The first ever Symposium on Contemplative Culture is being held at Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Ukiah, CA from June 4 through June 13. About 20 thinkers, theologians, artists, poets, priests and contemplatives are gathering with the Byzantine Monks for discussions on a wide range of topics related to the Glory of God including our current cultural crisis, the mystery of atonement, the musical character of the human person, psalms, icons, contemplation, the relationship of human and divine action in Christian perfection, poetry readings, photography, and St. Elizabeth of the Trinity. The event is co-hosted by the John Paul II Center for Contemplative Culture, an initiative proposed before his death by Father Raymond Gawronski, S.J. who was also a monk of Mt. Tabor. The purpose of this Center is to help form "islands of humanity" to support our Christian faith in the aftermath of Christendom. Please pray for its success.
May 30, 2021
Christian prayer is founded in the mysterious wisdom of the Holy Trinity. Such prayer has gained access to the Holy of Holies because of all that Christ has done to reveal the love of the Father and send the gift of the Spirit. Such prayer participates in the very creative act of God and it shares in His saving power in such wise that the more simple it becomes, the more the entire cosmos, visible and invisible is renewed and raised is the praise of glory.
Prayer's simple movement is hidden in one's innermost being, in secret depths infused with the Life-Breath of the Word and stamped with the Image of the Invisible God. Such oblations of self are baptized in a splendor too great for this world to hold. This cry of the heart is ecstatic in the self-emptying humility of God who descends into the mess of our concrete particularity and enraptured in the power that raises up even to the bosom of the Most High. This surrender descends not only humanity's abysses of misery, but also the deep things of God. If this inestimable knowledge is conceived in pits deeper than Hell, it proclaims with great praise an understanding firmly grounded above the Heavens. Carried on high by those same pinions that conquered death by death, made to ache by that Divine Thirst that no amount of evil can quench, this prayer dares to enter that Spacious Place which alone is vast enough to be the dwelling of the human heart.
Here, christian prayer is inundated with such immense silences of Three-ness and One-ness. This prayer thrills in those un-resistible currents of Subsistent Eternal Relations. This prayer fully welcomes those stillnesses of Being, of Life, of Love: always at rest and always active, at once always fully present but never grasped, in the very face of destruction, in frailty riddled limits of one's own life, making all things new.
May 23, 2021
Jesus has sent His Holy Spirit into the Church and He yearns that this Lord and Giver of Life fill our hearts. Beg the Holy Spirit to come and He will. The Holy Spirit burns in the center of the Church with unquenchable love, and when this Love is in the center of hearts who welcome Him, He makes all things new.
Sometimes He is difficult to welcome because of our pride and laziness. We do not want to change but He comes to convince us of sin and of the righteousness of God. If however we do not humble ourselves and rouse ourselves to show the Spirit of Truth hospitality, we are lost. To show the Breath of God hospitality, we must choose to live and we must decide to let go of every rash judgment about ourselves, others and God.
To beg the Holy Spirit to come means weeping over sin. To welcome Him means contrition. To receive Him means humble recognition of faults and a readiness to descend from our own vantage point and be raised by the Spirit to see life circumstance from God's perspective. This means the willingness to put one's life on the line that there might be justice in our communities, that the weak and vulnerable be protected and cared for. This means readiness to forgive and to seek forgiveness. This means compassion for those who hurt us and learning to plead for them before God. This means a resolution to do whatever it takes to restore the dignity of my neighbor, especially when I am the one who has caused his misery. This means being vulnerable enough as to allow my heart to be pierced over the plight of the stranger whom the Lord has sent to me.
Welcoming the Holy Spirit means openness to the inconvenient, the uncomfortable and the unfamiliar, for unless we allow Him to root our love in this, we have not yet learned to love in a manner worthy of a follower of Christ. Christ has sent Him to us so that we might finally learn to love as He has loved us. Such love begins with welcome, with receiving the Gift, with showing hospitality to the Divine Guest.
