January 10, 2021

The Baptism of the Lord - a Mystery of Theophany

When John baptizes the Lord in the River Jordan, Christ establishes a reference point all of human history, the sacred history of Israel and each one of our personal stories. The deliverance of Israel from  pharaoh's chariots in the Waters of the Red Sea flows into the Lord's passing into these waters. The crossing over of the People of God into the Promise Land floods within Christ's  immersion. The mystery of Elijah's crossing of the Jordan returns when Christ comes up from its currents: instead of a fiery chariot that takes up and away, a dove comes down and remains on the Son of the Father. The dark powers in the Jordan's currents so fatal to humanity could not keep Christ down anymore than Pharaoh's chariots could destroy Israel. The fulfillment of divine promises that Joshua led unveils an even more wonderful faithfulness in Jesus.  The double portion of Elijah's spirit that Elisha knew speaks into the Gift of the Holy Spirit when the Father's voice resounds. The whole cosmos is changed and the floods of futility that subjected the human heart are now purified and made subject to Life Himself. A new spiritual dynamic is sewn into the human heart, a invincible movement of faith - for heaven has come down to earth and the Word of the Father makes known the Holy Trinity, not by what He said or did, but by what was done to Him. And so it is when we accept the baptism that the Lord has for us, it gives space for the Trinity to act with saving power.  

December 25, 2020

The Great New Beginning

The Christmas Mystery is humanity's great new beginning, the sure orientation point for all history and each one's life, the pathway out of social and personal chaos, and the threshold into such tender harmonies as heal hearts and unleash untapped potential. If by the envy of the devil an obstacle thwarted the holiness that men and women were meant to know together, the love of this newborn has changed everything, forging a way to even deeper communion.  If in weakness and ignorance we turned from confidence in the goodness of God under the power of a seductive enchantment, the trust that this Child places in us helps us find our way again on the solid ground of truth. If unmet needs and bitterness threaten to swallow all that is good and noble with despair, the vulnerability of this Babe unveils the Lord's undaunted hope in those He created in His Image and Likeness Boorishness is buried when Christ comes forth from the womb!  Nihilism's darkness is destroyed when the Word made flesh cries out in the night. The truth confronts deceit. A new harmony takes up all discordance. In a sudden crescendo the Cosmos has never heard before (faith comes by hearing), in the murmurs of a sleeping newborn, there rings out that new echo of the inexhaustible Mystery from which all things come. It is the great canticle of life and love, the unheard eternal anthem  drawing all things to their great purpose. Creatures are taken by the gravity of a mercy excessive beyond all imaginings and wonder fills this tired out world - this living death discovers new life, and cannot be the same again. By the birth of God in our human poverty, even when the Word as not yet learned to speak, such unfathomed divine riches flow at last into hearts broken enough to welcome Him!

December 13, 2020

That disturbing consolation that confirms identity and reveals mission

When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, His greeting disturbed her and his explanation consoled her. Contemplative prayer unfolds in that polarity of divine disturbance and sacred comfort.  Whether disturbing or comforting, every encounter with the Holy One always communicates identity and purpose, the truth about oneself and the mission that God has in store.  The angel spoke his greeting and Mary was disturbed. The angel rushed to reassure her and unveiled God's eternal plan. In this disturbance and reassurance, Mary offered her generous obedience - the great "fiat" that opened wide the doors of humanity to the Redeemer.

Angelic beings are more powerful than space and time in this world. Their presence orients space and they do not travel through time as much as time travels through them.  When the angel appeared to Mary, the place had come into the angel's orientation so that he might be seen by her. The moment had rushed into his presence until she was ready to receive the greetings he bore her.  

His message was not his own, but from the Most High God. He had received it in the moment that he was created because in the moment, he was given freedom to choose to be its bearer.  He knew of the handmaid though she was not yet created because the Lord imparted His own knowledge of this virgin to him. And Gabriel loved her and all humanity with her - because he saw how much God cherished humanity in all its weakness and poverty. He contemplated her in God and discovered her to be in her very lowliness most highly favored.  To speak and appear to the lowly, one must allow lowliness to enter one's own being.  So it was the the mighty angel welcomed the lowliness of the time and space in which he would find the one he knew to be full of grace.  

