April 3, 2012 § Leave a comment
Mary, Theotokos and so much more! God-Bearer. Disciple. Priesthood Personified. Divinization. Spirit Bearer. Not necessarily in that order.
In the post which precedes this post, I laid the groundwork for what I hope to do here. I provided a scriptural underpinning for our common humanity with both Mary and her son (who receives his humanity from her and wants to share his Divinity with us).
Instead of just putting my comments into words, I hope to do so through images. For it is not just a saying that “one picture is worth a thousand words” but indeed our right hemisphere codes meaning in “flashes” you might say, in imagery, packing “wholeness” for us, which pages and pages of words can only try to unpack.
So without further ado, I want to present several images. Images which “show” what I hope to say here, images which tell us theological truths about Mary, the Theotokos, and also about our own calling, to be transformed into God-Bearers ~ in order to exercise a Priestly Calling: to bring all things into Christ.
We are all called.
As Moses was called.
As Mary was called.
We live into it.
As best we can.
Mary, Theotokos, tells us everything
I’m trying to say.
Our hearts and Mary’s heart.
Streams of Life running through us.
The Gift of Tears.
The Sacred in the Ordinary.
A Heart crushed and broken!
On Fire with Love!
Mary’s Calling and our Calling. The inner priesthood of the heart. Note Mary’s upturned hands in the orans or priestly position. The inner Christ. Presiding in Temple of our Heart. The flame of the Spirit within our hearts.
See Alexander Golitzin’s wonderful paper (in two parts) on Liturgy and Mysticism, which does a far better job than I could ever do in putting all this together. See also this wonderful description by him of the Place of the Presence of God – in the living presence of a divinized holy person. (These articles require time and attention, but yield much fruit!)
July 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
Corporate Personhood. It’s basic to Judaeo-Christian heritage, though neither religion uses that term. Not only is it basic to how ancient Hebrews viewed themselves, but it profoundly grounds Christian experience as inextricably corporate: a body of believers in a mystical unity so profound, of such depth that I think it reaches into silence. For it strikes one dumb – in Awe. Or comes to fruition in prayer, in poetry, in actions of self-giving and the gift of self-transcendance. To seeing, as Paul did, Christ within (oneself and others) and all of us in Fellowship – in Him.
The Eucharist is precisely the Sacrament of this Mystery. Whose beginnings can be traced back to Genesis. As John’s Gospel makes clear.
Corporate Personhood. We see it first in Jacob. The man who wrestled with God. The man whose name was thereafter changed to Israel. A very human man, a trickster who was later tricked again and again. A man who had to flee his homeland (as later Moses had to flee) in fear of his life. A man who (like Moses) met God alone in the wilderness. Was promised God would be with him.
Jacob, Israel, stands for both a person and A People: Corporate Personhood. To speak of Israel is to recall Jacob as Father of a people and as this People’s We Identity – in terms of both nation and religion.
The Temple, so important to Israel’s public worship, so mourned by the Hebrews in exile, that when they were exiled (and deprived of Temple worship) they arrived at a deeper understanding of Yahweh as present in His word, His Torah. Yahweh: A God who called. Who promised. Who traveled with His People. Who heard their cries and supplications. Who inspired Prophets and Psalmist alike, whose actions were alive in history. A God who Spoke. A Living God. A Personal Holy Presence.
It was this Presence in Jesus: God With Us.
John’s Gospel, which so profoundly presents this Mystery of Corporate Personhood flowing from Christ, speaks early on of Jacob, of the ladder stretched between heaven and earth, what Jacob termed the Gate of Heaven, and Jesus promises his disciples they will see more than Jacob did. And John’s Gospel does not disappoint.
When Paul speaks of Mystical Body he is speaking of Corporate Personhood. Of the Fellowship with each other in Christ, in the Trinity – a mutual sharing of Divine Life.
In Christianity the concept of Temple (so revered, longed for, loved) was replaced by Christ Himself. Christ in each believer. Christ in the Body of Believers. Christ, The Word. Christ shared out. Paul understood this so well. Both mystically and practically.
