A brother questioned an old man, “Tell me something which I can do, so that I may live by it,” and the old man said, “If you can bear to be despised, that is a great thing, more than all the other virtues.”
–Sayings of the Desert Fathers
This is a hard but fascinating piece of advice. God has given me much to think about in this area.
Julian of Norwich sometimes refers to God as Father and sometimes refers to Jesus as Mother. Gender means almost nothing to her because she is beyond that. There’s something deeper than gender. As alluring and as important as gender is, as it is our metaphor held in our body, it is not our ontological identity. It is not our foundational, essential truth. Your gender is not the True Self. It’s part of the False Self. That’s what Jesus is referring to when he says, “…in heaven, they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mark 12:25). But because gender is so deep in our early conditioning, in many of our lives we cling to it until the very end.
Male and female are most different at their most immature levels and most alike at their most mature levels. When you have matured to the point where you are beyond the dualisms that our dualistic minds have imposed on reality, then you know you are children of the resurrection. You are children of light and there is no male or female, as both Paul and the Gospel of Thomas say. People who already begin to experience such unity in this world will usually find it very easy to be compassionate toward lesbian, gay, and transgendered people, because they know that the True Self, who we objectively are in God, is prior and superior to any issues of gender, culture, or sexuality. Gender is important, but it is still an “accidental” part of the human person and not its substance.
The object and goal of all spirituality is finally the same for all genders: union, divine love, inner aliveness, soul abundance, forgiveness of offenses, and generous service to the neighbor and the world. Here “there is no distinction…between male and female” (Galatians 3:28). Mature Christian spirituality leads us toward such universals and essentials. Yet people invariably divide and argue about nonessentials!
Gratefully, Christ “holds all things in unity…the fullness is found in him, and all things are reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and on earth” (Colossians 1:17, 19-20)—including everything sexual that seems to always be unwhole or split in halves (sectare=to cut or divide).
Under the orange
sticks of the sun
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination
And if your spirit
carries within it
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —
there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —
each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.
I share this article from The Center for Contemplation and Action.
A ripening mind and heart might simply be described as a capacity for non-dual consciousness and contemplation. Many might just call it growth in compassion, but surely no growth in compassion is likely unless one learns how to forgive as a very way of life, and to let go of almost everything as we first imagined it had to
be. This is possible as we grow in the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian notion of faith, where not-knowing (the apophatic way) must be carefully paired with knowing (the kataphatic way). The Judeo-Christian tradition balances our so-called knowing with trust, patience, allowing, waiting, humility, love, and forgiveness, which is very nearly the entire message and surely the core message necessary for any possibility of actual ripening. Otherwise, we all close down, and history freezes up with all of its hurts, memories, and resentments intact. A non-dual way of knowing in the moment gives us a life process and not simply momentary dualistic answers, which always grow old because they are never totally true.
My guidance is a simple reminder and recall to what we will be forced to learn by necessity and under pressure anyway—the open-ended way of allowing and the deep meaning that some of us call faith. To live in trustful faith is to ripen, it is almost that simple. Let’s start practicing now, early in our life, so we do not have to take a crash course in our final years, weeks, days, and minutes of our lives. The best ripening happens over time, lots of time.
Abba Zeno said, ‘If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks.’
—– Sayings of the desert
Jesus said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same?” The love of enemies concept is what makes Christianity special. Praying for your enemies is a demanding call of the Christian path and a defining sign of taking Jesus seriously. Abba Zeno tells us that this love is a portal to answered prayer. Until we can reach out in the spirit of the love of God, we cannot know the love of God. His love allowed Him to die for us when we were sinners.
Lord help me to live in this spirit today and every day.
In a Peanuts cartoon Lucy is playing her role as psychiatrist. She sits in her booth with the sign that reads: “Psychiatric Help – 5 cents.” The sign below says, “The Doctor Is In.” Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “Your life is like a house.”
In the next frame, she says reflectively, “You want your house to have a solid foundation, don’t you?” Charlie Brown has a kind of blank look on his face. Lucy says, “Of course you do.”
Charlie Brown is still silent – saying nothing. Then in the fourth frame, psychiatrist Lucy says, “So don’t build your house on the sand, Charlie Brown.” About that time, a huge wind comes up and blows the booth down. Lucy, sitting in the rubble says, “Or use cheap nails.”
If we are to speak of a spirituality of ripening, we need to recognize that it is always (and I do mean always) characterized by an increasing tolerance for ambiguity, a growing sense of subtlety, an ever-larger ability to include and allow, a capacity to live with contradictions and even to love them! I cannot imagine any other way of coming to broad horizons except through many trials, unsolvable paradoxes, and errors in trying to resolve them.
