Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Meaning of Existence



Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, planets, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe.

Even this fool of a body
lives it in part, and would
have full dignity within it
but for the ignorant freedom
of my talking mind.

~Les Murray
 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Fall

“Christianity spoke again and said: ‘I have always maintained that men were naturally backsliders; that human virtue tended of its own nature to rust or to rot; I have always said that human beings as such go wrong, especially happy human beings, especially proud and prosperous human beings. This eternal revolution, this suspicion sustained through centuries, you (being a vague modern) call the doctrine of progress. If you were a philosopher you would call it, as I do, the doctrine of original sin. You may call it the cosmic advance as much as you like; I call it what it is - the Fall.’”
~G. K. Chesterton

Monday, September 28, 2015

Happiness

“To be what is called happy, one should have (1) something to live on, (2) something to live for, (3) something to die for. The lack of one of these results in drama. The lack of two results in tragedy.”
~Cyprian Norwid

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Red Moon Eclipse


(Picture found here)
“When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator.”
~Mahatma Gandhi
 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Jesus Blesses Little Children

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
~Luke 18:15-17

Friday, September 25, 2015

Solomon’s Love for Wisdom

She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,
and she orders all things well.

I loved her and sought her from my youth;
I desired to take her for my bride,
and became enamored of her beauty.
She glorifies her noble birth by living with God,
and the Lord of all loves her.
For she is an initiate in the knowledge of God,
and an associate in his works.
If riches are a desirable possession in life,
what is richer than wisdom, the active cause of all things?
And if understanding is effective,
who more than she is fashioner of what exists?
And if anyone loves righteousness,
her labors are virtues;
for she teaches self-control and prudence,
justice and courage;
nothing in life is more profitable for mortals than these.
And if anyone longs for wide experience,
she knows the things of old, and infers the things to come;
she understands turns of speech and the solutions of riddles;
she has foreknowledge of signs and wonders
and of the outcome of seasons and times.

Therefore I determined to take her to live with me,
knowing that she would give me good counsel
and encouragement in cares and grief.
Because of her I shall have glory among the multitudes
and honor in the presence of the elders, though I am young.

~Wisdom 8:1-10

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Beauty


(Picture found here)
...God sees all
“How can
God's eye endure ugliness all round?”
If you wish to know, with an artist's eye
Look closely at a ruin, at cobwebs
In sunlight, at matted straw
In fields, at potter's clay -
- He gave us all, even His traces...

~Cyprian Norwid

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Account

 
The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.

Some would be devoted to acting against consciousness,
Like the flight of a moth which, had it known,
Would have tended nevertheless toward the candle’s flame.

Others would deal with ways to silence anxiety,
The little whisper which, though it is a warning, is ignored.

I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride,
The time when I was among their adherents
Who strut victoriously, unsuspecting.

But all of them would have one subject, desire,
If only my own—but no, not at all; alas,
I was driven because I wanted to be like others.
I was afraid of what was wild ...in me.

The history of my stupidity will not be written.
For one thing, it’s late. And the truth is laborious.

~Czeslaw Milosz
(Translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Pinsky)
  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Constant Process

“The world which is seemingly so clearly defined, distinct, sure, and so utterly concrete, is in fact none of these things; in it God is effecting a constant process of transformation. Under cover of the old, in day-to-day events, encounters and actions, grows the new world, which will be completed at the second coming of Christ.”
~Romano Guardini

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Mind...

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven...”
~John Milton

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Another Story

“In the Middle Ages, a famous young painter was hired to create a mural above the high altar of a great church in Paris. The subject was the life of Christ. The artist labored with persistence for many years, and the mural became known as the marvel of its time. Yet it remained incomplete. The artist, try as he might, could not complete two of the faces: the Christ Child and Judas Iscariot. Whenever he attempted to fill in these empty spaces the results were out of harmony with the rest of the work.

The artist was greatly dissatisfied with this situation and could not understand why, despite his talents, he was unable to bring the mural to completion. He prayed for inspiration daily, and not long afterward, while walking on the streets of the city, he happened upon a group of children playing. Among them was a boy who had the face of an angel and who radiated goodness. The artist invited him to sit as a model for the Christ Child. With his parents’ permission the child did, and the finished image was considered a masterpiece. Yet the painter could still find no model for the face of Iscariot.

The story of the artist’s quandary spread far and wide throughout the country, and many people, considering themselves the possessors of wicked, deformed, or corrupt faces, offered to pose as the betrayer. But to the artist none of them seemed quite right for the part. He wanted a face so twisted and ruined by its surrender to depravity that all who gazed upon it would see sin incarnate. Years passed, and the artist would often go to the church to pray for inspiration. He longed to complete the mural, yet in his heart he hoped that the face of Judas would forever elude him, that no human soul would ever be so deeply sunk in sin that it would provide the perfect model.

