Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, December 25, 2004

What is born today?

The wolf lives with the lamb,
the panther lies down with the kid,
calf and lion feed together,
with a little boy to lead them.
The cow and the bear make friends,
their young lie down together.
The lion eats straw like the ox.
The infant plays over the cobra’s hole;
into the viper’s lair
the young child puts his hand.
They do no hurt, no harm,
on all my holy mountain,
for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters swell the sea.

(From Isaiah 11)

For us – Nobis.

All of us.

Seeing whole.

What is – born, today.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas is nothing special made visible.

For some, it is a celebration of the divisible.

I lean to the quiet (in)side of it.

Stillness, stillness
In the flowering branches
At the thatched hut,
Swept strings of a zither.
Because you're now in mountains,
The way you see has changed;
When meeting visitors,
You do not speak your heart.
The moon rises
Over the quiet river road;
Cranes cry from trees
Deep in cloud.
If I could learn
The art of alchemy,
I, too, would settle
In an unknown wood.

- Chang Chi (776-829)

Alchemy, says the dictionary, is the medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy whose aims were the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for diseases, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life.
(Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary, © 2002)

I'm not so interested in gold, cures, or indefinite and prolonged life. Pizza, water, ice cream, and cookie suffice.

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.
(from A sermon of St Augustine, Office of Readings, 24Dec.04)

It is a welcome notion God became man. So, here we are. Male and female -- God became us. Mother and child -- God became us.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.
Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.
Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

(from A sermon of St Augustine)

Heaven is the dwelling place of God. And God became us. Hence we are God's dwelling place. Heaven is now here.

It is nice so many churches celebrate Christmas with abandon. They invite the collaboration of God with us to sing, and pray, and share the elements of earth as sign of wholeness.

Of indivisibility.

Light leaping into darkness.

Word impregnating silence.

Until -- there is only one step following another; one breath following another; one indivisible simple realization following an unending stretch of divisible complexity.

Word becomes flesh, dwells among us, and we see.

Don't we?

Nothing finer; nothing finite; nothing to it.

Each in itself seeing Itself.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Mary was indivisible. Forget the dissembling confusion over the shell of the story; the heart of the myth is wholeness and compassion. Mary broke open the shell; Jesus embodied the core.

What is sitting meditation?
To remove ourselves from
all external distractions and
quiet the mind is called “sitting.”
To observe the inner nature
in perfect calmness is called “meditation.”

- Hui-neng

We need quiet and meditation this Christmas. The noise and distressing infidelity to truth by makers of war and violence has hurt our souls and pained hearts.

But now, God, you have spurned us and confounded us,
so that we must go into battle without you.
You have put us to flight in the sight of our enemies,
and those who hate us plunder us at will.
You have handed us over like sheep sold for food,
you have scattered us among the nations.

(from Psalm 44)

The birth of Jesus and giving-birth by Mary is celebration of indivisibility.

Is that the mystery of Christ? Is that what Mary entered, what Jesus found?

What did Mary enter? What did Jesus find?

In this time of unnecessary war we desperately embody these questions.

To bring them home.

Ask them in.

One and one.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Dirk, just back from India, says compassion treats the other as oneself.

Far up this cold mountain,
A steep rocky trail
Leads to places men dwell
In white clouds.
I stop my horse-drawn cart,
Sit and enjoy sunset through the maples,
Whose frosted leaves are redder
Than early spring flowers.

- Tu Mu (803-852)

War-deaths continue to mount. A fragile seesaw tries to balance celebrating holiday cheer alongside screams of fear and explosives. We are encouraged to think positively -- as if wishing made so what wisher wishes.

For he knows how we are made,
he remembers we are nothing but dust.
Man -- his life is like grass,
he blossoms and withers like flowers of the field.
The wind blows and carries him away:
no trace of him remains.

(from Psalm 103)

At Wednesday Evening Laura Conversation, words such as "wholeness" and "compassion" were looked at. Is awareness of the one prerequisite for the other? Not seeing one or the other, are we blind to the mystery of life?

War is a lie.

Can spoil be snatched from heroes,
or captives escape from a soldier?
Yes, thus says the Lord:
The hero's captive will be snatched away,
the soldier's spoil escape.
I myself will fight with those who fight you,
and I myself will save your children.

(from Isaiah 49)

What is born whole is torn asunder by fragmenting minds unable to apprehend the whole.

Word looks out from itself.

Will it come to earth?

As antidote to lie?

Again.

Christmas nears.

Mystery pauses.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Winter tomorrow. Tonight, as prelude, freezing wind slices open any hope of moderation. Temperature bottoms.

An old friend who lives on Tung Mountain
Loves the beauty of valleys and hills.
In green spring, he rests in empty woods
And sleeps though the sun is high.
Pine wind rustles his collar and sleeve;
The deep, rocked pool cleanses heart and ear.
I envy this man who suffers no delusions,
His high pillow wreathed by green clouds.

- Li Po (701-762)

Delusions huddle in cold light. We face the prospect of falling colder and further into an ideological ice age where reactionary leadership and politics threaten fear and devolving smugness in place of compassionate kindness and warm humanity.

I pondered and tried to understand:
my eyes laboured to see –
until I entered God’s holy place
and heard how they would end.
For indeed you have put them on a slippery surface
and have thrown them down in ruin.

How they are laid waste!
How suddenly they fall and perish in terror!
You spurn the sight of them, Lord,
as a dream is abandoned when the sleeper awakes.

(--from Psalm 73)

I worry about this time in history; worry the men creating our world see something the rest of us do not see. These men see Jesus as a Republican. Jesus is a corporate executive winning expanded market-share exclusively for the deserving. Jesus is a white man using chosen men to represent the tenets of privilege, exclusive ownership, and noblesse oblige over the undeserving, the have-nots, and the unworthy.

Their eyes are the pain of winter without winter's beauty.

Recently a circular letter arrived from a musician who said that if he heard the name Jesus one more time in this first post-election Christmas, he'd crap in his shoe.

It's about compassion, he wrote. Always and only about compassion -- for everyone and everything.

It is a tricky thing to celebrate the birth of Christ among men who believe they own Jesus.

I am not fond of all the arrogant men who claim they own Jesus.

Mother Mary shows us another way.

She is compassionate presence.

A Bodhisattva.

Delusionless.

Salve Maria!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Let's leave well enough alone.

The one we call God never leaves.

We're the only ones who try to disappear.

To find a buddha,
all you have to do is see your nature.
Your nature is the buddha.
And the buddha is the person who's free;
free of plans, free of cares.
If you don't see your nature
and run around all day looking
somewhere else, you'll never find a buddha.

- Bodhidharma (d. 533)

It is our nature to long to appear. It is God's nature to be appearance.

If I looked upon sin in the depths of my heart,
the Lord would not hear me;
but the Lord has listened,
he has heard the cry of my appeal.

(from Psalm 66)

Beyond sin -- that is, beyond the fear we might disappear -- there is this listening. There is this listening appearance that sees us through but cannot be seen.

There's no need to keep looking elsewhere. There is no somewhere else.

All appears well right where we are.

Right where you are.

Listening alone.

Well, well...

Enough.