Blog posts

POETRY: Genesis by Geoffrey Hill

October 7, 2017

I Against the burly air I strode Crying the miracles of God. And first I brought the sea to bear Upon the dead weight of the land; And the waves flourished at my prayer, The rivers spawned their sand. And where the streams were salt and full The tough pig-headed salmon strove, Ramming the ebb, in the tide’s pull, To reach the steady hills above. II The second day I stood and saw The osprey plunge with triggered claw, Feathering blood along the shore, To lay the living sinew bare. And the third day I cried: “Beware The soft-voiced owl, the ferret’s smile, The hawk’s deliberate stoop in air, Cold eyes, and bodies hooped in steel, Forever bent upon the kill.” III And I renounced, on the fourth day, This fierce [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: Your Soul’s Supreme Director by Luis M. Martinez

October 6, 2017

From True Devotion to the Holy Spirit The soul’s delightful Guest does not remain idle in his intimate sanctuary.  Being, as the church calls him, fire and light.  He hardly takes possession of the soul before his beneficent influence extends itself to the whole being and begins with divine activity its work of transformation. The Holy Spirit lives in the center of the soul, in that profound region of the will where he himself has diffused charity.  And from that center, he pours himself out, so to speak, over the whole man with a divine unction, like the sacred perfume of which the scriptures speak, which descended from the head of Aaron down his flowing beard and over his vestment to the tassel of his mantle. Like the victor [...]

POETRY: Whether There Is Enjoyment In Bitterness by Thomas Merton

October 6, 2017

This afternoon, let me Be a sad person. Am I not Permitted (like other men) To be sick of myself? Am I not allowed to be hollow, Or fall in the hole Or break my bones (within me) In the trap set by my own Lie to myself? O my friend, I too must sin and sin. I too must hurt other people and (Since I am no exception) I must be hated by them. Do not forbid me, therefore, To taste the same bitter poison, And drink the gall that love (Love most of all) so easily becomes. Do not forbid me (once again) to be Angry, bitter, disillusioned, Wishing I could die. While life and death Are killing one another in my flesh, Leave me in peace. I can enjoy, Even as other men, this agony. Only (whoever you may be) Pray for my soul. Speak my name To Him, for [...]

VIRTUES: Resting In The Current (Surrender) by Gary L. Thomas

October 5, 2017

From: The Glorious Pursuit The Man who wishes to offer a pure mind to God but who is troubled by cares is like a man who expects to walk quickly even though his legs are tied together. (John Climacus) Lisa and I wanted to move back to Washington State to be close to our children’s grandparents, but the situation looked bleak.  When we discussed our options with a realtor, his scenario stunned us.  “Best case scenario is that you’d have to bring $10,000 to settlement.”  We’d have to pay to sell our home, assuming we could find someone willing to buy it. “How long would we have to stay here to break even?” Lisa asked with the tone of a patient discussing a very painful procedure. “To walk [...]

WISDOM STORY: Prayers Heard! by Nathalie Leone

October 5, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom Two men in conversation were seated on the edge of a pubic fountain whose fine jet of water splashed them gently. The first man said: “When I need a favor, either for myself or others, I ask for it on my knees, behaving with the good Lord as I would with a merchant who seeks only to dispense his surplus knowledge.  And I pray, ask, and beg.” “Are your prayers always answered?” asked the other man, skeptical. “Always.  Either the favor is granted or I feel my will merge in such a manner with God’s will that, at that very moment, I wish for everything he wishes [...]

HEALING: Why Is It So Important To Change Our Image Of God? by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

October 5, 2017

From: Good Goats Why is it so important to heal our image of God?  It is not so we’ll know what afterlife is like.  Rather, it is because we become like the God we adore.  Studies show this is true in many aspects of our lives.  In marriage, for example, the more a couple experiences God as a lover, the more likely they are to enjoy a wholesome, loving marriage.  Andrew Greeley found that this wholesomeness extends to all aspects of marriage, including sexual fulfillment.  So, too, in David Nygren and Miriam Ukeritis’s study of who are the most caring and least caring among those who choose celibate religious life, the most caring were four times more likely to image God as a caring healer than their less caring peers.  [...]

