Blog posts

SPIRITUALITY: Gazing Into The Mystery Of Christ’s Saving Work by Gregory Collins

August 20, 2017

From Meeting Christ in His Mysteries Yet it is not to be understood that the Father was ever angry toward him. For how could he be angry toward his beloved Son, “in whom he was well pleased”? (John Calvin) Christ brought the idea of God’s humility to its ultimate limit: God, entering into the world, casts off the image of his glory and puts on the image of his creation (see Philippians 2:6-8).  He subordinates himself to the laws of creaturely life.  He does not violate the world order.  Nor does he strike the world with lightning or deafen it with thunder, as pagans thought (recall the myth of Zeus and Semele).  He only burns like a meek light before the world, drawing to himself his sinful and weary creation, not [...]

POETRY: Adventures In New Testament Greek—Nous by Scott Cairns

August 19, 2017

You could almost think the word synonymous with mind, given our so far narrow history, and the excessive esteem in which we have been led to hold what is, in this case, our rightly designated nervous systems. Little wonder then that some presume the mind itself both part and parcel of the person, the very seat of soul and, lately, crucible for a host of chemical incentives—combinations of which can pretty much answer for most of our habits and for our affections. When even the handy lexicon cannot quite place the nous as anything beyond one rustic ancestor of reason, you might be satisfied to trouble the odd term no further—and so would fail to find your way to it, most fruitful faculty untried. Dormant in its roaring cave, the [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: Your Soul’s Delightful Guest by Luis M. Martinez

August 18, 2017

From True Devotion to the Holy Spirit How wonderful is the work of the artist!  By efforts both ardent and gentle, he can penetrate hard and shapeless materials with the light of his soul.  The instruments that he uses, although often crude, can impart to these materials exquisite proportions and shapes. That is the way one may conceive the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, Artist of souls.  Is not sanctity the supreme art?  God has only one ideal which, in its prodigious unity and because it is divine, encompasses all the highest forms of beauty.  This ideal is Jesus.  The Holy Spirit loves him more than an artist loves his ideal.  That love is his being, because the Holy Spirit is nothing but love, the personal Love of the [...]

POETRY: On A Day In August by Thomas Merton

August 18, 2017

These woods are too impersonal. The deaf-and-dumb fields, waiting to be shaved of hay Suffer the hours like an unexpected sea While locusts fry their music in the sycamores. But from the curdled places of the sky (Where a brown wing hovers for carrion) We have not seen the heaven-people come. The clean, white saints, have they forgotten us? Here we lie upon the earth In the air of our dead grove Dreaming some wind may come and kiss ourselves in the red eyes With a pennyworth of mercy for our pepper shoulders. And so we take into our hands the ruins Of the words our minds have rent. It is enough. Our souls are trying to crawl out of our pores. Our lives are seeping through each part of us like vinegar. A sad sour death is eating the roots [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: Dealing With Others—The Smaller Circle by Frederica Mathewes-Green

August 17, 2017

From: The Illuminated Heart Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind with the pure light of thy divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds to the understanding of thy Gospel teachings, for thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God. (Prayer before the reading of the Gospel Liturgy of St. James, Fourth Century) Anna misses her brother, the monk Timothy, every day, but some days she envies him.  On days like today she would rather sleep on the ground and eat dry bread than go to dinner at her mother-in-law’s house. Irene is a beautiful woman, accomplished, musically talented, and intelligent.  Even her hair is perfect.  In her presence Anna feels like a country mouse.  In Irene’s house, [...]

COMPASSION: A Letter Of Consolation from Abraham Lincoln

August 17, 2017

A letter to a mother who lived in Boston, who President Lincoln mistakenly believed lost her five sons in the war.  Carl Sandburg wrote of this letter, “More darkly than the Gettysburg speech the letter wove its awful implication that human freedom so often was paid for with agony.” Executive Mansion Washington, Nov. 21, 1864 To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass. Dear Madam, I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.  I feel how week and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.  But I cannot refrain from tendering [...]

HEALING: How Being Loved And Forgiven, As An Unrepentant Sinner, Healed Me by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

August 17, 2017

From: Good Goats Being loved as an unrepentant sinner, as Paul was, has often been a healing and life-changing experience for me.  For example, years ago my German self-righteousness got set off by the U. S. border patrol.  One day, while we were in California a mile from the Mexican border, I was writing outside with Sheila.  We saw the border guards catch five Mexicans on the beach.  We wanted to reach out to the Mexicans in some way, so we went inside the house, gathered up enough granola bars for them, and went out to the beach.  When we arrived, the five Mexicans had their hands up in the air and were being searched.  We had just been in Mexico, where we felt overwhelmed by meeting so many jobless people unable to provide [...]

