Sunday, March 29, 2009

Striving to surrender...

Seeking God is not just an operation of the intellect, or even a contemplative illumination of the mind. We seek God by striving to surrender ourselves to Him whom we do not see, but who is in all things and through all things and above all things.

Thomas Merton. Seasons of Celebration, p. 224.

Do you know that you are never absolutely sure you're right when you're living in faith? That's exactly why it's called "faith"! At the crucial moments in your life's decision making, you are always trusting in God's guidance and mercy and not in your own perfect understanding. You're always "falling into the hands of the living God" as Hebrews (10:31) says, letting God's knowing suffice, God's arms save.

Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

I think at long last I am coming to see the truth of statements like this... God knows it's taken long enough, but he is a patient God, and he's allowed me to go gradually learning this way of surrender, because I am by nature such an un-surrendering person. I somehow find it comforting to look back over Jesus' own life, and to realise (the extreme example being in the garden at Gethsemane, Luke 22:39-49) the even he didn't find surrender easy, perfectly though he did in the end do it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Word and silence...

As a people, we are afraid of silence. That’s our major barrier to prayer. I believe silence and words are related. Words that don't come out of silence probably don't say much. They probably are more an unloading than a communicating.

Yet words feed silence, and that's why we have the word of God... the written word, the proclaimed word. But the written and proclaimed word, doesn't bear a great deal of fruit - it doesn't really break open the heart of the Spirit - unless it's tasted and chewed, unless it's felt and suffered and enjoyed at a level beyond words.

If I had to advise one thing for spiritual growth, it would be silence.

Thomas Merton, from Contemplative Prayer

We need to bring all our reading, all our thoughts and our feelings, into silence. It is in silence that God is (1 Kings 19.12 NRSV - after all the wind and earthquake and fire, "a sound of sheer silence").

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. (Romans 8.26-27)

But it is only in silence that we can give the Spirit room to search the depths of our hearts.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

At peace with time...

Fundamentally the Christian is at peace with time because Christians are at peace with God. We need no longer be fearful and distrustful of time, because we understand that time is not being used by a hostile "fate" to determine our lives in some sense which we ourselves can never know, and for which we cannot adequately be prepared. Time has now come to terms with Man's freedom.

Thomas Merton. Seasons of Celebration, p. 47.

For some reason I love thinking about time. I don't do it as much as I used to, but it's cleansing in some odd way, and healing, to think of who and what and when one is against the great field of time, the web on which God weaves all things.

About the Holy Spirit and the Bible - some old thoughts revisited...

I know I've been a bit quiet here recently, and I thought a word of explanation was due. Somehow God has been opening up to me things that I had neglected. The Spirit has been I guess rather "like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." (Matthew 13.52)

So, in the spirit of all this, I revisited some of my old writings on The Mercy Site, and I thought I'd share with you some bits I found that seemed to explain something of what's been going on:


The Bible is far more than an old book about the way things were: "Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens." Psalm 119:89; "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." Jesus, in Matthew 24:35.

Then, it literally feeds us: "… man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." Deuteronomy 8:3; "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation." 1 Peter 2:2.

It guides us in all we do: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105; "The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple." Psalm 119:130.

But it has even more power than that: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." Romans 1:16; "Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?" Jeremiah 23.29; "… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17; "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12.

But if the Bible is to be so much to us, if it is to be our guide and our protection and our weapon and our food, then how can we manage this? Even pocket Bibles are somewhat awkward to have with us every minute of every day, and how can we stop and look up Scripture every time we have a choice to make, every time we are tempted or annoyed or challenged or endangered? The Bible tells us: "These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts." Deuteronomy 6:6; "No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and your heart so you may obey it." Deuteronomy 30:14; "I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11; "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly..." Colossians 3:16.

How can the Bible dwell in us like that? How can we learn the whole Bible to use like that?

