Western Christianity; Crisis Contemplation

September 21st, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Western Christianity

Crisis Contemplation
Friday, September 21, 2018

As I mentioned earlier this week, Western Christianity neglected the systematic instruction of contemplative practice for hundreds of years. Yet many people naturally grow into nondual consciousness through great suffering or great love. Barbara Holmes suggests that “crisis contemplation” arose out of necessity during the “Middle Passage” and slavery:

The air must have been thick with fear and prayer as the slaving ships pulled out of Gorée and other West African ports laden with human cargo. Devotees of Vodun, the river gods, [YHWH], Allah, Oludumare—to name just a few—lay together (tightly or loosely packed) in an involuntary rebirthing cocoon. It was a community of sorts, yet each person lay in their own chrysalis of human waste and anxiety. More often than not, these Africans were strangers to each other by virtue of language, culture, and tribe. Although the names of their deities differed, they shared a common belief in the seen and unseen. The journey was a rite of passage of sorts that stripped captives of their personal control over the situation and forced them to turn to the spirit realm for relief and guidance.

. . . The word contemplation must press beyond the constraints of religious expectations to reach the potential for spiritual centering in the midst of danger. Centering moments accessed in safety are an expected luxury in our era. During slavery, however, crisis contemplation became a refuge, a wellspring of discernment in a suddenly disordered life space, and a geo-spiritual anvil for forging a new identity. This definition of contemplation is dynamic and situational. . . .

As unlikely as it may seem, the contemplative moment can be found at the very center of such ontological crises . . . during the Middle Passage in the holds of slave ships . . . auction blocks . . . and the . . . hush arbors [where slaves worshipped in secret]. Each event is experienced by individuals stunned into multiple realities by shock, journey, and displacement. . . . In the words of Howard Thurman, “when all hope for release in the world seems unrealistic and groundless, the heart turns to a way of escape beyond the present order.” [1] For captured Africans, there was no safety except in common cause and the development of internal and spiritual fortitude. . . .

The only sound that would carry Africans over the bitter waters was the moan. Moans flowed through each wracked body and drew each soul toward the center of contemplation. . . . One imagines the Spirit moaning as it hovered over the deep during the Genesis account of creation [Genesis 1:2]. Here, the moan stitches horror and survival instincts into a creation narrative. . . . On the slave ships, the moan became the language of stolen strangers, the sound of unspeakable fears, the precursor to joy yet unknown. The moan is the birthing sound, the first movement toward a creative response to oppression, the entry into the heart of contemplation through the crucible of crisis.

________________________________________________________________

 

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

September 21, 2018

WAIT QUIETLY IN MY PRESENCE while My thoughts form silently in the depths of your being. Do not try to rush this process, because hurry keeps your heart earthbound. I am the Creator of the entire universe, yet I choose to make My humble home in your heart. It is there where you know Me most intimately; it is there where I speak to you in holy whispers. Ask My Spirit to quiet your mind so that you can hear My still small voice within you. I am speaking to you continually: words of Life . . . Peace . . . Love. Tune your heart to receive these messages of abundant blessing. Lay your requests before Me, and wait in expectation.

COLOSSIANS 1: 16 NKJV; For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities …

1 KINGS 19: 12 NKJV; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

PSALM 5: 3; In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

 

Western Christianity; Healing Addiction

September 20th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Western Christianity

Healing Addiction
Thursday, September 20, 2018

I’ve shared some of Western Christianity’s weaknesses—for example, how we have over-emphasized separateness, sin, and external religious exercises. But Western Christianity has unique gifts and strengths to offer. The dynamism of Western civilization has led to what I might call the “secularization” of the Gospel message into many side streams and rivulets. A strong example of this might be Twelve-Step programs and many other healing and transformational experiences that have now emerged outside of the formal boundaries of Christianity. You cannot kill the Gospel or true wisdom! Living things keep taking on ever new forms of life.

In creating Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, with typical American pragmatism, designed a program that really worked to change lives. It is the same spirituality of imperfection that Jesus taught, Paul clarified, Francis and Clare of Assisi lived, and Thérèse of Lisieux brought to light for the modern world. Transformation has little to do with intelligence, willpower, or perfection. It has everything to do with honesty, humility, willingness, and surrender.

On the practical (read “transformational”) level, the Gospel message of Jesus and the Twelve-Step message of Bill Wilson are largely the same. Addiction can be a metaphor for what the biblical tradition called sin. It is quite helpful to see sin, like addiction, as a destructive disease instead of something for which we’re culpable or punishable and that “makes God unhappy.” If sin indeed makes God “unhappy,” it is because God loves us, desires nothing more than our happiness, and wills the healing of our disease.