Then one afternoon as he sat in the church, a beggar staggered down the aisle and knelt at the steps of the altar. He reeked and his clothing hung in rags from his haggard figure. He was not an old man, but he was hunched over as if weighted by an immense burden of dark memories. His face was exactly what the artist had been looking for. He took the broken man home with him, fed him, washed his diseased flesh, clothed him, and spoke to him warmly, as if with a friend. He instructed his children to treat the visitor with the greatest respect. His wife, a kind and devout woman, prepared fine meals for him. But the poor man dwelt in their midst as if he were made of stone. He was completely unable to speak.

He was, however, willing to sit as the artist’s model. Weeks went by, and as the work progressed, the beggar would look from time to time at the image of himself materializing on the canvas. A curious grief and horror would fill his eyes. One day, seeing the model’s distress, the artist paused in his labor, laying down his brush.

‘My friend,’ he said, ‘your heart is troubled. What is it?’

The man buried his face in his hands and burst into tears. After a long moment he lifted his eyes to the old painter.

‘Do you not remember me?’ he said, ‘Years ago I was your model for the Christ Child.’”

~Michael O’Brien (from Sophia House)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Story

"Once, there was a little country boy who was orphaned at an early age. He never learned to read. His parents had left him a heavy prayer book as his inheritance. On the Day of Atonement he brought it to the synagogue, laid it on the reading table, and burst into tears, crying out, 'O Lord of All Creation! I do not know how to pray, nor even what to say--Here! I give thee the entire prayer book!'"
~Michael O'Brien (from Sophia House)

Friday, September 18, 2015

From The Genesee Diary...

“The milieu of this place full of prayerful people prevents me from acting out, from getting angry, from bursting open. I can sit down and see how quickly the little empty place of peace in my heart is filled again with rocks and garbage falling down from all sides.

It is hard to pray in such a mood. But still during Terce, the short prayer immediately after work, standing outside in our dirty work clothes, we read: ‘Is anyone among you in trouble? He should turn to prayer.’ Indeed prayer is the only real way to clean my heart and to create new space. I am discovering how important that inner space is. When it is there it seems that I can receive many concerns of others in it without becoming depressed. When I sense that inner quiet place, I can pray for many others and feel a very intimate relationship with them. There even seems to be room for the thousands of suffering people in prisons and in the deserts of North Africa. Sometimes I feel as if my heart expands from my parents traveling in Indonesia to my friends in Los Angeles and from the Chilean prisons to the parishes in Brooklyn.

Now I know that it is not I who pray but the spirit of God who prays in me. Indeed, when God’s glory dwells in me, there is nothing too far away, nothing too painful, nothing too strange or too familiar that it cannot contain and renew by its touch. Every time I recognize the glory of God in me and give it space to manifest itself to me, all that is human can be brought there and nothing will be the same again. Once in a while I just know it: Of course, God hears my prayer. He himself prays in me and touches the whole world with his love right here and now. At those moments all questions about ‘the social relevance of prayer, etc.’ seem dull and very unintelligent, and the silent prayer of the monks one of the few things that keeps some sanity in this world.

But then again, how little it takes to have everything cave in on me and make my heart into a dark place of ignorance! Just today I read: ‘Faith is a thought of God free from passion.’ How meaningful that sounds after a passionate day.”

~Henri Nouwen (From The Genesee Diary – Henri, a priest, was given permission to spend 7 months at the Abbey of the Genesee – Trappist monastery in N.Y. state – this is from the diary he kept while there - any typo’s are mine)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Eternal Present

“In the radiance of His light the world is not commonplace. The very floor we stand on is a miracle of atoms whizzing about in space. The darkness of sin is clarified, and its burden shouldered. Death is robbed of its finality, trampled down by Christ's death. In a world where everything that seems to be present is immediately past, everything in Christ is able to participate in the eternal present of God.”
~Alexander Schmemann

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Radical Way

My brother lives at the beach, and he was out walking the dog late one afternoon when he spotted an unusual fellow walking along the beach. He was wearing a kind of Franciscan habit, sandals and was carrying a walking stick and a big Bible. My brother engaged him in conversation. It seems the man was taking this gospel passage literally.

And He called the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.

Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them.

I think the fellow’s name was Andrew. He explained to my brother that he used to be a Wall Street stock broker and that he had converted to the Catholic faith, given away all his wealth and set out on the road wearing just his habit, with a staff and sandals and a Bible. He’d been on the road for five years and had had many adventures.

The pilgrim setting off with next to nothing is part of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. It’s there in The Way of the Pilgrim and Catherine De Hoeck Doherty’s classic book Poustinia. My brother met such a pilgrim here in the United States. The conversation went something like this:

“What happens to you when you travel like this. Do you just walk or hitch-hike?”

