September 12, 2020

The River - inspired by a poem by St. John of the Cross

To approach the living God requires a journey to the deepest center, to the very Spring from which all things come. No matter where we are, we can find the river that flows from this Spring. Yet, to be answered, we must ask; to find we must seek, to have laid open, we must knock. These are the steps of a great journey, the journey of a beat up and destitute beggar whose only hope is in the goodness of that Neighbor who passes by. Should we persevere, the River that makes all things new is ours, flooding even those steep banks that were once thought too high to be immersed.

This river of Word and Fire flows through the heavens. Revealing all things and setting them on fire, it flows through all space and time in this world below. It's light and warmth flows forsaken, deep below this world, even in those places where all love and hope is ever forsaken - and still it flows for this is not the last word about humanity. Overflowing into this present moment, even as you read this text, a fullness of meaning and life gushing forth unimpeded, never aging always new, the only new thing in this tired out world, making new all things, with a deep down cool freshness. Hidden under the veils of bread and wine, this Body and Blood feeds, nourishes, satisfies, quenches, inebriates until Spirit-filled the spirit of man must needs offer that spiritual worship that only a bodily sacrifice can achieve.  

Woe to those who, believing faith to be some private affair, dare to place unveiled glory under jars of acceptability. Woe to those who mindlessly accept the absolute claims of a governmental power and cowardly render to a social agenda even that which belongs to God. Woe to those who for fear of mere bodily harm neglect those matters of the heart for which we exist. 

Blessed are you whom God has called to live by faith in times such as these - for Love has called you to tender love, for love and in love at a time when kindly love is most needed.  Blessed are those who forgive from the depths of the heart that grievance until now so tormenting. Blessed are those who fear not to offer the thirsty a cup of water when others are too afraid to go forth. Blessed are they who do not fear to minister a word of truth in the midst of confusion and viral accusation.  Blessed are those who suffer detracting sneers for having dared speak up for the most vulnerable: standing by the smallest among us come what come may -- great indeed is the homecoming that awaits such as these. 

September 7, 2020

The Holiness that interrupts Time and Space - what is essential

Those who believe that religion is non-essential can live only half-lived lives. Their existence is limited to a reduced sense of place and time.  They live with a sense of linear progress, but this is always toward an unknown nexus. Blind to the truth about themselves, they are privy to a host of self-contradictions each a fall into deeper alienation not only from the rest of humanity, but even from one's very self. 

Those who approach religion as non-essential  worship the works of their hands because their sense of space or time does not allow for anything else than what they manipulate, produce or consume.  Man becomes what he worships - and if he does not worship what is holy, he becomes profane - and while the holy also know the profane, the profane cannot see the holy. And so what is truly religious, truly essential, is written off as "non-essential" while what is secondary to our existence - those things under our control - becomes absolute, the essential value for which all else must be sacrificed.  

This is why the are two different ways of living in time and space today. Scholars of comparative religion tells us that those who settle for a merely secular and profane existence possess a homogenous sense of time. We can agree with this insight even if the non-religious man cannot maintain the purity of this way of existing without falling into self-contradiction. He endures duration enslaved to productivity and consumption of goods, not free to rise above merely banal survival, even as he is haunted that life must be something more. Whether through their producing or consuming, the measurable and quantifiable establishes the homogeneity of daily existence and the tedious sameness of it exhausts the human spirit and frustrates its most noble desires.  When the only reference point for progress is the produceable and consumable, that is to say the quantifiably, measurably and predictably useful, life is entrapped in a two dimensional plane, a plane of duration and space that is merely material. 

There is another sense of place and temporality that is not homogenous. Scholars speak of the religious person as living in a world of non homogenous time - where profane banality is interrupted by the sacred's inexhaustible treasures.  While some might try to manipulate what is holy in an effort to get results, one's own existences is broken against Divinity's immutable otherness until one's blasphemy repents in adoration or fades into despair. The religious man is someone who suffers what is most true about himself and the world, and chooses not to despair. 

The religious man realizes that to step into a holy place is to step out of the day to day routine. In those places that are sacred, one ascends a hidden mountain toward which all temporality flows and one descends into the deepest center out of which the space and duration needed by living things springs. As anyone who has ever fed from the Eucharistic feast and drank the mystic wine flowing from the Cross well knows, to consume the sacred is to be consumed by it -- and only those who dare to be immersed in these realities ever rise to the fullness of life that humanity was meant to know. 