Pope Francis clearly understands sin in this way. Shortly after he proclaimed the Holy Year of Mercy in 2015, he was asked why humanity is so in need of mercy. He replied that in part it’s due to “considering our illness, our sins, to be incurable, things that cannot be healed or forgiven. We lack the actual concrete experience of mercy. The fragility of our era is this, too: we don’t believe that there is a chance for redemption; for a hand to raise you up; for an embrace to save you, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with infinite, patient, indulgent love; to put you back on your feet. We need mercy.” [1]

Much of Jesus’ work was healing, with many of his teachings illustrating the healings. Nine of Jesus’ healing stories are actually exorcisms. While the term may be off-putting, the fact that there are so many exorcisms in the Gospels speaks to their importance. I believe “possession by devils” refers to what we now call addiction. The “possessed” person is in some sense trapped by a larger force and is powerless to do anything about it. The only cure for possession is “repossession” by Something Greater than the disease. This is why Bill Wilson said that a vital spiritual experience” is necessary for full recovery.

I’m convinced that when the great medieval spiritual teachers talked so much about attachment, they were really talking about addiction. We are all attached and addicted in some way. At the very least, we are addicted to our compulsive dualistic patterns of thinking, to our preferred self-image, and to the usually unworkable programs for happiness we developed in childhood—which then showed themselves to be inadequate or even wrong.

__________________________________________________

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

September 20, 2018

TRY TO SEE THINGS more and more from My perspective. Let the Light of My Presence so fully fill your mind that you view the world through Me. When little things don’t go as you had hoped, look to Me lightheartedly and say, “Oh, well.” This simple discipline can protect you from being burdened with an accumulation of petty cares and frustrations. If you practice this diligently, you will make a life-changing discovery: You realize that most of the things that worry you are not important. If you shrug them off immediately and return your focus to Me, you will walk through your days with lighter steps and a joyful heart.

When serious problems come your way, you will have more reserves for dealing with them. You will not have squandered your energy on petty problems. You may even reach the point where you can agree with the apostle Paul that all your troubles are light and momentary compared with the eternal glory being achieved by them.

PSALM 36: 9; For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.

PROVERBS 20: 24; 2; A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way?

CORINTHIANS 4: 17– 18; For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is  unseen.

 

 

The Soul’s Objective Union with God

September 19th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

Western Christianity…….The Soul’s Objective Union with God
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Genesis story of the Judeo-Christian tradition is really quite extraordinary. It says that we were created in the very “image and likeness” of God, proceeding from free and overflowing love (Genesis 1:26). This flow is rediscovered and re-experienced by various imperfect people throughout the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. This sets us on a positive and hopeful foundation, which cannot be overstated. The Bible illustrates, through various stories, humanity’s objective unity with God, the total gratuity of that love and, unfortunately, our resistance to such an “impossibility.”

Due to a lack of mysticism and contemplative consciousness, I find that many Christians still have no knowledge of the soul’s objective union with God (e.g., 1 John 3:2, 2 Peter 1:4). Such gratuity is too good to be true. Even ministers often fight me on this, quoting Augustine’s “original sin,” Calvin’s “total depravity,” or Luther’s statement, “humans are like piles of manure, covered over by Christ.” I am sure they all meant well, but they also dug a pit so deep that many could never climb out or allow themselves to be lifted out.

How do we ever undo such foundational damnation? Grace can only be trusted by an equally graceful human nature. Our work is merely to till the fertile soil, knowing that the Indwelling Spirit has already been planted within, and She is the One who “teaches you all things and reminds you of all things” (John 14:26). Many Christians have tried to pile a positive theology of salvation on top of a very negative anthropology of the human person, and it just does not work. The human self-image is too damaged and distorted within such a framework.

What we call sins are usually more symptoms of sin. Sin is primarily living outside of union; it is a state of separation—when the part poses as the Whole. It’s the loss of any inner experience of who you are in God. “Sins” often have more to do with ignorance than actual malice. Disconnected people may become malicious, but they did not start there. They began in union, and disunion became their experienced lie.

You can’t accomplish or work up to union with God, because you’ve already got it. “Before the world began you were chosen, chosen in Christ to live through love in his presence” (Ephesians 1:4). You cannot ever become worthy or “perfect” by yourself; you can only reconnect to your Infinite Source. The biblical revelation is about awakening, not accomplishing. It is about realization, not performance. You cannot get there, you can only be there. Only the humble can receive it and surrender to such grace.

———————–

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning

THERE IS A MIGHTY BATTLE going on for control of your mind. Heaven and earth intersect in your mind; the tugs of both spheres influence your thinking. I created you with the capacity to experience foretastes of heaven. When you shut out the world and focus on My Presence, you can enjoy sitting with Me in heavenly realms. This is an incredible privilege reserved for precious ones who belong to Me and seek My Face. Your greatest strength is your desire to spend time communing with Me. As you concentrate on Me, My Spirit fills your mind with Life and Peace. The world exerts a downward pull on your thoughts.

