Saturday, February 02, 2002

Simeon, old and hanging on for some sign, held the child. He told Mary the child would be a sign that is contradicted, something spoken against. There would be pain and sorrow piercing her heart.

Anna, old and a regular at the temple, thanks God, and tells whoever would listen about the child. The child is presented as a light to the non-Jews and as a son-heir to the Jewish messianic hopes. The God of the Jewish people is both invisible and nameless but there. The Gentiles needed a light to see what they couldn't comprehend. The child with Simeon and Anna is visible, named, and will suffer and die. Like Mary, Joseph, David, Abraham, Moses, Isaac, Jacob, Pontius Pilate, Herod, John, our parents -- like everyone who appears and is called by name, this child Jesus, will suffer and die. God or no God -- if you're going to appear you'll disappear. If you are given a name, it will be taken away. What's the point?

Today America says it is groundhog's day -- see or don't see shadow, the groundhog appears and is watched by others for signs of the length of winter. Tomorrow is superbowl Sunday -- bet or don't bet on the New England Patriots an enormous viewing audience will watch for signs to see which one or the other will suffer loss and defeat. Many will attend as the whole show comes to an end with the final whistle. And here too, will there not be signs contradicted in these events? Won't there be many who will speak against whatever outcome occurs? Won't the child be dismissed in equivocal ways that Simeon only half represents when he suggests God dismiss him now that he has seen? See what the heart longs for and dissolve with the seeing, dissolve into the seeing?
Seeing what?

Acts at random,
In ignorance of
The constant, bode ill.
Knowing the constant
Gives perspective;
This perspective is impartial.
Impartiality is the highest nobility;
The highest nobility is divine,
And the divine is the Way.
This Way is everlasting,
Not endangered by physical death.

- Tao-te Ching (

Light clarifies as fire refines. An email about refining silver was sent by Kristen. Excerpted:
He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold
the silver in the middle of the flame, where the heat was the
hottest, in order to burn away all the impurities.
The man answered that
yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to
keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the flames. If
the silver was left even a moment too long, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith,
"How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her
and answered, "Oh, that's the easy part - when I see my image
reflected in it."

The value of sangha, community, church, supporting circle -- is the constant attentiveness, watchfulness, listening, appreciating and questioning. The work is done there, within and surrounding the gathering of individuals witnessing the transformation presence encourages.

Simeon held this truth in his hands. Anna told it to others. You and I always have a choice -- namely, do we divert our attention and energy away from the process at hand, or do we engage each and all in the reflective work of allowing what we have seen and heard dissolve into who we are in silence?

One of the annoying yet endearing qualities of Jesus was his invitation to allow the rules and laws of external imposition dissolve -- and to enter the freedom of building together the kingdom of heaven, the indwelling place of God, the one reality of love, light, truth, freedom, justice -- an unseen, unnamed, unother Presence.

Simeon longed for the "consolation of Israel." Perhaps we might transliterate this phrase of Simeon's to -- taking comfort with the wrestling we engage in with messages/messengers of God. Is this what we call Presence?

Anna thanks God for the intuitions and energies that God is in our midst. She is a prophetess. She "...anticipates," as one writer says it, "what will happen when the spirit is poured out on all flesh...A model of faith in action, one who responds positively and properly to the coming of the Messiah." (in Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol.I, p.257),

At the Snowbowl next door, toboggan championships are being run. One by one they shoot through the chute and out across Hosmer Pond thick with ice. Each run is timed, measured, and recorded. In the dooryard Kristen leaves with her portable table. Jim unloads some things from his red truck and drives east. In kitchen the apple Kuchen is baked and out of the oven. Gray squirrels have emptied the house feeder out back. It is Saturday. Sando noses into this room. Smoke rises from woodstove chimney outside window and dissolves into the sun-bright frosty air.

I present these facts so that when each one of them dissolves there will be no need to speak against them. They are signs of themselves. No other meaning is needed.

We thank God, knowing this, constantly watchful.

Friday, February 01, 2002

What we need is some way to be and say -- what and who we are -- as we become, truly, what and who we are!

