Archive | December 2015

God as God – Learning to Unknow

 

flowers in the sun

With encouragement I continue my humble attempt to read and begin to understand the Ascent of Mt Carmel. As I read, its beauty starts shining through, but as a mere ember or a light I am beginning to see at a distance. I offer my thoughts most certainly not as any type of authority, but as a pilgrim, someone trying to  catch this glimpse of the depth of John of the Cross and one who writes in an attempt to understand.

Observations from Chapter IV:

What communion can there be between light and darkness? Attachment to things other than God makes us more like these things. The greater the attachment, the greater the similarity. Love creates a bond , a likeness between the lover and the loved. Love can also addict us to the lover, binding us to them.

Favour is deceitful and beauty vain.

We can easily be deceived by that which we love, fooled, transfixed. We seek beauty as a replacement for emptiness and are then deceived by its vanity. It is true of our pursuit of God as well. If we think we know God through knowledge and our ability we are truly ignorant. We have to learn to unknow.

From Chapter V:

We have to exhaust ourselves of things of this world to be worthy of God. We can not intermingle our desire for God with our desire for the world. We need to raise ourselves up to higher things, things worthy of our attention, making all things equal diminishes the more important. The soul must ascend the mount alone, we can not allow the “beasts” – our desires- to climb with us.

In the state of perfection every desire ceases. 

Those on the path to God need to habitually quell desires, passions and attachments and the quicker we can do this the quicker we will reach the end of our journey. The soul must cast away all strange gods – desires and attachments), purify itself and change its garments – which God does. Only then can we ascend the mount and make of ourselves an altar to God in the sacrifice of pure love, praise and pure reverence.

God will change our garments from old to new creating a new under understanding of God in God a new love of God in God.

 

 

Mary’s Church – My Mother’s Church

OLP

 

I had a couple of interesting revelations over the last few weeks. As anyone who has read any of my blog posts knows, I waiver back and forth with my Catholic faith. I can only describe it as first temptation, I become dissatisfied with something in the Church, annoyed about something, or question something and then every doubt I have ever had seems to rush in.  It seems as if the evil one sits in wait for me to waiver and then pounces when my thoughts become unclear. So revelation number one was:

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it,” Matthew 16:18

So maybe even with all that seems wrong, the truth that is in the Church remains. I have to remember that in the beginning there was only the one Church, the Catholic Church.

And revelation number 2:

A mother never gives up on her children. 

Easy one for me to identify with, as a mother I know I would never give up on my children no matter how far or where they had fallen. If they are in trouble, I would be there with them whether they wanted me there or no,  doing whatever I could to get them back on track and out of trouble. Jesus called us to be his friends, he wants to us to voluntarily follow him. He provides solid and compelling reasons why following him makes sense, but he leaves it up to us. He wants us to choose him.

Mother Mary knew him, understood him and and her message was and is, “Do whatever he tells you”.

The Catholic Church is my mother’s Church, my heavenly Mother’s Church. And I believe now more than ever she has been the one staying with me, interceding with Jesus and never giving up on me – that is the reason I keep coming back to the Church. She knows it is the right place to be, the place of truth and the place I belong.

 

Advent and John the Baptist

Great article

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/acatholicthinker/2015/12/john-the-baptist-the-hard-truth-about-advent/

John the Baptist & the Hard Truth About Advent

Michelangelo_Merisi,_called_Caravaggio_-_Saint_John_the_Baptist_in_the_Wilderness_-_Google_Art_Project

 John (the Baptist) in the Wilderness by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

He was fierce. Wild, even.

And yet, he was strikingly lucid.

Oh, he could scare a person. Especially if he made eye contact with you from across the crowd. If he shook his rough hewn staff at you and uttered those words that cut to the core of your complacency, he could scare you. Because what he said was true. John the Baptist didn’t come to win friends. He came to shake us.  To peasants and Pharisees, to soldiers and Scribes, the Baptist raged.

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath!”

“And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”

“Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

“His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

The prophet Isaiah was referring to John when he said,

“A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,make straight his paths.’”

And that voice was tough.

John the Baptist even challenged the despotic King Herod for his unlawful relationship with his brother’s wife knowing well that it would likely cost John his freedom, if not his life. And it cost him both. But to John, that was irrelevant.

John the Baptist came to shake us.

You see, what I learned from John the Baptist is that Advent isn’t solely a time to light candles and gingerly, sweetly await the coming of our Lord. Don’t misunderstand, I love and need the contemplative spirit that comes with this wondrous anticipation. But Advent is also a time to be shaken, to be challenged, to abandon the smug self-assurances declaring, “I’ve figured it out, I’m doing okay, I’m pretty awesome.”

John the Baptist is not impressed.

It took a man living in the wild, dressed in camel’s hair and eating locusts and honey – in effect, an uncivilized man (paradoxically, in the best way) – to prepare us for the coming of the Christ. John the Baptist is almost a grotesque of the form Flannery O’Connor conjures in her novels: unsettling, uncontrollable, alien and yet serving as an extraordinary agent of grace who can be easily and tragically missed.

But why? Why did he have to be so rough…so harsh?

Because in sinning and wandering from God, we have forgotten who we are. We have jettisoned the high call of dignity for the low satisfaction of our appetites. We are intoxicated on the dregs of power, honor, wealth and pleasure. And it takes John the Baptist to scream, “Sober up! Stop lying to yourselves! End your senseless pursuit of food and drink that will never satisfy! End your worship of false gods who will never respond! And prepare to encounter the God who will transform you forever…if you only let him.”