Media bombard you with greed, lust, and cynicism. When you face these things, pray for protection and discernment. Stay in continual communication with Me whenever you walk through the wastelands of this world. Refuse to worry, because this form of worldliness will weigh you down and block awareness of My Presence. Stay alert, recognizing the battle being waged against your mind. Look forward to an eternity of strife-free living, reserved for you in heaven.
with Me.

As you concentrate on Me, My Spirit fills your mind with Life and Peace. The world exerts a downward pull on your thoughts. Media bombard you with greed, lust, and cynicism. When you face these things, pray for protection and discernment. Stay in continual communication with Me whenever you walk through the wastelands of this world. Refuse to worry, because this form of worldliness will weigh you down and block awareness of My Presence. Stay alert, recognizing the battle being waged against your mind. Look forward to an eternity of strife-free living, reserved for you in heaven.

EPHESIANS 2: 6; 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

ROMANS 8: 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

1 JOHN 2: 15, 17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[a] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Western Christianity; The Self-in-God

September 18th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

 

The Self-in-God
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

In his booklet That We May Be One, Thomas Keating writes about two models of spirituality and how they influence our growth in God’s likeness:

Since the Reformation, the Christian Tradition has been somewhat focused on doctrinal differences rather than on the spiritual journey itself and the transformation of being. This has given rise to an overemphasis on our activity [and an under-emphasis on the inner spiritual journey]. Of course, Christian Tradition has always had a concern about works and grace and how they relate, but an overemphasis on works has led to a dualistic view of God and self.

A way of explaining this might be the characterization of a Western Model of spirituality as seeing the self-outside-of-God. By contrast, earlier parts of the Tradition and throughout time in the experience of the great mystics, [are] about the self-in-God, and God-in-self, which may be called the Scriptural Model of Spirituality. This distinction has profound implications for the spiritual life. . . . The [Scriptural Model] supposes that we are to become a living sacrament by being always in the presence of God and in relation to God. . . .

God is not just with us, not just beside us, not just under us, not just over us, but within us, at the deepest level, and, in our inmost being, a step beyond the true Self. What is the self?

Science has looked everywhere for a self in the human organism. It cannot be found. So the self then is not an entity. . . . We do know that the self can keep on growing until it becomes a true Self in the image and likeness of God. . . . The movement is towards unity consciousness and experiencing the divine as our ultimate Self, in which case the false self has a happy death in God!

Just by living and growing in consciousness, we are becoming, growing in God’s Self, in God’s presence, in God-consciousness. The ultimate consciousness is total Oneness in which God is all in all. [2]

I learned the terms “True Self” and “false self” from Thomas Merton—words he used to clarify what Jesus surely meant when he said that we must die to ourselves or we must “lose ourselves to find ourselves” (see Mark 8:35). Merton rightly recognized that it was not the body that had to “die” but the “false self” that we do not need anyway. The false self is simply a substitute for our deeper and deepest truth. It is a useful and even needed part of ourselves, but it is not all; the danger is when we think we are only our false, separate, small self. Our attachment to false self must die to allow True Self—our basic and unchangeable identity in God—to live fully and freely.

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Sarah Young Jesus Calling 

September 18, 2018

SEEK TO PLEASE ME above all else. Let that goal be your focal point as you go through this day. Such a mind-set will protect you from scattering your energy to the winds. The free will I bestowed on you comes with awesome responsibility. Each day presents you with choice after choice. Many of these decisions you ignore and thus make by default. Without a focal point to guide you, you can easily lose your way. That’s why it is so important to stay in communication with Me, living in thankful awareness of My Presence. You inhabit a fallen, disjointed world, where things are constantly unraveling around the edges. Only a vibrant relationship with Me can keep you from coming unraveled too.

MATTHEW 6: 33; But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

JOHN 8: 29; The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 

COLOSSIANS 3: 23– 24; Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance.

 

 

The Christian Contemplative Tradition

September 17th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

The Christian Contemplative Tradition
Sunday, September 16, 2018

Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy have a long tradition of teaching contemplation or nondual consciousness. But its systematic teaching was primarily held in the Eastern “Greek” church; the Western “Latin” church was more extroverted and aligned with empires.

