Sunday, July 7, 2024

Peace and Passion

     One of the monks here has mentioned a couple of times in homilies that some others are not comfortable with desire being an aspect of the love of God. For me, longing for God is an essential foundation for my religious life. And here is my answer (copied from my private journal, June, 2017). 

    Note: In the last year, I did go through that "dark night" I was fearing back then. It lasted six months, and was the first time since my conversion 38 years ago that I have been unable to sense God's loving presence in any way. I am grateful that I did not falter in my fidelity to Him, and now that it is past, I find Him even more intimately close, as if knit into the fabric of my self. Thanks be to God!


Monday, June 24, 2024

Lord of the Storm, God of the maelstrom

    I'm inspired by the storm motif in yesterday's Mass readings to tell you about another mystical experience I had back in 2016. I had only recently acquiesced and committed to my eremitic vocation, and it would still be almost 3 years before I was able to leave work and take my first vows as a hermit. This was the honeymoon of my love affair with God. I was head over heels in love, and it seemed as if my Lover was, too, and every sunset and wildflower and singing bird was like a gift from my Beloved to me. Anyway, Love has always been my experience of God, from the first (38 years ago), when He responded to my cry for help from the depths of trauma and depression. He revealed Himself to me then, and ever since, as Love.

    The "fear" of God has always seemed totally wrong to me, incompatible with the God of my understanding. Not any more! I mean, yes, Love, so much love! But also, now I understand the fear of God, too. Not a fear of judgment, but a fear of annihilation, of Ego-loss. Fear of surrendering to the overwhelming power of God, Who is so entirely beyond my ken, let alone my control. I confronted this right in the middle of that sweet honeymoon, when I had a sort of Transfiguration experience, and saw a glimpse of the cataclysmic power of the Lord of all creation. 

    It was a Sunday morning, October 9, 2016. In my journal, I described it like this:

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Easter Theophany part 3 of 3: Grace

    I decided to add a third article on another aspect of my Easter "theophany" (see parts one and two ). Thanks to those who wrote to me about the first two posts! I really appreciate your comments.

    Again, to set the scene: at Easter Sunday Mass, the church was full of God, appearing as a visible and palpable difference in the quality of light. Within this luminous Presence appeared small, dark and hard objects, scattered among the congregation; I understood them as points of resistance to God among the people (wounds, strong temptations, fear or anger, unresolved guilt, etc.). In the last article I wrote about what this implied about the relationship between God and evil, and my belief that nothing exists outside of God.


    The last detail I want to write about is how few of those dark and hard objects appeared. In a crowded church of about 250 people, there were maybe 15 or 20 of them. Granted that the subgroup of people who decided to go to church on Easter Sunday is already self-selected for a certain degree of openness to God, I still found this striking. Even among those of us who have consecrated our lives to God, we are used to thinking that we're all sinners. Aren’t there “points of resistance” in each of us? We all have flaws, weaknesses, we all fail and sometimes need forgiveness. 

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Easter Theophany, Part 2 of 3: Theodicy

    In my last post, I described part of a mystical experience that I had at Mass on Easter Sunday, exploring some questions of sacramental theology that it brought up. Today I am writing about what I saw earlier during the same Mass, and its underlying meaning for "theodicy"; that is, the problem of the existence of evil in a world created and governed by a God who is both all-good and all-powerful. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Easter Theophany, Part 1 of 3: Eucharist

     I have always resisted studying theology. I've always had a very strong and direct experience of the presence and love of God, and it has seemed kind of offensive to the nature of the relationship to treat God as an academic subject. As if we could "know" our Creator intellectually. As if we could definitively "know" anything about the Beloved, or one another, or even ourselves. So I haven't studied theology in any systematic way, and I'm not going back to read the relevant parts of the catechism before posting this, either. 

    That said, I'm going to invite readers to share their theological reflections on this blog post and the next two, about different aspects of a beautiful mystical experience I had in church on Easter Sunday morning. I want to explore more deeply some of the theological implications of the Easter Sunday "theophany," as well as themes that run through my whole life with God. I would love to hear your thoughts, either in the comments or using the contact form.

    Note: although I talk about "visions" for want of a better word (feel free to suggest one!), they're never really visual, or they are barely so. At most, I might see a difference in the quality of the light, or a movement of light. I'm not seeing Christ seated on his throne with little baby cherubs flying around! That's not how my brain works, I have very little visual imagination even in ordinary life. In a mystical "vision" I often feel touch or movement, but I'm not seeing pictures, at least not with my bodily sight. Emotion yes, definitely: bliss, love, awe, gratitude. And often, words, or a definite concept, some insight, with a phrase that encapsulates it for me, with which I can bring it back to my memory with all the sensory and emotional qualities of it. Such as, this past Easter Sunday, "the church is full of God." The main thing is the absolute conviction these "visions" bring. It's like the conviction you feel during a dream, about the craziest things, except that in mystical vision the conviction stays just as strong after the experience is over. My first "parting-of-the-veil" happened when I was 18 years old, and my conviction about it has never diminished.


    So. On Easter Sunday, the monastery church was full of God.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Veneration of the Cross?

    Yesterday was Good Friday, when we again heard the recitation of the story of the Passion of Christ. That same service also includes the Veneration of the Cross, in which the whole congregation advances one by one to kiss or otherwise reverence a large wooden cross, representing the one on which Jesus was crucified. 
    This is one of those Catholic customs with which I have not yet become reconciled. It seems grotesque to me, all wrong. Jesus said about Judas in last Sunday's gospel (Mark 14:21), "the Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!" So, why is the weapon that killed Jesus not also cursed? How can we talk about the "glorious Cross," as if it were this grim instrument of torture, rather than God's overflowing love for us, that defined the act of our salvation? 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

In the midst of death, we are in life

    There is a Gregorian chant for the Office of the Dead that starts out "media vita, in morte sumus" (or, "in the midst of life, we are in death"). Very often, walking in the woods in Winter, the opposite line pops into my head. In the midst of death, we are in life

    The other day I was walking along, in a bit of a pissy mood, when I was struck by the sight of a dead tree trunk covered with multi-colored lichens, mushrooms, mosses, and no doubt hosting legions of bugs and microbes, and I thought, "there is so much life in decay!" 

    And at that, trees are very hard to kill! If you love the woods like I do, you will often have seen a tree broken in half, struck by lightning, or even cut down with a chainsaw -- and fiercely sprouting new branches, covered with fresh leaves, full of unquenchable life. And the healthy trees, the ones that appear at a glance to be dead in Winter when their leaves are gone, have twigs full of swelling buds, while out of sight their roots take advantage of the slow season to spread and deepen.

Beech stump, fully alive