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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Sunday, 27 December 2015

IT IS GOOD TO SETTLE IN THE HEART; CHRIST IS READY TO BE BORN IN EACH ONE OF US; THE PRESENT MOMENT IS PERFECT. (plus) MY CATHOLIC COMMENTARY

It is Good to Settle in the Heart

Are we always able to receive the divine in us? When we invite friends to our home, we clean the living room, adorn it with flowers, make it as beautiful and welcoming as possible, to make them feel the warmth of the friendship with which we want to surround them. Is the same true also for the divine guest? How do we accept him in the abode of our heart? When he knocks at the door, the living room is perhaps in disorder, the floor has not been swept for several days, garments lie around on the furniture, the windows have not been washed, and the light is poor. How could the one who is the Light put up with such poverty? But there is much worse. In the back of the living room a darkened corridor opens areas where the dust of years has accumulated, and where there is a rancid smell that grips us by the throat. Certain pieces are condemned: the lock has been rusting for ages. What shameful secrets hide in those places? What skeletons are concealed in the closets?

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not comprehended it” (Jn 1:5)—or has not received it, the Apostle John writes. What does such darkness mean? Is it the inner darkness that reveals the somber face of sin at work in the world, at work in the heart of people when they turn away from the one who said: “I am the light of the world”? (Jn 8:12, 9:5) In this case, the heart becomes the receptacle, or the garbage dump of what cannot be mentioned. Its depths hide the unvoiced feelings, the frustrations—everything that was bad or unloved—and also, whether one is aware of this or not, the suffering of being a sinner. A great saint said that if one gathered all the sins of humanity, they would form only one drop of water in the ocean of God’s mercy.

The modern era arrogantly challenges the notions of “sin” —a challenge that neither questions sin as such, nor above all suppresses it! In the court of justice the general tendency consists in accumulating excuses to explain, even justify, the behavior of a defendant. He may have suffered from an unbalanced mind, an unjust social situation, unworthy parents… One must at any price rationalize what depends upon an irrational mystery, evil. A simple victim of elements he no longer controls, the criminal of all kinds is deprived of any type of freedom. He has perhaps undergone the weight of social determinisim, hereditary or other, but, ultimately, a part of his being remains irreducible…

It is time once again to honor inner discipline, effort, and prayer, to let a little bit of light shine. Life is a fight between light and darkness. The heart is in the fray of this fight. Man can be submitted to various conditionings. The latter can illumine a particular behavior, but they will never exhaust the totality of the human being. Man always keeps a bit, a spark of liberty in his innermost heart of hearts. This is why the Apostle Luke writes that “the good man draws good things from the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man draws evil things from the evil treasure of his heart.” (Lk 6:45) As the dynamic center of the person, the heart allows one to identify the latter under its veil of light, or of darkness.

If it is accepted that the heart designates the deep “me,” the most intimate spot of the person, then we may begin to listen to what it has to say to guide our life, and to let it unfold freely. It is good to settle in the heart.

uminskiy
This is an excerpt from To Open One’s Heart: A Spiritual Path by Archpriest Michel Evdokimov, published by SVS Press. Emphases added.

Christ is Ready to be Born in Each One of Us
by ARCHPRIEST ALEXEI UMINSKY | 08 JANUARY 2015
Christ is Ready to be Born in Each One of Us
 my source: Pravmir.com
I already said that Christ does not need more space in this world. Yes, and in your soul Christ does not need much room. It is enough to prepare a small place in man’s heart for Christ to appear therein.

Every person born on earth is born in order to live and truly to realize his life.

But that death in this world is stronger than life, everyone knows and it seems an indisputable truth.

Man is born on earth in order to live, but death draws near to all of life, and man’s birth on earth seems pointless.
But here the only Person is born on earth not in order to live here, but in order to die.

Today Christ is born for this. This sole meaning of His Birth is to take upon Himself human death.

And here a surprising phenomenon takes place: life conquers death. It wins immediately, by its birth, by its incarnation. The Son of God, coming into this world, takes death upon itself, along with all the fullness of our humanity – feelings, thoughts, and experiences…

He takes upon Himself all the consequences of our life and our death. He immediately meets here on earth with that which He will later implement. The cave in which He is born is already an image of the cave in which the Savior will be laid after His Crucifixion.

The shroud in which the Mother of God wraps the Christ-child refers to the shroud in which the Righteous Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus will wrap the body of the crucified Savior after the anointing. The myrrh which the Magi bring to Him is drawn from the fragrant myrrh with which they will anoint the body of Christ, mourning Him after His Crucifixion.

All these images of His death were already established at the moment of His Nativity. The evil tyrant Herod: death, reigning during the Nativity of Christ, in the worst, most horrible death of the innocent children.

Christ came into this world to protect it by his death, to take our death upon Himself. For there is nothing more stupid, ruthless, and unjust than death. And man alone cannot do anything with this.

But here is Christ, taking upon Himself that which is worst and most senseless, suddenly filling human life with meaning. Because where there is God, there cannot be death.

