November 29th, 2021 by Dave Leave a reply »

What does Amadeo mean?

lover of GodItalian: from the personal name Amadeo, Amodeo, coined in the early Middle Ages with the meaning ‘lover of God‘ or ‘loved by God’.

Creating God in Our Own Image

The Advent season begins with Scriptures that focus on the “second coming” of Christ. At times, this has been presented as a frightening event, exacerbated by the negative images of God which many Christians hold. Father Richard writes: 

Your image of God creates you—or defeats you. There is an absolute connection between how we see God and how we see ourselves and the universe. The word “God” is a stand-in word for everything—Reality, truth, and the very shape of our universe. This is why good theology and spirituality can make such a major difference in how we live our daily lives in this world. God is Reality with a Face—which is the only way most humans know how to relate to anything. There has to be a face!

After years of giving and receiving spiritual direction, it has become clear to me and to many of my colleagues that most people’s operative image of God is initially a subtle combination of their mom and dad, or other early authority figures. Without an interior journey of prayer or inner experience, much of religion is largely childhood conditioning, which God surely understands and uses. Yet atheists and many former Christians rightly react against this because such religion is so childish and often fear-based, and so they argue against a caricature of faith. I would not believe in that god myself!

Our goal, of course, is to grow toward an adult religion that includes reason, faith, and inner experience we can trust. A mature God creates mature people. A big God creates big people. A punitive God creates punitive people.

If our mothers were punitive, our God is usually punitive too. We will then spend much of our lives submitting to that punitive God or angrily reacting against it. If our father figures were cold and withdrawn, we will assume that God is cold and withdrawn too—all Scriptures, Jesus, and mystics to the contrary. If all authority in our lives came through men, we probably assume and even prefer a male image of God, even if our hearts desire otherwise. As we were taught in Scholastic philosophy, “whatever is received is received in the manner of the receiver.” [1] This is one of those things hidden in plain sight, but it still remains well-hidden to most Christians.

All of this is mirrored in political worldviews as well. Good theology makes for good politics and positive social relationships. Bad theology makes for stingy politics, a largely reward/punishment frame, xenophobia, and highly controlled relationships.

For me, as a Christian, the still underdeveloped image of God as Trinity is the way out and the way through all limited concepts of God. Jesus comes to invite us into an Infinite and Eternal Flow of Perfect Love between Three—which flows only in one, entirely positive direction. There is no “backsplash” in the Trinity but only Infinite Outpouring—which is the entire universe. Yet even here we needed to give each of the three a placeholder name, a “face,” and a personality.

Finding Ourselves in God

Father Richard reminds us that we are created in the image and likeness of God, which offers us a solid foundation from which we can operate in the world. 

The biblical creation story says, “Let us make humans in our image” (Genesis 1:26). The plural pronoun is a first hint that we are going to be brought into a relational, participatory, and shared life. The secret is somehow planted within our deepest identity and slowly reveals itself—if we are attentive to this “reverence humming in [us],” as Jane Fonda once described it. [1]

Our DNA is divine, and the divine indwelling is never earned by any behavior, group membership, or ritual whatsoever, but only recognized and realized (see Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8–10) and thus fallen in love with. When we are ready, we will be both underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the boundless mystery of our own humanity. We will know we are standing under the same waterfall of mercy as everybody else and receiving an undeserved radical grace, which is the root cause of every ensouled being.

When I started in ministry in the early 1970s in Cincinnati and worked with young people, it seemed like I spent most of the time trying to convince teenagers that they were good. They all seemed to endlessly hate and doubt themselves, often with a little help from parenting and clergy. Later I saw it in adults, too, who were also well practiced in hating and fearing themselves. What the Scriptures promise us is that we are objectively and inherently children of God (see 1 John 3:2). And you can’t change that!  This is not psychological worthiness; it is ontological, metaphysical, substantial worthiness that cannot be gained or lost. When this given God image becomes our operative self-image, we are home free! Such a Gospel is just about the best good news anyone could hope for!

