Religion

POETRY: O Taste And See by Denise Levertov

June 27, 2017

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. (Psalm 34:8) The world is not with us enough. O taste and see the subway Bible poster said, meaning The Lord, meaning if anything all that lives to the imagination’s tongue, grief, mercy, language, tangerine, weather, to breathe them, bite savor, chew, swallow, transform into our flesh our deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince, living in the orchard and being hungry, and plucking the [...]

ANGELS: Entertaining Angels by Martin Shannon

June 27, 2017

From: All God’s Angels The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.  He looked up and saw three men standing near him.  When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.  He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.  Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.  Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on – since you have come to your servant.”  So they said, “Do as you have said.”  And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three [...]

PRAYER: Contemplative Prayer, An Introduction by Thomas Merton

June 26, 2017

From Contemplative Prayer He who walks in darkness, to whom no light appears, let him trust in the Name of Yahweh, let him rely upon his God. (Isaiah 50:10) I will give them a heart to understand that I am Yahweh, and they shall be my people and I will be their God when they return to me with all their heart. (Jeremiah 24:7) The monk is a Christian who has responded to a special call from God, and has withdrawn from the more active concerns of a worldly life, in order to devote himself completely to repentance, “conversion,” metanoia, renunciation and prayer.  In positive terms, we must understand the monastic life above all as a life of prayer.  The negative elements, solitude, fasting, obedience, penance, renunciation of [...]

MUSIC: Salutary Harmonies by Thomas H. Troeger

June 26, 2017

From: Music As Prayer The Oxford Dictionary of Music defines harmony as “the simultaneous sound (i.e., combination) of notes, giving what is known as vertical music contrasted with horizontal music.”  That is a technical definition that provides no idea of what harmony sounds like to the ear.  Think of a passage particularly rich in harmonies or of the concluding chord of one of your favorite compositions.  Listen to that blended sound resonating in your ear and then re-read the dictionary definition of harmony.  If that dictionary definition was all we had, I doubt that “harmony” would have become such a useful metaphor for so many different domains of experience and knowledge: living in harmony with nature, a [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Holy Spirit Fills Our Loneliness by Raniero Cantalamessa

June 25, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit Let us pass on to the second characteristic: the Holy Spirit as a mystery of goodness, gentleness, indulgence, closeness, and as a mystery of quietness and rest.  Western Christianity has attempted to express this bouquet of qualities using the verse from the Bible that, in the Latin Vulgate, said, “Oh, how good and how sweet, Lord, is your Spirit in all things,” (Wisdom 12:1).  In a sermon on Pentecost, Pope Innocent III exclaimed: “Oh, how agreeable is the Spirit, how peaceful, how gentle!  Those alone know him who have tasted him!” In Semitic languages, the noun, “spirit” is feminine, and this has certainly made its influence felt, so much so that (particularly among the [...]

POETRY: Evening Prayer by Louis Glück

June 24, 2017

I believe my sin to be entirely common: the request for help Masking request for favor and the plea for pity thinly veiling complaint. So little at peace in the spring evening, I pray for strength, for direction, but I also ask to survive my illness (the immediate one)—never mind anything in the future. I make this a special point, this unconcern for the future, also the courage I will have acquired by then to meet my suffering alone but with heightened fortitude. Tonight, in my unhappiness, I wonder what qualities this presumes in the one who listens. And as the breeze stirs the leaves of the little birch tree, I construct a presence wholly skeptical and wholly tender, thus incapable of surprise. I believe my sin is common, therefore [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: A Challenging Answer by Frederica Mathewes-Green

June 24, 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) A modern Christian may well feel perplexed by the questions at the end of the last chapter.  We think, “But we know what the answer has to be: Jesus is the answer.”  So we try each day better to love and follow him, and yet the life we lead would not readily be described as “victorious.”  To tell the truth, we don’t even attempt anything that strenuous.  We know [...]

POETRY: Church-Monuments by George Herbert

June 23, 2017

While that my soul repairs to her devotion, Here I entomb my flesh, that it betimes May take acquaintance of this heap of dust; To which the blast of death’s incessant motion, Fed with the exhalation of our crimes, Drives all at last. Therefore I gladly trust My body to this school, that it may learn To spell its elements, and find its birth Written in dusty heraldry and lines; Which dissolution sure doth best discern, Comparing dust with dust, and earth with earth. These laugh at Jet and Marble put for signs To sever the good fellowship of dust, And spoil the meeting. What shall point out them, When they shall bow, and kneel, and fall down flat To kiss those heaps which now they have in trust? Dear flesh, while I do pray, learn here [...]