To welcome the Holy Spirit, we must be open to being astonished. When the Creator Spirit comes, the power of our imagination is freed from narrow fantasies. When the Advocate enters, the eye of our intelligence is opened to horizons far beyond personal failure and death. Where this Wind blows, barriers of frustration and disappointment are cleared away. Before the Deluge of God, levies of hubris and cowardliness are flooded over and washed away. All small-mindedness and pettiness are shattered in this Light. When the Sanctifier moves within, wonder seizes the soul and we are baptized in a joy that confounds the world. When the Soul of our Soul stirs in the substance of our being, the whole cosmos is filled with New Life through us.
May 16, 2021
The Risen Lord ascended from our midst and remains more present to us that we are to ourselves. He went to offer the Father worship that is right and just. His holy humanity, no longer bound by this world below, is raised above itself in excellence and blessing. Having already conquered death, material extension and duration no longer circumscribe his manhood. He is fully present even as He is taken from our sight. He at once abides with us until the end of time and goes before us, to prepare a place for us. That place is as no place in this world. It is where we do not know what we shall be, where we will be like Him, for it is where we shall see Him as He is.
He has opened to humanity a new horizon. He sets before us yet to be explored and forever unfathomable frontiers. What He sees stirs us with desires that haunt our hearts. He sees glory, the glory that was His from before time began. And the Father who gave Him this glory has given us to Him as well. As He treasures all that the Father gives us, so He treasures and cares for us, wanting us to share in His glory with Him.
He is above us now and raises us with Him to the life we are meant to share. Circumstance has no hold on Him but He is Lord over every exigency. He has left what is outside humanity's deepest center and entered the heavenly sanctuary, the temple not made by human hands. There He establishes the ultimate reference point for all created existence, the measuring point for how we live and move and have our being. For we are meant to worship God and in Him, we finally realize our great purpose - yet this worship is above what we can see, and so He needed to go where only our faith can take us.
He was taken from our sight because this dying world is too small for the greatness of the praise that mankind is meant to offer. Politics and public policy, the work-a-day world, hegemonies of science and technology, and the enchantments of all earthly dreams are overshadowed by His Mystery raised on high. All this will pass away before His face, but He who is over all is the same yesterday, today and forever. Prisons of fear and alienation below are flung open by His Mercy above. Below no one is every alone because He was raised to light, to life, to love - the only space where one can fully be a man. His humanity is taken up into unseen glory and in that, his full manhood raises up perfect praise in every heart that will call to Him. In this praise of glory, the perfect unity of God and man in his very person reverberates with such harmonies as make all things new.
How can He lead us to be where He is so that we at last might fulfill the purpose for which we were made? He who is fully God and fully man was raised far above anything our natural powers can penetrate or grasp, so high that our human powers must be prostrate in surrender, must let go, accept and be ready in reverence and awe. Sanctified humanity is completely directed to a new kind of worship for it is finally and completely vulnerable before God. To welcome the unveiled Holy Trinity and to accept this uncreated love evokes the deepest going forth from self, a sacrificial gift that realizes at once perfect self-possession. Every act of worship now prepares us for that sacred aching jubilation ready to bust open with unceasing fullnesses of meaning and love.
The ascension of Christ in his abiding presence that is always at work roots humanity into a mystery this world cannot hold. We belong not to the profane, to what is outside the temple, but to the all holy, to the most sacred - every holy place is a reminder of this secret. All our life, every banal and mundane moment, must be oriented to what is above or else what we do in the world is at risk. We can live this way by faith because the Word made flesh is raised above all time. This means every moment is subject to His humanity and therefore is directed to a fullness that it cannot contain. Because the Man born of Woman has gone above all space, He is the orientation point for every place and establishes the whole cosmos into a new astonishing order. Our lives are meant to witness to this new creation. He has opened for all humanity a pathway into the depths of the heart of the Father and so we journey as pilgrims in this world to the home that has been prepared for us. He longs that where He is, we too might also be so that we might see the glory that the Father has given Him from before the foundation of the world.
May 12, 2021
We are made to worship the Living God. Because we are creatures who live in time and space, this means we need physical time and space for this worship -- not as an extra benefit of life, but to address what is most essential, what is truly human. We need sacred festivals and temples, Sundays and Churches - or all that is most wonderful about life is diminished.
