The Holy Maybe

The hint half guessed,

the gift half understood,

is Incarnation.

Here the impossible union

Of spheres of existence is actual,

Here the past and future

Are conquered, and reconciled….

But to apprehend

The point of intersection of the timeless

With time, is an occupation for the saint –

No occupation either, but something given

And taken, in a lifetime’s death in love,

Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender

“The Dry Salvages” by T.S. Eliot

A T.S.Elliot Reflection on Time and Incarnation

from T.S. Eliot’s “The Dry Salvages,” a portion of his Four Quartets:

Men’s curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension.
But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint–
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetimes’s

death in love,

Ardour and

selflessness and

self-surrender.


For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all,

but you are the music
While the music lasts.

There are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer,

observance,

discipline,

thought and

action.

The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is

Incarnation.

Life Saving Wells Come In Many Forms: Waltzing to Unexpected Tunes

Are you prepared to waltz to unexpected tunes? or still setting fires to landscapes?

“If your pain is great enough and your longing for it to end great enough, a response will come. We need to listen hard, and to watch carefully. Life-saving wells can come in many forms, and we might need to try waltzing to unexpected tunes.”

Rabbi Richard N. Levy, Commentary for Psalm 30 from Songs Ascending, The Book of Psalms

Whether we understand or not, we are guided to express our need outwardly to our Creator, who is pointed to with many names but in truth is beyond naming. Rumi’s poetic storytelling mirrors for us the invisible dance of crying out, seeking the living well. In his story of The King and the Handmaiden and the Doctor he brings in sage advice, echoed throughout time in the scriptures of all religions, as I understand them, to include an explicit declaration that the knowledge lies beyond your reach, the tune beyond your comprehension. It is through our trembling awe and sorrow that we open the portal to Mystery where we can absorb the reality that we are lying in a “bed that is too small to stretch out in and the blanket is too small to wrap [us].” (Isaiah 28). The King, in Rumi’s story cries out to Allah saying:

“You know what’s hidden here. I don’t know what to do. You have said, ‘Even though I know all secrets, still declare it outwardly with an action.'”

He cried out loud for help, and the ocean of grace surged over him. He slept in the midst of his weeping on the prayer rug.

In his dream an old man appeared.

“Good king, I have news. Tomorrow a stranger will come. I have sent him. He is a physician you can trust. Listen to him.”

As dawn came, the king was sitting up in the belvedere on his roof. He saw someone coming, a person like the dawn. He ran to meet this guest.

Like two swimmers who love the water, their souls knit together without being seen, no seam.

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt | Belvedere Museum Vienna

Like two swimmers who love the water, their souls knit together without being seen, no seam.

The king said, “You are my beloved, not the girl! But actions spring from actions in this reality. What should I do?”

We should always ask for discipline. One who has no self-control cannot receive grace. And it’s not just himself he hurts. Undisciplined people set fire to the landscape!

Little Fires Everywhere' reminds us microaggressions are incendiary

At last, I have found what patience can bring. This one whose face answers any question, who simply by looking can loosen the knot of intellectual discussion.

You translate what is inside us. If you were to vanish, this vast meeting room would shrink to a closet. Protect us.”

Rumi, The King and the Handmaiden and the Doctor, from The Essential Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks with John Moyne.

As a Strong Wind Blows….

“As a strong wind blows down a weak tree, Mara the Tempter overwhelms weak people who, eating too much and working too little, are caught in the frantic pursuit of pleasure. As the strongest wind cannot shake a mountain, Mara cannot shake those who are self-disciplined and full of faith.” The Dhammapada, translated by Eknath Easwaran

tree_storm_-_Google_Search_-_2015-08-19_00.19.50

Isn’t It Ironic…

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The ground of realization prepares itself slowly.  You are so close to what you are involved in that you literally cannot see it.  Irony continues so long as you do not see. Then, when you suddenly do, you see through the whole sequence at once. You realize how the consequences have been building the whole time, unknown to you. Such recognition breaks your blindness; it also shows you clearly your own part in the story and your responsibility for what happened. It reveals that you have been obscurely complicit in your own downfall. Irony is the shy sister of such recognition.

                                                                                                                          John O’Donahue.

 

Knowing Through a Contrite Heart

 

“Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise,“  Jesus responds to the criminal beside Him, poignantly directing our attention to the criminal himself… to know him and identify with him.