RIGHTEOUSNESS: By The Grace Of God, Holiness Is What We Are by A Sister of All Saints Convent

June 23, 2017

All Saints Convent is located in Catonsville, Maryland Ralph Martin, in the introduction to his book, Called To Holiness, tells a story about Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  A reporter, interviewing Mother Teresa, asked her the question, “How do you feel about being called a living saint?”  He expected her to say, “Oh, I’m not really as good as people think,.”  Instead, she replied, “You have to be holy in the position you are in, and I have to be holy in the position God has given me.  There’s nothing extraordinary about being holy.  It is simply a duty for you and for me.” Most of us probably believe, not surprisingly, that being holy is extraordinary.  Most models of holiness have been [...]

HEALING: We Become Like The God We Adore by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

June 22, 2017

From: Good Goats I changed when my image of God changed.  Most of us recognize that we become like our parents whom from early on we adore, even with all their faults.  We may not realize that we also become like the God we adore. Unfortunately, the God I grew up adoring was German.  My God was a self-righteous German who sat on his (at the time my God was all male) judgment throne.  Being a self-righteous German, my God could see all the mistakes and errors in everyone else.  If my self-righteous God did not like what he saw in others, he could even separate himself form them by sending them into hell.  And if my God could be a self-righteous German then no matter how many healing prayers I prayed, I would probably never change.  I [...]

MYSTICISM: Hadewijch Of Antwerp by Harvey Egan

June 21, 2017

From An Anthology of Christian Mysticism The Flemish Beguine, Hadewijch, is perhaps the most sublime exponent of love mysticism in the Western tradition.  Love mysticism contends that God allows himself to be experienced as Love by a person who ardently desires to love and to be united with God in this life. In addition, this love is usually deeply emotional, ecstatic, visionary, and bridal.  So traumatic is this madness at times that the visionary’s physical well-being and even life are endangered. Hadewijch was a Beguine, that is, a woman who lived a semi-religious community life, but without vows.  The Beguines were pious women who seem to have rejected both a woman’s constructed life at court and the stricter obligations [...]

POETRY: Hadewijch Of Antwerp—Five Poems on Love

June 21, 2017

Love’s Maturity In the beginning Love satisfies us. When Love first spoke to me of love— How I laughed at her in return! But then she made me like the hazel trees, Which blossom early in the season of darkness, And bear fruit slowly. Knowing Love In Herself I do not complain of suffering for Love, It is right that I should always obey her, For I can know her only as she is in herself, Whether she commands in storm or in stillness. This is a marvel beyond my understanding, Which fills my whole heart And makes me stray in a wild desert. Love’s Constancy Anyone who has waded Through Love’s turbulent waters, Now feeling hunger and now satiety, Is untouched by the season Of withering or blooming, For in the deepest And most [...]

POETRY: Rochester Extempore by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

June 20, 2017

Help, Lord; for the Godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.  They speak vanity every one with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.  The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:  Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?  For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.  The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of Earth, purified seven times.  Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever.  The wicked walk on [...]

ANGELS: Searching For The Outcast by Martin Shannon

June 20, 2017

From: All God’s Angels So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife.  He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.  Then Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you!  I gave my slave-girl to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt.  May the Lord judge between you and me!”  But Abram said to Sarai, “Your slave-girl is in your power; do to her as you please.”  Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she ran away from her. The angel of the Lord found [...]

PRAYER: St. Teresa Of Ávila And Prayer by Ernest E. Larkin

June 19, 2017

From: The Published Articles of Ernest E. Larkin, O.Carm. Prayer is the heart of Teresa of Avila’s life and teaching, her “way of perfection.” For her, prayer is the supreme meaning and value of human existence, since it is the inner life that animates the exterior, the journey within that is the journey into reality. Prayer is life before it is an exercise, a dimension of being before it is an experience. Prayer means to be in touch with the Center of one’s life, who is “the Divine Majesty” dwelling in his own rooms in the depths of the interior castle, the figure for ourselves. This contact deep within where we merge with God and are transformed into God-centered persons makes us the “new creation” of Pauline theology and [...]

MUSIC: When The World Falls Apart by Thomas H. Troeger

June 19, 2017

From: Music As Prayer If you were to look through the door of my study, you would know at a glance that I am well acquainted with the chaos monster.  Books are piled upon books; papers upon papers; and stacks upon stacks on the desk, the filing cabinet, the floor, and the couch.  The chaos monster is always threatening to get the upper hand.  What about you?  Sooner or later, most of us do battle with the chaos monster, if not in our study, then simply in the course of living.  We think we have our day organized and know when and where we have got to be.  Then suddenly a text message comes in or the phone rings or the computer dings with an emergency we never foresaw. Most of us are adept at dealing with the minor intrusions of the [...]

