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Posts Tagged ‘biblical hermeneutics’

Great ( Holy) Thursday, April 1, 2010

A day also called “Maundy”  Thursday in the Anglican tradition, or the “mandatum”, the mandate to perform the “Lord’s Supper.” This is also the day of the washing of the feet. Traditionally, the Pope washes the feet of priests and priests do so for parishioners. Together, these ritual jewels of the Church celebrate the central mystery: the Presence of the divine savior among us in the intimate acts of washing and eating.

A good friend and fellow Bishop refers to the “Mass” as “Divine Alimentation.” We are fed by the Prince of Peace. We are directly privy, without need of any intermediary, to the sanctum sanctorum. Celebrating the savior in an act of eating is to continue in the path of total conversion; the transfiguration of mind-body and spirit from the inside out. We literally become the Temple of the Lord.

The word “Mass” is telling. It derives from the latin word “missa,” which means dismissal, or, put differently, a going forth in accordance with a great commissioning. In the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, we are fed with the expectation that we will then go and likewise feed others. We are given the mandate to be fishers of men and women; to bring them the great comfort and consolation of the truth that the Kingdom of G-d rests within them.

It is traditionally on Holy Thursday that the bishops consecrate the oils of chrism, the catechumens, and the sick. In addition, the Holy Thursday celebration also calls for a gathering of the priesthood so that priestly vows can be reaffirmed. Looking at the day in its entirety, we recognize in it a call for deep personal and transpersonal renewal and a resetting of purpose. It is a time for blessing, cleansing, and the reinvigorated zeal to serve the Gospel. We are reminded of our sacred identity and our calling. It is a beautiful celebration and it is an alchemical re-enchantment.

I am a priest. I vowed to serve for the rest of my life. My service is different from that of a parish priest as I do not have daily celebrations to officiate but mostly ad hoc ones. As the Abbot of  a “monastery without walls,” the role is that of spiritual facilitator, teacher, friend, and the sacerdotal functions come as they may.

What does it mean to be a post-denominational priest? It means that one’s identity is wrapped in continuous and diverse prayer, and the readiness to fulfill the mandatum in nontraditional ways. It means finding new paths for engaging the teaching in dialogue with people while maintaining a less visible or pronounce priestly profile. It  also always calls for celebration of the sacraments as living vehicles for conversion and epiphany when there are two or more gathered with a yearning to do so.

I enter into this Holy Thursday evening as I have earlier ones, with a deep sense of awe and gratitude. I feel honored to have been called to witness to mystery and to be a voice for spiritual living. I rejoice in the meditative time in which I can hold up all those I love and know, and the world around me with profound hope of an enduring illumination. I rest tonight in the firm conviction that a powerful force is present to synchronistically guide my next steps and words.

I am a child of the stars, of the wind, of the stillness and of the laughter. I am a child of the Eucharist and a minstrel singing about the depth and breadth of our capacity for love. I am a humble poet searching for the right words and phrases to give sound to my heart.

I am a simple priest. I open myself to the next mandate, the next need, the next chance to touch the fabric of the Son of Man. I am one who is ever searching for His face among all the writing, all the poetry, all the religions, all the cries and tears and laughter, and the rich tapestry of human thought and scientific discovery.

Maranatha!

Amen.

1 Corinthians 11- 23-26, New American Bible

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread,
and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. 12
A person should examine himself, 13 and so eat the bread and drink the cup.
For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment 14 on himself.
That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.
If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment;
but since we are judged by (the) Lord, we are being disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that your meetings may not result in judgment. The other matters I shall set in order when I come.
[I am separately uploading a Liturgy this evening that emerged from my scholarship and passion for ritual over the years. It is the Liturgy that I use in the Order and at the High Masses that we celebrate here. I hope you find it a helpful complement to your Eastertide meditations. You can find it on a page linked to the “Garden of the Christos” page in pdf format.]
© 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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Mount Mayon Volcano, The Philipines

My son and his companion are traveling on holiday to the Philipines and is now, as I type this, in Legazpi City, home to Mount Mayon, an active and erupting volcano. Needless to say, we are all deeply concerned. Though his assurances in the one email we’ve received since their arrival there said that they are alright and well outside of the danger zone, one never knows with volcanic activity.

Of the 5 category rating scale used by volcanologists, where “5” is a full-scale eruption in progress, Mayon is rated a “4”, denoting an imminent eruption. We are anxious to hear that he has traveled well north of the active area toward Manila. Already 50,000 residents within a radius of 8 miles of Mayon were evacutaed.  Half that number were removed to shelters by Christmas day.

Some, now lulled by lessened activity in the last 24 hours, are returning to their homes to tend cattle and farms, though authorities are strongly warning them away, and calling this the “calm before the storm.”  We can all understand the wish to be home with family:  an especially compelling need during the Christmas holiday. This wish is particularly strong among the agrarian people of the Philipines who live in the foothills of the mountain and who bring great cultural passion and import to this Season, and whose lives are completely dependent on the land.

For us, these days have been difficult and anxious times of waiting for the next email ( as my son and his companion are without cell phones and must depend on available internet cafes). They are adventurous and touring for another few days nevertheless before their flight back, assuming no further official evacuation outside of the extended danger zone.

“Just waiting for word” sums up this time. I have written before about “waiting”, the power of vigil, and, in such times, our expectations of either great positive and miraculous events or, as now, fears of the unimaginably disastrous. One cannot help but be reminded of the Indonesian tsunami and the toll it took, and, earlier, in the Philipines itself, the disastrous eruption of Mount Pinatubo on June 15th of 1991.