“I don’t hitch-hike, but I accept a ride if it is offered.”

“Do the police pick you up?”

“Sometimes, but when I explain what I am doing they are usually friendly. Sometimes they give me a bed for the night.”

“Where?”

“Jail”

“I see.”

“It’s a chance to do some prison visiting and evangelize the other guys in there.”

“Where have you traveled?”

“All over the world.”

“How do you get plane tickets?”

“Someone will be traveling to where I want to go and they offer to buy me a ticket and travel with them.”

“Do you have any money to feed yourself?”

“People usually buy me a meal and give me food. Sometimes I’ll go to the local priest’s house.”

“I see. Where are you going to spend the night tonight?

“Probably at your house.”

So he came home and told the rest of his story. He was not a lunatic, but quite sane. He was simply taking the Lord at his word in a radical way. He professed that he had witnessed many miracles by living this kind of life. God’s hand was evident in everything. He was a genuine mystic and holy man...

~Dwight Longenecker

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Gifts and Blessings

“God has created all people spiritually equal. Every person has the same propensity for good and evil. Every person has the same choice, as to whether to obey God or to defy him. Yet in other ways, we are very unequal. Some people are highly intelligent, while others have feeble intellects. Some people are physically strong and healthy, while others are weak and prone to illness. Some people are handsome and attractive, while others are plain. Those who are gifted in some way should not despise those less gifted. On the contrary, God has distributed gifts and blessings in such a way that every person has a particular place and purpose within a society – and thus everyone is equally necessary for a society to function well. So do not resent the fact that someone is more intelligent or stronger than you are. Instead give thanks for their intelligence and strength, from which you benefit. And then ask yourself: ‘What is my gift, and thence what is my place in society?’ When you have answered this question, and you act according to your answer, all contempt and all resentment will melt away.”
~St. John Chrysostom

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Exaltation of the Cross

“What are these Christians about, exalting an instrument of torture?
    First, we rejoice that something so terrible should have been transformed into a means of redemption for the whole human race.
    Second, we remind ourselves of the fact that Christianity is not an abstract and spiritual religion. It springs from God’s direct intervention in the affairs of the world, a real historical event involving real people and, in the end, a real execution on a real cross. We may theorize and theologize all we like; but all our theorizings and theologizings are nothing without the history on which they are based. Take away that history – take away the Cross – and Christianity is nonsense.”
~Martin Kochanski

We see Jesus crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, that through God’s gracious will he might taste death for the sake of all men. Indeed, it was fitting that when bringing many sons to glory God, for whom and through whom all things exist, should make their leader in the work of salvation perfect through suffering.
~Hebrews 2:9-10

HYMN

O Cross of Christ, immortal tree
On which our Savior died,
The world is sheltered by your arms
That bore the Crucified.

From bitter death and barren wood
The tree of life is made;
Its branches bear unfailing fruit
And leaves that never fade.

O faithful Cross, you stand unmoved
While ages run their course;
Foundation of the universe,
Creation’s binding force.

Give glory to the risen Christ
And to his Cross give praise,
The sign of God’s unfathomed love,
The hope of all our days.

Tune: St. Flavian C.M.
Music: John Day in John Day’s Psalter, 1562
Text: Stanbrook Abbey

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hebrews 12:22-24

You have drawn near to Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to myriads of angels in festal gathering, to the assembly of the first-born enrolled in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Great Joy

“It is written: ‘I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall come to all people’ (Lk. 2:10) - not just to some people. Again, it is written: ‘Let all the earth worship You and sing to You’ (Ps. 66:4 LXX) - not just part of the earth. This singing is an expression not of grief but of rejoicing. Since this is so, let us not despair, but pass through this present life cheerfully, conscious of its joys.”
~St. John of Karpathos

Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11


(Picture found here)
“An image that crowds out many others in my mind is that of tens of thousands fleeing New York City by foot. As I watched and wept, I recalled something I had said many times in my classes on war: ‘Americans don’t have living memories of what it means to flee a city in flames. Americans have not been horrified by refugees fleeing burning cities.’ No more. Now we know.”
~Jean Elshtain
 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

No Comparison

“I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and whatever other religions the distance of infinity....

Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. Between Him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by Himself. His ideas and sentiments, the truth which He announces, His manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things....

The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, everything is above me-- everything remains grand, or a grandeur which overpowers. His religion is a revelation from an intelligence which certainly is not that of man....

One can absolutely find nowhere, but in Him alone, the imitation or the example of His life....

I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ, or anything which can approach gospel. Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or to explain it. Here everything is extraordinary.”

