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Archive for the ‘theology’ Category

Holy Spirit

Focusing on the third major phrase of the Creed, we have:

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

A reflection –

From the very beginning, a perfect union of the love of creative force and Man was to be fulfilled,

and the Spirit that hovered over the deep unknowable set in motion a series of improbable events 

leading inevitably to the God-Man, the exemplar destined to express the Divine energy and creative love 

inside the world of human affairs. 

Incarnation is the second momentous event after the moment of Creation of our universe: the moment of full expression of the divine birthing spark setting in motion the next epoch in the life of Creation on its journey home to the beginning.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Perhaps no statement sits more uneasily in our hearts and minds than the second phrase of the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father.

In our age, an ecumenical spirit continues to rise alongside of defensive orthodoxies. While many of our brothers and sisters embrace the stated belief completely, still others see the sacred light shining through many other manifestations in other traditions as well, as in the life and teaching of the Buddha, while still others cling to belief that they worship the “One True” God.

The Council arrived at a formula that members felt would establish the divinity of Christ in such a way as to set aside the many divergent views of who Jesus was at the time. This served the theo-political goal of cohesiveness under Constantine and the promulgation of a coherent guiding creed by which to define identity as a Christian.

How do we bring these words to life in our times while being respectful of the inspiration ( witting and unwitting) contained in what the Council fashioned?

I offer the following personal meditation:

I believe in Jesus of Nazareth, the teacher of righteousness, the Son of Man, from  whose life and words springs the truth of God’s Love and Presence.

In His example, I see God’s Presence lived fully and in walking with Him I open myself to die to who I think I am to be born as the one I really am.

I believe in the Cosmic Christ, inspired and expressed by the Source, Father-Mother of all, that was there before the beginning, at the beginning and is still the central archetype of the evolving Universe.

I believe that God is the light that pierces all the darkness and the love shown by Christ is the way to that Light.

There is an eternal unity that binds the children of the Light to the beating Heart that set all in motion and that draws all back home.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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How do we interpret and reintegrate the concepts of the ancient Church in the 21st century? We can accept them as they are given I suppose but that strikes me as intellectually lazy leading only to formulaic thinking and all the attendant prejudice and superficially ritualistic exchanges. Or, we can toss it out altogether and find a new system of thought – drop the Nicene Creed, for example, from our Liturgies.

Yet, that amounts to throwing the baby out with the wash water. Just because something was written in pre-scientific times does not relegate it to the junk heap of history. Consider the genius of Plato and Aristotle, the pre-Socratics and the texts of the Wisdom traditions of the East. While post-modern hubris may direct many to discard what is old simply because of its age, this would be adolescent and the height of folly. As Hans Gadamer has said: ” Read nothing that isn’t at least 2000 years old.” Add to this, Alfred North Whiteheads comment: ” Everything is a footnote to Plato.”

I agree with Gadamer that all understanding is bounded by the perspectives shaped by language and  culture. Yet, wisdom transcends culture. When the early Fathers of the Church gathered in 352 AD for the First Council of Nicea they struggled with so-called heresy and, through dialogue, arrived at a consensus about what to belief about Jesus. While framed by pre-scientific thought, sincere communities in dialogue discover things that each person would not have. Often, communities of prayerful debate stumble upon rich metaphor that emerges from the intersection of different agenda and experiences that tap a deep well of Knowing.

Nonetheless, we cannot interpret through their eyes, though scholarship certainly places us in a better place to appreciate where they were coming from. We read mindful of history but of course within the context of our age, our experiences, our language and new forms of thought.  We must allow the words to soak in and find in them the wisdom that speaks to us. “What if it simply goes nowhere for me?” asks a sincere person struggling with the statements of the Creed for example. In this instance, one can do no better than focusing elsewhere on aspects of tradition that do speak to you and, failing that, to find a group that approaches the mysteries from a different vantage point altogether. I, for one, have chosen to stay put having spent two decades sampling many different approaches only to find something missing. So, with feet squarely planted on the ground in the Episcopal tradition, I struggle with the beauty and the sometimes incomprehensibility of antiquity. I choose to allow the words to rise out of history and live in whatever way they may in me as they forge new meaning especially through dialogue with others.

On this the Eve of Thanksgiving, I share a meditation in this vein on the first phrase of the Nicene Creed to be followed in subsequent posts with reflections on the remaining phrases:

” We believe in God the Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen.”

Beyond all imagining, I embrace the timeless Beginning, the  matrix on which  the whole of Creation is shaped and is moving;  a Heart, a force of Love, that is ever present in this moment as in the first moments of the Big Bang, drawing all things forward toward their completion and fulfillment in a larger pattern unknown.