There, where Christ is born, death disappears. Because He is true life, come into this world, full of death, misery, and meaninglessness.

He comes into this world, giving a wonderful little ray of life. And He does not need much room on earth. Christ takes on earth a very tiny space, a small cave, a nursery accepts Him. And this small place becomes the center of the entire world; from here comes victory over death.

And Christ overcomes this death. Christ overcomes it by His own death. Because He is not afraid to die for man. Because where there is love, there is no fear; there all fear is banished. Christ comes and with this love conquers death. If life is weaker than death, then love is stronger than death.

And then begins the Kingdom of God, then love fills all around, and everyone becomes a participant of this love. Because every person is given the opportunity to be born in Christ.

I already said that Christ does not need more space in this world. Yes, and in your soul Christ does not need much room. It is enough to prepare a small place in man’s heart for Christ to appear therein. So that there would be a place where His love will enter, where we will put His life. He casts out of us all death: for this it is necessary only to try, to labor on our heart.

We just need very much to want that Christ be born in each one of us.

This is not difficult: to want the Nativity of Christ in our hearts. Only later, when Christ is born in us, we need to be faithful to Him. This is very important.

Christ comes into every human heart, Christ is ready to be born in each one of us, regardless of the fact that we are not at all ready for this. We are by no means that beautiful place in which we can think about the Birth of God.

The Lord does not seek beautiful places for Himself to be born. The Lord is born in a cave, where there is livestock. The Lord lays in the manger, from which the cattle feed. He does not need purity in order to be born. He just needs space. Any place that we prepare for Him.

And our readiness is the first step towards Christ, the first and very important step. If one decides on this action, his life changes. Human life becomes different. And death recedes. Death is no longer terrible. There is no death in God; in God is only true and eternal life.

But for this life to preserve and grow, we need a lot of work. Real, big, serious work of the heart and soul. Life is not given to us easily; victory over death is not given to us easily. We have gotten used to living in dying; for us it is too familiar a situation, when death is near, and there is no life.

The Lord teaches us to live in Him, He teaches us to live in Christ, He teaches us every day to defeat death by our faith and our love. He teaches us to overcome death by our life in Christ. This is the main task of a Christian: to live Christ’s life and to defeat all death.


For this reason, Christ is born today. For this reason, He today comes to each one of us. And for this reason today everyone of us came to church: so that Christ would be born in each one of us, so that Christ would triumph, conquering our death and granting us love and life eternal. Amen.


The Present Moment is Perfect
source: Mysterion

by Father Richard Rene
The Present Moment is Perfect
my source: Pravmir.com
I heard those words spoken a number of years ago by someone who suffered daily from a crippling addiction, and had every reason to feel otherwise about what the present moment might bring him. Witnessing this man overcome his addiction daily as result of his attitude was a watershed moment in my own spiritual journey. Since then “the present moment is perfect” has become a personal motto of mine, a reminder that I want to live my life in an attitude of total acceptance of whatever is now.

Living in the present moment is a theme we find across the geography of human spirituality. Buddhism and other Far Eastern religions hold the now as sacred. Modern spiritual writers like Eckhart Tolle and his popular book The Power of Now claim that the path to enlightenment and happiness begins and ends with the present moment. “Just for today” is the quintessential refrain in 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The question is, what makes the present moment—fleeting and ephemeral as it is—so powerful? Living for today seems to work, but why? I would suggest the answer flows from the central tenet of Christianity: the Incarnation.

The boldest and most radical claim of the Christian faith is that the eternal and transcendent God, was born, lived and died as a ordinary human being. Yahweh, the God who is without beginning and end, who cannot be contained, allowed Himself to be contained in the four-dimensional framework of life in this world.

And where does life in this world actually take place except in the present moment? Much as we would like to turn back the hands of time or penetrate the mists of the future, our consciousness can only act within the boundaries of the now. Such is the reality of being created beings, unable (by own efforts at least) to transcend the space-time continuum.

In the Christian view, then, God (with all that the word ‘God’ implies) enters human life and is confined to the present moment. As a result, something remarkable happens. Eastern Orthodox theology refers to it as communicatio idiomatum—the exchange of properties. As God takes on human life in the present moment as a part of His identity in Christ, human life simultaneously acquires the potential to become divine.

The New Testament testifies to this startling implication of the Incarnation at the very outset of Jesus’s ministry. The essence of Jesus’ preaching is “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15 and Matt. 4:17), which is to say that salvation is to be found here and now, in human life as it is expressed in the person of Jesus Himself. Saint Paul reiterates this powerful message when he tells his Corinthian hearers that “now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2)

There is a further implication. If the eternal God entered human life and made it a part of Himself in Christ, then human life is an inextricable part of God’s eternal nature. And if this same eternal God, who joined human nature to Himself at a particular moment in history, also created the world in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:26), then it is no wonder that the sacredness of the present moment is inherent across cultures and religions, even those prior to the advent of Christianity. After all, it was He who joined Himself to the present moment, who also created the present moment in the first place!