POETRY: Re-Rooting by Denise Levertov

August 16, 2017

We were trying to put the roots back, wild and erratic straying root-limbs, trying to fit them into the hole that was cleancut in clay, deep but not wide enough; or wide but too square—trying to get the roots back into earth before they dried out and died. Ineptly we pulled and pushed striving to encompass so many rivers of wood and fiber in one confinement without snapping the arteries of sap, the force of life springing in them that made them spring away from our hands— we knew our own life was tied to that strength, that strength we knew would ebb away if we could not find within us the blessed guile to tempt its energy back into earth, into the quiet depths from which we had rashly torn it, and now clumsily struggled to thrust it [...]

MYSTICISM: How Mysticism Became Christian by Carl McColman

August 16, 2017

From The Big Book of Christian Mysticism But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1 Corinthians 6:17) The Christian religion is primarily about a transformation of consciousness.  This takes spiritual practice and the cultivation of wisdom.  In another time, this was called cultivating the supernatural organism, what Paul called “a new creation.”  So the main thing is to be transformed into God, what the early church called deification, theosis, divinization. (Thomas Keating) As useful as Wilber’s orienting generalizations are, they are not the only tools we have to explore the complex mystery of mysticism.  History and etymology also provide important clues to the understanding this recondite [...]

POETRY: The Morning Watch by Henry Vaughn

August 16, 2017

O joys! Infinite sweetness! With what flowers And shoots of glory, my soul breaks and buds! All the long hours Of night and rest, Through the still shrouds Of sleep, and clouds, This dew fell on my breast; O how it bloods, And spirits all my earth! Hark! In what rings And hymning circulations the quick world Awakes, and sings! The rising winds, And falling springs, Birds, beasts, all things Adore Him in their kinds. Thus all is hurled In sacred hymns and order; the great chime And symphony of Nature. Prayer is The world in tune, A spirit-voice, And vocal joys, Whose echo is heaven’s bliss. O let me climb When I lie down! The pious soul by night Is like a clouded star, whose beams, though said To shed their light Under some cloud, Yet are [...]

PSALMS: Petition For The Spirit Of Life by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

August 15, 2017

From Psalms We have taken this short stroll through the Psalter in order to learn to pray a few psalms a bit better.  It would not be difficult to arrange according to the Lord’s Prayer all the psalms mentioned.  We should have to change only slightly our arrangement of the order of the chapters.  But this alone is important, that we begin to pray the psalms with confidence and love in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Our dear Lord, who has given to us and taught us to pray the Psalter and the Lord’s Prayer, grant to us also the spirit of prayer and of grace so that we pray with enthusiasm and earnest faith, properly and without ceasing, for we need to do this; he has asked for it and therefore wants to have it from [...]

POETRY: Complaining by George Herbert

August 15, 2017

But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied. They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is. Forsake me not, O Lord: O my God, be not far from me. Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation. (Psalm 38:19-22) Do not beguile my heart, Because thou art My power and wisdom. Put me not to shame, Because I am Thy clay that weeps, thy dust that calls. Thou art the Lord of glory: The deed and story Are both thy due: but I a silly fly That live or die According as the weather falls. Art thou all justice, Lord? Shows not thy word More attributes? Am I all throat or eye, To weep or cry? Have I no parts but those of grief? Let not thy wrathful [...]

ANGELS: An Angel Who Sees Possibility by Martin Shannon

August 15, 2017

From: All God’s Angels Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Gideon said to Him, “O my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save [...]

MUSIC: To What End Beauty? by Thomas H. Troeger

August 14, 2017

From: Music As Prayer Some time ago, I read a book review about the varied ways Beethoven and his music have been viewed in different eras.  Although I have lost the review, I have never forgotten its substance.  According to the reviewer, there was a time when Beethoven’s music was seen as engaging the noblest powers of the human spirit, a claim that has commonly been raised for other composers in the Western classical canon.  The reviewer went on to observe that this commendation of the salutary effects of great music was annihilated by the Nazi’s use of such music to adorn and reinforce their malevolent ends. In a similar vein, two of my students at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music once did a gripping presentation on [...]