Serious contemplative teaching—very upfront in the desert fathers and mothers—is surely found in Celtic Christianity (outside of empire), and is continued by leaders of many monasteries, for example, by John Cassian (360–435 CE), Pseudo-Dionysius (5th–6th centuries), and Hugh of St. Victor (1096–1141) in Paris. Later mystics like Bonaventure (1221–1274), Francisco de Osuna (1497–1541), the unknown author of The Cloud of Unknowing (late 14th century), and 16th century mystics Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) and John of the Cross (1542–1591) also taught nondual consciousness. It held on much longer in the religious orders than the ordinary local church or with the common priest or bishop—whose ministry was an occupation more than a search for God or a “school for the Lord’s service,” as St. Benedict (480–547) described. [1]

Most Western mystics exemplified contemplation, as did Jesus, much more than they directly taught it. Maybe this is part of the reason many Christians lost it, and why good theological teaching and practice is now so important today. After the fights of the Reformation, and after the over-rationalization of the 17th and 18th century Enlightenment, many of us Western Christians became very defensive, wanting to prove we were smart and could win arguments with the new secularism. We imitated the rationalists while using pious Christian vocabulary. It took the form of heady Scholasticism and rote formulas in Catholicism, and led to fundamentalism and memorized Scripture verses providing their own kind of “rationalism” among many Protestants.

Catholic doctrines (such as transubstantiation, papal infallibility, and hierarchical authority) came to be presented in a largely academic and juridical way (or, for the sacraments, with an almost magical interpretation), as opposed to a contemplative or mystical way. Frankly, all of this inspired few and drove many away from Christianity. Most priests were educated this way until the much-needed reforms of Vatican II in the 1960s. Thomas Merton (1915–1968) was very influential in reintroducing contemplation to the West. Now it is again taught in Christian arenas all over the world under different names.

What we now call contemplation—a unique way of knowing—is a rediscovery of our earlier Christian practice. Basically, contemplation is the way you know and think of yourself when you are sincerely praying and present—as opposed to thinking, arguing, or proving.

As Archbishop Rowan Williams, former leader of the Anglican Church, told the Synod of Catholic Bishops in Rome:

Contemplation is very far from being just one kind of thing that Christians do: it is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom—freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that comes from them. To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter. [2]

Despite centuries without systematic teaching of nondual consciousness, many seekers have now come to contemplation as the fruit of great suffering or great love. These are the quickest and most universal ways that God uses to destabilize the self-referential ego. Those transformed by life and grace come to enjoy the presence of God, others, and even themselves. They have connected with their deepest Source, an identity that goes far beyond ideas of right and wrong.

Great suffering, great love, and contemplative practice can instill in us “the same mind which is in Christ Jesus” (see Philippians 2:5-11, 4:4-7, and 1 Corinthians 2 and 3). Indeed, I believe contemplative, nondual consciousness is the mind of Christ.

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Renewal of Contemplative Christianity
Monday, September 17, 2018

In the 1950s and 1960s, Thomas Merton brought renewed interest to the contemplative tradition in the West. He became a Trappist monk and “left the world” for the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where he learned the lessons of contemplation and action.

Merton was spiritual director to James Finley, one of our CAC faculty members, for five and a half years. Finley recalls that when he voiced a complaint about something, Merton would tell him, “We don’t come to the monastery to get away from suffering; we come to hold the suffering of all the world.” [1] This can only be done by plugging into a larger consciousness through contemplation. No longer focused on our individual private perfection—or what Merton called “our personal salvation project”—we become fully human and usable by opening our hearts to God.

Through contemplation—holding the paradoxes of life—Merton struggled against “the evil [that] is in us all . . . [and] the blindness of a world that wants to end itself.” He fought against violence, war, racism, poverty, and consumerism. He wrote, “Those who continue to struggle are at peace. If God wills, they can pacify the world. For [the person] who accepts the struggle in the name of Christ is delivered from its power by the victory of Christ.” [2]

Many other modern mystics have brought awareness of and tools for contemplative practice to Western Christianity, from Evelyn Underhill (1875–1941), Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), Simone Weil (1909–1943), to current teachers such as Barbara Holmes and Mirabai Starr. Cynthia Bourgeault, who is herself a contemplative leader and a CAC faculty member, describes the origins of Centering Prayer and Christian meditation in the mid-1970s:

Thomas Keating [born 1923] and John Main (1926–1982) responded to Merton’s prophetic call, developing simple meditation methods solidly rooted in the Christian spiritual tradition and suitable for use not only within the cloister walls, but in a world hungry for the recovery of its spiritual roots. All three of these men recognized meditation not as a newfangled innovation, let alone the grafting onto Christianity of an Eastern practice, but rather, as something that had originally been at the very center of Christian practice and had become lost. [3

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YOU WILL NOT FIND MY PEACE by engaging in excessive planning, attempting to control what will happen to you in the future. That is a commonly practiced form of unbelief. When your mind spins with multiple plans, Peace may sometimes seem to be within your grasp; yet it always eludes you. Just when you think you have prepared for all possibilities, something unexpected pops up and throws things into confusion.
I did not design the human mind to figure out the future. That is beyond your capability. I crafted your mind for continual communication with Me. Bring Me all your needs, your hopes and fears. Commit everything into My care. Turn from the path of planning to the path of Peace.
1 PETER 5: 6– 7; 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

PROVERBS 16: 9; In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.