There is so much more one could say about this…. Let us just dwell with it.
June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
On the night he was betrayed – so powerful are those words, you know immediately to whom I am referring. Matthew’s Gospel shares with us two versions of a “price” on the head of Jesus.
First we have an unknown woman. Who approaches him and pours a priceless perfume on his head. The Fathers have encouraged us to see this as an image of faith and prayer. An image of how Jesus “God With Us” is close enough to touch and be touched. Compassionate enough to regard especially the least in his culture as worthy of approaching him. Both John’s Gospel and Matthew’s Gospel record how the cost of this precious anointing was questioned. But the point of the story, I think, is the value of the person so honored. Jesus is priceless for those who have faith, for those who seek the face of God.
Next, we have Judas. Who trades for the head of Jesus. Thirty pieces of silver was the price. The priceless one – devalued. Sold. (A temptation Jesus himself had refused when he was offered the whole world in exchange for selling his soul.)
Matthew puts this into context earlier in chapter 6: 19-21:
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Which reminds us of what really matters. Yet it’s interesting that in terms of the story, in terms of the ultimate outcome of God’s Inbreaking Kingdom, price holds a Paradox. The ultimate humility, the ultimate Incarnation, was to join with those who suffer most deeply: the tortured; the mocked; the abused; the humiliated; the innocently imprisoned, tried, convicted, condemned; the betrayed. All the disciples expected their Messiah to achieve worldly glory, an earthly kingdom, but instead, as we see throughout the Old Testament as well, God always surprises us, choosing the unlikely person or situation – hiding Himself in the most amazing ways.
Jesus had to fail and to be betrayed in order to join with us in those ways. And in that joining, to lift us up into His humble exaltation.
So I have to wonder… to ponder… the fate of Judas. To be honest, I hope he was saved.
November 28, 2010 § Leave a comment
Come. Let us enter into the Psalms. (I’ve been pondering them of late – with Bob. And now I have some thoughts to share.)
Psalms. What a lovely word. All the consonants are soft. The single vowel is the very one babies first make – in words like papa and mama. Psalm. A sound like “solemn” – a word you could say over and over. That’s exactly what the psalms are: Words to say over and over.
Come. Let us enter.
Some of the psalms will literally bid us enter. But right now we stand at the entryway itself. An entryway that asks for choices and presents them and their consequences in very stark terms. The book of psalms summarizes all the majesty and the plight of being human. No matter the circumstances or one’s inner state, you can find in the psalms an answering echo – words of comfort, of joy, of sorrow. Fear. Awe. Every emotion, every uplifting or depressing thought or feeling or circumstance. Words that speak to your heart or words that voice what is in your heart, that speak for you – when your own words fail.
Come. Let us begin…
Like a gateway – requiring two posts, one on either side, the collection of psalms begins with two introductory statements – between which we must pass. Two psalms, which set the stage, place us in a position of choices and lay out the consequences for us – the world as we find it already, ourselves as important players in a drama, already ongoing.
Imagine yourself standing at a gateway. On your right and your left are the gateposts, marking the entryway. These are the first two psalms. Once you pass through the gateway you will discover psalms that feel more personal, expressing yearning, remorse, conflict, joy, sorrow, exaltation, even despair. But these gateway psalms are placed here almost as warnings – asking you to pause. To ponder. To reflect. On your life. On its meaning. Its direction. On the state of the world. The forces that impinge upon our lives. What is transitory? What is ultimate? For whom and for what do I stand?
So we pause at the gate. We look left. We look right. And we either ponder psalms 1 and 2 or note them, intending to return at some later point – for we may see ahead of us more pressing concerns. Perhaps a need to run for cover in Psalm 3. Or wrap Psalm 4 around us like a prayer shawl. But if you haven’t really paused at these gateposts before, I invite you to wait with me at the Gate. To consider Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 as linked icons, placed there there to guard your passing, to be heeded – even reverenced – prior to entering the Psalm Garden within. Just as Orthodox priests reverence tiny icons on doorposts as they enter the sanctuary. Or as Jews post the Shema on doorways and gates, reverencing it in their going out and coming in. In accord with its command to do so.