Without such a gradually-renewed mind and heart, we almost certainly will end with a whimper, not just our own but also the whimpering of those disappointed souls gathered around our sick bed or gravestone. Too many lives have indeed been lives of “quiet desperation” and God must surely rush to console and comfort all humans before, during, and after their passing. Many put off enlightenment as long as they can, and some, it seems, until the last five minutes of life! Perhaps some never do reach enlightenment, which is why most religions have some metaphor similar to “hell.”
Maybe this whole phenomenon of late stage growth is what Catholics actually mean by purgatory. Without such after-death hope, I would go crazy with sadness at all the lives which appear to end so unripened. The All-Merciful One is surely free to show mercy even after we die. Why would God be all-loving before death but not after death? Isn’t it the same God? I’ve not seen anyone die perfectly “whole.” We are all saved by mercy, “wound round and round,” as Merton said. Some do appear to float into pure love in their very final days among us. Heaven is an endless continuum of growth and realization
by Richard Rhor
- Proportional Punishment (boldlybiblical.wordpress.com)
Abba Doulas, the disciple of Abba Bessarion said, ‘One day when we were walking beside the sea I was thirsty and I said to Abba Bessarion, “Father, I am very thirsty.” He said a prayer and said to me, “Drink some of the sea water.” The water proved sweet when I drank some. I even poured some into a leather bottle for fear of being thirsty later on. Seeing this, the old man asked me why I was taking some. I said to him, “Forgive me, it is for fear of being thirsty later on.” Then the old man said, “God is here, God is everywhere.” ‘
——sayings of the desert
In life many of us turn to a mentor or guide for some words of wisdom. With so many situations that make us feel utterly helpless, the comfort of our spiritual companion is quite strengthening. Brother Doulas has a simple request – water. Thirst would be a common sensation in the desert. The men and women who went to the desert were well aware that the land would be arid and isolated. The guide Abba Doulas sought out began to fulfill his request by praying. In that prayer a way was found to quench his thirst.
What happens next is a bit of a surprise. Doulas drinks sea water and it is “sweet.” Only God can make salt water into fresh water. His thirst was quenched by God in a dramatically direct way. Quite naturally, Doulas wanted to prepare for the future by taking a skin of water, but the Abba saw it differently. He uttered the mystical words – “God is everywhere.” Do we really believe that?
Much of our lives is spent preparing for things that never happen, imagining problems that never come to be, all because we fail to see that God is with us no matter what. We are not called to live a life of careless neglect, but we would do well to remember that He walks along side of us wherever we go. In our belief that God is everywhere we find the strength to accomplish the impossible. We can never carry enough “water” to quench our thirst at all times, he journey of life is made less burdensome when we truly believe God is everywhere.
Abba Abraham told of a man of Scetis who was a scribe and did not eat bread. A brother came to beg him to copy a book. The old man whose spirit was engaged in contemplation, wrote, omitting some phrases and with no punctuation. The brother, taking the book and wishing to punctuate it, noticed that words were missing. So he said to the old man, ‘Abba, there are some phrases missing.’ The old man said to him, ‘Go, and practice first that which is written, then come back and I will write the rest.’
—–sayings of the desert
The writer of Hebrews tells us, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” Perhaps the Abba was simply taking the advice of scripture by giving the brother the product he produced. We all have a tendency to want more than we can appropriate or manage in our lives. The demand of our day is – I need it all and I need it now. Our real challenge is to have an understanding of place.
I live in New Orleans which is a very unique place with all sorts of people. One the my favorite hustle lines is , “ I bet you five dollars I can tell you where you got ‘dem’ shoes?” I can remember the confusion that came upon me when I heard that line for the first time. How ridiculous, I thought, but the answer was so obvious and correct. I had them on my feet and I was in New Orleans, and that’s where I got ‘dem’ shoes.
The same lesson is taught by the Abba. We miss what we have in front of us for demanding more. Let us learn to be mindful of the milk we have been provided, and grow in the spirit everyday.
Originally posted on Morning Story and Dilbert:
October 30, 2014
Anthony Burgess was 40 when he learned that he had only one year to live. He had a brain tumor that would kill him within a year. He know he had a battle on his hands. He was completely broke at the time, and he didn’t have anything to leave behind for his wife, Lynne, soon to be a window.
Burgess had never been a professional novelist in the past, but he always knew the potential was inside him to be a writer. So, for the sole purpose of leaving royalties behind for his wife, he put a piece of paper into a typewriter and began writing. He had no certainty that he would even be published, but he couldn’t think of anything else to do.
“It was January of 1960,” he said, “and according to the prognosis, I had a winter and spring and…
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