Archive | December 2014

The Light in the Darkness

I find myself, once again, turning with an even deeper passion to the writings of Thomas Merton. I remember reading the works of Thich Nhat Hanh at a time when I felt I couldn’t have been further from the Catholic faith. A time when I thought I had put her behind me and had found what I thought was my true religious calling – Buddhism. I remember reading Thay’s books and feeling that I finally understood faith and found myself at his center in Ellenville, NY the Blue Cliff Monastery. I enjoyed my time there reveling in the quiet, the peace and calm, the lack of stodgy doctrine, it filled me with a freshness I had never known.

And then I read a line from one of Thay’s books, that said simply take the practice back to your own tradition. What? What did he mean, “my own tradition”? I felt betrayed, like an outsider still trying to fit in. Why was my beloved Thich Nhat Hanh not embracing me in my new found faith, but turning me back?

As it would turn out, Merton too was turned away – prior to embracing Catholicism, he had met a Hindu monk named Bramachari who recommended he turn his attention to Christian mystical work, namely, Augustine’s “Confessions”. Suggesting he turn to his own tradition left a profound impact on him – much like Thich Nhat Hanh had left on me.

See! See!

My love is darkness!

Only in the Void

Are all ways one:

Only in the night

Are all the lost

Found.

In my ending is my meaning.

~ from The Night of Destiny

It is in the unknowing  (perhaps The Cloud of Unknowing?) and in learning not to turn the Buddha into an idol or even his keenest insights of God into idols, Merton learned idols would lead him not into the darkness, but away from the darkness. Somewhere in Buddhism and in Christian mysticism Merton learned to see in the dark.

It is not the Christmas wrapped in images and perceptions, in customs and traditions – probably the fabric of what Thich Nhat Hanh had referred, but the post Christmas time, in the quiet, in the dark, I can get lost in the unknowing, in the dark and there meet Christ. The Christ who is the idol of the season, but is the essence of the light in the darkness.

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The Eucharist was sown at Bethlehem

Pater tales queril qui adoreni cum…in spiritu et veritate – 

The Father seeks such to adore Him….in spirit and in truth ~ John 4:23

I became obsessed with understanding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist in my spiritual quest. I prayed over it, mulled it over, researched reasoned other possible meanings trying to wrap my understanding around this difficult concept.

 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.

And then finally, I was able to make peace with it, not that it mattered to Jesus, but it did to me. I “got” it.

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”

And I found myself asking the same question – did I wish to go away, to leave in disbelief because this was a hard teaching?

My answer was – no. And with that I became fascinated with Eucharistic Adoration and what that meant to us as followers. I happened on a beautiful book by St. Peter Julian Eymard and thought some of his writings on Eucharistic adoration and the relationship between Jesus birth and sacramental birth are perfect for meditation as we wait for Christ’s coming.

From: The Real Presence. St. Peter Julian Eymard

The object of Eucharistic adoration is the Divine Person of our Lord Jesus Christ present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, He is living there, He wants us to speak to Him, and He will speak to us. Anybody may speak to the Lord. Is He not there for everyone?

This conversation between the soul and our Lord is the true Eucharistic adoration.

It is not difficult to find a relationship between the birth of Jesus in the stable and His sacramental birth on the altar and in our hearts.

Who does not see that the hidden life of Nazareth is continued in the divine Host of the Tabernacle and the Passion of the Man-God on Calvary is renewed in the Holy Sacrifice at every moment of the day and night and all over the world? Happy is the soul who knows how to find Jesus in the Eucharist and in the Eucharist all things!

We wait for the child to be born to us.

The Eucharist was sown at Bethlehem. The Eucharist, the “living bread” must be sown. It must fall into the soil, spring up, ripen and be harvested and then be ground before it can be made into good bread.

When Jesus was born on the straw of the stable, the Word was preparing the Eucharist, which He considered the complement of all His other mysteries. He was coming to be united with man and through the Eucharist, He would consummate the most perfect union that humankind is capable of attaining, a physical and personal union through the Eucharist.

His whole life our Lord prepared the Eucharist in secret, the heavenly wheat was as it were sown in Bethlehem the “house of bread”. See the wheat on the straw, trodden and crushed representing poor humanity, of itself barren. The grain sown, the tears of Jesus will make it grow into beautiful wheat. Bethlehem is built on a hill facing Jerusalem, when the ear is ripened, it shall lean toward Calvary where it shall be ground and be set on the fire of suffering to become a living bread.

See how the Eucharist began at Bethlehem, He was even then the Emmanuel, “God with us”, who was coming to dwell among His people. At Bethlehem the Word was made flesh. At Bethlehem, He concealed His divinity in order to familiarize man with God. He veiled His divine glory as a first step to the veiling of His humanity. He bound His power in the weakness of a child’s body; later he would bind it beneath the Sacred Species.

Mary and Joseph were the first adorers of the Word incarnate. The believed firmly their faith was their virtue:

Beata, quae credidisti – “Blessed art thou that hast believed”.

They adored Him by virtue of their faith.

Knowledge is imparted to us in the Eucharist by God Himself, who constitutes Himself our special and personal teacher.

Et crunt omnes docibiles Dei,” And they shall all be taught of God”.