There is an old tradition in some churches known as learning Memory Verses: certain verses, useful for various situations and circumstances and states of mind we may find ourselves in are committed to memory, using a variety of mnemonic tools well tested over time. That works - until you find yourself in a situation you've never learnt a verse for. Then you get to panic. Or go your own way…

The human mind is a wonderful thing, with capacities far beyond what we mostly expect of it, and abilities the greatest of us hardly begin to tap into. But the Holy Spirit knows all about them, all about the unused 3/4 of the human brain. He also knows all about Scripture. If only we will soak ourselves in the Bible, if only we will read and read, and think about, and pray about, all we have read, if only we will take the time to let the Holy Spirit burn the Word into our minds like the little laser that burns data onto an optical disc, then we will slowly begin to realise for ourselves the truth that the Word of God is in our heart, that suddenly, strangely, we find just the right word for just the situation we find ourselves in, that when we find ourselves tempted to sin, that we can answer, as Jesus did in the desert, "It is written..."

And once this starts to happen, then perhaps the strangest thing begins to happen to us. We start to fall in love, in the oddest way, with the Word of God. We actually start to find we can say, with the author of Psalm 119, "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long." (v 97) Or with Jeremiah, "...your words… were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, oh LORD God Almighty." (15:16)

"Listen," said the apostle Paul, "I will tell you a mystery..." I am going to tell you a mystery now. I feel really strange saying this, because it is so great a mystery that it scares me even to think about it. But it is very simple really, it is very logical. The Bible, Holy Scripture, is the Word of God, agreed? Its human authors were so closely inspired by the Holy Spirit that what the wrote down are the very words of God, and the whole canon of Scripture together is the Word of God. And who, or what, is the Word of God? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." (John 1:1, 14). And what did Jesus say? "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:18) He was speaking of the Holy Spirit in this famous passage, but he said. "I will come to you." You see, we can't make artificial distinctions among the persons of the Holy Trinity. God is one: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one." (Deuteronomy 6:4) He is God in Three Persons, but he is still One. Take one bit, you've got the lot, if you will forgive my speaking of God like that.

So, if we have the Bible, we have Jesus. He is with us. If we have the Word of God in our hearts, we have Jesus in our hearts. If we obey the commands of Jesus - the commands of God, which the psalmist of Psalm 119 so loved - "[we] will know the truth, and the truth will set [us] free." (John 8:32) - and as Jesus (14:6) is "the way and the truth and the life" we will know him. And the Holy Spirit (16:13) "will guide [us] into all truth."

In one profound sense, Scripture is a perfect circular argument. It is inescapable. Try as we may, we cannot evade or avoid its demands on our life, its profound transformation of our very selves. The Christian life is like a quicksand: one real stride into and you're gone, no way back. Accept one thing, and you've suddenly accepted the whole thing, all its profound and outrageous claims on us, on every second of our time, on every aspect of our lives. We suddenly find we have given it all away, we are not our own any more, and even the very life in us has changed, has been taken over. Nothing will ever be the same again. We've fallen in love, we've taken the step, and there's no way back. And all we can do is press on, with our brother Paul: (Philippians 3:12-14) "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." ...

The Jesus Prayer developed in the years directly after the times described in the Acts of the Apostles, when people - both men and women - went out into the desert to pray, sometimes for many years. They ran into the same problem Paul identifies in Romans 8:26 ("We do not know what we ought to pray for..."), and they searched the Scriptures - including the (at that time, very!) New Testament - for an answer. They found it in the prayers people addressed to Jesus: Peter's "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16); the Canaanite woman's "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Matthew 15:22); the tax collector's "God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:13). They found themselves praying, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" and somehow in its repetition it was complete, somehow it both answered and spoke out their hearts' cry, not only for themselves, but for all the aching world and its people...

This intercessory dimension of what is in effect a contemplative style of prayer was a revelation to me, though I had known of the Jesus Prayer for many years. It was not until the Holy Spirit brought it out for me, as it were, and illuminated the scriptures from which it is built, that I began to realise the incredible completeness of the Bible's teaching on prayer. Truly it is inexhaustible - and it is never superseded, never out-of-date. "Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations." (Psalm 119:89-90)

The whole of prayer, just like The Jesus Prayer, is to be founded in the Bible - in the Word of God.