PSALM 37: 5 NKJV Commit[a] your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.

Participation in the Incarnation

September 14th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Eastern Christianity
Participation in the Incarnation
Friday, September 14, 2018


Rise up in splendor! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. —Isaiah 60:1
George Maloney (1924–2005), a Catholic priest in the Russian Byzantine Rite with a doctorate in Eastern Christian spirituality, and I used to be on the same speaking circuit back in the 1970s, and he first led me to trust Eastern Christianity much more. Today I share insights Maloney gleaned on Jesus and the Incarnation:
In Eastern Christian spirituality, there has always been a special accent on the gentleness and humility of the Word made flesh as He comes to serve us in order to reflect the infinite love of the Father. He serves us not in power but in the weakness of a suffering servant on the cross. This is the kenotic spirituality of the Eastern mystics who (in Saint Paul’s words, “He emptied himself,” Philippians 2:7) strove to live a life of non-violence and of gentle and humble service in imitation of the suffering servant. . . .
We can learn from the [Eastern Fathers] . . . who found, through constant repetition of the name of Jesus, the means to remain constantly in His healing presence. . . . In deep prayer we learn to surrender to [Jesus’] love and peace. . . . Our potential for being expands into a realized consciousness. We feel in the depths of our being a transformation taking place. Power to love, to be toward God, ourselves and others, in a healthy way, opens up slowly like a lotus flower. . . .
The Eastern Fathers have always stressed in line with the vision of Saint Paul especially, that if we are in Christ we participate in His paschal victory over sin and death. . . . [The Spirit] effects the likeness of Jesus Christ within us . . . [drawing] out the potentiality locked within us, as in a seed, to become transfigured into the very Body of the Risen Lord, Jesus. . . . Resurrection is already ours; we have entered into a sharing already, an anticipation, of the future resurrection as we die daily to our own selfishness and rise to let the power of Jesus’ resurrection . . . direct our lives in greater self-sacrificing love toward our neighbors. . . .
We Christians have been called by Christ to see Him everywhere as the Light of God’s loving presence. We have been . . . made in His image and likeness, to grasp boldly the Sun in all its brightness, so that we may image His light fully to the world. We become the creative power of God as [God’s] word tumbles forth from the lips of the Almighty. That word, spoken in the flowers, the trees, birds, animals, the beauties of each new season, the sun, moon, stars, the mountains, lakes, oceans, goes forth and “shall not return empty” (Isaiah 55:11). . . . Nothing exists or moves toward perfection except by God’s creative power immanently present in all things. “In [God] we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
_______________________________________________________

Sarah Young Jesus Calling

September 14, 2018

WORSHIP ME by living close to Me. This was My original design for man, into whom I breathed My very breath of Life. This is My desire for you: that you stay near Me as you walk along your life-path. Each day is an important part of that journey. Although you may feel as if you are going nowhere in this world, your spiritual journey is another matter altogether, taking you along steep, treacherous paths of adventure.

That is why walking in the Light of my Presence is essential to keep you from stumbling. By staying close to Me, you present yourself as a living sacrifice. Even the most routine part of your day can be a spiritual act of worship, holy and pleasing to Me.

GENESIS 2: 7; Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

PSALM 89: 15; Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.

ROMANS 12: 1– 2; I appeal to you therefore, brothers,1 by the mercies of God, and to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

 

Eastern Christianity; Universal Restoration

September 13th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Eastern Christianity
Universal Restoration
Thursday, September 13, 2018