"Rabbit, Rabbit." (That's for Susan, Bob, Dana and the rest of the schooner crowd -- as well as Kristen the Sweetvoice of Evergreen, Reiki and Massage -- who over the years have spoken these words upon opening their eyes on the first of the month. Although none of them have been able to attribute the source of pronouncing this ritualized awakening, they, and several visitors from away, nod enthusiastically as to the appropriateness of the practice.)

Attain the center of emptiness,
Preserve the utmost quiet;
As myriad things act in concert,
I thereby observe the return.
Things flourish,
Then each returns to its root.
Returning to the root
Is called stillness:
Stillness is called return to Life,
Return to Life is called the constant;
Knowing the constant is called enlightenment.

- Tao-te Ching (

Upon my awaking this morning, (rabbit rabbit notwithstanding), I found words echoing in my yawning dawn that remind me of the center emptiness, act in concert, observing return, flourishing root, calling stillness, returning to life the constant, knowing the constant is enlightenment -- the Tao-te Ching fragment arousing resemblance and resonance. Here are the words I wake with -- they arrive from a night's sleep:

May this bread we eat place us in mind of Christ.
May this wine we drink serve the embodying of Christ.
When we eat and drink this bread and wine we remember Christ with compassion.
May the understanding and awareness of Christ transform each and all in simplicity, silence, and service.
Yes, thank you!

Round drops of snowy sleet sound whoosh and shhh when pushed by my boots approaching the empty birdfeeders. We were gone four days to southern Maine and western Massachusetts. Saskia attended the funeral in New York State of her brother-in-law's father at a Russian Orthodox Monastery. May he rest in peace!
Today the birds must be higher on the mountain, not yet aware that our negligence is revisited with feed again for them as light snow resumes. That's how I felt at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland yesterday at 12:15 Mass listening to the words of liturgical celebration, receiving/reciprocating communion, and sitting in silent presence after the chapel emptied.

During his homily the priest spoke of Don Bosco, the saint honored on the 31st -- how he worked with youth, and his followers too were known for their educating and serving youth. I prayed for all those involved over the years with the sorrow and pain of sexual abuse, priests to youth, and for the healing of wounds in both victim and perpetrator. Boston reels with the coming to light of the secrets and denials rife in the clash of institution and human lives. The Church takes its hit -- and (in deference to upcoming Superbowl Sunday, another American liturgical event) -- it is thrown for a long significant loss. It is time to field a more transparent plan to embody the compassion, understanding, and awareness of Christ. Mere institutional lineage and conferring of teaching power -- whether in priestly or political arenas -- no longer compels as reason for fidelity. A dry, empty time, fallow and hard, winter's face.

And then -- one chickadee, two, three return. Their chirping precedes them. They take seed, dart to safe limb, and eat. This, this, is what we need -- to return, eat, drink -- remembering source, revealing what can no longer stay hidden, responding with what and who we are.

Yes, thank you!

Monday, January 28, 2002

Thomas must have loved straw. He compared all his writings to straw at the end of his life. Still, his straw became the foundation of scholastic theology for the next 700 years.

The tragedy of man is not that he cannot find happiness, but that he looks for it in all the wrong places. Because the desires of man are boundless, no particular good, whether outside himself, or in himself can perfectly satisfy him. (PartIIa, Ch.1, Pocket Edition of St. Thomas, Summa Simplified for Everyone)

Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.
It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.
(From a conference by Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest: The Cross exemplifies every virtue)

The desires we cultivate are boundless. We want what is not here. We want more, bigger, better. We want others to be as we wish them to be. We want the world to embrace our politics, our values both good and bad. We want wealth, health, happiness, for ourselves. We want something to go away, something else to come. There's no end to the ways our mind fabricates the belief that this, here, now is inadequate, measly, merde, straw. And yet, if God is here, now?

What are "the evils which we incur?" What, according to Thomas Aquinas, did Christ disdain on the cross or desire on the cross that exemplified every virtue? Perhaps the evil is the refusal to look at and see what is good. Perhaps what Christ disdained, that is, what Christ saw as unworthy and beneath the dignity of men and women, is the false front, mock values, and posturing pretense that prevents us from opening to and falling into the one true reality. And what is that one true reality? I'm not sure, I don't know.