(Slightly edited and adapted from The Mercy Site)

Magdalene's Musings: What is a Cross? Lenten Meditation

I saw this wonderful post linked from the excellent Jane Redmont's Acts of Hope, and just had to post a link myself. Here's some real angel-strengthening for your Lenten Desert!

Magdalene's Musings: What is a Cross? Lenten Meditation

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A most counterintuitive thing...

Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing - that we must go down before we even know what up is. In terms of the ego, most religions teach in some way that all must "die before they die." Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as "whenever I am not in control."

If religion cannot find a meaning for human suffering, humanity is in major trouble. All healthy religion shows us what to do with our pain. Great religion shows us what to do with our pain. Great religion shows us what to do with the absurd, the tragic, the nonsensical, the unjust.

If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.

If there isn't some way to find some deeper meaning to our suffering, to find that God is somewhere in it, and can even use it for good, we will normally close up and close down. The natural movement of the ego is to protect itself so as not to be hurt again.

Richard Rohr, from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, p. 25

I'm not sure that I would go along with Rohr all the way when he defines suffering as simply "whenever I am not in control," but I'm not sure I can come up with a better one-liner.

This is an important passage nonetheless. In many ways it answers the unanswered questions in my previous posts on suffering. More of this tomorrow, I hope. I just couldn't resist posting this now!

Do good to your servant
       according to your word, O LORD.

Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
       for I believe in your commands.

Before I was afflicted I went astray,
       but now I obey your word.

You are good, and what you do is good;
       teach me your decrees.

Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
       I keep your precepts with all my heart.

Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
       but I delight in your law.

It was good for me to be afflicted
       so that I might learn your decrees.

The law from your mouth is more precious to me
       than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

(Psalm 119.65-72)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

God calls us to suffer the whole of reality...

Our remembrance that God remembers us will be the highway into the future, the straight path of the Lord promised by John the Baptizer (Luke 3:4). Memory is the basis of both pain and rejoicing: We cannot have one without the other.

Do not be too quick to heal all of those memories, unless that means also feeling them deeply and taking them all into your salvation history. God calls us to suffer the whole of reality, to remember the good along with the bad. Perhaps that is the course of the journey toward new sight and new hope. Memory creates a readiness for salvation, an emptiness to receive love and a fullness to enjoy it.

Strangely enough, it seems so much easier to remember the hurts, the failures and the rejections. In a seeming love of freedom God has allowed us to be very vulnerable to evil. And until we have learned how to see, evil comes to us easily and holds us in its grasp.

Yet only in an experience and a remembering of the good do we have the power to stand against death. As Baruch tells Jerusalem, "you must rejoice that you are remembered by God" (Baruch 5:5, NAB). In that remembrance we have new sight, and the evil can be absorbed and blotted out.

Richard Rohr, from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 26

"God calls us to suffer the whole of reality..." I feel somehow that that is true not only in the sense that Rohr implies, being prepared to recall the good in our own lives as well as the bad we more easily remember, but also in the sense that we must be prepared to suffer along with others - for that is the meaning of compassion, to suffer (or feel) with - whoever or wherever they are, and to rejoice with them also.

I have sometimes thought that the capacity for compassion - I mean compassion for all of creation, not just for our fellow human beings - lies at the heart of what it means to be human. When we pray, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner", with our hearts open to the suffering, and the joy, of the whole of reality, then we are making ourselves into little lightning rods, conducting into all we hold in our hearts some of the immeasurable mercy of Christ. As he was God's love and grace and mercy (see e.g. Psalm 145.8-9) so we are, in however small a way, Christ's.

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
       slow to anger and rich in love.

The LORD is good to all;
       he has compassion on all he has made...

The LORD is faithful to all his promises
       and loving toward all he has made.

The LORD upholds all those who fall
       and lifts up all who are bowed down...

My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.
       Let every creature praise his holy name
       for ever and ever.

(Psalm 145:8-9; 13-14; 21)

Illusions, and a reality...

