A word from Dorothy Maclean

September 14, 2012

I’ve been reading the autobiographies (one might say the dueling autobiographies…) of the three founders of Findhorn: Peter Caddy, Eileen Caddy, and Dorothy Maclean. All are well worth the time.  This passage from Dorothy Maclean’s Memoirs of an Ordinary Mystic (p. 158) struck me as quite appropriate to the inner work of a priest:

Then a deeper shift took place.  It was as if I had been turned inside out.  After countless years of receiving and being embraced by divine love, I found that I could only give out.   In my meditations, I ceased to feel like the object of love and began to experience only love itself. To meditate now is to feel a sense of blessing flowing out into the world. Sometimes I say, “May God’s love be known.”  Other times I say, “May Thy love be known.” And sometimes, when I am very close within, it becomes, “May our love be known.”  


New ISM blog

July 25, 2012

A friend of mine from the Ozarks has started a new blog, which promises to be most interesting.  Check it out:   http://saintrafe.blogspot.com/

Perhaps he will inspire to post more frequently!

Sunday after Ascension: Power from on high…

May 20, 2012

Before his Ascension, Jesus tells the disciples that they are to be endued with power from on high when the Holy Ghost comes upon them.   Christians have not done so well with power over the centuries, but we might get a couple of clues from this text about the power of the Spirit.  First, the disciples are told to wait — tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem — until the Spirit comes in his own time.  We could learn a lot from fellow Christians – such as the Society of Friends – who practice quiet and patient waiting upon the Spirit.  In such waiting, the discernment between our own distortions and the power of the Spirit tend to become clear.   Further, what characterizes the waiting?  Great joy… praising and blessing God.  Is our waiting upon God marked by such joy?  Or is it a time of tapping our fingers in frustration, imploring the Spirit to hurry up and ratify our desires?

In this time of waiting before Pentecost, let us be filled with joy, joy that banishes the darkness of our hearts and the plans therein, emptying ourselves so that  the coming power may re-make and use us, only and always as Christ wills.

Suffering and explanations

May 8, 2012

Standing with St John and the Blessed Virgin at the foot of the cross, Christianity has been willing to look upon suffering with an unflinching eye. When we begin to flinch (or sometimes worse, to explain), we turn from the path set for us by the crucified Lord. In the course of recent discussions, I’ve heard some responses to suffering which may be worth contemplation.

First, in both evangelical/Pentecostal and New Age contexts, I’ve noted strong influence from New Thought traditions. This influence shows up in a response to suffering with the direction (or the implication) that the sufferer is somehow responsible, and should change his thinking, do his affirmations, or, in a more traditionally pious vein, pray more effectively or accept God’s healing more wholeheartedly. I think New Thought (a generic term for Religious Science, Divine Science, Christian Science, Unity, and similar groups) has gifts to offer to the larger Christian tradition. However, I believe Dion Fortune was wise in her remarks (coming from a Christian Science childhood): The mind has powers which we hardly suspect, and it is a fine thing to explore them within the moral and spiritual commitments of religion, but it is not so fine a thing to make a religion of the mind, as if it is all that is.

The opposite of “you caused it yourself” is “God is doing it to you.” This perspective on suffering often arises in traditional/orthodox settings, in which a sufferer is told that God is purifying her, or that she is making reparation for sins (her own or the world’s). We all know persons who have met suffering with a grace which transforms them and radiates outward, but we can easily think of others who have been plainly and simply broken by the pain which has come their way. I am shocked by the facile willingness to imply that the latter have failed to see and respond to the hand of God.

A third version, common among esotericists, is to see one’s difficulties as caused by another, i.e., a magical attack by another person or some other sort of being. Far be it from me to deny that we can impact others, and be impacted by them, in subtle ways, intentional or not. However, how much power do we really ascribe to such? Where is our trust in Christ?

If one is suffering, one might choose to explore these perspectives (among others) to see if they have any wisdom to offer in one’s particular situation. Maybe yes, maybe no. However, it seems to me that we need to exercise great humility and reserve in applying these explanations to the pain and distress of other people. We are called to love our sisters and brothers, not to explain them. Sometimes, all we can see is a bloody cross and all we can do is faithfully stand alongside, leaving the rest to God.

IV Easter: Hid with Christ in God

May 2, 2012

Paul tells us that we are risen with Christ through the faith of the operation of God, and that we are to walk… in him.   In the gospel, Jesus opens the minds of the disciples to the mysteries of his death and resurrection, and tells them: Ye are witnesses of these things.  

What does it mean to walk in Christ and to be his witnesses?  We are all laden with notions of what the walk of faith should look like, whether those notions originate in our experiences of Christianity to date, or in our awareness of its form/s in our culture.   All too often such ideas of church and of life in Christ may be the very things on the earth from which we are counseled to remove our affections.

Like the disciples, we may have spent much time with scripture and with Jesus, and yet our understanding remains closed – closed by our inherited ideas of church, our ego-driven fantasies, our desires for certain forms of power and an identity recognized by the world.   We must be willing to let the Light of light shine into such darkness.   We are told that our life is hid with Christ in God.   Can we trust that mystery and allow Christ to open the splendor of his resurrection to us?  If so, the light will shine on the path we are to walk, however odd or hidden that way may seem.