Perhaps the greatest reason we needed a coarse, contrary John the Baptist as forerunner to Christ can be found in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic novel, The Brothers Karamazov. In one scene, the holy elder Zosima confronts the disingenuousness of Fyodor Karamazov with this admonishment,

“The important thing is to stop lying to yourself. A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize the truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself as well as for others. When he has no respect for anyone, he can no longer love and, in order to divert himself, having no love in him, he yields to his impulses, indulges in the lowest forms of pleasure, and behaves in the end like an animal, in satisfying his vices. And it all comes from lying – lying to others and to yourself.”

John the Baptist reminded us that we have been lying to ourselves. We are dignified children of God called to follow a higher path. It is a path of obedience, discipline and repentance, but it leads to indescribable, unparalleled Joy. And yet…we have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten where we are going. We have forgotten how to get there.

John was there to remind us. Fierce at times. Loving at others. Honest from start to finish.

It is Advent. It is time to be shaken.

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.

Indeed.

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Photo credit: Caravaggio’s St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_works_by_Caravaggio

The Wild Goose

A resource I just discovered, I thought I would share.

From the website:

The Wild Goose was a term that the ancient Celts had for the Holy Spirit … The Wild Goose Project is a simple attempt to invite Catholic Christians into a more profound life giving relationship with the Holy Spirit. This is a relationship marked by the love of God which breathes life into our daily existence. The Holy Spirit is not merely something relegated to Confirmation but the Spirit desires a relationship with us that will take us on the greatest adventure imaginable; a journey to the very Heart of God. The Holy Spirit desires to be present to us in a manner that brings light out of darkness, freedom out of bondage, order out of chaos and life out of death.

http://thewildgooseisloose.com/home-fulton

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lisaduffy/2015/12/3-resources-for-the-year-of-mercy-you-dont-want-to-miss/

 

THE WILD GOOSE

 

 

Immaculate Conception – Empathy Day

Today on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called for an extraordinary Holy Year, a Jubilee of Mercy. With that in mind, it seemed fitting to me to also perhaps consider today “empathy day” a day when we can reflect on others different than ourselves in order to foster mercy and understanding. I started thinking about people in conflict and I began formulating responses.

I am a Catholic woman in America, how does it feel to be a Muslim women, in America and in the Middle East. What is similar about us, what is different?

  • I assume we both love our families
  • I assume we both love our faith
  • I sometimes am afraid for myself and my family falling victim to a terrorist attack
  • I assume Muslim women in America are frightened of potential retribution against them for terrorist attacks
  • I assume Muslim women in Arab nations live in fear at times, under a strict social structure, but do they? Is that normal for them and therefore not strange or difficult?
  • I believe some Muslim women fear and possibly hate Americans and what they believe we stand for
  • I believe some Muslim women are at least curious about America

I am a white women living in America, what is it like being a black man in America?

  • I have been the victim of sexism in my job and my community
  • A black man is the victim of racism possibly in his job and certainly in his community at times
  • I think a black man must be careful walking into certain situations or he may be unfairly judged. He must be on guard. That must be hard.
  • I think a black man being pulled over by  police officer has to be extra cautious, that must be frightening. I as a white woman do not need to be “extra” cautious
  • I think people will unfairly judge a black man more quickly than they will judge me, but they will judge me as well. That must be frustrating
  • I think a Black man lives with a level of anxiety on a daily basis simply because of the color of his skin that I don’t have, that is sad

I am a white woman living in America, what is it like being a white man living in America?

  • I think white men are held to a higher standard and are expected to be “on” all of the time and that can be difficult
  • I think a white man has to minimize his opinions in order to appear more sensitive to others than I do and holding your tongue can be wearing
  • I think white men have to carefully balance what they say and do which is leaving them not knowing who they are
  • I think white men are becoming the new minority and are looked down on because of perceived white privilege that they were born into and didn’t really create
  • I think white men do have advantages that white women or women and men of any other color don’t

Just so very few examples and so surface a consideration, but a thought. In this year of mercy can we be like Mary? Full of God’s grace? Are we able to grasp that our life isn’t about us, but  is about being not full of ourselves and our opinions. Our lives are about letting go of our false perceptions about others, ourselves and even God and being able to be like Mary and receive God’s grace.  May God richly bless you and fill you with his grace this holy year.

Our Lady of Pontmain, pray for us

Our LAdy of Pontmain

 

Day 3 -The Soul’s Interior Darkness

Can not receive light.

Two opposite qualities cannot coexist in one person. darkness, which is passion for created things, and light, which is god, are opposites. As Paul said to the Corinthians: what communion can there be between light and darkness?

The greater the passion, the greater the likeness between them.

Divine wisdom speaks to all who set their hearts and passions on anything of the world. she calls them “little ones” because they make themselves like what they love, which is little.

These are the passages that speak to me in this chapter. What we have a passion for we are attracted to and what we are attracted to we risk becoming like. Like begets like. And passion isn’t always good. We can have a passionate argument and does that make us less open to others point of view? Does our passion for another cause us to forget our obligation or commitment to another? Does our passion become our god?

The greater the passion, the greater the affinity, the binding, the attachment.

Attachment to the world – to things that are ever changing – causes us to be attached to the little things of life.

Frozen Rose