POETRY: The Holy Ghost by John Donne

October 4, 2017

O Holy Ghost, whose temple I Am, but of mud walls, and condensèd dust, And being sacrilegiously Half wasted with youth’s fires, of pride and lust, Must with new storms be weather-beat; Double in my heart Thy flame, Which let devout sad tears intend; and let (Though this glass lanthorn, flesh, do suffer maim) Fire, Sacrifice, Priest, Altar be the [...]

MYSTICISM: John Ruysbroeck—The Little Book of Enlightenment

October 4, 2017

From The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism John Ruysbroeck is the most famous of Dutch mystics.  His long life (1293–1381) spanned one of the most troubled centuries of the Middle Ages, but he does not dwell on the contemporary problems of church and society.  Rather, Ruysbroeck concentrates on the soul’s progress toward the “common life,” that is, our sharing in the interaction of the divine persons in the Trinity.  Ruysbroeck’s mysticism was set forth during an era in which there were many debates about mysticism and mystical union.  He was aware of at least some of Eckhart’s writings, and he was careful to qualify and even to criticize, what he thought were some of Eckhart’s excesses. [...]

POETRY: The Inward Stirring by John Ruysbroeck

October 4, 2017

The inward stirring and touching of God makes us hungry and yearning; for the Spirit of God hunts our spirit; and the more it touches it, the greater our hunger and our craving. And this is the life of love in its highest working, above reason and above understanding; for reason can here neither give nor take away from love, for our love is touched by the Divine [...]

PSALMS: Speakers In The Psalms? by W. Robert Godfrey

October 4, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms One of the most important complexities that we must address as we seek to appreciate the psalms can be expressed as a question: Who speaks in the psalms?  One psalm speaks in the third person: “Blessed is the man….” (Psalm 1:1)  Another speaks in the first person singular: “Answer me when I call….” (Psalm 4:1)  Still another speaks in the first person plural: “O God, we have heard with our ears….” (Psalm 44:1)  So, who is speaking in the psalms? David the King In answering this question, we must say in the first place that often David is speaking.  In the titles of seventy-three psalms, David is named as the author.  Some scholars have debated whether these [...]

POETRY: Along The Banks by Joel Barlow

October 3, 2017

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.  We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.  For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.  How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?  If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.  Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.  O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, [...]

ANGELS: Watching… Waiting… Coming by Martin Shannon

October 3, 2017

From: All God’s Angels Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.  The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and, ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you [...]

PRAYER: Contemplation And Leisure—To Work Playfully by Brother David Steindl-Rast

October 2, 2017

From: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer This brings us to the topic of leisure.  To recover a healthy understanding of leisure is to come a long way toward understanding contemplation.  But few words we use are as misunderstood as the word “leisure.”  This shows itself right away when we speak of work and leisure as a pair of opposites.  Are the two poles of activity really work and leisure?  If this were so, how could we speak of leisurely work?  It would be a blatant contradiction.  We know, however, that working leisurely is no contradiction at all.  In fact, work ought to be done with leisure, if it is to be done well. What then is the opposite of work?  It is play.  These are the two poles of all activity: work [...]

MUSIC: The Rhetoric Of Breath by Thomas H. Troeger

October 2, 2017

From: Music As Prayer I once attended a concert and master class featuring soprano Emma Kirkby, one of the preeminent singers of renaissance and baroque song, accompanied on lute by Jakob Lindberg.  The concert was splendid, but even more intriguing to me was the master class and Kirkby’s work with a young tenor of obvious potential but whose voice sounded veiled and stiff.  There was the promise of loveliness in his sound, but somehow the voice did not blossom in the room.  The musical phrases, though sung accurately, lacked the flow and pliability that the recitative and aria required. Kirkby began to work with the tenor on his breathing.  During the first stage of the process, she did not have him sing but rather had him say [...]

PRAYER: An African Canticle

October 2, 2017

All you big things, bless the Lord Mount Kilimanjaro and Lake Victoria The Rift Valley and the Serengeti Plain Fat baobabs and shady mango trees All eucalyptus and tamarind trees Bless the Lord Praise and extol him for ever and ever. All you tiny things, bless the Lord Busy black ants and hopping fleas Wriggling tadpoles and mosquito larvae Flying locusts and water drops Pollen dust and tsetse flies Millet seeds and dried dagaa Bless the Lord Praise and extol him for ever and ever. [...]