August 30, 2020

The Best Wine for Last

Feeling abandoned by the Church, many wonder over the plight of humanity and the promise of the Gospel. Some priests and bishops remember the tradition passed on to them and they dare, even in the face of incoherent policies, to build an island of humanity and to raise the standard of love. The miracle of Cana flows from these celebrations of eternal thanksgiving, not despite, but because of such suffering. The Church is born of loneliness - man's loneliness is an echo of God's loneliness for man.

There have been moments of intervention when Merciful Love is experienced as a kind of divine wrath. If this is one of those moments, then it is time to take stock and allow Christ to question us, to ask "Where are you going." To respond to His initiative is already to begin to come to our senses.  Indeed, history also shows that whenever a people turns back to the Lord, He unleashes blessings that could not have been anticipated, for He gains nothing when we are lost, but is filled with boundless joy when He glimpses us though we are still a long way off. 

Eternal love binds itself to a child's plight. Made to reveal the hidden glory of the Uncreated Light, the child may choose a darkness that cannot bear its brightness. For lack of truth, integrity is compromised and self-contradiction inevitable. For such as these, Love flames forth seemingly to blind and burn, but ever triumphant over evil, this warning reveals the way out of tragic ruin.

In shipwrecked loneliness, adrift in myths and falsehoods, we sink below waves of chaos and exigencies of the moment. Yet, there is One who the dark forces of life cannot pull under. The deep primordial threats to existence haveno claim on Him for He has already descended to vanquish their strongholds. Unvanquished, He comes by word and sacrament to pull us up with Him, to follow where He leads.  

Where the Bridegroom leads goes far beyond any unity of hearts that is neither fruitful nor unto death. He beckons to a cellar where the best wine is still waiting, where we each are awaited, a place of consummation where mutual recognition is finally fully realized. Relying on an emotional crutch, one can never ascend the magnanimous heights alive in His indissoluble embrace or sound those terrible depths flowing with His very life. 

Thus, as one is given over to prayer, tender power tears us away from selfish alliances to make room for a more fitting love, like weeds pulled from around a rose.  Such a loving touch shatters only to set free. Its hurts only to heal. What seems as stern as death unleashes astonished encounter, unexpected fecundity. 

Homecoming, holy inebriation, jubilation and an overflowing heart - all at once in forgetfulness of everything, all else left unknown, but that gaze of love. Fire has ignited a living flame and aglow, darkness loses its hold. Life cries out of the silence and the smile of birth reaches a new mother's tired eyes.


August 23, 2020

Chastisement and Mercy

How can Unchanging Love not chastise those who, if not corrected, will destroy themselves? It is true that disaster stings the good and bad alike, and that the suffering of grave evil is not simply the result of a moral failure - not individually or collectively. Both innocent and guilty suffer death and tragedy strikes without regard to our achievements - meritorious or ill. Reality is too rich and complex for a simplistic approach to such a difficult and painful question.  Yet, it is also true that evil is related to the mystery of sin - a miserable absent love that ought not be, but that has come as unintended consequence unleashed in human history and in every heart.  God is not indifferent to this evil and has taken our side against it.  He also knows that even a good man sins and needs correction if he is to stay good. 

In chastisement, the tender concern that Christ Crucified reveals only acts in accord with itself: a divine punishment, an admonishment from on high, heaven's correction - all of these are simply the same superabundant kindness, but in relation to those who act against it and meant with the same divine philanthropy that summoned humanity out of nothingness. It is not a matter of shaming and blaming, as if God were an abusive parent, but extreme love acting in an extreme way to prevent an terrible evil.  Running away from Love's Truth leads to folly's loathsomeness ... it is to prevent us from being frozen the the fire of self-hatred that the Lord acts in history to help us come to our senses.   

When we suffer, it is good to ask ourselves how God is present and what He may be revealing in a difficult circumstance. The Judge of the Living and the Dead inconveniently disrupts the enchantments of boorish satisfactions. When we suffer, the scales fall our of our eyes and we notice what previously we too easily overlooked. God allows sometimes overwhelming difficulties, not to diminish us, but that we might discover His hidden presence in ways that we did not know could be possible. In finding this hidden presence, our dignity and noble calling is realized. Here we discover, despite our complaints, that He never upsets any other order than that of our own shrill discordance. 