~Napoleon as cited by Vernon Grounds

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Heavenward

Such power in the naming of things—
To walk out in the greensward pronouncing
Goldfinch, lilac, oriental poppy
as if the shaping of the thing in sound
produced a pleasure like the sight of things
as if the housefinch winters in the mock-orange is
as tasty an intelligence to the lips and ears as
the sight of a small purple bird in December is
perched in a thicket of bald branches.
June you remember: the white blossoms, yellow
jackets, the fresh scent of heaven.
And other incarnations to be named:
nuthatch, magnolia, coreopsis, rose.
Surely this was God’s first gift of godliness—
that new index finger working over the globe
assigning from the noisy void those fresh,
orderly syllables. Ocean, garden,
helpmate, tree of knowledge.
Making came easy, creation
a breeze. But oh, that dizzy pleasure when
God said Eve and the woman looked heavenward.

~Thomas Lynch

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Whatever is Necessary

“...they often fall into suffering and weariness, and so become insupportable to themselves and sin against their very perfection. And they are not even aware that they are lying there in the filth of their pride. But there they lie. For if it were not so, if they were truly humble and not presumptuous, they would see by the light that I, gentle first Truth, name the situation, the time, and the place, consolations or trials, whatever is necessary for salvation and to bring souls to the perfection for which I chose them. And they would see that everything I give is for love, and that therefore they should accept everything with love and reverence.”
~St. Catherine of Siena

Monday, September 7, 2015

Learning

    “Father, tell me what I must do to be perfect. I pray eight hours a day; I eat only one meal; I wear a hair shirt; I have given all that I own to the poor. Yet I am still troubled that I am not perfect.”

    Sergius said all I had done was good but that I had not yet understood perfection.

    “Go,” he said, “go and dream the deep dreams of God. He will teach you.”

    So I went away and slept.

    In a dream our Savior came to me and knelt beside my bed, writing with his fingers in the dust.

    “Nikon,” he said, “you do well, but you have not yet attained the perfection of two married women who live in the village.”

    When I awoke I went down to the village, a half-day’s journey by foot.

    And there I found two women who spoke no rash words, who lived humility, patience, and charity, sanctified their actions with prayer, and put up with the ill humors of their husbands.

    It was there I learned humility.

~Michael O’Brien (from Sophia House)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What Does The Lord Require

What does the Lord require
for praise and offering?
What sacrifice desire,
or tribute bid you bring?
Do justly; love mercy;
walk humbly with your God.

Rulers of earth, give ear!
Should you not justice show?
Will God your pleading hear,
while crime and cruelty grow?
Do justly; love mercy;
walk humbly with your God.

Still down the ages ring
the prophet's stern commands.
To merchant, worker, king
he brings God's high demands.
Do justly; love mercy;
walk humbly with your God.

How shall my soul fulfil
God's law so hard and high?
Let Christ endue our will
with grace to fortify.
Then justly, in mercy
we'll humbly walk with God.

Author: Albert Bayly
Scripture: Micah 6:6-8
Composer: Erik Routley

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Acknowledge

“Quite simply, if God knows me better than I know myself, what point is there [in] pretending I am other than I am before God? Prayer is not the place for pretended piety; prayer is the place for getting down to brass tacks. . . . Thus we might as well acknowledge our true state when we pray. We pray to God from where we are, not from where we consider we should be. And God, who knows us where we are, can lead us to where we can be.”
~Terence Fretheim

Friday, September 4, 2015

Find Out

“We should not only want to be merciful, kind, unassuming, and patient persons but also be making plans to become so.  We are to find out, that is, what prevents and what promotes merci­fulness and kindness and patience in our souls, and we are to remove hindrances to them as much as possible, carefully substituting that which assists Christ-likeness.”
~Dallas Willard

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Storm


(Picture found here)
Sometimes it takes a storm
To really know the light
The scent of rain
The weight of clouds
Pulling down the sky
Sometimes it takes a storm
To know how you feel
To understand indigo
And the varnished sun
Lighting up the fields
It takes the rain between the lines to know what sorrow finds
The way a cloud divides sometimes
The clearing and the blue
I love you
I was just passing through
And taken by surprise
Between the black sky
And the blue
Between the black sky and the blue
I love you
I love you

~Fernando Ortega (song lyrics)
  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Manliness Remains Indomitable

“There is all the difference in the world between using violence aggressively and using it defensively. As Bill Buckley used to say: One man pushes an old lady into the path of a truck. Another man pushes her out of the path of the truck. Are we to say there’s no difference between them because they both push old ladies around?”

And this

“Men have been defamed and devalued in our society for decades. Their high spirits are punished in schools. Their natural protectiveness has been scorned as sexism.

The passengers on that French train are surely grateful that some manliness remains indomitable.”

~Mona Cheren

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ecclesiastes 11:5

Just as you do not know how the life breath
    enters the human frame in the mother’s womb,
So you do not know the work of God,
    who makes everything.