Living Contemplatives

If we want to live as Monks, we must try to understand what the monastic life really is. We must try reach the springs from which that life flows. We must have some notion of our spiritual roots, that we may better able to sink them deep into the soil.

—-Thomas Merton

merton by the fireplaceThese are the opening words to Thomas Merton’s Introduction to Monastic Spiritually. Though the book was written for young men who were entering into a monastic vocation, it speaks to all of us who seek to live as contemplatives where we are planted. Merton points out three very important directions that all contemplative seekers must follow:

  • He urges us to reach the springs from which such a life flows. There is not one among us who does not have a deep driving desire to discover the “God spring” that is at our grasp. God promises never to leave or forsake us and I believe He means it. Therefore, I will continue to have an outstretched hand toward that goal.
  • We are called to discover our spiritual roots. Merton seems to imply that the key to this discovery is in the search. As we search and find our spring we realize we are created in the image and likeness of God, and we were created with great promise and gifted by God with the ability to live a productive, God honoring life.
  • Growth is then attained by sinking our roots deeply into our spiritual soil. Our roots are continually watered by the spring from which our life flows. The depth of the roots of any tree determines its ability to stand against the wind. So with us, we must be able to withstand the winds of adversity that come our way in the Christian journey.

These three steps propel us in our journeys to, and with, God. The spring waters and the roots grow in their depth and breath. The result is that we are living contemplatives that seek the face of God.

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Missing Letter “R”

A young monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned
to helping the other monks in copying the old canons
and laws of the church, by hand.

He notices, however, that all of the monks are
copying from copies, not from the original manuscript.
So, the new monk goes to the Old Abbot to question
this, pointing out that if someone made even a smallimage
error in the first copy, it would never be picked up!
In fact, that error would be continued in all of
the subsequent copies.

The head monk, says, “We have been copying
from the copies for centuries, but you make a
good point, my son.”

He goes down into the dark caves
underneath the monastery where the original
manuscripts are held as archives,
in a locked vault that hasn’t
been opened for hundreds of years.

Hours go by and nobody sees the Old Abbot.
So, the young monk gets worried and goes down to look for him.
He sees him banging his head against the wall and wailing.

“We missed the R! We missed the R!
We missed the bloody R!”
His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he is crying uncontrollably.
The young monk asks the old Abbot, “What’s wrong, father?”

With a choking voice, the old Abbot replies,

“The word was …
CELEBRATE!”

(The origin of this story is unknown to me)

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Adversity and Grace

Abba Isaiah said ‘When God wishes to take pity on a soul and it rebels not bearing anything and doing its own will, he then allows it to suffer that which it does not want, in order that it may seek him again.’

—–sayings of the desert

Desert SageThese particular words of wisdom are not the most popular or believed ones that we are given by the fathers. All of us have seen people who seem to sin abundantly and continue to thrive. Likewise, we have all seen people who are apparently very pious who experience much suffering. Perhaps I might suggest another way of looking at this difficult dilemma.

God created us for good. He created us to be productive, and we are the crown of His creation. God is our guardian, and He watches over us and gives us grace. Through Him we prosper and achieve. There are times in our lives, no matter how pious we appear, that we reject His grace. At times we stand up and say, I want to do this my way, and God gives us the free will to do so. These times often lead to adversity, and in adversity we turn to God knowing that He is our only hope. Not only is He our only hope, He still loves us even when we have been rebellious and stubborn. The message from the desert is that God sometimes draws us to Himself by adversary.

Prayer Thought

Lord help me to see You at work in my bad times. Allow me to surrender myself to your grace so that I might experience your full love.

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The Story of St. Nicholas

Nederlands: Sinterklaas tijdens het Het Feest ...

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned.

The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals,murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6.

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The North Pole is a City

Originally posted on Like Mendicant Monks...:

BON-7December 6/19, St. Nicholas
Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, the Wonderworker
Whose Relics Lie Principally in Bari, Italy
And Whose Legendary Brother Santa Claus Lives in the North Pole

It was unthinkable. Several years ago, we were celebrating the annual feast of St. Nicholas, and our priest confessed that there was not a single person in our parish whom we could wish a happy name’s day. My wife, who was pregnant at the time, turned to me and we decided then and there to start a trend that is all too common in other Orthodox and Eastern European Churches. Now, including my son, there are at least two boys named Nicholas in our parish. We are now more like the Greek family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding with every other person named Nick, Nikko, Nikki, or Nikolaki.

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Living in Hope

Paperback cover of Esperanto edition of "...

Paperback cover of Esperanto edition of “Where Love is, God is” by Leo Tolstoy 

Today is the First Sunday of Advent.

Come Lord Jesus, Come.

The Christian lives in the Hope. We look to tomorrow with confidence, even absurd confidence. As the White Queen told Alice, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” There is an exuberance in the Christian Life, an exaltation which passes logic. Why? Because we belong to Christ.

Listen to Leo Tolstoy:

· I believe in God, who is for me spirit, love, the principle of all things.

· I believe that God is in me, as I am in Him.

· I believe that the true welfare of man consists in fulfilling the will of God.

· I believe that from the fulfillment of the will of God there can follow nothing but that which is good for me and for all men.

· I believe that the will of God is that every man should love his fellow men, and should act toward others as he desires that they should act toward him.