He no longer sends us prophets, He Himself is now our teacher. “You shall know all things” for He is divine Knowledge itself, uncreated and infinite. That is how the Eucharist completes the restoration begun in the crib, on this day the sun of the Eucharist is rising. Let your gratitude never separate crib from the altar, the Word made flesh from the God-Man made bread of life in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

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Sharing: Advent Reflections with Father Robert Barron

From Advent Reflections with Father Robert Barron:
In this first week of Advent, we’ve focused on the spirituality of waiting, which is so evident throughout Christian tradition.
One example is St. Ignatius of Loyola. Relatively late in life, Ignatius realized he was being called by God to do great things. But before he found his path he passed through a wide variety of experiences in the course of many years: a time of stark asceticism and prayer at Manresa; wandering to the Holy Land and back while living hand-to-mouth and sleeping in doorways; taking elementary courses in Paris alongside young kids; gathering a small band of followers and leading them through the Spiritual Exercises. Only at the end of this long sojourn – founding the Company of Jesus, the Jesuits – did he realize the great thing God called him to do.The theme of waiting is also on display in Dante’s Purgatorio. Dante and Virgil encounter a number of souls who slouch at the foot of the mountain of Purgatory. They are destined to make the climb to heaven, but are compelled, for the time being, to wait. How long? As long as God determines.
Like Ignatius and the slouchers in Purgatory, we wait. Although most of us are in a hurry, God calls us to a period of anticipation for the newborn King.

http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/

The Advent of our lives

Gratitude, of course, gratitude. I do have a job after all – a different job, but I am ok with that. The weight has lifted from my shoulders and the world seems just a bit brighter this morning.

Of course, that leaves me thinking and wondering – the waiting and the worrying all were great exercises in trusting God that the best thing for me would happen. Was I good at it? not bad I guess. I did give the situation to God, I did feel that the best thing would occur (and it did, a new job with the old company is better than the old job) so what are the lessons I learned, what would I be saying if I did lose my job? I tried to thank God for the situation even when I thought I was being let go, I did tell Him I knew He would take care of me no matter what, but it still wasn’t easy. I need to get better at child like trust so I can hang on to the peace that occurs despite what is happening around me, the peace amidst chaos.

“You make me think of a little child that is learning to stand but does not yet know how to walk. In his desire to reach the top of the stairs to find his mother, he lifts his little foot to climb the first stair. It is all in vain, and at each renewed effort he falls. Well, be this little child: through the practice of all the virtues, always lift your little foot to mount the staircase of holiness, but do not imagine that you will be able to go up even the first step! No, but the good God does not demand more from you than good will. From the top of the stairs, He looks at you with love. Soon, won over by your useless efforts, He will come down Himself and, taking you in His arms, He will carry you up… But if you stop lifting your little foot, He will leave you a long time on the ground.” ~Counsels and Reminiscences, St. Therese of Lisieux

Maybe as St. Therese pointed out, God saw my incomplete effort and swooped down to help. It surely doesn’t mean my effort was better than anyone’s – it wasn’t – and that is what caused the outcome. I wonder how I would be feeling today if I was jobless, what would this post be about then? Maybe the same thing, maybe with just a little different focus, maybe I would be saying, I wonder where God will take me next. I would like to hope I wouldn’t be in despair, but I would have been at least for a while.

Advent is a time of waiting, different of course, but waiting in joyful anticipation. Maybe all of these moments are advents of our own lives, when we are waiting for God to come in and be our salvation.

Happy waiting.

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Walking God’s Path

Lying in bed last night contemplating my future as all of us do at one point in our lives or another, this time particularly poignant for me, today I may lose my job, I find out soon. I will become an all too common victim of corporate mergers resulting in overlapping of positions and people getting let go. So, of course, I once again wonder if I am on the path God wants me to be on, doing “God’s will” as it were, contemplating a mid-life directional change or whether to maintain the status quo and go with what I know.

I decided to listen to a few of Father Robert Barron’s youtube videos and, if nothing else, get my mind off my troubles. The first video that came up was Father Barron on the Holy Spirit – ok good place to start I thought – turns out a very good place to start. He begins by saying as a priest he is often asked by people how they can tell if they are doing God’s will, how can they tell if they are on the path God wants them on – (yes, this is true, this is what he said and my first video of the night – thank you God). And he always refers them to Galatians Chapter 5:22:

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

And he stated to measure your path using this as your yardstick. Are you happy? Deep down, soul satisfying happy, not the happiness wrought of excess. Does what you are doing bring you peace? Peace that is unshaken by circumstances even – job loss and materialism and all the “this world” issues and can’t be used to measure success – do you have peace?

My answer is – no. I don’t have peace with what I am doing, I have money and success, but sadly not peace and not for a long time.

So I am faced with needing something I am not sure I have either – courage – courage to change my path and venture forward in trust that the next path I will be on will be God’s will for me and I will have peace.

Trust – like a child trusts her parents when they say everything will be ok and they don’t give their concern another thought – so hard for adults. Trust in a God we can not see and for an outcome we do not know and when so many are depending on us not to fail. Trust like an adult may mean putting my hand in his outstretched hand and having confidence that God and I will get through this together.

Thank you God. I will try and walk on this water with you, but it is deep and I am afraid.