The shape of creation must somehow mirror and reveal the shape of the Creator. We must have a God at least as big as the universe, or else our view of God becomes irrelevant, constricted, and more harmful than helpful. The Christian image of a torturous hell and God as a petty tyrant has not helped us to know, trust, or love God. God ends up being less loving than most people we know. Those attracted to the common idea of hell operate out of a scarcity model, where there is not enough Divine Love to transform, awaken, and save. The dualistic mind is literally incapable of thinking any notion of infinite grace.
The common view of hell and a quid pro quo God is based not on Scripture but on Dante’s Divine Comedy—great poetry, but not good theology. The word “hell” is not mentioned in the first five books of the Bible. Paul and John never once use the word. Most of the Eastern fathers never believed in a literal hell, nor did many Western mystics.
Eastern fathers such as Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome, Peter Chrysologus, Maximus the Confessor, and Gregory of Nazianzus taught some form of apocatastasis instead, translated as “universal restoration” (Acts 3:21). Origen writes:
An end or consummation is clearly an indication that things are perfected and consummated. . . . The end of the world and the consummation will come when every soul shall be visited with the penalties due for its sins. This time, when everyone shall pay what he owes, is known to God alone. We believe, however, that the goodness of God through Christ will restore [God’s] entire creation to one end, even [God’s] enemies being conquered and subdued. [1]
Morwenna Ludlow describes Gregory of Nyssa’s two arguments for universal salvation as:
a fundamental belief in the impermanence of evil in the face of God’s love and a conviction that God’s plan for humanity is intended to be fulfilled in every single human being. These beliefs are identified with 1 Corinthians 15:28 [“so that God may be all in all”] and Genesis 1:26 [we are made in God’s “image and likeness”] in particular, but are derived from what Gregory sees as the direction of Scripture as a whole. [2]
If we understand God as Trinity—the fountain fullness of outflowing love, relationship itself—there is no theological possibility of any hatred or vengeance in God. Divinity, which is revealed as Love Itself, will always eventually win. God does not lose (see John 6:37-39). We are all saved by mercy. Any notion of an actual “geographic” hell or purgatory is unnecessary and, in my opinion, destructive of the very restorative notion of the whole Gospel.
Knowing this ahead of time gives us courage, so we don’t need to live out of fear, but from an endlessly available love. To the degree we have experienced intimacy with God, we won’t be afraid of death because we’re experiencing the first tastes and promises of heaven already. Love and mercy are given undeservedly now, so why would they not be given later too? As Jesus puts it, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living—for to God everyone is alive” (Luke 20:38). In other words, growth, change, and opportunity never cease, even during and after death! Why would it be otherwise?

_______________________________________________

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

September 13, 2018

COME TO ME AND REST. Give your mind a break from its habitual judging. You form judgments about this situation, that situation, this person, that person, yourself, even the weather— as if judging were your main function in life. But I created you first and foremost to know Me and to live in rich communication with Me. When you become preoccupied with passing judgment, you usurp My role.

Relate to Me as creature to Creator, sheep to Shepherd, subject to King, clay to Potter. Allow Me to have My way in your life. Rather than evaluating My ways with you, accept them thankfully. The intimacy I offer you is not an invitation to act as if you were My equal. Worship Me as King of kings while walking hand in hand with Me down the path of Life.

MATTHEW 7: 1; Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it.

JOHN 17: 3; Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

ROMANS 9: 20– 21; But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over.

1 TIMOTHY 6: 15; Which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords,

 

 

Eastern Christianity; Theosis

September 12th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

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Eastern Christianity
Theosis

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Orthodox teaching of divinization, or theosis, according to Pope John Paul II, is perhaps the greatest gift of the Eastern Church to the West, but one that has largely been ignored or even denied. [1] The Eastern fathers of the Church believed that we could experience real and transformative union with God. This is in fact the supreme goal of human life and the very meaning of salvation—not only later, but now, too. Theosis refers to the shared deification or divinization of creation, particularly with the human soul where it can happen consciously and lovingly.
St. Gregory of Nazianzus (330–390) emphasized that deification does not mean we become God, but that we do objectively participate in God’s nature. We are created to share in the life-flow of Trinity. Salvation isn’t about replacing our human nature with a fully divine nature but growing within our very earthiness and embodiedness to live more and more in the ways of love and grace, so that it comes “naturally” to us and is our deepest nature.
This does not mean we are humanly or perfectly whole or psychologically unwounded, but it has to do with an objective identity in God that we can always call upon and return to without fail. A doctrine of divinization is the basis for hope and growth. Divinized people live in a grateful state of awareness, recognizing their undeserved union with God, but that does not always mean their stage of human development is without very real limits and faults. This is a distinction that the West, with its dualistic mind, seemed unable to make.
This is how a few ancients and contemporaries understand theosis:
Athanasius of Alexandria (296–373): “The Son of God became man that we might become god. . . . [It is] becoming by grace what God is by nature.” [2] Athanasius is almost directly quoting St. Irenaeus (125–203) who taught the same.
Maximus the Confessor (580–662): “The saints become that which can never belong to the power of nature alone, since nature possesses no faculty capable of perceiving what surpasses it.” [3]
Olivier Clément (1921–2009), a favorite Orthodox scholar, writes: “The purpose of the incarnation is to establish full communion between God and humanity so that in Christ humanity may find adoption and immortality, often called ‘deification’ by the Fathers: not by emptying out our human nature but by fulfilling it in the divine life, since only in God is human nature truly itself.” [4]
J. A. McGuckin (born 1952), another Orthodox scholar: “In speaking of fullness of communion as the ‘true life’ of the creature, deification language shows that the restoration of communion is at root one and the same movement and motive of the God who seeks to disburse the gift of the fullness of life to [God’s] rational creatures.” [5]
Full salvation is finally universal belonging and universal connecting. Another word for that is quite simply “heaven.”

