Tag Archives: Easter

VENERABLE BEDE AND SALVATION

His name was Bede, also known as Venerable Bede, and he was the father of English history. Bede was truly a master of multiple disciplines, but he is most remembered as the man whose lifelong mission was to bring people closer to God. Bede never traveled more than 30 miles from his Northumbrian Monastery, and from that community he wrote more than forty books covering a wide range of subjects. For all of his 62 years he valued nothing more than his mission.

Bede said, “He who will not willingly and humbly enter the gate of the Church will certainly be damned and enter the gate of Hell whether he wants to or not!” These strong words establish his doctrine of salvation. The key words to anyone’s faith walk are willingly and humbly. Without this conviction we fail to enter the gates of heaven and live a miserable earthly existence as well.

Scripture proclaims, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelation 3:20) God’s word is crying out for us to willingly let Him into our lives. He has prepared such a good life for us, and yet it is our choice to neglect or accept His invitation. Salvation, the Christian way, is never forced upon any soul, but it must be received and received willingly.

The second word that Venerable Bede uses is humbly. Jesus said in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, “for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” Clearly, our Lord articulates to us that acting in humble submission is the key to eternal justification and a peaceful life all the days of our lives. A person who lives humbly not only receives riches in the hereafter but lives without the earthly scourge of excessive pride. This type of pride leads to untold sin and grief.

The word of the Church Father is that the neglect of this simple formula leads to eternal condemnation and a miserable earthly existence. We would do well to give heed to the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Our world cries for rest, and peaceful rest at that. Jesus offers this life to all who come to Him.

A man who was born of questionable parentage, and died a criminal’s death offers us this gift of peace by the power of His resurrection. Some 700 years later a humble Monk who never traveled more than 30 miles from the place of his birth repeats this invitation in very simple words. Let us not complicate the salvation of the Christ, but merely accept willingly and humbly.

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A Cloud of Forgetting

If you want to enter, live, and work in this cloud of unknowing, you will need a cloud of forgetting between you and the things of this earth. Consider the problem carefully and you will understand that you are farthest from God when you do not ignore for a moment the creatures and circumstances of the physical world. Attempt to blank out everything but God.

 

— Cloud of Unknowing

WAYS TO ENTER “A CLOUD OF FORGETTING”

Consider your place

Ancient Rome Christians were reminded, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Our real dilemma is to try to unpack the meaning of that short phrase and apply it in a way that builds our faith and our witness. We are born as proud and resourceful beings. God meant for us to be able to thrive in this world but He also meant for us to be dependent on Him. As we become increasing independent, we moved far away from Him. The mystical writer challenges us to get as far away from the things of this earth as we can so we can get closer to God. We must somehow “forget” who we are, what we have accomplished, and get in a place where we can encounter God. At the same time, never forget that we are part of this world.

See your surroundings

To do this we must be fully aware of our surroundings and begin the task of stepping away for a short time just a pause. When we step away, we are then given the opportunity of communicating with God as a deeply personal friend. As long as our lives are crowded by the things of this world, we will never see God in a light that glorifies us and Him. Seeing where we are allows us to set our course to where we want to be and allows us to seek guidance along the way. The hymn writer proclaims, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.” That is the direction of a contemplative.

Own your circumstances

No matter how hard we try, we still live in this world -we cannot escape it. We cannot ignore it and for the most part, we cannot change it. With regard to this dilemma, different people take different actions. Hermits try to escape, hedonists embrace it, and most of us just try to find balance in our lives. The call of the mystic writer is to “blank out” everything but God. We do this by recognizing the problems and cares around us and putting them in the background of our lives as we seek to be nearer to God. We don’t get closer to God by being in denial of the carnal nature that we all possess. Closeness to God comes as we recognize our situation and say to God, we seek you with all our strength.


PRAYER

Lord may I approach you with full knowledge of the baggage I carry. This knowledge that instills in me a total dependence on your grace and a trust in your promises. With such a heart I come to you today seeking knowledge only you can grant. Please allow me your presence in my life in spite of my sins. I invite you to fill my heart in this time of my need.

AMEN

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Seeing God Fully

My first thought was that I really wanted to know what it was like for Jesus to suffer and die. Upon further contemplation my desire was to be there with Him as was Mary Magdalene and the Christ lovers were. Just to be able to experience in the flesh the feelings and sounds of His passion would give me a far deeper understanding of Him. I just want to know His suffering. My first prayer is that God would grant me my desire.