SERMON: Pilgrimage To Nonviolence by Martin Luther King, Jr.

June 18, 2017

In my senior year in theological seminary, I engaged in the exciting reading of various theological theories.  Having been raised in a rather strict fundamentalist tradition, I was occasionally shocked when my intellectual journey carried me through new and sometimes complex doctrinal lands, but the pilgrimage was always stimulating, gave me a new appreciation for objective appraisal and critical analysis, and knocked me out of my dogmatic slumber. Liberalism provide me with an intellectual satisfaction that I had never found in fundamentalism.  I became so enamored of the insights of liberalism that I almost fell into the trap of accepting uncritically everything it encompassed.  I was absolutely convinced of the natural goodness of [...]

POETRY: Clasping Of Hands by George Herbert

June 17, 2017

Lord, Thou art mine, and I am Thine, If mine I am; and Thine much more Then I or ought or can be mine. Yet to be Thine doth me restore, So that again I now am mine, And with advantage mine the more, Since this being mine brings with it Thine, And Thou with me dost Thee restore: If I without Thee would be mine, I neither should be mine nor Thine. Lord, I am Thine, and Thou art mine; So mine Thou art, that something more I may presume Thee mine then Thine, For Thou didst suffer to restore Not Thee, but me, and to be mine: And with advantage mine the more, Since Thou in death wast none of Thine, Yet then as mine didst me restore: O, be mine still; still make me Thine; Or rather make no Thine and [...]

SATURDAY READING: Transformative Contemplation by William A. Clark

June 17, 2017

From Violence, Transformation, and the Sacred: They Shall Be Called Children of God An Encounter With Sacred Violence On May 1, 2011, while most of their professors were at home preparing for bed or already asleep, students at the small Catholic college where I teach participated in a dramatic demonstration of what must be called, “sacred violence.”  That night, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, for ten years the embodiment of “The Enemy” in the War on Terror, had been killed by U. S. commandos in Pakistan.  Many students had just heard President Barack Obama declare to the nation: “We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies.  We will be true to the values that make us who we [...]

SPIRITUALITY: The Mystery Of Christ Unveiled by Gregory Collins

June 17, 2017

From Meeting Christ in His Mysteries The man Jesus has risen up to name above all names, he was crushed in the flesh of sin, bore the form of a servant, was obedient to death; he became Kyrios (Lord), pneuma (Spirit).  He is, then, the same Lord who walked unnoticed and persecuted through the fields of Palestine and at last ended his life like a criminal on the cross; now he rules the world as king and the church is his bride.  All his life, beginning in the Virgin’s womb, is the great mystery of salvation, hidden from eternity in God and now revealed in the ecclesia (church).  The deeds of his lowliness in that life on Earth, his miserable death on Calvary appear now in a different light: God’s own light; they are [...]

POETRY: The Quickening Of St. John The Baptist by Thomas Merton

June 16, 2017

On the Contemplative Vocation Why do you fly from the drowned shores of Galilee, From the sands and the lavender water? Why do you leave the ordinary world, Virgin of Nazareth, The yellow fishing boats, the farms, The winesmelling yards and low cellars Or the oilpress, and the women by the well? Why do you fly those markets, Those suburban gardens, The trumpets of the jealous lilies, Leaving them all, lovely among the lemon trees? You have trusted no town With the news behind your eyes. You have drowned Gabriel’s word in thoughts like seas And turned toward the stone mountain To the treeless places. Virgin of God, why are your clothes like sails? The day Our Lady, full of Christ, Entered the dooryard of her relative Did not her steps, [...]

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The Holy Spirit Comes To Help Us In Our Weakness by Raniero Cantalamessa

June 16, 2017

From: Come, Creator Spirit We are reflecting, therefore, on the Spirit first as mystery of power and transcendence.  The Spirit represents the “numinous” (that is, the wholly other, the transcendent) in its pure state.  The Sequence for Pentecost very fittingly applies this concept to the Spirit when, praying to the Spirit, it says: “Without your divine presence (numen) there is nothing in man, nothing at all of innocence.” The Old Testament often speaks of the Spirit of God who “assails” like a hurricane, or who “bursts in upon” certain people, like Samson, conferring a supernatural strength on them.  This revelation of power grew by the addition of the appellative “Holy,” [...]

