That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read. Continue reading “The Opening of Eyes …”
There are so many haunting lines in the passion narratives. Who of us, for instance, is not stirred in the soul when the passion story is read in church and we come to the part where Jesus takes his last breath and there is that minute of silence, where we all drop to our knees? No Good Friday homily is ever as effective as that single line (“he gave up his spirit”) and the moving silence that ensues.
Another such line that has always haunted me is the one that follows immediately after. Jesus dies and we are told that, at the very second of his death, “the veil of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” My imagination, even when I was very little, has always been able to picture that. I have this picture in my mind of it growing dark in the middle of the day and then at the second of Jesus’ death, almost as if by lightening, the temple veil is ripped from top to bottom while everyone looks on stunned, convinced now, too late, that the person they’ve just mocked and crucified is the Christ. It’s a great picture. But, my imagination aside, what is really meant by that phrase that the veil of the temple ripped open at the moment of Jesus’ death? Continue reading “Desert Day 46: Tearing Of The Temple Veil (Good Friday Meditation) …”
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing even to lift a finger to move them.
— Matt 23: 1-4
The fierce words of Jesus addressed to the Pharisees of His day stretch across the bands of time. Today they are directed not only to fallen televangelists but to each of us. We miss Jesus’ point entirely when we use His words as weapons against others. They are to be taken personally by each of us. This is the form and shape of Christian Pharisaism in our time. Hypocrisy is not the prerogative of people in high places. The most impoverished among us is capable of it. Hypocrisy is the natural expression of what is meanest in us all. Continue reading “Desert Day 44: Like The Pharisee …”
How does the Spirit of God manifest itself through us? Often we think that to witness means to speak up in defense of God. This idea can make us very self-conscious. We wonder where and how we can make God the topic of our conversations and how to convince our families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues of God’s presence in their lives. But this explicit missionary endeavor often comes from an insecure heart and, therefore, easily creates divisions. Continue reading “Desert Day 37: The Fruit of the Spirit …”
Abba Xanthias said, “A dog is better than I am because a dog also has love but, unlike I myself, the dog does not pass judgment.”
Abba Sarmatas said: “I prefer a person who has sinned if he knows that he sinned and has repented, over a person who has not sinned and considers himself to be righteous.”
Humility and contemplation are the invisible twins of the spiritual life. One without the other is impossible. In the first place, there is no such thing as a contemplative life without the humility that takes us beyond the myth of our own grandeur to the cosmic grandeur of God. In the second, once we really know the grandeur of God we get the rest of life – ourselves included – in perspective. Reaching the moon told us how really insignificant we were in the universe. We begin to rethink all our dearly held notions of human consequence. Humility leads directly to contemplation. Continue reading “Desert Day 35: Humility And Contemplation …”
Awake, my dear.
Be kind to your sleeping heart.
Take it out in the vast field of Light
And let it breathe.
— Hafiz from I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy
Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature—even a caterpillar—
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.
— Meister Eckhart from Earth Prayers: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations from Around the World
Continue reading “Desert Day 26: Light Everywhere …”
Water, water, water … There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount , a perfect ratio of water to rock, water to sand, insuring that wide free open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.
— Edward Abbey from Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness
Everywhere is Desert
The Desert Fathers believed that the wilderness had been created as supremely valuable in the eyes of God precisely because it had no value to men. The wasteland was the land that could never be wasted by men because it offered them nothing. There was nothing to attract them. There was nothing to exploit. The desert was the region in which the Chosen People had wandered for forty years, cared for by God alone. They could have reached the Promised Land in a few months if they had travelled directly to it. God’s plan was that they should learn to love Him in the wilderness and that they should always look back upon the time in the desert as the idyllic time of their life with Him alone. Continue reading “Desert Day 25: Desert Wisdom, What God Has Blessed …”
Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again. But those who drink the water that I will give them will never become thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give them will become in them a spring that gushes up to eternal life.
— John 4: 13-14
And the well runs dry. It’s one of the most common experiences in the spiritual life. A practice that we have cherished, a habit that has deepened us and drawn us closer to God, a discipline that we perhaps have engaged in for years no longer seems to work. Gradually over time or overnight with no warning, its familiar contours turn foreign, dull, perhaps even painful.
These times call us to some of our deepest discernment. They dare us to ask, Am I being called to go deeper in this practice, to persist, to keep digging toward the wellspring that surely must be here somewhere? Am I being invited to wait and to listen? Or is God leading me toward a different practice than the one I have known? Continue reading “Desert Day 20: When The Well Runs Dry …”