Humanity is ordered, not to what is outside the temple, the profane, the world, but to what is within, the sacred space set apart for God and the things of God, the holy place around which the world turns. By this reference point, love, family and friends take their proper place and the work-a-day world is ordered to it -- rather than the other way around. This holy mountain is hidden, above our sight, and we need divine help to see what only the heavens know. Yet, the way has been laid open for the Word became flesh. He has opened a path so that we find ourselves and arise above ourselves.
The Risen Lord leads us into the deepest places of human intimacy and tenderness to give a strength and fruitfulness that this tired old world has never seen before - but longs for all the same. This secret garden cannot be grasped by the keenest intellect. Yet, the most humble of prayers unlocks its gate and enters. Here, in this place of reverence, worship and adoration, we learn to rest, to be who are are meant to be, to do what alone can satisfy our hearts: the praise of the glory of God.
Holiness is the reference point of life, our burning bush, our orientation to peace. With the reporting of each new calamity, strife and disaster that strikes our communities, our news outlets are confirming what we most know in our hearts: humanity is lost, enslaved to destructive impulses, imprisoned in enmity. Our own industry and accomplishments are unable to produce a sufficient standard to this end.
What we make is not much because every self-determined end is too small, another indulgence of our inflated ego. The fantasy of secular existence - a life in this world without reference to another - has no orientation to what most matters in life and so we are imprisoned in ourselves, lacking liberty to truly live. When even religion is reduced to our own spiritual industry, no matter how therapeutic, it also falls short of taking us into the truly holy. Lost we cannot find rest. Far from peace, humanity needs a reference point if it is to find its way. Indeed, it is in God that we live and move and have our being.
We need a savior. We are not conscious of the sacred because it is remote. Rather, we are unaware of how close it is. The ticktocks of the office clock deafen us to angels songs because we hear with the presumption that what we measure is reference point enough. Life is more than a succession of neatly divided periods of duration that we fill with activity or waste on silliness. If we go on living one moment as if it were just like the last, enter one space with the same self-occupied desire as we had in the one we left, we will never find our place, the home where we belong. When life is driven by weight and measure, a cubicle, a punchcard, we will eventually either cave into despair or lash-out in rage. Unless Someone from the outside offers a path of escape, we live imprisoned in the measurable limits of our own selfishness.
We live in an age that turned toward medical science for salvation. If we will just work together to contain this disease, isolating ourselves as if patients in a giant mental hospital, we will be okay - for indeed we are all in this together, we were told. We are mistaken to believe that technology makes us free. What deception lulls us to accept that virtual meeting rooms and digital liturgies suffice for our spiritual needs - as if prayer were some narcissistic indulgence of pious sentiment for therapeutic needs!
Our toys fail to direct our existence beyond ourselves because these instruments are simply self-extensions, limited by the measurable, what our natural powers can grasp. We need liberation from our gadgets, our mediocre ambitions, the narratives that appeal to our imaginations. We need a greater freedom, freedom from self, if we are to enter into a meaningful life.
Truth is the pathway to this freedom and it leads to bodily action in space and time. Truth is sacramental. Human life, as is the case for time itself, has come from and leads to what is immeasurable and beyond the limits of created intelligence. If secularism has entrapped our hearts, God Himself will set us free from the hunter's snare.
The Word of the Father reveals that no moment of our lives is without reference to the first moment when God ushers us into existence and the last moment which opens into eternity. All the time and space of our lives, in other words, are filled with supernatural, divine meaning. Part of God's creation, these realities witness to a love that has summoned them into existence for us and when ordered for his glory, this wondrous part of his creation points us to an existence beyond themselves.
Life is not a monotony of moments in which each moment is the same as the last. Each moment is unique. It comes from and goes to God. The world in which we move is not a monotony of places, each one interchangeable or calculated only in terms of its usefulness as a means to an end. Every place is characterized by its relation to the sacred. For humanity is meant to participate in the holiness of God Himself in each moment, and in every place. Offering praise to God where we are right now in this moment sanctifies the dimensions and duration of our lives. It is to realize our purpose in the cosmos - to reveal the glory of God.