· I believe that the reason of life is for each of us simply to grow in love.

· I believe that this growth in love will contribute more than any other force to establish the Kingdom of God on earth

Lord help each of us to be people of belief. In belief we can find meaning and purpose which inspire us to be people who can make a difference. Let us use our belief for the betterment all we touch. Amen

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Advent Candles

The lighting of the four candles during winter may well go back to the ancient fire wheel, lighted in the darkest time of year to lure the sun back and ensure another spring.

advent_wreathEach candle has a specific meaning associated with different aspects of the Advent story. The first one almost always symbolizes expectant hope and is sometimes associated with prophecy. The others are organized around characters or themes as a way to unfold the story and direct attention to the celebrations and worship in the season, such as Peace, Love, Joy. The third is generally symbolic of Joy at the imminence of the coming of Christ. A fifth, white or gold, candle — called a “Christ Candle” — is often lit in the center on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day to signify Christ’s birth.

The color scheme and order of symbolic associations for the candles is largely arbitrary but several traditions have adopted them for the meaning they carry. For Catholics and Protestants alike, the color of the first, second and fourth candles are purple .but the third is rose-colored, to joyfully represent a Sunday with a less somber liturgy.

A common way of marking the days of Advent, particularly among children, is an Advent Calendar, traditionally made of wood but today usually made of cardboard. Typically, there is a tab that can be unsealed and raised for each day of Advent. Something is hidden behind each tab, such as a devotional reading, a religious messages, a seasonal picture, a piece of candy, or a small item such as a toy or charm.

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Don’t despair over problems

Irvin J. Boudreaux:

This is Avery comforting thought when we are in the midst of trouble. The biblical examples can serve as a source of strength.

Originally posted on Mustard Seed Budget:

4Problems are God’s way of leading you to something better.

If you are in God’s kingdom, He leads you. Sometimes His leading is through painful circumstances. We don’t like it, but we’ll like the place where He brought us. Adversity is a path to bliss.

Job first suffered, then he was blessed. Joseph was a slave and then in jail, then he was blessed. Daniel was exiled from his homeland and forced into the king’s service, then he was blessed. Before he became king, David was a fugitive in the desert.

Don’t be caught off guard (as I have). Feel God’s peace in midst of the turmoil.

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Thoughts on Advent

The certainty of Christian hope lies beyond passion and beyond knowledge. Therefore we must sometimes expect our hope to come in conflict with darkness, desperation and ignorance. Therefore, too, we must remember that Christian optimism is not a perpetual sense of euphoria, an indefectible comfort in whose presence neither anguish nor tragedy can possibly exist. We must not strive to maintain a climate of optimism by the mere suppression of tragic realities. Christian optimism lies in a hope of victory that transcends all tragedy: a victory in which we pass beyond tragedy to glory with Christ crucified and risen.

It is important to remember the deep, in some ways anguished seriousness of Advent, when the mendacious celebrations of our marketing culture so easily harmonize with our tendencey to regard Christmas, consciously or otherwise, as a return to our own innocence and our own infancy. Advent should remind us that the “King Who is to Come” is more than a charming infant smiling (or if you prefer a dolorous spirituality, weeping) in the straw. There is certainly nothing wrong with the traditional family jours of Christmas, nor need we be ashamed to find ourselves still able to anticipate them without too much ambivalence. After all, that in itself is no mean feat.

But the Church in preparing us for the birth of a “great prophet,” a Savior and a King of Peace, has more in mind than seasonal cheer. The advent mystery focuses the light of faith upon the very meaning of life, of history, of man, of the world and of our own being. In Advent we celebrate the coming and indeed the presence of Christ in our world. We witness to His presence even in the midst of all its inscrutable problems and tragedies. Our Advent faith is not an escape from the world to a misty realm of slogans and comforts which declare our problems to be unreal, our tragedies inexistent…

In our time, what is lacking is not so much the courage to ask this question as the courage to expect an answer…We may at times be able to show the world Christ in moments when all can clearly discern in history, some confirmation of the Christian message. But the fact remains that our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is, and not as it might be. The fact that the world is other than it might be does not alter the truth that Christ is present in it and that His plan has been neither frustrated nor changed: indeed, all will be done according to His will. Our Advent is a celebration of this hope.

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Sins and Grace

Monk in prayer orthodoxA brother questioned Abba Poemen in this way, ‘My thoughts trouble me, making me put my sins aside, and concern myself with my brother’s faults’. The old man told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus (the monk), ‘In his cell he wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When the latter came to see the old man he asked him, “Father, why are you weeping?” “I am weeping over my sins,” the old man answered him. Then his disciple said, “You do not have any sins, Father.” The old man replied, “Truly, my child, if I were allowed to see my sins, three or four men would not be enough to weep for them.”

—sayings of the desert

We rarely think of the depth of our failure. Such a thought would be too overwhelming to bear. The best worldly advice we are given is to think positively. Those who fail to see the good in themselves, we are told, can be very perilous. Such a person no longer works as well, fits in the social order as well, and just seems to drag others down. The Abba gives us an important word in this saying. He challenges us to understand that in the recognition of our sins we understand the marvelous grace of God. If we had to carry the full burden of our failures, we would collapse under their weight. Yes, we must recognize and weep for our sins but God will sustain us in our weeping. And, most importantly, He will give us the grace we need.

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