When the unfolding of God's plan brought to completeness the movements of all creation, her eyes were open to this angelic presence - fierce, unworldly, and unsettling as it was.  He had waited for time to reach the fullness of this moment in him and, aware that our frailty cannot bear the unveiled glory of God, he poured out his heart with that tender gentleness that alone can offer those deep secrets that live in our existence. For there are truths about ourselves that we do not know and only someone who truly loves us can help us find the mission for which we were made.  The words of an angel lifted up that sacred, tender and transforming moment, a moment in which the moment of all new beginnings find their source!  Something new had been born in what disturbed and reassured the Virgin's heart and she found the freedom to magnify the Lord in a way the world had never known before.  

November 26, 2020

A Thanksgiving Reflection from a Monk of Mount Tabor

My father told me last night about his deep, deep sadness. He talked about all the things that he has lost in his life. He felt great despair and despondency Seeing his wife disappear and vanish before his eyes, only a shell of what she once was. He’s almost 98 now. 

I reminded him of something he taught me long ago. When he saw such great difficulty Ahead of him keeping His failing business afloat, he remembered the words of Dr. Schuyler who said “do not think of the things you have lost, but the things you have left And be grateful.” At that time in his life, he was ready to give up, but upon hearing these words he had hope which renewed his strength to persevere.

Today he’s setting another example - he’s still learning as we are.  He’s not one to quit, yet everything now is out of his control and he must trust. His short term memory though is not as it once was, but his long term memory is solid, and he recounts the losses internally - making each day another mark on the calendar with the same daily “routine” distractions that give an air of “peace.” It is as if the elephant is really not standing in the room in a house of glass where so many stones have been hurled. Later, I thought of Time, what vanities we fill it with when there is only a little left for Him. I looked for something that crosses the canyon of frivolity and is truth that endures beyond death. 

I looked for a Bible in his house and could find none. If only I could find just one... then he could flip the pages at least once a day, randomly place his finger on a page and verse and listen to whatever words are written there and allow them to mollify his heart. None on any shelf.... I kept searching and then hidden on a shelf in the back room, among family histories some novels and 200 year old books with missing and vermin eaten binding I found a Bible, opened it and found the name “ Andrea Hayward,” his mother.

His time is filled with distractions - daily movies mom watches (understanding little of the drama) the time he spends on the computer chatting with other lonely hearts he has never met, trying to “advise” everyone and fill an emptiness in his heart. Needing so much himself, his loneliness and loss cry silently within him.

Twenty minutes later, the movie favorite that he and his wife have watched together (at least 2-3 times a month over the last 10 years) ended. He recounted to me how he remembered the grim Nazi Brownshirts in Germany when he toured Europe with his family at age 15 in 1938. Three times, he told me last night,  he had hiked the exact trail taken by the VonTrapp family as they escaped the Nazis. 

Then he turned to me and told me a story, “I remember these words from long ago, “do not think of the things you have lost, but the things you have left And be grateful.”

And be grateful for even the losses, the suffering they cause serves a greater purpose. Contemplate the depths of God’s great desire to draw us close to Him and allow Him to fill our emptiness, a void only His spirit can fill if we ask Him to, a “fail-safe” He created within us. This Thanksgiving, cling fast to what endures: Love.

Happy Thanksgiving 🙏

A Monk at Holy Transfiguration Byzantine

Monastery in Ukiah, California.

November 22, 2020

The Great King's Shadow

Rages that terrible battle, in deep

darkness, deceit, disdain, Divine 

Obedience cries remain as

Rises undeterred the Shepherd's' Shadow 

whose splendor unseen 

Save under clouds of grace and glance as

Gains the dawn, this Day without End.

Though hard fought, costing 

cruel crown and cross, crushed

obedience, hell's cacophony is silenced by Word's

Weakness ablaze in Uncreated Fire

And still the Lamb's concealing shade covers 

Hidden hearts once dead, now 

Born again, this Day without End.

Who rules Day and Night in power

Perfected? O Prince of Peace, 

obedient praise of glory, worthy Lamb!  

You reign by faith's secret. That hope invincible 

unmasks scheme's smirk, causes crowns cast down, all under 

that Mighty Shadow once slain, 

Alive again, this Day without End.