The criminal beside Jesus was able to see Him, to know Him. While the masses mocked and jeered, numb and blind to their own invisible crosses, their own inescapable, imperfect, sinful nature rendering them capable of participating in stoning, scourging, and crucifying ….While the masses mocked as they watched with hearts of stone the most brutal suffering inflicted on an innocent…The criminal, intimately tied to his own cross, knew Him as Lord, Christ, the Annointed One.  The other criminal, however, also tied to his own cross, joined the mocking crowd with challenges to prove Himself, his Holy power, by saving Himself and, of course, by saving them both as well.

Let us now listen with our hearts to the rebuke of the criminal who knew him as Lord:   “Don’t you fear God? We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did.”   His attention turned away from saving his body to saving his soul.  He turned his attention away from escaping his darkest hour in pride and instead moved toward Jesus in his darkest hour in humble active surrender. Hanging from his cross, I imagine the criminal’s heart so filled with his weakness, emptied of all his defenses, justifications, lamentations for himself and his nature that his heart was able to soak in the awe of Jesus Christ crucified, the fear of God, the love of God, and set his intention on something beyond himself….pure holiness…attained in relationship with Christ himself.  

Hear now what he says to Jesus directly,  “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”   From the cross Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”  Jesus is speaking to us all, in His darkest hours, the way to an intimate relationship with Him where He will take us to Paradise.

The way is illuminated in the contrasts between the other criminal asking to be taken from the cross and the one asking to be remembered….a request suggestive of an intimacy already formed.  For he knew Him as Lord, Christ, the Annointed One.  He knew him not by a shared history, by relation, nor by intellect, human wisdom or a pious practice. He knew Him through the lens of his contrite heart as he sat in stark awareness of his sin, his weakness, his ineptitude…that is, our human nature. He knew Him with his broken repentent heart which does not ask for proof or to be taken down from the cross but, rather, cries out:

 “Don’t you fear God?  We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did.”“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

I imagine this criminal so emptied of self he could BE WITH Jesus on the cross, God, and the Holy Spirit…. and tremble in the light of His presence, His Life giving love, His Mercy.  Yes, I see him trembling in deep reverent fear as he testifies his guilt to Jesus and asks only to be remembered…not even capable of imagining he could be saved…just to be held, possibly for the briefest of moments, in memory as Jesus entered into His Kingdom.  Imagine the shock to his entire worldview when he heard, “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.”

We all want to be remembered don’t we?  We want man and God to remember some of the good things we did while we walked this earth.   This moment says, to me, however, that it is NOT in OUR good works that we should seek to be remembered, but in works we do through Him to help others remember God’s Glory which is sewn in all our hearts.

Think for a moment of those people you have met who remind you of God’s grace, those people who open the deepest well within you, quenching a thirst you may have become unaware of in the busysess or strife of your life.

It is in our emptying ourselves of our works, our busyness, our desires, our pride, our reputations…. to Him that others remember God and come to faith, bringing change beyond our imaginations.  It is in surrendering to His alter our contrite heart….and not just at our literal death, as the criminal………but NOW and DAILY. We need to be crucified DAILY by Him, for Him, and resurrected in life.  In our surrender we receive His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness….and drink from the well where we never thirst again.

May we all empty ourselves of defense and self-lamentations,  go into the well of our deepest sorrows and pick up our crosses, soak in the awe of Jesus Christ crucified…and hear “Assuredly, I say to you today,  you will be with Me in Paradise.” Today, Now. Transformed and renamed, soaking in the Grace of God. As Paul said, when we know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified, and come to Him in weakness with great fear and trembling, we are filled with the Spirit’s power…God’s power.   This is paradise…where all hate is conquered and life is pierced open. This is the real thing, The Divine living in us. Walking in the Holy Spirit. This is faith. So let us turn our attention away from sleep or escaping our darkest hour in pride and, instead, move toward the Beloved in our darkest hour in humble active surrender and hear, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

Unveiling Questions

Rationalizations cannot protect against or undo the damage of injustice or violation, dehumanization of the heart.  Even love and compassion can be rationalizations disguised to subvert voice and agency, boundaries and protection.  When the heart is dehumanized our awareness is in bondage, left in limbo, in an altered state.  We can live a whole life without ever knowing.  When we start paying attention to subtle experiences of our own sense of invisibility and an absence of worth which is different from low self worth… we begin unveiling questions that are in search of light.  Noell_02

Photo by Noell S Oszveld

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