SATURDAY READING: Ghosts—A History by Kathleen Norris

September 30, 2017

From Dakota: A Spiritual Geography The church was music to me when I was little, an enthusiastic member of the cherub choir in the large Methodist church in Arlington, Virginia, where my dad was choir director.  We wore pale blue robes with voluminous sleeves, stiff white collars, and floppy black bow ties, which I thought made me look like one of the angels in my picture hymnal. I sang from that book every day at home.  One of my strongest memories of early childhood is of sitting on my mother’s lap at our old, battered Steinway upright as she played the hymns and I sang.  By the time I was three, long before I knew how to read, I’d turn the pages and on seeing the illustration would begin singing the right song in the right pitch. [...]

POETRY: The End Of The World by Scott Cairns

September 30, 2017

The end of the world occurs with the first thaw. Waking from his first restful night in many months—a night without shivering, without cramp- ing muscles—the last man lifts his head from the straw, hears snow-melt trickling, sees morning light through the window’s ice, smells the scent of earth, lies back, and dies because he cannot bear to go through it all again. But that is a very limited view of the event. The end was more than the final exhaustion of the last man. Actually, some of the most interesting events of human history occurred just prior to this last gesture, which is not surprising if you take into account the fact that, in the last years of human experience, irony flourished. The last man was a Jew, a fact that he [...]

GOD 101: From His Bookshelf, or, Watch your backs

September 29, 2017

More and more it becomes fascinating to me how old I am.  Both because most serious mystics die young (it is very hard on the body), and because I can sit quietly and trace themes and currents that have been with me all my life. One set of visions I have found mostly annoying, to be honest.  Until very recently. At a very busy point in my mystical adventures I felt a sharp poke in my mystical rib-cage.  Poke.  Sharp.  Repeated. It was the insistence that I stop what I was doing and read a certain book. Which I thought was absurd. Now I have thought God’s instructions ridiculous, even stupid, throughout my life, but this one so astounded me that I reasoned that it proved that my visions my whole life were nothing more than the [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: Come, Visit, Fill! by Raniero Cantalamessa

September 29, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit What do we individually need to make it possible for each one of us to experience Pentecost in this way?  First we need to ask the Father, consistently and persistently, to send us the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus, and actually to expect the Father to answer!  We need expectant faith, a faith full of expectancy!  Saint Bonaventure asks, to whom does the Holy Spirit come?  And he answers, with his usual preciseness, “He comes to the ones who love him, who invite him, who eagerly await him.”  It is not possible to count the immense number of people who, in the twentieth century, have felt the thrill of the Spirit in their soul when, joined together with others, they plead for the Spirit’s [...]

POETRY: The Night Of Destiny by Thomas Merton

September 29, 2017

In my ending is my meaning Says the season. No clock: Only the heart’s blood Only the word. O lamp Weak friend In the knowing night! O tongue of flame Under the heart Speak softly: For love is black Says the season. The red and sable letters On a solemn page Fill the small circle of seeing. Long dark— And the weak life Of oil. Who holds the homeless light secure In the deep heart’s room? Midnight! Kissed with flame! See! See! My love is darkness! Only in the Void Are all ways one: Only in the night Are all the lost Found. In my ending is my [...]

SURRENDER: The Limited Use Of Reading And Other Exercises by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

September 28, 2017

From The Joy of Full Surrender All we need to know is how to recognize God’s will for the present moment.  Any reading we might choose without regard to the will of God is harmful to us.  The will of God and obedience to his leading brings us grace, and this grace is what does the work in the depths of our hearts through reading or anything else we do.  Without God, books are only vain appearances, deprived of God’s life-giving power as far as we are concerned, and they succeed only in emptying the heart by the very satisfaction our reading brings to the mind. God’s will, working in the souls of simple and ignorant persons through suffering or through a few very ordinary actions, produces an abundance of supernatural life in those [...]