— Julian of Norwich

We spend most of our lives trying to avoid suffering but Julian was godly young woman who prays for great suffering to come upon her. That is quite fascinating, and tells us a lot about her devotion to Jesus as Savior. We all want a Savior, a liberator, a rescuer, but very few want to experience the pain involved with being such a person. Julian was different, she sought it, she welcomed it, because she knew that it was the only way anyone sees God fully.

We all want to achieve great things, learn new skills but the commitment of time and effort and the sacrifice to do so turns us away. The boy who wants to play pro football doesn’t want the concussions and bad knees that plague players for the rest of their lives. In order to experience the fullness of God, we must travel down the road of suffering. Jesus said: “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.” To know God fully we must somehow embody His passion. People go to extremes to know the passion of Christ, some are even nailed to a cross, because it is so important to feel as He felt. In doing so, we see our true worth in His eyes.

Julian gives us a model, a very hard-hitting model, from which to fashion ourselves. She invites this suffering, indeed prays for it, because it will bring her closer to God. I am not saying that we should intentionally hurt ourselves, but I am saying that we should find a way for our hurts to be part of our spiritual journey and not the events that drive us away from God. Our hurts should teach us that we are created in God’s image and are experiencing the very same things He experience on His earthly journey. Suffering, passion and pain are windows to God. We are allowed to see Him fully as we feel that sense of helplessness that comes with such experiences. Like Julian, I feel it is very important to know and feel His pain. The passion is the only way we can know Him fully.

Prayer

Lord grant that as I suffer, and I will suffer from time to time, that I can use the suffering as a way of drawing closer to you. I pray that I can get a glimpse of what you endure don the cross and carry it with me every day. Help me to take seriously your command to take up my cross and follow you. Help me to find the cross and walk as you walked.

Amen

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Loving Like God

Abba John the Dwarf said, ‘A house is not built by beginning at the top and working down. You must begin with the foundations in order to reach the top.’ They said to him,’ What does this saying mean?’ He said, ‘The foundation is our neighbor, whom we must trust, and that is the place to begin. For all the commandments of Christ depend on this one.’

—-Abba John the Dwarf

In the 1960’s there was a movie called: “Dr. Strangelove.” The simplistic plot was about a ridiculous plan of a retaliatory nuclear attack. The plan was ridiculous and so was the name of the man, Dr. Strangelove, who formulated it. This Abba’s is based on the biblical record of a conversation that occurred between Jesus and a lawyer. He asked Him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  That is a difficult, demanding, somewhat strange command. The fascinating thing about the wisdom of the monk is that he tells us to begin with something we can see. As much as we would all desire to see God, we can’t see God in the flesh but we do see our neighbor. The key to experiencing God is understanding the depth of His love. God loves us at our worst and we are challenged to love our neighbors at their worst.

All too often when go for what is easy, quick, and painless the result is the foundation of our spiritual house is sinking sand. The love of neighbor is the key to understanding the nature of God. He is a loving, understanding creator and not a cruel and harsh master. To the contrary, with a heart of compassion and mercy, He welcomes sinners into His kingdom. They don’t get the “cheap seats,” but receive a regal welcome. The beginning of that journey is to see God in His creation. Loving His creation – cheats, liars and thieves – is loving Him. Maybe this is a strange love to many of us, but it is the way God loves.

Prayer

Lord help me to grasp this most difficult teaching of loving my neighbor. All too often our neighbors are those who hurt us the most. Allow your grace and my understanding of your love to rise to a level that allows this love to flow from me. In the act of such love we find an elusive peace that brings us closer to you.

Amen

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Scripture

Merton quote 5-1-15

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May 1, 2015 · 5:15 am

Self Denial

 

“To reach the supernatural bounds a person must depart from his natural bounds and leave self far off in respect to his interior and exterior limits in order to mount from a low state to the highest.”

 

—-John of the Cross

 

Cross John of the CrossThe medieval mystic John of the Cross gives us advice to move towards “supernatural bounds.” Self-denial is a big step in that journey with Christ. This concept (self-denial) is at odds with our culture of more. As with all disciplines, true self-denial is developed slowly and with care. Begin with living more simply, caring for the small things of life, living a life of thanks and seeking to touch someone in need.