I am convinced that so much guilt, negative self-image, self-hatred, and self-preoccupation occurs because we have taken our cues and identity from a competitive and comparing world. But Jesus told us to never take this world as normative. Jesus asks, “Why do you look to one another for approval instead of the approval that comes from the one God?” (John 5:44). So many of us accept either a successful or a low self-image inside of a system of false images to begin with! (Smart, good looking, classy, loser—are all just words humans create). This will never work. We must find our true self “hidden within Christ in God,” as Paul says in Colossians 3:3. Or, as Teresa of Ávila envisioned God telling her, “If you wish to find Me / In yourself seek Me. [2] Then we do not go up and down, but we are built on the Rock of Ages. It is the very shape of all spiritual maturity, regardless of what religion we may belong to.

This is from the Irish Prayer book I mentioned. It’s part of the introduction.

How to use this book

I have always wanted to write a book of recipes. Soups, probably; something to warm the heart. My recipes are vague about amounts but come with poetry suggestions. When cooking stew, for instance, it is best to read Patrick Kavanagh’s In Memory of My Mother (both versions, check out Tom Stack’s edited collection) aloud; when making roast pear, chicken and garlic soup (topped with blue cheese) it is always wise to read Marie Howe’s Magdalene − the Seven Devils; and when you mix red onion, with red peppers, fresh tomatoes and fresh strawberries, topped with a suspicion of chilli, lime, basil and saltflakes, you should always, and only, read Mary Karr’s Disgraceland. If you’re putting roast butternut squash in a soup with coconut milk, make sure to toast pine nuts, and top the soup with those and a little sesame oil. Read Seán Ó Riordáin’s Oidhreacht Fán Anam while you do it, it’ll break your heart. You’ll need to learn Irish first, but everything good requires effort. Alternatively, listen to Íarla Ó Lionaird’s sung version with The Gloaming. My friend Devin phoned me from California once wanting to know whether a recipe I’d written required one clove of garlic or two. He was asking the wrong person, but he was a man in need of detail and he believed that I loved him enough to give him detail even if I didn’t have detail to give. How many do you feel you need? I asked him. He laughed and called me an idiot. He asked me again, how many cloves of garlic? Use your imagination, I said, but he wanted to use mine. I love him dearly, so I made an answer up. It worked, I think. I forget how many cloves. Most of us are in a dialogue when we read a book. I know I am. That’s the point, I think; to listen to the writer, to listen to yourself and to listen to the space between where things said by neither are nonetheless said. The things we take away are the things that we were already looking for. What you seek is seeking you, said Rumi, and while this is a frightening concept, it can a consoling one if we listen to the desires that will feed us, not destroy us. Rumi asks us to trust that wisdom waits, and might be found in unlikely corners. So read a lot, make pots of soup and use this book however you want. Mix up the prayers, and make your own. Write in the margins, cross words out, fix them, make a solution. Sometimes I pray the morning prayers and then turn to the day of the month for a text and a collect, and then add in intentions of my own, finishing with the Prayer for Courage. Courage is the mixture between fear and resolution, and only exists when we do something about it. Do not fear, we hear over and over. The prayers in this book are prayers that start with the fear and move toward the doing. Do not only fear, we say. It’s a fine beginning, let courage be your moving. Let prayer help. Ignatius of Loyola said: ‘That level of prayer is best for each particular individual where God our Lord communicates Himself more. He sees, he knows, what is best for each one and, as he knows all, he shows each the road to take. What we can do to find that way with his divine grace is to seek and test the way forward in many different fashions, so that an individual goes ahead in that way which for him or her is the clearest and happiest and most blessed in this life.’ All of that goes to say: you’ll need to make your own damned soup, because only you can make it. You know your own needs, or you will. Take bones and flesh and blood and fruits of the dark earth, put in water, put in salt and put a fire to it. Let it boil, let it cool a little. Season with what your season needs. Eat it, drink it, survive and look around. Be a little bit glorious. Be warm and open. Share. Keep some for tomorrow. Give plenty away. Amen.

Tuama, Padraig O. Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community . Hymns Ancient & Modern. Kindle Edition.


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