WISDOM STORY: The Louse by Nathalie Leone

September 28, 2017

From: Christian Stories of Wisdom In a monastery in the Loire region, there lived twelve monks under the lax law of their father abbot.  Lulled by the rhythm of the seasons, working in the fields, transcribing manuscripts, and fulfilling duties, they were quite happy and had no other desires. But one day the father abbot died.  After respecting the mourning period, the twelve monks gathered one morning in the common hall, where they looked at one another in dismay. Having entered the monastery at almost the same time, they were like true brothers.  So who amongst them was going to take the place of father abbot? “Brother Jacques.” “No,” Brother Jacques moaned in response.  “I… I… would never be able to.  I… I… [...]

HEALING: “God Is A Father; More Than That, God Is A Mother” (John Paul 1) by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

September 28, 2017

From: Good Goats At times I (Dennis) resisted changing my image of God from that of child abuser to child lover.  At first I thought that my resistance was to changing my theology.  But I discovered that my real resistance was to changing my personality. First, to stop reading scripture so literally and to begin to appreciate its images and symbols, I needed to rely less on my ability to think and more on my underdeveloped feeling side.  Secondly, to appreciate how God loves the unrepentant sinner, how grace is not earned but given as a free gift, I had to become more at home with receiving from others rather than always compulsively doing things for them.  In summary, I needed to integrate feminine values into my deeply skewed male [...]

POETRY: What The Figtree Said by Denise Levertov

September 28, 2017

Literal minds! Embarrassed humans! His friends were blurting for Him in secret: wouldn’t admit they were shocked. They thought Him petulant to curse me!—yet how could the Lord be unfair?—so they looked away, then and now. But I, I knew that helplessly barren though I was, my day had come. I served Christ the Poet, who spoke in images: I was at hand, a metaphor for their failure to bring forth what is within them (as figs were not within me). They who had walked in His sunlight presence, they could have ripened, could have perceived His thirst and hunger, His innocent appetite; they could have offered human fruits—compassion, comprehension— without being asked, without being told of need. My absent fruit stood for their barren [...]

MYSTICISM: Christian Mysticism And World Mysticism by Carl McColman

September 27, 2017

From The Big Book of Christian Mysticism Anyone who loves God is known by him. (1 Corinthians 8:3) Christians need to think “Nothing” when they call God, “Love.” Buddhists need to think “Love” when they say, “Emptiness.” This will at least wake us up to the fact that words must always fall short of the ineffable. (David Steindl-Rast) What makes Christian mysticism so, well, Christian?  What is the difference between it and all the other mysticisms out there – including Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism, Sufism (Islamic mysticism), Vedanta (Hindu mysticism), Zen (Buddhist mysticism), and shamanism (indigenous mysticism)? On the surface, it’s an easy enough question to answer: Christian [...]

POETRY: The Darkness by Angela of Foligno

September 27, 2017

When I enter that darkness I cannot recall a bit about anything human, or about the God-man, or anything owning specific form. Nonetheless, I see all and I see nothing. As this that I have spoken of withdraws—though not completely, as it seems to stay with me—I see the God-man. He draws my soul with utmost gentleness and maybe He whispers You are I and I am you. I see, then, those eyes and that face go gracious and attractive as He leans to draw me to Himself. In short, what proceeds from those eyes and what descends from that face is what I said I saw in that previous darkness rising from within, and which delights me so that I can say nothing much about it. When I am in the God-man, then my soul is alive. And I am in the God-man much [...]

PSALMS: Recurring Themes In The Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey

September 26, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms A great aid to our study of the psalms is recognizing the major themes that occur over and over again in the psalms.  Certain basic themes unite the psalms and underscore essential truths about God and his care for his people.  In addition to these great truths about God, we will also see that the Psalter voices specific responses from God’s people to those truths.  The combination of objective truths and subjective responses are the recurring rhythm of the Psalter. One great theme dominates the Psalter.  What is that theme?  John Calvin in his five-volume commentary on the Book of Psalms suggested that the great theme of the Psalter is the providence of God, specifically God’s preservation [...]

POETRY: Laudate Dominum by Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke

September 26, 2017

O praise the Lord, all ye nation: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord. (Psalm 117:1–2) Praise him that aye Remains the same: All tongues display Iehavoa’s fame. Sing all that share This Earthly ball: His mercies are Exposed to all: Like as the word Once he doth give, Rolled in record, Doth time [...]

ANGELS: Glory To God by Martin Shannon

September 26, 2017

From: All God’s Angels While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of [...]