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Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

September 12, 2018

RECEIVE MY PEACE. It is My continual gift to you. The best way to receive this gift is to sit quietly in My Presence, trusting Me in every area of your life. Quietness and trust accomplish far more than you can imagine: not only in you, but also on earth and in heaven. When you trust Me in a given area, you release that problem or person into My care. Spending time alone with Me can be a difficult discipline because it goes against the activity addiction of this age.

You may appear to be doing nothing, but actually you are participating in battles going on within spiritual realms. You are waging war— not with the weapons of the world, but with heavenly weapons, which have divine power to demolish strongholds. Living close to Me is a sure defense against evil.

JOHN 14: 27; Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

ISAIAH 30: 15; This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,

2 CORINTHIANS 10: 4; The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

 

 

Eastern Christianity; Trinity

September 11th, 2018 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr

Eastern Christianity
Trinity
Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Just as some Eastern fathers saw Christ’s human/divine nature as one dynamic unity, they also saw the Trinity as an Infinite Dynamic Flow. The Western Church tended to have a more static view of both Christ and the Trinity—more a mathematical conundrum than an invitation to new consciousness. In our attempts to explain the Trinitarian mystery, the Western Church overemphasized the individual names—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—but not so much the quality of the relationships between them, which is where all the power and meaning lies! So, let’s not spend too much time arguing about the gender of the Three. The real and essential point is how the three “persons” relate to one another: infinite outpouring and infinite receiving.
The Mystery of God as Trinity invites us into full participation with God—a flow, a relationship, a waterwheel of always outpouring love. God is a verb much more than a noun. Some Christian mystics taught that all of creation is being taken back into this flow of eternal life, almost as if we are a “Fourth Person” of the Trinity, or as Jesus put it, “so that where I am you also may be” (John 14:3).
The Cappadocian Fathers of the fourth century first developed this theology, though they readily admitted the Trinity is a wonderful mystery that can never fully be understood with the rational mind, but can only be known through love, prayer, and suffering. Contemplation of God as Trinity was made-to-order to undercut the dualistic mind. This view of Trinity invites us to interactively experience God as transpersonal (“Father”), personal (“Christ”), and even impersonal (“Holy Spirit”)—all at once.
The Cappadocian teaching moved to the West but was not broadly communicated. We find an active Trinitarianism in many Catholic mystics (e.g., Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, Teresa of Ávila). Scottish theologian Richard of St. Victor (1110–1173) reflected this early theology. He taught at great length that for God to be truth, God had to be one; for God to be love, God had to be two; and for God to be joy, God had to be three! [1]
True Trinitarian theology offers the soul endless creativity—an open horizon. Trinitarian thinkers do not seem to have much interest in things like hell, punishment, or any notion of earning or losing. They are only overwhelmed by infinite abundance and flow.
Our supposed logic has to break down before we can comprehend the nature of the universe and the bare beginnings of the nature of God. Paraphrasing physicist Niels Bohr, the doctrine of the Trinity is saying that God is not only stranger than we think, but stranger than we can think. Perhaps much of the weakness of many Christian doctrines and dogmas is that we’ve tried to understand them with a logical or rational mind instead of through love, prayer, and participation itself. In the end, only lovers seem to know what is going on inside of God. To all others, God remains an impossible and distant secret, just like the galaxies.

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Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

REJOICE IN ME ALWAYS! No matter what is going on, you can rejoice in your Love-relationship with Me. This is the secret of being content in all circumstances. So many people dream of the day when they will finally be happy: when they are out of debt, when their children are out of trouble, when they have more leisure time, and so on. While they daydream, their moments are trickling into the ground like precious balm spilling wastefully from overturned bottles.

Fantasizing about future happiness will never bring fulfillment because fantasy is unreality. Even though I am invisible, I am far more Real than the world you see around you. My reality is eternal and unchanging. Bring your moments to Me, and I will fill them with vibrant Joy. Now is the time to rejoice in My Presence!

PHILIPPIANS 4: 4, 12; Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident …

PSALM 102: 27; But you remain the same, and your years will never end. The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be.

1 PETER 1: 8; Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.

 

Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (Kindle Locations 6259-6262). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Christ is Everyman and Everywoman

September 10th, 2018 by Dave No comments »

The Patristic Period
Sunday, September 9, 2018

As I shared last week, the desert fathers and mothers focused more on the how than the what. Their spirituality was very practical: virtue and prayer-based. Now we turn to its parallel, the Patristic Period, which emphasized the what—the rational, philosophical, and theological foundations for the young Christian religion. This period stretches from around 100 CE (the end of the Apostolic Age) to either 451 CE (with the Council of Chalcedon) or as late as the eighth century (Second Council of Nicaea in 787 CE).