We are now called to hold on to the only thing we have in such times – prayer. We pray for the Light of the World to quell the rumbling of the Earth and still the fires of magma, and for the safety of our loved ones and the thousands now threatened there. We once again see in these events our connection to all people: their plight is our plight.

The world is risk. We have no power over the Earth and its elements. Our sole power rests in our love and care for each other.

With all this as my present context, I reflect on today’s reading from the Gospel of John, verses  1 through 13:

After this, Jesus went to Jerusalem for a religious festival. 2Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool with five porches; in Hebrew it is called Bethzatha. 3A large crowd of sick people were lying on the porches—the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed. 5A man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6Jesus saw him lying there, and he knew that the man had been sick for such a long time; so he asked him, Do you want to get well? 7The sick man answered, Sir, I don’t have anyone here to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first. 8Jesus said to him, Get up, pick up your mat, and walk. 9Immediately the man got well; he picked up his mat and started walking. The day this happened was a Sabbath, 10so the Jewish authorities told the man who had been healed, This is a Sabbath, and it is against our Law for you to carry your mat. 11He answered, The man who made me well told me to pick up my mat and walk. 12They asked him, Who is the man who told you to do this? 13But the man who had been healed did not know who Jesus was, for there was a crowd in that place, and Jesus had slipped away.

Our schemas and plans, concepts, and doxologies, are, at best, hazy reflections of the Real. Yet, we are every day invited to sort our priorities and let the trivial drop away. Life brings challenge and dread, and, when it does, our character is most authentically revealed.

What is true in us is all that is left as the rest dissolves into the drama of impending or active crisis. There is nothing to fear and no law about which we need worry save one: to draw close to those we love and shield them if we can physically or, if not, to do so psycho-spiritually, and this is the Beloved’s eternal verity.

As we pray for my son and his companion and for all who live around Mount Mayon, our prayer celebrates the Beloved’s intent and action in the world. Our vigil joins that sacred intent and helps complete the circuit between phenomena (volcanic activity) and noumena ( love and inter-being).

I give thanks for love. I give thanks for prayer and the capacity to reach through time and space with and without words. I give thanks for life. I rest in the arms of the Beloved whose Presence I pray settles upon Mount Mayon, its people, my son, and his beloved. All else is silence and waiting.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. 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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December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the Western church. The “Immaculata” emerged early in the history of the Church.

Among certain ancient Christian sects, the “Mother of God” was, from the outset, given a very high spiritual station, as there are arguably none more intimate with a son’s soul than his mother.

So great was the Spirit of Christ, that she who bore the Anointed One would naturally be set apart as especially blessed. The universe brought forth a soter (or savior) from the womb of a common woman of Jewish faith.

She bore him, bathed him with unconditional regard and support, and, in the end, bore the unimaginable pain of his passing.

In the Orthodox tradition, they refer to her Ascension as “the Dormition of the Virgin,” or the “Going to Sleep”. The Divine Mother archetype is the soft blue image of infinite patience, attention, and conscious silence. She is eternally alive within us.

Lutheran theologian Rudolf Bultmann revealed that the sacred mysteries documented in the Gospels are in no way diminished when we cut away the mythic story-telling appended by later writers.

He insisted that instead of the super-naturalizing that was grafted onto the texts,  an existential reading, in the way of philosopher Martin Heidegger, was truer to the essential kernel of the teaching.

In doing so, the intersections of the teachings with those of other Eastern religious systems become more visible. In both Buddhism and Christianity, at a mystical level, there is an androgynous quality in experiencing the Divine Presence.

There is an implicit marriage of male and female forming a new alchemical union (e.g., the trinity and the rise of Mariology, yin and yang, Buddha & Kwan Yin).

(more…)

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Among the special qualities that make us human, none is arguably more significant than our capacity to imagine. We bring things into being – new ideas that become inventions then ubiquitous technologies, cultural thought-forms, works of art, and even the idea of the Self. We are to a very significant extent, what we dream ourselves to be. A lack of imagination can be the root cause of neurotic fixation and fearful attachment to the way things are and our dislike for thought, process, or appearances that are “Other.”

It is a weighty fact that Yahweh responds to Moses’ request for the name of the One sending him with His message by saying: ” Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh,” which translates from the Hebrew as ” I will be what I will be” ( from the Jewish Study Bible). While this translation is uncertain and has also been rendered “I am that I am,” this quite plausible alternative is exciting.

It says that G-d is also evolving, is in process, and is intimately tied to creation and consciousness. It suggests that G-d resides in possibilities that we sing into Being with Him. So, from the point of view of “theurgy”, imagining G-d, we are partners in Divine emergence in the World. Through our creative acts ( like liturgy) we quicken the movement of the Spirit and serve as midwives to the continuous birthing of the Divine intent.

The unhealthy and withering alternative is that our thinking ossifies and we become arthritically cut off from process. In this case, we are left instead with only a static snapshot: a dead object or stale concept or narrowly conceived, and possibly neurotically inspired, expression of idolatry. In allowing our imaginations to atrophy is counter to our best nature and, so, Biblically represented as an affront to the second commandment: No idols! The Zohar of Jewish Mysticism places great emphasis on the capacity to imagine, and this is motivating me today to consider the practical implications.

With this as a reflection for Matins, I will come back this evening and put theurgy to work in doing some automatic writing in the same context as Jungian active imagination – to allow what begins as a seemingly random set of thoughts to spool together in a self-organizing fashion and we’ll see what it produces. The whole thing intrigues me and I am quite looking forward to giving it a “spiritual whirl”.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. 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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