Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility. This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator’s Thought and Art within me …
— Thomas Merton from A Grateful Heart
All things in this creation exist within you, and all things in you exist in creation; there is no border between you and the closest things, and there is no distance between you and the farthest things, and all things, from the lowest to the loftiest, from the smallest to the greatest, are within you as equal things. In one atom are found all the elements of the earth; in one motion of the mind are found the motions of all the laws of existence; in one drop of water are found the secrets of all the endless oceans; in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of existence. Continue reading “Advent Day 24: Joy Is Within Our Reach …”
There must be always remaining in every man’s life some
place for the singing of angels — some place for that
which in itself is breathlessly beautiful and by an
inherent prerogative, throwing all the rest of life into
a new and creative relatedness — something that gathers
up in itself all the freshets of experience from drab and
commonplace areas of living and glows in one bright
light of penetrating beauty and meaning — then passes.
The commonplace is shot through with new glory — old
burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much
of their old, old hurting. A crown is placed over our
heads that for the rest of our lives we are trying to
grow tall enough to wear. Despite all the crassness of
life, despite all the hardness of life, despite all of the
harsh discords of life, life is saved
by the singing of angels. Continue reading “Advent Day 23: Hospitality …”
Marvelous Truth, confront us
at every turn
in every guise.
― Denise Levertov from A Grateful Heart
We forever drift in and out of the miracle before us. As our eyes dilate and constrict in order to see, we are opened by love, wonder, and truth into the immediacy of all that is incomprehensible, only to wrestle with pain, loss, and obstacles that make us constrict. And during the wrestle, the miracle of life seems out of reach. Though once enduring what we’re given, pain and loss open us further. This is how the human heart sees. Modern culture tells us that we are entitled to a perfect, happy life. Yet if we insist on deifying a painless life free of loss, we will only be battered by the pain and loss we are given and miss the point of the journey. Much as we’d like, we can’t be happy all the time, any more than we can dilate or inhale all the time. We need to dilate and constrict, and inhale and exhale, in order to live. And so, the heart, mind, and soul need to open and close to the entirety of the human experience in order to make sense of things as they move through. Difficult as they are, pain, loss, and obstacles are dynamic forces of life that make us open and close. It is up to us to make sense of our lifelong conversation with them. Continue reading “Advent Day 07: Our Real Work …”
Learn to get in touch with silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences; all events are blessings given to us to learn from. There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub.
— Elisabeth Kubler-Ross as quoted in “Messenger of Love” by Lennie Kronisch in Yoga Journal, Issue 11, November-December 1976, pp. 18-20
The spiritual life, in other words, is not achieved by denying one part of life for the sake of another. The spiritual life is achieved only by listening to all of life and learning to respond to each of its dimensions wholly and with integrity.
― Joan D. Chittister from Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today
When the heart opens, we forget ourselves and the world pours in: this world, and also the invisible world of meaning that sustains everything that was and ever shall be. When the heart opens, everything matters, and this world and the next become one and the same. Continue reading “Advent Day 06: An Open and Growing Heart …”
I say that religion isn’t about believing things. It’s ethical alchemy. It’s about behaving in a way that changes you, that gives you intimations of holiness and sacredness.
— Karen Amstrong as quoted in Profile at TED (2009)
Religions don’t agree on which day is holy, but by and large they do agree that once a week you must check in with your beliefs, your community, and yourself. For Jews, this ritual starts Friday at sundown and lasts until sundown on Saturday. For Muslims, it usually starts with Friday afternoon prayers. For the wide range of denominations of practicing Christians, it’s on Sunday, with the exception of Seventh-day Adventists, who are defined by their observance on Saturday. For Quakers, a sect of Protestants who downplay annual holidays because they see every day as an equal celebration of Christ, silent worship at their weekly meetings is the heartbeat of belief. In Buddhism, the holy day of the week changes with the phases of the moon.
For my great-grandparents the holy day was called Shabbos (the Yiddish word for the Sabbath; Shabbat is Hebrew). Each week, for an entire rotation of the Earth, they did not work or handle money or use electricity: no lamps, no phones, and no riding in cars. Just prayer, synagogue, and family time. It was about rest, reflection, and taking stock of the week, a kind of early TGIF.
There are, as with all things, loopholes even for the orthodox. For example, there are large buildings in places densely populated by observant Jews where the elevators are preprogrammed to stop at every floor during Shabbat. If you’re not pressing any buttons, you’re not breaking the rules, right? This is the subject of much debate. Other exceptions also get made. If you’re extremely ill, it might be okay to ride to synagogue as long as a Gentile drives you. But even when my great-grandfather Benjamin was dying of stomach cancer, he was so devout he still walked to services every week. Continue reading “Advent Day 03: Ritual …”
Christmas is amazing — and radical. It challenges wanderers to let their imaginations run wild. Christmas is an irrational, impossible, paradoxical season the infinite in the finite, God’s light in the gloom of our world, the whole of the universe concentrated in a little baby, the God of The Big Bang and the galaxies appearing in a homeless, working class, and soon-to-be refugee family.
… may you be sensitive to the awe and wonder of the Incarnation. As you experience the many births of Christ in your life and in our world, I pray that you will embody, in the gloom of our time, the wisdom of J.R.R. Tolkien , who wrote that “not all who wander are lost”. Continue reading “Advent Day 02: Not All Who Wander Are Lost …”
Christmas is a swiftly moving season with few clear boundaries. The day after we’ve packed up our Halloween costumes, Hallmark Channel begins nearly two months of twenty-four-seven presentations of Christmas movies. Shortly thereafter, we are inundated with ads inviting us to shop early to get the best bargains. The holiday rush is in full swing by Thanksgiving with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales abounding, and People jostling one another to be 1st to purchase the latest must have Christmas presents. Radio stations begin playing Christmas songs on Thanksgiving Day.
In the fifty-five days from All Saints’ day to Christmas Day, we prepare for Christ coming through online shopping, bargain hunting, photos with Santa coma songs and carols, baking, drinking, and revelling. Despite wars and rumors of war, poverty, addiction, and homelessness, Christmas magic is in the air! That often in the magic we miss the sacredness of the season, the holy time and space of pregnancy, birth, and revelation. Continue reading “Advent Day 01: A Sacred Season …”