I believe in the “father” of time as the universe expands, the “mother” of life who inspires all becoming, the “spirit” driving patterns that ebb and flow according to unseen fields of force.

I believe that more is unseen than seen. I believe that all knowing has its roots in the Cosmic Knower who yearns for unity in diversity, and that all knowing is always personal. 

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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In my recent post, I focused on the myth of the “one” true and destined love and the importance instead of choice and commitment.

Further reflection at the opening of Advent 2012 leads me to consider the Christian dogma of the “one” and “only begotten Son”. It is a matter of orthodox theology that Christ stands apart from all others as the true Soter or savior of the World: an exclusivity, the embodiment on Earth of the Father whose Presence is mediated by the Holy Spirit.

How do we make sense of this within the context of Faith with reason? Is the notion of the “One” equally mythic with that of the single destined lover for whom we are meant to be joined: the one who completes us? Is there an alternative way of thinking that protects the deep sense of mystery and special character of the One who Luke makes reference in ascribing to the Father the words: ” You are my Beloved Son. In you I am well pleased.”

In reply to the question, my meditation stumbles on a framing error implicit in the questions themselves. In their construction, they are dualistic, (i.e., either/or).

A better question is:

In what way is the “Son of God” both inimical and yet non-exclusive?

After all, Jesus says elsewhere:

“Timeless truth, I tell you: ‘whoever believes in me, those works which I have done he will also do, and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to the presence of my Father.’ ” Aramaic Bible in Plain English

or ” Otherwise believe for the very works’ sake. Amen, amen I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do, he also shall do; and greater than these shall he do.” Douay-Rheims Bible

Jesus was fulfillment of prophecy. As it came to pass in the unfolding of time and history, the Christ nature was a charism bestowed to a babe in Galilee & it was once and for all. And – beyond space and time, in the timeless space of the Sacred, this emblematic and iconic moment was a call to all: an invitation to the next significant advance in human consciousness.

As so beautifully stated in the Gregorian chant, Ubi Caritas: ” Where Beauty and Love are there also is God.”

Spiritual transformation is the yearning of the Divine Heart for Humanity to emerge into full “Sonship” wherein love defines us and we integrate in ourselves the Shadow and the Light and act with authentic compassion. In this sense, living sacramentally involves  learning to be able and willing reflectors of the Divine Light and  to help restore the State of Eden: to be “christ” for one another.

© The Harried Mystic, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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What is the relationship between science and religion?

Throughout history, and even now, the tension between them has been too much the characterization. The argument goes that science proffers testable hypotheses and the scientific method uncovers either support for that hypothesis or fails to do so. Religion, on the other hand, is discussed as wholly subjective, defined by untestable beliefs.

In establishing this dichotomy, a false one in my estimation, they are endemically at odds with each other. In today’s scientific and pseudo- scientific ethos, science is often deemed superior and more appropriate for our times. Religion, on the other hand, is portrayed by empiricists as a quaint remnant of pre-scientific explanation. Theists, on the other hand, see science with suspect eyes, arguing that it misses the deeper import of events and what it means to be. Both polar viewpoints are ill informed.

Fundamentalist science and religion are, indeed, at odds with one another. Both suffer the same problem: they proceed from a dogmatic position of what is true, right and knowable. I set aside fundamentalisms of all kinds as too narrowly constructed and thereby intrinsically fragile and lacking in merit. Those who subscribe to them are welcome certainly to their beliefs but it strikes me that such extreme positions render dialogue impossible, and creates a climate of mistrust, sterile bickering, and mutual claims about the inadequacies of the other. For me, such banter is a waste of energy and are, simply, uninteresting.

Instead, I live at the nexus between these two methods of knowing and both have much in common along with complementary differences. They need each other if the goal is agreed upon as a seeking after truth and a deep desire to get inside the ontological mysteries. Science speaks in the language of mathematics. Math is wholly based on certain assumptions and, while an invention of humankind, it is unusually powerful in unraveling the mysteries of the Cosmos. The scientific method then is brought to bear on predictions to apply critical tests. Yet, while we have seen convergent evidence of their existence, no one has ever seen, for example, a quark. In other words, we study the cumulative record. Having done so, new evidence may overturn, and often does, our most established interpretations.

Religion is also a cumulative record. Yes, it is a phenomenological one but this too is data. Seen through the lens of well reasoned theological discourse, it too makes predictions and offers interpretations. For example, in a universe that became conscious of itself, one can rightly posit that intelligence must be fundamental in its essence ( I.e., that it had a first cause). One need not resort to a simplistic Creationism that mangles good science to get there either. With the integrity of both science and theology left fully intact, one can catch inspiring glimpses of the heart of mystery.