During our short lives the question that guides much of our behaviour is: 'Who are we?' Although we may seldom pose that question in a formal way, we live it very concretely in our day-to-day decisions.

The three answers that we generally live - not necessarily give - are: 'We are what we do, we are what others say about us and we are what we have,' or in other words: 'We are our success, we are our popularity, we are our power.'

Jesus came to announce to us that an identity based on success, popularity and power is a false identity - an illusion. Loudly and clearly he says: 'You are not what the world makes you; but you are children of God.'

Henri Nouwen, from Here and Now: Living in the Spirit with thanks to inward/outward

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


So many terrible things happen every day that we start wondering whether the few things we do ourselves make any sense. When people are starving only a few thousand miles away, when wars are raging close to our borders, when countless people in our own cities have no homes to live in, our own activities look futile. Such considerations, however, can paralyse us and depress us.

Here the word call becomes important. We are not called to save the world, solve all problems, and help all people. But we each have our own unique call, in our families, in our work, in our world. We have to keep asking God to help us see clearly what our call is and to give us the strength to live out that call with trust. Then we will discover that our faithfulness to a small task is the most healing response to the illnesses of our time.

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey

It think this is a better way than I could have found myself to explain what I mean about my call to prayer, especially as it relates to the suffering we've discussed in the last few posts. As the Principles of the Third Order (TSSF) states (13):

We as Tertiaries desire to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, whom we serve in the three ways of Prayer, Study, and Work. In the life of the Order as a whole, these three ways must each find full and balanced expression, but it is not to be expected that all members devote themselves equally to each of them. Each individual's service varies according to their abilities and circumstances, yet as individual members our Personal Rule of Life must include each of the three ways.

I don't think these priorities are set for life, like the colour of our eyes. I know very well that nowadays God's main call on my life is to prayer, then to study, and last to work, in the form of Parish work. It has not always been so. When I was farming, my call to prayer was still very strong, perhaps the strongest call, helped as it was by the long solitary hours involved in herdsmanship; but study came a long way down the list. I hadn't time for study, beyond reading my Bible and some easy notes; and if I had had time, I'd simply have fallen asleep! Yet dairy farming is a vocation, if ever there was one, as exacting in its way as medicine or teaching.

The point of suffering?

Suffering is the necessary feeling of evil. If we don't feel evil we stand antiseptically apart from it, numb. We can't understand evil by thinking about it. The sin of much of our world is that we stand apart from pain; we buy our way out of the pain of being human.

Jesus did not numb himself or withhold from pain. Suffering is the necessary pain so that we know evil, so that we can name evil and confront it. Otherwise we somehow dance through this world and never really feel what is happening.

Brothers and sisters, the irony is not that God should feel so fiercely; it's that his creatures feel so feebly. If there is nothing in your life to cry about, if there is nothing in your life to complain about, if there is nothing in your life to yell about, you must be out of touch. We must all feel and know the pain of humanity. The free space that God leads us into is to feel the full spectrum, from great exaltation and joy, to the pain of mourning and dying and suffering. It's called the Paschal Mystery.

The totally free person is one who can feel all of it and not be afraid of any of it.

Richard Rohr, from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 209

This passage brings me to the very heart of what I understand by prayer. The pain we feel in suffering, and still more in compassion (suffering-with), is the pain of the Cross. There is for me no escaping this. It's what Paul is speaking of when he says:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly... In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." (Romans 8.22-23; 26-27)

Creation, the whole web of life and death, birth and agony, is caught up in what I have to call the mystery of the Fall: "For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God." (Romans 8.20-21)

Because I don't understand; because as a human being I simply cannot get my heart around the enormity of the world's pain, nor my head around the intricate and endless pattern of causation the gives rise to it; because as a mortal being I cannot comprehend - though I can worship - the economy of salvation, the way the Cross opens the way for "a new Heaven and a new earth" when "[God] will wipe every tear from [his creation's] eyes [when t]here will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away..." (Revelation 21.1, 4), I cannot pray straightforward prayers of intercession, as I can for some individual situation of sickness or need. This is why God seems to have called me particularly to pray the Jesus Prayer, so that in my identity with, my compassion for, the pain of the world, I can pray, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner", since somehow "me" now includes all that I suffer with, and my sin somehow now includes, or is one with (and this hurts) the sin that causes that universal suffering.