PRAYER: Devotion To The Holy Name

August 14, 2017

From the Franciscan Litany of the Holy Name. Jesu, dulcis memoria Jesu, the very thought of thee With sweetness fills my breast; But sweeter far thy face to see, And in thy presence rest. Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame, Nor can the memory find, A sweeter sound than thy blest name, O Savior of mankind! O hope of every contrite heart, O joy of all the meek, To those who fall, how kind thou art! How good to those who seek! But what to those who find? Ah! this Nor tongue nor pen can show. The love of Jesus! what it is, None but his loved ones know. Jesu, our only joy be thou, As thou our prize wilt be; Jesu, be thou our glory now, And through eternity. Wherewith I longed for thee, And left my Father’s throne; From death to set [...]

SERMON: Shoes by L. R. Tarsitano

August 13, 2017

“Put shoes on his feet.” (Luke 15:22) Quite often, it is the little details in the parables of our Lord that tell us the most about his teaching. It is the details that lead us deeper into the Gospel, refining our understanding of the eternal and life-giving Truth, so that we will not be satisfied with vague or careless summaries of the scriptures, such as “the parable of the Prodigal Son is about forgiveness.” Yes, of course, the parable of the Prodigal Son is about forgiveness, but at the same level of superficiality we might as well say that Huckleberry Finn is “about a boy” or that Gone With the Wind is “about a fire.” We wouldn’t think much of a school that didn’t dig deeper than [...]

POETRY: A Recuperation Of Sin by Scott Cairns

August 13, 2017

I suppose we might do away with words like sin. They are at least archaic, not to mention rude, and late generations have been pretty well-schooled against the presumption of holding anything to be absolutely so, universally applicable, especially anything like sin which is, to put it more neatly, unpleasant, not the sort of thing one brings up. Besides, so much of what ignorance may have once attributed to sin has been more justly shown to be the end result of bad information, genetic flaw, or, most often, an honest misunderstanding. And I suppose sin’s old usefulness may have paled somewhat through many centuries of overuse by corrupt clergy pointing fingers, by faithless men and women who have longed more than anything for a more [...]

POETRY: Wanting The Moon by Denise Levertov

August 12, 2017

Not the moon. A flower on the other side of the water. The water sweeps past in flood, dragging a whole tree by the hair, a barn, a bridge. The flower sings on the far bank. Not a flower, a bird calling hidden among the darkest trees, music over the water, making a silence out of the brown folds of the river’s cloak. The moon. No, a young man walking under the trees. There are lanterns among the leaves. Tender, wise, merry, his face is awake with its own light, I see it across the water as if close up. A jester. The music rings from his bells, gravely, a tune of sorrow, I dance to it on my [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: Come, Creator Spirit by Raniero Cantalamessa

August 12, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit Now, let us apply all of this to that “little world” which is our own heart.  The Fathers, in fact, do not reserve to the church the title of “cosmos of the cosmos,” the crown of creation, but sometimes speak also of the individual human being in the same terms.  This can have an extraordinary influence on the way we grasp the Holy Spirit in our mind and cooperate with the Spirit in our lives as believers.  “Darkness covered the face of the deep,” (Genesis 1:2).  But the human heart too, says the scripture, is an abyss, a place of hidden depths, (Psalms 64:7).  There is an outward chaos, but there is also the chaos within.  Our chaos is the darkness that is in us, the [...]

POETRY: From The Legend Of St. Clement by Thomas Merton

August 11, 2017

I have seen the sun Spilling its copper petals on the Black Sea By the base of the prisoners’ cliff Where, from the acts of martyrs, Tall poems grow up like buildings. Deep in the wall of the wounded mountain (Where seas no longer frown) The songs of the martyrs come up like cities or buildings. Their chains shine with hymns And their hands cut down the giant blocks of stone. Poetry, psalms Flower with a huge architecture Raising their grandeur on the gashed cape. Words of God blaze like a disaster In the windows of their prophetic cathedral. But the sighs of the deep multitude Grow out of the mountain’s heart as clean as vines. O martyrs! O tremendous prisoners! Burying your murder in this marble hill! The Lamb shall soon [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: The Jesus Prayer by Frederica Mathewes-Green

August 10, 2017

From: The Illuminated Heart Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind with the pure light of thy divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds to the understanding of thy Gospel teachings, for thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God. (Prayer before the reading of the Gospel Liturgy of St. James, Fourth Century) Theodore keeps reading over a letter he and Anna received last year from Anna’s brother, Timothy, who joined a group of monks on Mr. Sinai a few years ago.  Timothy wrote that he was being taught to abide in prayer by repeating a short verse from scripture over and over, whenever his mind would otherwise be idle – or not idle, since we all know how the restless nous seeks trouble.  He [...]

