see through yours
In your Favor Lord there is more than enough. 
            All poor, all spent.
            But we are all full from thee!

Although the day is spent and I am last, You are faithful to me my Father
You have made me first and best.
It is the truth that in the overflow You will Love me too
No one can come to shame for whom You have bled. 
Not even me. 

Lord it would be presumption, if it wasn’t faith. 
For Saints, for Doctors, for me
       I pray when my Day is done
Let my Rest be thy Bosom.
My Robe and Ring, thy Arm, thy gnarled Hands
My Crown, thy Beard.
I pray that I would love thy heart so fully, 
that I not lift my face
From thee, even in eternity