But Christ seemed to suggest the one true reality is that we are family, brother, sister, mother, father to each other. That we are what God is -- we are meant to be presence, light, comfort, and truth for each other. That we are meant to be free and full of grace -- not burdened by debt, disease, distorted beliefs.

Today a 20yr old woman in the Middle East blew herself up and killed alongside her an 81yr old man and wounded 113 others. Commandos rush a hospital in Afghanistan and kill 5 members of a terrorist group holed up there for two months who threatening to blow up the hospital. Today four professional football teams rest from their games yesterday -- the combined gates, betting, salaries and endorsements of their and some of the professional basketball teams that also played their games -- amounting to well over a billion dollars. Corporations, lawyers, accountants, and politicians resume their Joycean monologues and polyphonic atonal rap songs to each other in the myriad hearings and scandal scouting events of Houston and Washington D.C.. Hide and run, shuck and jive, steal and fleece and explain it as capitalism, as distraction and entertainment -- what else can be seen from the cross?

When men see clearly the justice and the mercy of God, the wisdom of God will also be apparent to them. All the seeming inequalities and injustices of human life -- the prosperity of the wicked and the oppression of the just, the sudden and early death of the saintly and the long life of the tyrant -- all these mysteries of life will be opened to the minds of men [and women]. The plan of God in the creation of human life, in all its vastness and complexity, will be seen by men [and women]. (p.596, op.cit.)[brackets added]

Christ is the seeing of what is real. Jesus, hanging on the cross, Christed this world with a compassionate eye. He saw with the vision of God that so much of what we do, to ourselves and others, is unworthy of what we really are, and does not resonate the dignity of who we really are -- here and now. That vision is ours to see and to be. The words we've heard -- "he died for our sins" -- might better be phrased -- "he became straw so we would become wheat" -- flowering stalks, dazzling wildflowers, grass under snow urging winter on. Christ finds us worthy, with dignity, nearly ready to see and be what we really are. You've got to love straw, its fragrance, its feeding form, its sun shading brim.

The gift dies into this seeing/being.

Sunday, January 27, 2002

"How can a thing be a miracle one day and not a miracle the next day?"

In the novel by Brian Moore, Catholics, (pp. 121-124) situated on the Isle of Muck in Ireland, the Abbot has to do something,
He hears Fr. Matthew's question.
"And I will not be put off like that," Father Matthew shouted. "I will not be ordered to believe something which I do not believe."
"No one can order belief," the Abbot said. "It is a gift from God." But even as he said this, said the only truth left to him, he saw in these faces that he was failing, that he was losing them, that he must do something he had never done, give something he had never given in these, his years as their Abbot. What had kept him in fear since Lourdes, must now be faced. What he feared most to do must be done. And if, in doing it, I enter null and never return, amen. My time has come.

The Abbot leads them through the nave, entered the chancel, and faced the altar.
"A miracle," he told them, "is when God is there in the tabernacle."
"But you said the opposite, you said that the sacrifice of the Mass is just ritual, that bread and wine remain bread and wine, that there are no miracles!"
Matthew, thundering: righteous, wronged. The Abbot, his back to all of them, heard their stiff intake of breath, the fear of their lives at these words, said in this place. He stared at the golden door of the tabernacle. His fear came. "Prayer is the only miracle," he said. "We pray. If our words become prayer, God will come."

Kris, from Belfast, writes to say, "We send our best to you, Saskia and Meetingbrook. Wish we could do more--"
I respond, "You can do more: say a prayer!"

This fear is dear to us. If we pray... if our words become prayer... if God comes... then...?
Slowly, with the painful stiffness of age, he went down heavily on one knee, then on both. Knelt in the center of the aisle, facing the altar, the soles of his heavy farm boots showing from the hem of his robe. He trembled. He shut his eyes.
"Let us pray."

He bent his head. "Our Father, Who art in Heaven," he said. His trembling increased. He entered null. He would never come back. In null.

He heard them kneel. "Our Father, Who art in Heaven." Relieved, their voices echoed his.
"Hallowed be Thy name," the Abbot said.
"Hallowed be Thy name."

Then, indeed... not any... none!