St Joseph's Abbey, Spencer MA,
I cannot grasp the notion of "being washed in Jesus' blood.” Maybe I will. (Maybe I won't.) Traveling by way of the cross is a deeply physical as well as metaphorical journey. I've not been satisfied with explanations of sacrifice, whether animal or human blood, in order to settle or attain something. The fact that we die, the fact that Jesus died, are facts to acknowledge. But I'm not yet moved by the notion that animal-killing, blood-feuds, war-slaughter, or even son/daughter killing-sacrifice has anything to do with, nor is associated with, what is in fact the sacred.
I note the suffering and death of Jesus. I'm unconvinced of the subsequent explanation of the purpose and divine order of execution so prevalent in the theology and spirituality of our heritage. Whether the case is Abraham (ready to cut Isaac's throat), Angels (smearing lamb's blood on lintels to facilitate the killing of the right first born), or Adonai (willing/allowing the death of his son as expiation for sin) -- I am reluctant to hold such stories in divine light. I grieve for the first-born that are killed -- whether in ancient Judaic lore, or in contemporary Iraq lawless war.
If the human psyche glorifies slaughter as divine will and historic wish, then (heaven help us!) there is no better way to honor the divine than by participating in the slaughter and murder of the first-born. If the so-called "good guys" as well as "bad guys" utilize the method of killing innocents in the erstwhile liberation/salvation stories of the Ancient Near East, and such telling is celebrated annually as desired rendition, I can't help but feel we are a people with a lost and devastated heart/mind.
As night passes, I dream about Slavic cabdriver taking me around New York City. Then I meet a nemesis and we talk a brief while. He says he was hurt by me.
After Vigils at 4:30am, I sit in silence for 30 minutes. One other person in chapel. Woman in first pew is a Sister, a friend of monk Robert.
I am thinking about the prison. I can only face what is.
“What is” is I am not chaplain. My choice was not to be an employee. I am as befuddled by the choice to be offered and accept the position for 6 months as I am delighted by choosing not to continue it. The joy I experienced working with the population of over 900 men -- all religions (and none), all levels of faith understanding (and none) -- was remarkable. Sitting with Buddhists, Christians, Jewish, Muslim, Native, Pagan, AA, and none-of-the-above, whether at their cell doors or in small groups -- was a lesson in learning and service.
Meetingbrook's prison conversations will continue. I'll change status and return to volunteering. :
Offer to teach independent studies for university credit for those who wish.
For those not interested in college courses, do time-specific ordinary studies -- (Individual Tutorial Studies) for inmates so interested. (Perhaps 3 ITS's at any given span.) Any topic, any focus -- individualized time and interaction to increase learning.
Perhaps, through Education Dept., a program in Protective Custody Pod -- or even in SMU (Special Management Unit, the old “Super-Max.”)
Meet with individual men for purpose of human hospitality and engaging inquiry.
Begin in outside community prison-related discussion groups, e.g. Restorative Justice, or Prison Fellowship, or Innocence Project.
Afternoon, Holy Saturday
The monk Robert says -- “Cheer up! Things will get worse.” He refers to Jesus', “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” He is on the cross. All hurts, humiliations, depressions, pains, snubs, diminishing comments, injustices, doubts, and delusions hang there. And this is the death and reconciliation of the limited and the unlimited -- this being, this man, drawing all to himself, turns the world upside down. It is the weak, the poor, those ill, those without security or means, the broken and the heart-broken -- to these belong the kingdom of heaven.
I walk the woods. Three deer, two ducks, and a tail-slapping beaver later I climb the hill back to retreat house.
I went to see Robert after his conference to talk about recent experience at the prison. He says it was a gift, a grace to be so angry, frustrated, and humiliated. Thomas Aquinas in his ethical teachings claimed virtue existed in the middle between the opposite of the vice and the defining virtue -- but that anger had no opposite. Only the suffering of it. (Maybe “no-anger” -- but that's the absence, not the opposite.)
“Cheer up; things will get worse,” he says, cheerfully.
The way he says it, the prospect isn't unattractive.
The experiential undergoing of injustice deepens the intense longing for justice. The single candle in the dark longs to give way to the bright sun.
Final Hours of Holy Saturday
Icon-painting monk asks me if I am a hermit.I say yes. I am, (I think to myself), most likely lying. But I'm not. This hermit is not in seclusion. This hermit dwells within solitude.
There's a difference. This hermit, 90% of the time, arrives late and stays in the rear. (Except visiting the monastery - I arrive on time and stay in the rear.)
Then there's the issues of being active in the bookshop/bakery, at conversations, teaching a course at the university, and the regular visits to prison. Hardly a hermit in any classical sense. More the template of hermit in the open. My cloister is the inter-related solitude of the human heart, one to one, inquiring into “Who am I?” Yet, still a hermit: one dwelling alone with the Alone or Another.
The realms of what some call the relative and absolute dissolve into what I might call the interrelating whole. Jesus tried to teach he and the father were one as we are one with him and the father. We dwell in the interrelating whole. Sometimes we forget this. We then remember. At either times of forgetting or remembering we are prone to hurting one another. Thus the notion of “hurting God” as we hurt one another -- because God is not other than any one or two of us.
We are not equal to God. Equality is a relative term. We are co-responding and co-relating with God. This is not the same kind of relativity or responsibility as the terms seem. To be co-responsive is to share the wording-of-act, and acting-of-word with God. To be co-relating is to be with God in each act. Whether we are conscious of it or not impacts the response we make after the co-responding takes place, Whether we intend our presence or not influences the mind we have after co-relating takes place.
When people ask: How could God allow suffering in the world? We might respond: How can I be of assistance to the one suffering? We, perhaps in a fit of forgetfulness, might have caused the suffering. It always seems reasonable to have someone ask: How could God allow such and such to happen? And yet, mostly, we forget our co-responding and co-relating existential and ontological true nature vis-a-vis God. (Does God forget when we forget?)
The ancient hymn says: “Have this mind in you which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not reach out his hand to make himself equal to God. Instead, he emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave.” (Philippians)
Might we say: One form, many examples of emptiness? Or: One emptiness, many forms of it?
However we try to word what is beyond words, the Name of God bends us with humility. The profound co-relative and inter-responding entirety of the sacred presence is the meditation and contemplation of our heart/mind as mendicants wandering a strange land.
The Ancient Homily at Vigils says: “Something strange is happening--there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness.”
The homily concludes: “The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.” Which brings us back to birth. Incarnation. Life.
So: Come alive! Someone once said: “The Glory of God is man fully alive.” (Irenaeus)
Adyashanti says: “The awakeness of this moment is the unconditioned being.”
Easter Darkness, 2:02am
Adyashanti says: “It's not about embracing, it's about letting go of not pushing away. That's all.”
Easter Morning, 9:42am
The stained-glass metaphor used by Adyashanti works well. The source of light is beyond the red, green, and blue of the glass. The colored glass is our conditioned mind. It sorts light into variety of colors. The result is aesthetically pleasing and soothing.
The unconditioned, unborn, and undivided is the source. If we get a glimpse into that reality, all remains beautiful and undifferentiated. But we often contend one color against another, worship one, demand our color is 'the' color -- thus making warfare and dissension.
Jesus has risen. Indeed, he has truly risen!
So it is we attend the truth of this Christian mystery. Unity consciousness, 'coincidentia oppositorum,' undifferentiated suchness -- Christ Consciousness -- rises following the death of the servant of God.
Whoever serves God undergoes this death. (There are so many willing to assist and expedite this death -- if not, as preface, the suffering leading thereto.)
To be born is to die. To enter the unborn is to practice resurrection.