The Jesus Prayer is for me the perfect prayer, since in its cry for mercy it is both petition and intercession, but intercession that transcends my own feebleness and limitation; yet in its repetition, it brings the little mind to silence, and allows the vast stillness of the love of God to come and gentle my crushed and crying heart, and in some way I don't understand, allows a little more of the mercy of Christ into this broken place we live in together.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Pointless suffering...

When I was young, I wanted to suffer for God. I pictured myself being the great and glorious martyr. There's something so romantic about laying down your life. I guess every young person might see themselves that way. But there is nothing glorious about the moment of suffering when you're in the middle of it. You swear it's meaningless. You swear it has nothing to do with goodness or holiness.

The very essence of the desert experience is that you want to get out. A lack of purpose, of meaning - that's what causes us to suffer. When you find a pattern in your suffering, a direction, you can accept it and go with it. The great suffering, the suffering of Jesus, is when that pattern is not given.

Richard Rohr, from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 86

This is so much my own experience it literally took my breath away when I read it. At the various moments of transforming suffering I have lived through, there has always been the sense, "Oh, if only there were some sense in this! If only I were suffering for God, standing nobly in the face of persecution, I could bear it. But this! This degrading, pointless misery... doesn't mean anything, isn't useful for anything - it's just wasted pain, messy, grinding, shameful. Oh, God, why?"

And yet, "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8.28)

All things. Even the shameful, squirming, self-pitying pointless empty pain.

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.

The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made...

The LORD upholds all those who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down...

The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.

The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.

(Psalm 145:8,9,14,17,18)

I don't know about you, but I really can't think of a time when I've called on the Lord in so much truth as in those times. Or any times when his answer has been so clear.

"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees." (Psalm 119:71)

It really is true, isn't it?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The fertile soil of mercy...

[W]e know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8.28)

St. Paul says that God both initiates and cooperates in all human growth. God "works together with" us, which means both our workings are crucial. Every moment, God is trying to expand our freedom. Can you imagine that?

God is trying to make this choice more alive, more vital, more clear, more true. God even uses our mistakes and our sin in that regard. Nothing at all is wasted. I believe that's profoundly true. If that's not the providence of God, what else would be "providential"?

The provident care of God is that God is working for our wholeness, for our liberation, probably more than we are.

Richard Rohr, from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 187

True sanctity does not consist in trying to live without creatures [material goods]. It consists in using the goods of life in order to do the will of God. It consists in using God's creation in such a way that everything we touch and see and use and love gives new glory to God.

Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration, p. 137

These things being true, our broken lives must look different to us from now on. The things we regret, the pain that crushes our chests in the hours before dawn, the wrongs we have done, and the wrongs done to us, are not the waste places we thought they were, but are the fertile soil of Christ's mercy:

I know a place, a wonderful place
Where accused and condemned
Find mercy and grace
Where the wrongs we have done
And the wrongs done to us
Were nailed there with You
There on the Cross.

Randy & Terry Butler, 'At the Cross' (Vineyard Music, Touching the Father's Heart #17)

Friday, March 06, 2009

Concrete demands?

The real purpose of Christian asceticism is then not to liberate the soul from the desires and needs of the body, but to bring the whole person into complete submission to God's will as expressed in the concrete demands of life in all its existential reality.

Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration, p. 138

This would do very well to explicate the strange place I find myself in at the moment... And it really is "life in all its existential reality" that is doing all the work, and not any of my own feeble attempts at any form of discipline!

Change and transformation...

There is a difference between change and transformation. Change happens when something old dies and something new begins. I am told that planned change is as troublesome to the psyche as unplanned change, often more so. But change might or might not be accompanied by transformation of soul. If change does not invite personal transformation, we lose our souls.