III Easter: Receive ye the Holy Ghost

April 22, 2012

The risen Jesus appears again to the disciples, shut away and cowering from the world.  Having shown them his wounded yet powerfully living body, he breathes on them, saying, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Just as God breathed over chaos at creation, so God in Christ breathes over this rather unlikely crew, sending them out into the world to forgive sins and spread the renewed creation.  God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son.  Eternal life is not assent to a set of propositions, but a sharing in the breath of the Spirit, the blood of Christ flowing in our blood (as Mother Ann once said), his witness borne in our own bodies.

The LCC collect for today asks that the earth may be filled with thy glory even as the waters cover the sea. Easter is not an escape from this world to another dimension, or an escape within the world by locking ourselves away in private as the disciples were doing.   Our job is to participate in the filling of the earth with God’s glory, the remission of sins (or, more mysteriously, the retention of them), and the giving of the eternal life which overcomes the world.  This Easter may we let the wind of the Spirit lift us up and carry us into the world as its agents, filled with gladness and Christ-given peace.

Happy Birthday, Father Paul

April 18, 2012

April 18 is the 108th Birthday of my favorite “cosmic roustabout,” Earl W. Blighton, a.k.a. Father Paul, founder of the Holy Order of MANS.  In Chapter 4 of Father Paul’s Book of Activity, we read:  He that would look for the lost lamb, let him go among the strays.  Blighton certainly did this, moving through 1960s San Francisco, gathering up young people and forming them into a spiritual order.   One of his associates described the early members as “a bunch of street kids and hot chicks.”   Not exactly promising material for the priesthood, perhaps, but the power of the Spirit should not be underestimated.   Here are a few more lines from the Book of Activity, a collection of revelations received by Blighton (whose grammar did not always keep pace with his spiritual insight):  The way is long but the words must be short for him who would teach My children in this day. For him who would teach My children must be ready to cure their insanity….  For the Way of the Teacher is to beset by love.  (Chapter 5)

Grateful memory

April 16, 2012

In the LCC collect for Low Sunday, we pray that we “may never lose our grateful memory of [God’s] unchanging love….”   Here in the Easter season, we renew again that grateful memory of the one who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, the one whom God raised up on the third day.  

Like the disciples bound for Emmaus, too often our eyes are holden.  We commune together and reason, but we fail to see and know the one who already stands in our midst.   We expound the scriptures, we know all that the prophets have spoken, we know the women said the tomb was empty and Jesus was alive.  And still our eyes are holden.  In this paschal season, the message is not enough.  We seek to know the living Christ of whom it speaks.

And so we draw near to the memorial Jesus left us, bread and wine given with the command to remember him, bread and wine used to make eucharist… thanksgiving.   Our table is set with grateful memory.   As we break the bread, it is more than simple memory.  Our eyes are open and we know Christ, who feeds us.   Knowing his presence and his love, we must proclaim The Lord is risen indeed!

A word from Rudolf Steiner

October 30, 2010

Again and again people come to me with the following soul question: What corresponds to my specific abilities? or How can I bring my abilities to bear in the world? This question is much, much less important than looking around ourselves objectively to see what needs to be done.  When we get involved with what we notice there, we will see that we have many more abilities than we think.

Rudolf Steiner, First Steps in Christian Religious Renewal, p. 31

Seeing the invisible

September 12, 2010

This is one of those weeks when we can puzzle over the relationship between the given readings.  The epistle (from II Cor 4) tells us that we look not at the things which are seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. And then we have a gospel (from Luke 10) which gives us the very visible, this-world story of a man mugged on the roadway and helped by a compassionate passerby.   What do these readings have to do with one another?

If we look closely at the story from Luke, we see that some sort of strange vision is at work.   The people whom we would suppose to be the agents of God – the priest and levite – leave the beaten man in the ditch.   It is the heretical stranger, the Samaritan, who can see with the eyes of the heart.  He sees the simple human need in front of him and responds to it.   He becomes an extension of God’s activity in the world.   His ability to see truly changes our vision as well.   He shifts our sight in at least two regards:

First, we must open our eyes and see our neighbors in need.  Sometimes they may be from groups which do not like us, or could be a personal enemy.   Regardless, need calls us to respond.    As Will Campbell likes to say, our ministry is not something we have to seek.  Such seeking is often, consciously or not, evasion.  Ministry is right under our nose.  It knocks on our front door, sits in the cubicle next to us – or in our boss’ office, works in the coffee shop.   The response called forth from us is not based on our preconceived religious notions, but arises from an openness to the need of the other, whatever it may be.   The Samaritan did not lecture the wounded man on Samaritan theology, but tended his wounds.

Second, our vision is cleared to see the activity of God in the world.   Drawing on Phillip Dick, we often find God in the trash, in what we throw away, in all the wrong people and all the wrong places.   Jesus spent his time with hookers and corrupt government agents.   As the inward man is renewed day by day, our vision shifts and we can see the abundant grace of God, running loose in the world, working for us a far more exceeding weight of glory.   It is love and mercy, discovered in the everyday world of the temporal, which simultaneously open the door to true knowledge of the eternal.   Go and do thou likewise.