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The Art of Pleasing God

“Someone asked Abba Anthony, ‘What must one do in order to please God?’ The old man replied, ‘Pay attention to what  I  tell  you:  whoever  you  may  be,  always  have  God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.  Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”

—sayings of the Desert Fathers

Abba Anthony gives us three simple, and yet difficult principles, that we must do to please God. Monk in prayer 1

  • Always have God before your eyes
  • Live in harmony with scripture
  • Have stability of place in your life

The challenge is to keep God before our eyes when our sight is so cluttered with the saga of life. Additionally, we are called to live with the scripture as the ever present guide for our lives. As if that were not enough, we are then instructed to “stay put” even when things are tough. Our world tells us quite clearly to keep focused on the earthly, while perhaps giving some attention to God, and to move on whenever life gets uncomfortable. Perhaps if we all developed a vision of God and followed that vision where we are planted, we would find that peace that eludes us.

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The Dance

Many are familiar with the beautiful poem, “Footprints.” In this story, a man dreams that he has a talk with Jesus about his life. Like all of us, this man had a life full of triumphs and tragedies, love and loneliness, happiness and sadness. And like all of us, he had a lifelong relationship with God that was at times close and committed and at times distant and unclear.

The man and Jesus were walking along a sandy seashore and having a conversation that reviewed that man’s life. The man noticed that many times there were four footprints in the sand as the walk of life progressed. Jesus explained, “These are the times when we walked together. The times you shared your life with me, and I stood beside you every step.” But the man became troubled when he noticed that in his most painful, dark times of life there was only one set of footprints. He questioned the Lord as to why he had been abandoned and left to walk those times alone. Jesus explained these times, also. “My child, the reason that you see only one set of footprints is because those were the times I lifted you into my arms and carried you because you could not walk alone.” All was explained to the man except the occasional places along life’s walk where there seemed to be many footprints going in all directions in a hectic pattern in the sand. Jesus smiled and replied, “My son, these are the times when we danced!”

This Easter, remember those marvelous occasions when you have rejoiced in life. Those overwhelmingly happy moments of life when your Lord “danced” with you! Take every opportunity to put on your dancing shoes!

PRAYER: Father – Help me to remember with joy marvelous moments in life, and help me now to “dance” with wonder at the blessing you give me.

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Questions for Jesus

1. When you said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” did you remember that there was no room in the Bethlehem inn?

2. When you helped Joseph in the carpenter’s shop, did you think of the wood of the manger? Did you think of the cross?

3. When you referred to yourself as the Good Shepherd, did you think of the shepherds that worshipped you at night?

4. Did the same angel that heralded your birth in the field outside Bethlehem encourage you in the Garden of Gethsemane?

5. When you were visited by the kings as a child, did you think of your throne in heaven?

6. When you debated the law with the scholars in the temple when you were twelve years old, did you remember giving the Ten Commandments to Moses of Mt. Sinai?

7. When you were baptized in the Jordan River, did you think about the time you parted the Red Sea?

8. Did you ever sit at the shore of the Sea of Galilee and remember the day ofjesus_christ_image_212 creation when you separated the water and the land?

9. When you viewed the city of Jerusalem from the hill, did you think of your second coming?

10. Did you ever eat an apple and think of the Garden of Eden?

11. Did you ever think of the ark when you rode in a boat on the Sea of Galilee?

12. Did a bowl of beans make you think of Esau’s mistake?

13. When you looked at the night sky, did you remember hanging the stars in space?

14. When you ate sweet bread, did you think about the forty years you sent the angels to spread manna on the ground in the wilderness?

15. When you saw a gold coin, did you remember the main street at home and get homesick?

16. Did you think it was funny when big-mouthed Peter sank trying to walk on water?

17. How did it feel to be Mary’s child and creator?

18. When you blessed the children of the first century did you see the children of the twenty-first century?

19. Why did you make mosquitoes?

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Stand Aside

When the Salvation Army first went to India, the British authorities were concerned about them, and issued an order that no open meetings and no parades were to be held. But Commissioner Tucker of the Salvation Army decided that order must be defied. One day the Salvation Army came marching down the street. They were met by soldiers. The officer in charge said, “In the name of her majesty, the Queen of England, I order you to disperse.” But Tucker replied, “In the name of the King of kings, I order you to stand aside.” They stood aside.

One day, one palm-waving day, Jesus marched right into Jerusalem, the Holy City, and said to everything unholy, “Stand aside.” And he is calling Palm Sundayus to join him in the parade, and to say to every form of hatred, bigotry, ignorance and apathy, “Stand aside,” and when we dare to do it those things will stand aside. His kingdom will live in us, and we will help spread his rule in his world.

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