At times of change, the agents of transformation must work overtime, even though few will hear them. The ego would sooner play victim or too-quick victor than take the ambiguous road of transformation. We change-agents need a simple virtue: faith. It still is the rarest of commodities because it feels like nothing, at least nothing that satisfies our need to know, to fix, to manage, to understand. Faith goes against the grain.

Richard Rohr, from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 292

I'm afraid I too easily all into the "victim or too-quick victor" trap myself - and I'm trying very hard at this time of change to be open to the Spirit (the ultimate "agent of transformation") and let him lead me into what he's trying to do, rather than to grab hold of the first solution, the first concrete change, that occurs to my conscious mind.

It's difficult, as Rohr says: faith does feel like nothing to the fixing, managing mind. It's why people of faith so often have a hard time living in the world and not being of it. Faith feels like nothing to the world, and when it tries to name it and understand it, it calls it things like laziness, and muddle-headedness, and subversion. (You only have to read Gandhi's life-story, especially in his young days in South Africa, to see what I mean.)

Our own conscious self, our ego, whatever term you want to use, has a hard time dealing with the work of the Spirit in our hearts, with the symptoms of faith. It - well, mine, anyway - is prone to give bad names to this hidden activity. Maybe that's what Jesus meant when he said there's no hope for those who blaspheme the Spirit? If you reject the transforming work of the Spirit, if you write it off as too ambiguous, as deluded, or worse, demonic, then to whom can you turn? After all, the Spirit is the Spirit who descended upon Jesus at his baptism - and as Simon Peter said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6.68-69)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

When we have prayed prayers long enough...

When we have prayed prayers long enough, all the words drop away and we begin to live in the presence of God. Then prayer is finally real. When we find ourselves sinking into the world around us with a sense of purpose, an inner light and deep and total trust that whatever happens is right for us, then we have become prayer.

When we kneel down, we admit the magnitude of God in the universe and our own smallness in the face of it. When we stand with hands raised,we recognize the presence of God in life and our own inner glory because of it. All life is in the hands of God. Even the desire to pray is the grace to pray. The movement to pray is the movement of God in our souls.

Our ability to pray depends on the power and place of God in our life. We pray because God attracts us and we pray only because God is attracting us. We are not, in other words, even the author of our own prayer life. It is the goodness of God, not any virtue that we have developed on our own, that brings us to the heart of God. And it is with God’s help that we seek to go there.

Joan Chittister: The Monastic Way, collected in In My Own Words - with thanks to Inward/Outward

Back to the Cross...

The Cross is the sign of Christ's victory over death. The cross is the sign of life. It is the trellis upon which grows the Mystical Vine whose life is infinite joy and whose branches we are. If we want to share the life of that Vine, we must grow on the same trellis and must suffer the same pruning...

Christian asceticism does not provide a flight from the world, a refuge from stress and the distractions of manifold wickedness. It enables us to enter into the confusion of the world bearing something of the light of Truth in our hearts, and capable of exercising something of the mysterious, transforming power of the Cross, of love and sacrifice.

Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration, pp. 131-132

This Lent, more than any I can remember, I'm constantly being drawn back to the Cross. Things people say, even, random comments, scraps of text online, things I see, like the bars of windows, telephone poles, continually remind me.

The Cross is sign, yes, but more than a sign, just as a sacrament is a sign, but far more than just a sign. "Mysterious, transforming power" is what it is. I keep thinking of St. Francis' words, "We adore you most holy Lord, Jesus Christ... and we bless you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world."

Monday, March 02, 2009

Prayers please...

God's up to stuff. Don't know what yet, but it's scary.

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.

The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.

All you have made will praise you, O LORD;
your saints will extol you.

They will tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,

so that all men may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made.

The LORD upholds all those who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.

(Psalm 145:8-14)

Sad catblogging...

Poor Figgy, dearest faithful little black cat, has gone. She had a thyroid tumour, and her kidneys were failing. She was around seventeen, so she'd done well. Jan held her at the vet's, and she purred all the way to Heaven, to catch up with Scottie and Dusty and Mindy and Mable the Dog and all her old friends.

It's hard for us humans, outliving so many of our furry companions on the way...