The Jesuit priest and modern mystic Anthony de Mello said: “Every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description.” That is a very thought provoking assertion. The implication is that man is totally incapable of truly having a clear grasp of the might and majesty of God. Perhaps that in itself gives is a very clear picture of God.
Men have spent untold hours, written thousands of books, given sermons and lectures, all trying to fit God in our own little box. In all this, He eludes the words and thoughts of the wisest and greatest among us. Every time we have him figured out, He pops a new surprise on us. A single name or thought about God is impossible.
How can we begin to capture the one who hung the moon and the stars with a simple name? Perhaps the best answer is to admit He is our ultimate mystery. In our allowing Him to be mysterious, we discover a small portion of His power and might.
The genius of a composer is found in the notes of his music; but analyzing the notes will not reveal his genius. The poet’s greatness is contained in his words; yet the study of his words will not disclose his inspiration. God reveals himself in creation; but scrutinize creation as minutely as you wish, you will not find God, any more than you will find the soul through careful examination of your body.
——-Anthony de Mello
Where do you find meaning? Where do you find God?Think about it.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
1 Corinthians 15:51-51
Abba John the Dwarf said, ‘If a king wanted to take possession of his enemy’s city, he would begin by cutting off the water and the food and so his enemies, dying of hunger, would submit to him. It is the same with the passions of the flesh: if a man goes about fasting and hungry the enemies of his soul grow weak.’
—-sayings of the Desert Fathers
The assertion of the wise old man is that by learning to deprive the body, the soul can find salvation. This proposition is a great challenge in a society that prides itself in upward mobility and exceptionalism. The very idea that through suffering we can achieve victory over our spiritual foes is not one that could gain much traction in the American culture. Abba John the Dwarf’s formula for suppression of worldly passions is one that we should consider. Fasting is a widely ignored traditional and biblical concept. I believe there are great benefits to this ancient practice. We have tried all sorts of things to get closer to God. Why not try fasting?
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen
School’s out. Summer’s here. Kids have been waiting for this for weeks. All summer and nothing but swimming, riding their bikes, endlessly playing video games, and vacations. While kids live in that world this summer we adults will be living in another. There is the economy and the struggle to keep Wall Street and Main Street happy and accountable at the same time. There are conflicts within our nation, not to mention the conflicts between nations. If there is one thing I have learned in life it’s that everybody has their own version of the truth.
And we have to try and find the truth among all the truths that present themselves to us. It is very hard these days to know who to believe. Everyone is trying to lead us to their version of truth. In 1997, Nathan Zohner, a 14-year-old student at Eagle Rock Junior High School in Idaho Falls won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair by showing how conditioned we have become to alarmists spreading fear of everything in our environment through junk science. In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical “Dihydrogen monoxide” because:
1. It can cause excessive sweating and vomiting.
2. It is a major component in acid rain.
3. It can cause severe burns in its gaseous state.
4. Accidental inhalation can kill you.
5. It contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape..
6. It decreases the effectiveness of automobile brakes.
7. It is found in tumors of terminal cancer patients.
He asked 50 people if they support a ban.
43 said yes
Six were undecided—And only one knew that the chemical is … water.
One of the most elusive commodities in the world is truth. At his trial Jesus asked Pilate- ” what is truth?” We are all in a search for truth-so much so that we will buy anything. The great thing about relying on the mystics and monastics for truth is that their truth was acquired by listening not asking. Take time to pray, and listen for God’s answer.
This type of vulnerability is the key to faith.
Make Believe Boutique
It is in the depths of your life that you will discover the invisible necessity that has brought you here. When you begin to decipher this, your gift & giftedness come alive. Your heart quickens & the urgency of living rekindles your creativity. If you can awaken this sense of destiny, you come into rhythm with your life. You fall out of rhythm when you renege on your potential & talent, when you settle for the mediocre as a refuge from the call. Rhythm is the secret key to balance & belonging. This sense of rhythm is ancient. To be spiritual is to be in rhythm……John O’Donohue
this allowance to what is natural & self-evident is reassuring….we don’t have to ‘do’ anything other than ‘be’…..yet to truly be, we have to be honest & in the seat of mindfulness…..it’s easier to check out & ‘accomplish’ sometimes rather than answer the heart’s…
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I was answered in spiritual understanding, and it was said: What, do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For Love…. So I was taught that love is our Lord’s meaning.
—–Julian of Norwich
Love is His meaning. There so many things sent our way by God that are meant for love. Julian urges us to see God’s love in our circumstances, and find that love in all we experience.
For centuries Christians have divided, argued, and even fought wars over the real presence of Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion. For the mystic, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist was essential as it was the way that one ultimately experienced the grace of God. Communion was a time to be united with Christ, and indeed all of Christendom, for a marvelous time of grace. Many Protestants resist the idea of grace through sacrament. Martin Luther, the “Father of the Protestant Reformation,” once said (in rejection of the “Radical Reformers”): “Before I would have mere wine with the fanatics, I would rather receive sheer blood with the pope.”
“The Christian church has struggled through the centuries to understand just how Christ is present in the Eucharist. Arguments and divisions have occurred over the matter. The Wesleyan tradition affirms the reality of Christ’s presence, although it does not claim to be able to explain it fully.” This statement is taken from the United Methodist document on Holy Communion-This Holy Mystery- and it affirms the reality of Christ’s presence in the sacrament.
So much can be missed if we consider Holy Communion a mere memorial. There are none among us who deny that our Lord gave us this Holy Mystery as a way of joining with Him-joining in a way that is so real, so strong that He promised to be with us, not in memory, but reality. As we go forward to discover the real mysteries of true faith in our Lord we must not neglect His promise to be with us in the sacrament of Holy Communion. In my tradition, Mr. Wesley asserted the doctrine of frequent communion. Christians all over the world are beginning to find more and more faith in coming to His table. May each of us approach His table with expectation and leave with His loving presence.
It happened one day that one of the brethren in the monastery of Abba Elias was tempted. Cast out of the monastery, he went over the mountain to Abba Anthony. The brother lived near him for a while and then Anthony sent him back to the monastery from which he had been expelled. When the brothers saw him they cast him out yet again, and he went back to Abba Anthony saying, ‘My Father, they will not receive me.’ Then the old man sent them a message saying, ‘A boat was shipwrecked at sea and lost its cargo; with great difficulty it reached the shore; but you want to throw into the sea that which has found a safe harbor on the shore. ‘When the brothers understood that it was Abba Anthony who had sent them this monk, they received him at once.
—-Sayings of the Desert
This saying deals with a very difficult dilemma. I am going to assume that the brothers who expelled the monk had a legitimate reason to do so. When people live in community, or attend the same church, there are times that personalities clash, mistakes are made, and the boredom of sameness hits. In all these situations there is usually a more guilty party that pays the price of the conflict, but there should be a desire for reconciliation. Abba Anthony reminds us in this saying that we are all potential victims of a personal or spiritual shipwreck. Further he tells us we would never turn our backs on the victims of a true shipwreck that comes to our shores. The real key to the saying is this; when someone asks to be reconciled with the community, we must give them a chance at redemption. Permanent exile, or expulsion, is not the way of the Christian.
And thus prayer makes accord betwixt God and man’s soul. For when the soul is tempted, troubled and left to itself by
unrest, then it is time to pray, and make himself simple and obedient to God.
—–Julian of Norwich
This thought takes us straight to our communication with God.
- How often do we pray?
- Why do we pray?
- How do we pray?
- Is prayer a priority in our lives?