We Understand/See/Know in the Context of Being Understood/Seen/Known

All is gift.

The moment of relational understanding, seeing, and knowing is not the result of a talent we acquire. It is a gift we are given. What is more, this gift is giving in the context of all of these being true regarding us. It is because we are understood that we can receive understanding. It is because we are seen that we can see, it is because we are known that we can know.

This is the one of the root lessons of the story of the encounter between Nathaniel and Jesus.

All is gift. All is to be received with gladness and gratitude — eucharisto.

Pope Benedict XVI articulated this mystery beautifully:

“…the Evangelist tells us that when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” (Jn 1: 47). This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: “Blessed is the man… in whose spirit there is no deceit” (32[31]: 2), but provokes the curiosity of Nathanael who answers in amazement:  “How do you know me?” (Jn 1: 48).

Jesus’ reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (Jn 1: 48).  We do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathanael’s life.

His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: “This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man”. And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1: 49). In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus.

Nathanael’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognized both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognize only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him. Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, October 4, 2006

Who Then Can Be Saved?!

Who Can Be Saved?!

Salvation is an awe-filled moment/life/journey. The reality of it brings the potential for absolute joy and absolute despair.

For, in truth, when the reality of it hits me. When I allow it to really encounter me, I cry out in the moment, “Who then can be saved?! Save me!!” I do so for once again I am undone. Once again I am naked. Once again I am without excuse and strength. And yet, I am filled with an abiding desperate desire for salvation that is completely beyond me. Again and again…

My body and soul cry out, “Lord have mercy.” I lean. I step. I trust over against the potential despair. Into not away from. It is all I can do – it is all I have. Meager and stumbling. It is enough if it is my all. I remember, “Keep your mind in hell and despair not.”

Grace is synergy with such as this is enough.

Ravished by the Love of God. Ravishing the Love of God. Embracing and being embraced. Loved and daring to love.

Lord have mercy. Lord surround me and fill me with your mercy. Thanks be to God.

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23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many that are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10.23-31)

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We already know by experience what the Truth promised to whoever forsakes everything and follows him: “he will receive a hundred times more now… and eternal life in the age to come” (Mk 10,30). Indeed, the gift of a hundred times more sustains us on the journey and possession of eternal life will be our joy for ever in our heavenly homeland.

But what does this hundred times more mean? Briefly, the consolations of the Spirit, sweet as honey, his visits and his firstfruits. It is the witness of our conscience, the happy and joyful expectation of the righteous; it is the remembrance of God’s overwhelming goodness and, in truth, the greatness of his sweetness. Those who have had experience of these gifts have no need for anyone to tell them about them. And as for those who do not have it, who could describe it in plain words? St. Peter Damian (1007-1072), Sermon 9

Whose Mercy Is Boundless And Love for Us Is Ineffable

One of the things i love about the “Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom” and Eastern Orthodoxy is that it does not present God as a wrathful judge Who demands satisfaction and appeasement. No matter where I have made contact with the Divine Liturgy in the context of Orthodoxy, this has been my experience. For that experience, I give great thanks.

Some might say that is not what they encountered or are encountering in Eastern Orthodoxy. I do not doubt that is true. Orthodoxy has its share of brokenness for it too is inhabited by sinners. But then, perhaps, just perhaps, sometimes we find what we expect to find and encounter what we expect to encounter.

The message offered, and which I have consistently encountered “again and again,” that shines forth and touches me, in spite of its brokenness, is the love and mercy of God. Christ Jesus’ sacrificial death is a life-sharing, life-creating, life-giving death not a life-ending death. The death of Christ Jesus is the death bears the fruit of life. That is the meaning of sacrifice, not appeasement or satisfaction.

And here is an important aspect of all of this. The irony. The treasure in earthen vessels – cracked pots. The need and the provision of mercy where judgment, a demand for satisfaction, would normally be the choice. Blessed are the merciful.

As we hear in the Divine Liturgy: “Lord, our God, whose power is beyond compare, and glory is beyond understanding; whose mercy is boundless, and love for us is ineffable; look upon us and upon this holy house in Your compassion. Grant to us and to those who pray with us Your abundant mercy.”

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6 Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55.6-7)

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10 Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? 11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33.10-11)

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4 Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. 5 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalm 30.4-5)

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8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger forever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103. 8-12)

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“Though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Oh, the boundless mercy of God! In His greatest wrath upon the faithless and ungrateful people, upon the peopleladen with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters (Isaiah 1:4), as princes of Sodom (Isaiah 1:10), and upon the people who have become as the people of Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:10): in such wrath, the Lord does not abandon mercy but rather calls them to repentance–just as, after terrible lightning, a gentle rain falls. Such is the Lord–long-suffering and full of mercy: neither will He keep His anger forever (Psalm 103:9). Only if sinners cease to commit evil, and learn to do good, and turn to God with humility and repentance, will they become white as snow.The Lord is mighty and willing. No one but Him is able to cleanse the sinful soul of man from sin, and by cleansing to whiten it. No matter how often linen is washed in water with ashes and soap–no matter how often it is washed and rewashed–it cannot achieve whiteness until it is spread under the light of the sun. Thus, our soul cannot become white, no matter how often we cleanse it by our own effort and labor, even with the help of all the means of the Law–until we, at last, bring it to the feet of God, spread out and opened wide, so that the light of God may illumine and whiten it. The Lord condones and even commends all of our labor and effort. He wants us to bathe our soul in tears, to wring it out by repentance, to press it by the pangs of the conscience, and to clothe it with good deeds. After all of this, He calls us to Him: Come now, says the Lord, and let us reason together (Isaiah 1:18). That is, “I will look at you, and I will see if there is Me in you; and you will look upon Me, as in a mirror, and you will see what kind of person you are.”