To devolve to angry and oppositionally defiant atheism is to ignore experience and the universal sensibility of something greater than we that beckons. Such a retreat to mere science reduces matter, energy and space-time to mere objects of study rather than deep subjects with which to have a relationship. The result is spiritual reductionism and solipsism.

I am a scientist- theologian because as I study the one it informs the other. The reflections of science for me give rise to the meditations of spiritual practice. I delight in the online lectures such as those offered by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in the UK Faraday Institute for Science and Religion that serve to elevate and poke our understanding.

When both scientific and religious discourse act with genuine humility, we can proceed boldly and with the spirit of the child into realms of deep wonder. May our eyes be opened to see the wider landscape that awaits us if only we get beyond the tyranny of methodological chauvinism.

Life is way too short to narrow one’s field of view.

© The Harried Mystic, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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My wife and I took in the new Marvel Comics Avengers movie last night. We both found it well written and very entertaining. Beyond the usual action packed and high tech cgi extravaganza that defines Hollywood these days, I was impressed with the subplot beyond heroes saving, as they always do, the Earth and humanity, either from itself or, in this case, from other alien invasions. That theme running throughout was the power of a shift from thinking about oneself to a consciousness revolving around the greater good.

The 21st Century already tells a story of human greed and it’s consequences:

* Wall Street profits while main street carries on in stress and anguish.
* Wealthy individuals and corporations unleash their resources in hopes of buying election results to shure up future fortunes while the middle class is bombarded by propaganda in hopes of having them vote against their own best interests.
* Healthcare for all is still debated as a privilege instead of a right.

Enter the Avengers, a group of larger than life super folk who are called upon to save the day but now as a team. They spend much of the movie infighting about who is really heroic. In the end, they act together and, in so doing, they evolve. They are transformed and their greatness comes from having each other’s back and shared sacrifice for the good of all. In order to take on evil they first need to get beyond their own ego, pride, and sense of singular purpose.

The message is a New Testament message cloaked in secular dress: We are each other’s keepers and we find our purpose more in serving others than in pursuit of our own sense of what we need do to feel special. Finding our ordinariness is the surer path to unleashing our inherent greatness. The other way around simply begets pomposity, arrogance, and self- inflation.

That Hollywood has produced this is less a testament to its wisdom and more a reflection of the Spirit moving within us. The archetype of the servant leader is resurfacing. It emerges in propitious and momentous times when the darkness is sold as if it is the Light and the true light is discussed as if anachronistic, a throw back to simpler and uninformed times. We hear a mantra from some that government is a business and needs to be run with attention, first and foremost, to the balance sheet.

I get all that but what about the soul of the Nation and it’s values. If we lose that we lose the Nation. Should we not instead slow down and ask ourselves: What point is there to government if it isn’t first and foremost about all the people. Why is caring portrayed as weakness and slashing budgets for schools and social services touted as wise and responsible conduct. Are we not sacrificing the long term for a short term and simplistic “fix”?

May we govern with a sense of the real gift of liberty: to empower the Nation by serving all and, by doing so, enable our true greatness.

Indeed, we need such a cadre of leaders who have the same spirit discovered, in the end, by the Avengers.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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One of the joys of Easter is to gather with our wider family and dine together over entrees that each member of the family prepares. While the noble egg figures prominently in Easter lore and tradition, the icon of Resurrection Sunday in fact, what of the simple potato? Solanum Tuberosum, one of the nightshades and an herbaceous perennial, has been a vital part of history. It has for centuries been the perfect complement to a meal. Prepared properly, it is a very special delight.

It has become a family tradition that we prepare the bean casserole and the mashed potatoes. Everyone digs into the large bowl with enthusiasm and impatience for what is a unique taste experience. With just the right proportion of butter and cream, this velvety smooth accompaniment to a meal centered on a marinated roast is quite honestly “heavenly.” It is food that deserves far greater prominence and celebration. After all, it has been a vital staple in Europe and in the States for a very long time.

Furthermore, as  a student of signs and symbols, I find it a striking tuber to serve on Easter Sunday. The potato arises from the Earth.  It must be surfaced and then cleaned off, peeled, and then cooked ( mashed or otherwise). It is food that can only be enjoyed in its arising. That it comes from the earth itself is also poetic: such a great and enlivening, delicious, and velvety flavor from something that spent its growing years in complete darkness: a burial food enjoyed upon its resurrection.

In dining today on whatever main courses and vegetables, I do hope you enjoy the sensational potato and everything it represents.

Bon Appetit!

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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