Made to resonate in peals of joy echoing in love's undying hymn, we are spellbound by a dirge of deafening accusation and anxiety. Thus, He chases false mourners away only so that we might know a new joy.  He pushes over tables of greed and manipulation, driving out those who would commercialize that which ought never be bought or sold. If his anger is disquieting, this is because our own unquestioned conventions numb us to the dehumanizing shock of material bondage. We need to feel shocked by the indignity that we suffer or we may never discover the greatness that we are meant to know. Thus the Lord shakes the depths of our piety to unveil how prayers limited to the profitable, comfortable, and respectable lack the freedom that true worship requires.

God's desire that we might know true worship gives reason to believe that what sobers and humiliates may disguise dire warnings that our sacred purpose is at risk. If left unchecked, a flight from Love's light can lead to an irrevocable refusal even to the point that one finds kindly warmth an eternal torment. Such is the power of human freedom.  We can, if left unaided, define ourselves against the purpose for which we were summoned into existence.  If we live within a well insulated artifice of illusion, the Creator knows that such walls are too constricted for those who bear His Image and Likeness.

If such a terrible possibility hangs over us, so too the cruciform reason for our hope. The Holy Mighty One gains nothing when we run away into darkness. It gives the Crucified King no pleasure when we refuse the mercy of the Father.  He has already taken the form of a slave, emptied Himself and suffered death - how could He be satisfied if we were lost? If only disaster can sober us, loving Providence pulls back one blessing for the sake of another. Thus, the Lord permits even catastrophe, bringing down nations and whole world orders, let alone our own prodigal ways, if doing so will bring even just one of his children to his senses.  A deeper prayer animated by Fire from Above and a new trust born from the heart of the Trinity allow for this sacred purpose, obstacles is not worthy of our dignity are overcome, and what once seemed impossible to hope is freely given. 

August 22, 2020

Fire and Judgment

The smell of smoke and hazy horizon aglow at night evoke wonder over what God is doing. A fiery sword looms over a once indifferent and indulgent coastline as firefighters and first responders fight against impossible odds. There is goodness in the heroism that such sacrifice unveils, and, for many, this has become a time to pull those who we cherish a little closer, to give thanks for such blessings that we do not deserve. Still the questions: is God angry with us and have we fallen out of favor with Him? It is a biblical question that Saul did not grieve enough before the Lord and that David wept so bitterly that only God could comfort him. Our hope is hidden here. Deluge and Fire are symbols of Christian initiation - for Christ has changed the punishment of death into a threshold for eternal life. 

We ought to feel ill at ease before the Face of Love. A certain fear should grip us who otherwise self-reliant have failed to question the false security we take in our enchantments.  The arrows we let fly by day in the form of calumny and heartless accusation fall under the shadow of our Judge. Love is not ignorant about our efforts to pin on someone else the responsibility for the dis-ease that infects those dark places of our hearts. Love knows that we fear bearing the weight of responsibility for what we have done and failed to do.  Love knows the dignity that we have stolen from our neighbor through indifference, and this Judge of the Living and the Dead is never indifferent to our plight. He knows that however much we have wounded our neighbor and left him for dead, we have wounded ourselves even more and He will not abandon us.

God is Love and Love is Fire. The standard of burning Love measures that quaking rancor that shakes ground from under foot while offering footing only on perilous peaks of righteous indignation.  The Divine Scale with its very warmth weighs those celebrations of rage that expose envy's wound, and Love's eternal brightness illumines that cavity of covetousness broadcast with shameless satisfaction. Ever attentive, Love gathers as a storm, never deaf to the constant drumbeat of dread filled stories meant to paralyze until deadly specters haunt every gathering, ready to strike when least expected.  Not indifferent, thunder in the skies recall how Love also weeps when the most vulnerable are traded as ponds in nihilistic games, discarded and despised for not being more useful in the latest social engineering experiment. When self-satisfied arrogance seems to have destroyed all that is noble and true, Lighting reminds us that Perfect Love rectifies humanity with sudden but sobering shock and awe until ablaze in the hearts of heroes, He rescues the oppressed from their plight.