O Lord, slow to anger, have mercy on us before the final wrath of that Dreadful Day.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
Source: The Prologue, August 5th

The Camino Type Blog

This past weekend, someone asked me if I would ever write a book. I explained to them that the Lord has re-created me, in His death and resurrection, to express Him in and through the “vow of conversation.”

The variations of the word “conversation” all issue from the concept of “conversion.” Conversation is a pilgrimage – a journey – a transformative engagement. The “ruminations” I post here are a good example. They are never finished. If you read the last post on “expectations” when it was freshly posted and read it now, you will realize that it has changed. Actually, it has been amended 5 times since I first posted it!! The comparison serves to show how the “conversation” the Holy Spirit and I are having has matured. I dare not say progressed because the whole journey is about revelation not progress. All along the way the most important thing is complete engagement in the whole all along the way. So, you see, it is not about progress…

That means that if you or I ever quote one of my posts, you are not quoting a piece of writing but a journey – a life not a thing, a piece of writing.

Get it ? ?

Now that leads me to an admission. I must admit, that after a couple of days, the post does cease its journey of transformation. But, in a way, it has not. Indeed, the journey has ceased to occur on the blog and continued to occur in my life by God’s mercy. So, you see, the camino of my salvation that the posts represents, continues…

So, unless someone invents a “conversational book” that can be unceasingly in the process of having been written and being written, I will never write a book. My unending camino is my book.

So, my posts will, on many occasions be amended by me. Now, that may break somebody’s rules for how blog posts “should” be. Be that as it may. The way I blog is the way I blog.

I invite you to revisit the posts and see how they have journeyed.

God be unceasingly blessing you today,

On Storms, Jesus, and Expectations

Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land,[b] beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; 30 but when he saw the wind,[c] he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14.22-33)

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We are in need of purification and Illumination regarding our expectations about our life circumstances, our needs, our provider, and our provision. This is because we have a lot of preconceived notions and the content of our efforts about all these things that are, to put it bluntly, quite deluded. We get caught up in a dedication to having things turn out the way we think they should and when they don’t we become discouraged or think ourselves a failure or doubt God’s care. Disappointment in God, ourselves, others, society and humanity in general is a tricky and dangerous thing.

With such purification and illumination, for those who dare to embrace it in faith and exercise that faith in synergistic obedience in union with the Lord Jesus, comes deification.

Our perfect circumstance and provision is one in which we are in conscious synergistic obedient union with Christ Jesus by grace. The aspects of the circumstance will, at the appointed time in our life, cease to be of primary concern to us. For we will more deeply know more consummately that He is “the Son of God” and that “all manner of things [are and] shall be well.”

“When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (Matthew 19.25-26)

Dare we pray for such a day and life?! Where else can we turn? He has the words of eternal life Now that takes courage ! !

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…let us remember, if ever we fall into distressful temptations, that Jesus has constrained us to enter into their boat, wishing us to go before Him unto the other side; for it is not possible for us to reach the other side, unless we have endured the temptations of waves and contrary wind.  Then when we see many difficulties besetting us, and with moderate struggle we have swum through them to some extent, let us consider that our boat is in the midst of the sea, distressed at that time by the waves which wish us to make shipwreck concerning faith or some one of the virtues; but when we see the spirit of the evil one striving against us, let us conceive that then p. 436 the wind is contrary to us.  When then in such suffering we have spent three watches of the night—that is, of the darkness which is in the temptations—striving nobly with all our might and watching ourselves so as not to make shipwreck concerning the faith or some one of the virtues,—the first watch against the father of darkness and wickedness, the second watch against his son “who opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or thing that is worshipped,” (2 Thess. ii. 4) and the third watch against the spirit that is opposed to the Holy Spirit, then we believe that when the fourth watch impendeth, when “the night is far spent, and the day is at hand,” (Rom. xiii. 12) the Son of God will come to us, that He may prepare the sea for us, walking upon it.  And when we see the Word appearing unto us we shall indeed be troubled before we clearly understand that it is the Saviour who has come to us, supposing that we are still beholding an apparition, and for fear shall cry out; but He Himself straightway will speak to us saying, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” (Matt. xiv. 27)  And if, warmly moved by His “Be of good cheer,” any Peter be found among us, who is on his way to perfection but has not yet become perfect, having gone down from the boat, as if coming out of that temptation in which he was distressed, he will indeed walk at first, wishing to come to Jesus upon the waters; but being as yet of little faith, and as yet doubting, will see that the wind is strong and will be afraid and begin to sink; but he will not sink because he will call upon Jesus with loud voice, and will say to Him, “Lord, save me;” (Matt. xiv. 30) then immediately while such a Peter is yet speaking and saying, “Lord save me,” the Word will stretch forth His hand, holding out assistance to such an one, and will take hold of him when he is beginning to sink, and will reproach him for his little faith and doubting. (Matt. xiv. 31)  Only, observe that He did not say, “O thou without faith,” but, “O thou of little faith,” and that it was said, “Wherefore didst thou doubt,” as he had still a measure of faith, but also had a tendency towards that which was opposed to faith.
Origen, Commentary on St. Matthew, Book XI, Chapter 6