The word patristic comes from the Latin and Greek pater, father. The fathers of the early Church were primarily “Eastern” in that they lived in the Middle East and Asia, which are East relative to Europe. We must admit that because women were often not allowed education or formal authority in this patriarchal period of history and religion, the majority of documented leadership is by men. (I am sorry to say, much of today’s Church and culture is still not congruent with Jesus’ and Paul’s attitudes toward women, who were both far ahead of their cultural stage and training.)

Alexandria in Egyptian Africa was a primary center for learning and culture across many fields—philosophy, art, medicine, literature, and science—during the Hellenistic and Roman periods (310 BCE–330 CE). The library in Alexandria was probably the largest in the ancient world. Greek, Eastern, Jewish, and Christian thought intersected in this environment, bringing together diverse perspectives and many saints and scholars.

One of the key teachers of the Alexandrian school, Origen (184–254), is considered by some to be the first Christian theologian. Many of his ideas, particularly apocatastasis (“universal restoration”), were largely misunderstood and thus declared heretical in the sixth century. The Alexandrian interactive/dynamic/mystical understanding of Jesus’ human and divine natures (developed by Athanasius, Cyril, and Bishop Dioscorus) became dominant for a while but was later rejected at the Council of Chalcedon, which insisted that Jesus had two very distinct natures. These then became hard to reconnect on any practical level—in Jesus and in us!

Building on the work of the Alexandrian school, the Cappadocian Fathers (in what is now Turkey) further advanced early Christian theology with their doctrine on the Trinity. The three theologian saints Basil the Great (330–379), his younger brother Gregory of Nyssa (c. 332–395), and Gregory of Nazianzus (329–389) sought to give Christianity a solid scholarly status, on par with Greek philosophy of the time. They developed an intellectual rationale for Christianity’s central goal: humanity’s healing and loving union with God.

We’ll explore these early Eastern theologians’ views on Christ, Trinity, theosis, universal salvation, and hesychasm (prayer of rest) throughout this week’s meditations.

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Christ is Everyman and Everywoman
Monday, September 10, 2018

Many passages in the New Testament give a cosmic meaning to Jesus as the Eternal Christ (Colossians 1, Ephesians 1, John 1), but the Eastern fathers of the Church were the first (and last) to make this into a full theology until Bonaventure and Duns Scotus in the thirteenth century and Teilhard de Chardin in the twentieth century. This theology of Christ was never developed in the West, which is why it seems like a new idea to most Catholics and Protestants.

Many of the Alexandrian school in Egypt saw Jesus as a dynamic or interactive union of human and divine in one person. They saw Christ as the living icon of the eternal union of matter and Spirit in all of creation. Jesus was fully human, just as he was fully divine at the same time, but dualistic thinkers find that impossible to process, so they usually choose one or the other. For example, many Christians believe Jesus is divine and we are human, missing the major point of putting the two together! Matter and Spirit must be found to be inseparable in Christ before we have the courage and insight to acknowledge and honor the same in ourselves and in the entire universe. Christ is the Archetype of Everything.

One of my favorite Orthodox scholars, Olivier Clément (1921-2009), helps explain the Eastern fathers’ understanding of Christ:

How could humanity on earth, enslaved by death, recover its wholeness? It was necessary to give to dead flesh the ability to share in the life-giving power of God. He, though he is Life by nature, took a body subject to decay in order to destroy in it the power of death and transform it into life. As iron when it is brought in contact with fire immediately begins to share its colour, so the flesh when it has received the life-giving Word into itself is set free from corruption. Thus he put on our flesh to set it free from death. [1]

The whole of humanity, “forms, so to speak, a single living being.” In Christ we form a single body, we are all “members of one another.” For the one flesh of humanity and of the earth “brought into contact” in Christ “with the fire” of his divinity, is henceforward secretly and sacramentally deified. [2]

Unfortunately, at the Council of Chalcedon, this view—the single, unified nature of Christ—was rejected for the “orthodox” belief, held to this day by most Christian denominations, which emphasizes two distinct natures in Jesus instead of a synthesis. Sometimes what seems like orthodoxy is, in fact, a well-hidden heresy!

Even science confirms that there is no clear division between matter and spirit. Everything is interpenetrating. As Franciscan scientist and theologian Ilia Delio often says, “We are in the universe and the universe is in us.” Christ’s very nature mirrors this universal reality, that we are all one, just as he is one within himself.

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Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling
September 10, 2018

AM ALWAYS AVAILABLE TO YOU. Once you have trusted Me as your Savior, I never distance Myself from you. Sometimes you may feel distant from Me. Recognize that as feeling; do not confuse it with reality. The Bible is full of My promises to be with you always. As I assured Jacob, when he was journeying away from home into unknown places, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. My last recorded promise to My followers was: Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Let these assurances of My continual Presence fill you with Joy and Peace. No matter what you may lose in this life, you can never lose your relationship with Me.

ISAIAH 54: 10; Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

GENESIS 28: 15; 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

MATTHEW 28: 19– 20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”