VIRTUES: The Precept Of Charity by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen

August 10, 2017

Presence of God – O Lord, teach me to love you truly, with my whole heart, my whole soul, and with all my strength. Meditation “Virtue lies in the golden mean.” This maxim which is so exact for the moral virtues, cannot be applied to the theological virtues, which, having an infinite object, can have no limit. The measure of our faith, hope, and charity is to believe, to hope, and to love without measure. However much we love God, we can never love him too much, nor can we love him as much as he is lovable. By its very nature then, the precept of charity admits of no limit and we could never say, “I shall love God up to a certain point and that will be enough,” for by doing so, we would renounce tending toward the perfection of [...]

HEALING: Is God A Prosecuting Attorney Or A Defense Attorney? by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

August 10, 2017

From: Good Goats The theology of Anselm leaves out some very important “good news” because it ignores other traditional and more compassionate understandings of the New Testament accounts.  For example, parakletos, or the “Spirit of Jesus that judges us” could best be translated as “our defense attorney who justifies us,” (John 14:15; 15:26).  Spanish conveys this well, since in many Biblical translations and church prayers it describes the Spirit of Jesus which judges as nuestro abogado, meaning “our defense attorney.” The New Testament has many stories of Jesus as defense attorney.  Two such stories are those of Saint Paul, (Acts 9:1-22), and of the adulterous woman, (John 8:2-12).  In [...]

POETRY: A Clock Stopped by Emily Dickinson

August 9, 2017

A Clock stopped— Not the Mantel’s— Geneva’s farthest skill Can’t put the puppet bowing— That just now dangled still— An awe came on the Trinket! the Figures hunched, with pain— Then quivered out of Decimals— Into Degreeless Noon— It will not stir for Doctors— This Pendulum of snow— This Shopman importunes it— While cool—concernless No— Nods from the Gilded pointers— Nods from the Seconds slim— Decades of Arrogance between The Dial life— And [...]

MYSTICISM: Clare Of Assisi by Bernard McGinn

August 9, 2017

From The Flowering of Mysticism The theme of finding Christ in and through Francis of Assisi was central to all later Franciscan piety and mysticism.  No more perfect example of this is to be found than in Clare of Assisi (1193–1253), Francis’s first female convert to the evangelical way of life and the founder of the “Poor Ladies of San Damiano,” the source of all the later groups of women who identify themselves as Franciscan.  As she put it in the Testament that she wrote late in life in imitation of that left by Francis: “The Son of God became our way, which our most holy father Francis, his true lover and imitator, showed and taught us by word and example.” Francis’s special love for Clare, whom [...]

POETRY: Paradox And Promise by Clare of Assisi

August 9, 2017

Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and— if you choose— follow His way, becoming contemptible to the world, so long as you do so for Him. More lovely than all things, He became the lowest, despised, struck, scourged countless times and raked across His perfect Body. And then, amid the sufferings of the horrid Cross, He died. For you. If you suffer with Him, you shall reign with Him. Weep with Him and you shall rejoice with Him. Die with Him upon the cross of wretchedness, and life is yours, And, yes, your dwelling forever in [...]

PSALMS: The End by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

August 8, 2017

From Psalms The hope of Christians is directed to the return of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead.  In the Psalter this hope is not expressed literally.  That which since the resurrection of Jesus has divided itself in the church into a long line of events of holy history toward the end of all things is, from the viewpoint of the Old Testament, still a single indivisible unity.  Life in fellowship with the God of revelation, the final victory of God in the world, and the setting up of the messianic kingdom are objects of prayer in the psalms. The Old Testament is not different from the New in this respect.  To be sure, the psalms request fellowship with God in Earthly life, but they know that this fellowship is not completed in [...]

POETRY: Psalm 23 by Richard Crashaw

August 8, 2017

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23) Happy me! O happy sheep! Whom my God, even he it is, That points me to these ways of bliss; On whose pastures cheerful spring, All the [...]

ANGELS: A Man, A Donkey, And An Angel by Martin Shannon

August 8, 2017

From: All God’s Angels So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the officials of Moab. God’s anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the road as his adversary.  Now we was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him.  The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; so the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey to turn it back onto the road.  Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it scraped against the wall, and scraped Balaam’s foot against the [...]