October 31, 2010 § 13 Comments
There’s a challenge going around. I got roped into it. It has kind of a fancy name, but basically it requires you to come up with the authors or books that have impacted you so much they rise into your consciousness almost unbidden, once challenged to come up with a list (in 15 minutes more or less). I must admit a good number of these books were ones that came to mind a bit over a year ago when a neighbor, interested in deepening his prayer life, wanted some recommendations. (He thought it would take me some time to compile such a list, but I had gathered all the the books into a pile by the next morning. Most are on this list, and that was before I ever even “thought” of becoming Orthodox.)
Twice in my life my work has literally “driven me” to prayer. The first time was during my 8 years teaching young children. The second time was during my decades doing psychotherapy. I’ve practically starting writing my “memoirs” about some of that at Nothingness, so I’ll just link to those posts if there’s a need for further explanation of some books on this list. Intense work (either with rambunctious children needing so much from a teacher or troubled adults needing so much from a therapist) presents so many challenges in the areas of emotion, intellect, and personal presence, that, as I wrote elsewhere, “over and over I have needed to turn to God – or perhaps you could say: God has turned to me.”
The List of books:
- TS Eliot: Four Quartets
- Andre Louf: Prayer and Humility
- Anonymous Author: The Way of a Pilgrim / Philokalia / Prayer of the Heart
- Anonymous Author: The Cloud of Unknowing
- Walter Ciszek: He Leadeth Me
- Lanza del Vasto: Return to the Source
- Abhishiktananda: Prayer and a Christian approach to Vedanta
- Ruth Burrows: prayer, biography, spiritual life
- Jean Marie Howe: Secret of the Heart
- The Gospel of John
- The Psalms
- Aelred Squire: Asking the Fathers
- Solzhenitzin’s early novels
- Theophane the Monk: Tales of a Magic Monastery
Also, all too many books that I am currently reading… or “getting to”.
September 18, 2010 § 3 Comments
This blog is following allusions. Taking side turns to consider turns of phrase and words that provided linkages from one thing to another, thus gradually deepening understanding of all of them. Thus the circuitous route I am taking in tackling these subjects here.
Allusions to the title above: I got the idea for this title from Pima Chödrön because of a comment by another trope, which was very helpful. So I took the book off my shelf and started to read. Pretty soon she mentioned, with regard to insight meditation (being aware of one’s thoughts and feelings, while accepting them), the words: “nailed to the present moment”. That set off a lot of thoughts for me: One blog. Now this one. Nailed, of course, made me think of Jesus. The cross. Suffering. Redemption. Lifting up, as prayer. And the words “present moment” reminded me of a French spiritual writer, a very helpful one actually, whose book, published long after his death I think, is called: Sacrament of the Present Moment. That title relates to the genesis of this blog and the reason for this post. Sacrament. Priesthood of the Faithful. Our task in order to grow into that priesthood.
First, let me say right here and now how much I love Buddhism. And how much I revere the Buddha. Eastern traditions, and that includes the Orthodox, have long delved into the psychology of the spiritual path. They’ve nailed it! In my book. Indeed the part of the early church that most interests me is the church that developed in northwestern Iraq. Yes! Where East meets West. Lots of similarities in some ways between insight meditation and what the Orthodox call “guarding the heart”. It’s practically the same thing – to me. Though I find the word “guarding” to be a mistranslation. Or maybe I’ve been too much influenced by Buddhism. To be honest my interest in Buddhism seems never to have dissuaded God from radically breaking into my life. So I take that as a comfort. Unless the inbreakings have some other meaning… which I am missing.
September 14, 2010 § 2 Comments
Lifting up one’s heart is a priestly act. It is prayer. Today is the Feast of the Lifting up of the Cross.
Whether you are aware of it or not.
Whenever you lift up your heart and soul, you too are participating in an inner Liturgy prayed by the Holy Spirit in the depths of each heart.