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Posts Tagged ‘spirituality in action’

nicene-creed

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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This week I had the privilege of joining with members of our parish bible study group on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady by the Sea at Manorville NY.

Besides time in dialogue on the origins of the rosary and its many forms, the highlight for me was strolling on the sites’s “Rosary Walk”. This circular path begins at a statue of Our Lady and circles back around to the statue thus mirroring the structure of the traditional 5-decade configuration. Beads are physically simulated with bushes: larger ones for the cruciform beads at which we announce the mysteries, and smaller ones denoting the 10 Ave Marias between each.

The way the mysteries were laid out at the mystery stops that separate the sets of 10 was striking. Bronze markers presented each of 4 mysteries: one joyful, one sorrowful, one glorious and one luminous. This accommodates whichever set of mysteries any given pilgrim is reciting on a particular day. The traditional expectation is that one set of mysteries is in mind per round.

With 4 possible mysteries confronting me at each station, however, I found myself reflecting across all of those presented without regard for staying within any given set.

This had an interesting effect on me. I felt moved to see the intersections and interdependencies among them in a fresh way.

Much of our spiritual lives is paradox. In fact, Christianity is full of irony and paradox: a crucified god, a messiah born to poor circumstances, a soter focused on the laity and forgotten of society, and teachings that collide constantly with usual thinking. My walk became a meditation on living at the intersection of the mysteries and not appreciating them singularly.

In great art, the play of light and dark is what renders images striking. In like fashion, the sorrowful moments deepen our receptivity to light, the rare luminous epiphanies when we see so very clearly. The joyful mysteries ( Mary’s “yes” to God) foreshadows the deep sorrows to come in accepting what is unthinkable for any mother: the death of a son. Likewise, the glorious mysteries point to the way of seeing into and beyond the time of sorrows:

” Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” ( Jn 16:20)

Carl Jung spoke of”shadow work” as crucial: examining our inner darkness, facing it, and working through it. Making conscious what is unconscious is spiritually essential or our spirituality remains at the surface and we miss the deeper dive.

In future, I will once again allow the full spectrum of mysteries to parade across my mind as I enter into the paradox filled mystical heart of the Rosary.

© 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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With a rich and diverse history dating back to around 800 AD, the practice of saying the rosary (or a  place where roses grow) blossomed rapidly.

Over the centuries, many forms  emerged. It was St. Dominic who first referred to the practice of reciting  three bouquets of  fifty prayers each (prayers tracing back to the lay Medieval practice of prayer after  monastic chanting of each of the 150 Psalms of David).

The symbolism is deeply rooted in Western consciousness.

As most species of roses have five petals each, it came to represent the five wounds of Christ and became quickly associated with the Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven. The rose is the national flower of England and the U.S. state flowers of New York, Georgia, North Dakota, and Iowa. It is the recognized flower of Valentine’s Day and is often associated with love. It’s fragrance too has come to connote transcendent self offering, humility, grace and peace.

A walk in a rose garden with a set of rosary beads in hand is a wonderful way to invite all of one’s senses to open to the sacred mysteries.

It is the very essence of simplicity: walk slowly through the garden, slow down your breathing. Stop on each bead and breath peace. Bathe in the silence. No need to use a lot of words or any in fact.

Simple, easy, open and thankful.

© 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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Our beliefs are but scaffolds clinging to the sides of hidden immensity –

ah, the exhilaration of unknowing!

© 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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with nothing owed me nor fever to gain,

I am as refreshed as after cool rain;

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no thought of purpose, no hungry ambition,

I am totally open to hear your commission;

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to hear you is to love,

to love you is to hear;

I open myself up so you can draw near.

© 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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sonicare-toothbrush

Brother Lawrence, Franciscan Friar, exhorts us in his “Practice of the Presence” to find the sacred in the very mundane like washing dishes, sweeping, and doing the laundry.

We have the chance every morning, regardless of how busy we may be, to do precisely this when it comes to showering, combing hair, shaving and brushing teeth. In fact, this last activity, brushing, we are told by dentists, to not rush or skimp on. I find it very diagnostic to reflect on my impatience with waiting the requisite number of seconds to be sure I am thorough.

Enter the sonic toothbrush! The one I was given stops ever so briefly to let you know it is time to move from the top set of teeth on the front side to the under side, etc. Well, it seems simply interminable.

So, here’s a great practice in being present and emptying mind of all the rushing ahead. Stay in the moment and wait the full time as measured by the brush.

I’ve been adding the Jesus Prayer from the Philokalia as I do so: ” Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy.” Of course, you can add your own mantra.

Good for the soul and good for oral hygiene – a twofer!

Give it a try.

© 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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Imagine a theological Sherlock Holmes: Seeing details overlooked by most.

There is a spiritual lesson in really seeing more of what is happening around us. Clear sight, the skill of tracking, is deep meditation. It cannot be accomplished unless we quiet all of our inner leaping.

One useful practice is to try to draw what we are seeing. Almost immediately, we discover that we are not really seeing but recalling an image of what we think we are looking at. In the act of really examining our surround, we can catch a glimpse of things as they are. In doing so, we set the stage for breaking through to a new relationship.

Martin Buber referred to I – It vs. I – Thou relationships. I -It is seeing inner facsimiles of objects, whereas I -Thou is inter- subjective and intimate.

We are all artists. The real question is are we rendering what is or what we think we know. Biblical knowing is about seeing from the inside-out rather than outside in.

The good news is that all we need is a pad and pen or pencil and we are off on an adventure of discovery. Looking with intent to really see gets us beyond vague sketches to catching the wisdom of actual detail.

Cultivating an artist’s eye opens us up to first seeing what’s there and then seeing into and beyond mere appearances. It is instructive that artistic realism preceded impressionism and expressionism. A jump straight to impressionism is not an act of deep sight but a crass short-cut, a pretense and an affectation.

Happy sketching!

© 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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