CHRISTIAN WISDOM: The Central Question by Frederica Mathewes-Green

June 15, 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) You are holding a small book with an old-fashioned title. It might seem like a messenger from the past, or from no time at all, like one of those books you pull off the shelf at a musty old retreat house. That’s pretty much what I’m aiming for.  The shelves at your local bookstore are bulging with titles addressing urgent, transitory concerns, but this book intends a different [...]

HEALING: Why Wasn’t I Healed? by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

June 15, 2017

From: Good Goats For many years the three of us have prayed for healing of life’s crippling hurts.  We have experienced profound healing in our own lives and in the lives of others.  But I (Dennis) finally came up against a problem in my life where healing prayer didn’t work.  Why not? I am half German.  Although I don’t want to stereotype all Germans, like many of my ancestors I was born a self-righteous German.  Like self-righteous “Good Old Uncle George,” who threw into the blazing fire anyone who did not act in a way he approved, I, too, saw all the mistakes and errors in everyone but myself. For years I tried every kind of healing prayer in order to be rid of my self-righteousness.  Although these [...]

POETRY: A Letter, by Wendell Berry

June 14, 2017

(to Ed McClanahan) Dear Ed, I dreamed that you and I were sent to Hell. The place we went to was not fiery or cold, was not Dante’s Hell or Milton’s, but was, even so, as true a Hell as any. It was a place unalterably public in which crowds of people were rushing in weary frenzy this way and that, as when classes change in a university or at quitting time in a city street, except that this place was wider far than we could see, and the crowd as large as the place. In that crowd every one was alone. Every one was hurrying. Nobody was sitting down. Nobody was standing around. All were rushing so uniformly in every direction, so uniformly frantic, that to average them would have stood them still. It was a place deeply disturbed. [...]

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM: An Introduction by Bernard McGinn

June 14, 2017

From Comparative Mysticism The term” mysticism” is a modern one.  It first appeared in the seventeenth century in French as “la mystique” (literally “mystics”), indicating a separate branch of theology akin to that which treated of Christian doctrine (i.e., “dogmatics”).  Mysticism does not seem to have been widely used, either academically or popularly, before the nineteenth century.  The appropriateness of the word to describe aspects of Christian belief and practice prior to 1600 is defensible, but by no means as simple as sometimes supposed. One of the reasons why the task is not easy is because contemporary readers often understand “mysticism” as a special form of [...]

POETRY: Mustard Seed by Meister Eckhart

June 14, 2017

I. In the Beginning High above understanding Is ever the Word. O rich treasure, There the Beginning always bore the Beginning. O Father’s Breast, From thy delight The Word ever flows! Yet the bosom Retains the Word, truly. II. From the two as one source, The fire of love. The bond of both, Known to both, Flows the All-Sweet Spirit Co-equal, Undivided The Three are One. Do you understand why? No. It best understands itself. III. The bond of three Causes deep fear. Of this circle There is no understanding. Here is a depth without ground. Check and mate To time, forms, place! The wondrous circle Is the Principle, Its point never moves. IV. The mountain of this point Ascend without activity. O intellect! The road leads you Into a [...]

PSALMS: The Law, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

June 13, 2017

The three psalms (1, 19, 119) which in a special way make the law of God the object of thanks, praise, and petition seek to show us, above all, the blessing of the law.  Under “law,” then, is to be understood usually the entire salvation act of God and the direction for a new life in obedience.  Joy in the law and in the commands of God comes to us if God has given the great new direction to our life through Jesus Christ.  That God could at one time conceal his command from me (Psalm 119:19), that he could allow me one day not to recognize his will, is the deepest anxiety of the new life. It is grace to know God’s commands.  They release us from self-made plans and conflicts.  They make our steps certain and our way [...]

POETRY: A Romance On The Psalm “By The Waters Of Babylon” by John Of The Cross

June 13, 2017

(Psalm 137) By the rivers of Babylon I sat down weeping, there on the ground. And remembering you, O Zion, whom I loved, in that sweet memory I wept even more. I took off my feastday clothes and put on my working ones; I hung on the green willows all the joy I had in song, putting it aside for that which I hoped for in you. There love wounded me and took away my heart. I begged love to kill me since it had so wounded me; I threw myself in its fire knowing it burned, excusing now the young bird that would die in the fire. I was dying in myself, breathing in you alone. I died within myself for you and for you I revived, because the memory of you gave life and took it away. The strangers among whom I was captive rejoiced; they asked me to [...]