The present moment is so powerful, then, because it is the very point where God meets us and makes it possible for us to become “partakers in divine nature.” (2 Pet. 1:4) No wonder that living “just for today” is such a source of enlightenment and peace, not just for Christians, but for any human being who chooses to live his or her life that way.

But what about all the suffering we see in the present moment? What about the evils and injustices and horrors of Gaza city, the Congo and Zimbabwe that are happening right now? How can those present moments be perfect? The short answer is paradoxical: those moments are both wrong and perfect. How so? The central prayer of the Eastern Orthodox liturgy of Saint Basil offers a revealing petition to God: “preserve the good in goodness and make the evil to be good by Your goodness.”

By joining human life and making it a part of who He is, God did not take away our pains, sorrows and sufferings. There still remains much that is wrong in the world. However, by His Incarnation, God did make it possible for us to offer up all that is broken in the world to Him, and in so doing, transform those things into a sacrifice of praise to Him. As the Psalmist says, “A sacrifice acceptable to God is broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Ps. 51:17)


What makes the present moment perfect, then, is not the absence of tragedy or evil; rather, perfection is the act of offering up each moment, whatever it may contain, to God. Only then can the good be preserved and the evil be “made good” by fulfilling the very purpose for which everything exists: to praise and give thanks to the One who created each moment, who filled it with Himself, and who made it possible for us to enter into the now and discover there the doorway to the divine peace and joy of His Kingdom.


MY CATHOLIC COMMENTARY

Thomas Merton and the Heart


“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, thet each one is in God’s eyes. If onl core of their reality, the person thay they could all see themselves as they really are.  If only we could see each other that way all the time.”
I begin with Thomas Merton who had an immense influence on me, as with a whole generation of Catholics.  His autobiography persuaded me to be a monk, even though my desire for pastoral involvement made me an English Benedictine rather than a Cistercian. His main insight was, as Fr Robert Barron remarks, is that, at the very centre of every human being is a central point where God as his creator and the human being as creation meet, as we continually come into existence.  It is called by him the "point vierge" or "virgin point", and it is often called "the heart".  It is there that the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ at Baptism, and where the eucharistic Christ lodges in communion, so that "Christ lives in us and we in him."  It is where we find Christ and our true self and share in the divine life through Christ's active presence; and it is in there that we are united by Christ in the Spirit to the whole human race in heaven and on earth; and it is in the heart, at the very centre of our being, that we continue to share in the cosmic liturgy embracing heaven and earth, long after the Eucharist is over, simply by Christ's continued presence there.  

However, to find the heart and to enter it, where all this is going on, is not easy as contemplatives of East and West point out.  There is what Thomas Merton calls "our false self", made up of all the distortions, illusions, self-centredness, auto-sufficiency, self-love and evil decisions, as well as our desire to shine before others and to edit our image before others

The ‘birth of the Son of God in the soul’ with Meister Eckhart
my source: Life Is This Moment


[His use of language and his strong insistence on apophatic theology has led people to think Meister Eckhart is a Buddhist or, at least, a pantheist; but it must be remembered that he has no interest in metaphysical theory, and he would rigorously reject any attempt to turn his language into a coherent metaphysics.  In fact, he is a disciple of St Augustine, and his writings must be interpreted in that context.]  For instance,,by saying that Jesus is a "reminder" rather than a saviour, the author  of the  notes below reduces Meister Eckhart's  message to an idea rather than a reality, a pointer towards a Reality, rather than the Reality itself, a philosophy rather than a religion.  It is also against the meaning of the texts that Meister Eckhart used every day in the Liturgy. He is not a Protestant who makes up his beliefs as he goes along. As an Augustinian, the Incarnation is the Reality, God's self giving that is so much above our own ideas and actually brings about what it reminds us of.  We are the "image and likeness of God" because God became man."To  use the Buddha's own words, when someone speaks of Ultimate Reality it is like pointing to the moon: it can point in the right direction, but the words don't touch Ultimate Reality.  Buddha "manifests" Ultimate Reality: Christ IS Ultimate Reality.  Without abolishing the metaphysical difference between Creator and created, the Incarnation bridges the difference, and the pointed finger actually touches the moon. Another way of putting it, because of the Incarnation, particular historical events, events in the life of Jesus, without losing their historical particularity, have all the universal characteristics of general principles because they are also acts of the universal God, Creator of all.  For Catholics, the Incarnation is absolutely central.  Without the incarnation, the world would be a different place: basic truths about creation and human beings would no longer exist.  This is a basic pre-supposition shared by Meister Eckhart; but he had no way of knowing that his writings would be read and interpreted by liberal Protestants with another set of pre-suppositions.


The reason for the Incarnation (indeed, for the Creation) is that human beings might come to a realization or conscious awareness of themselves as the ‘image and likeness of God’, bringing forth or ‘giving birth’ to the Son of God within their innermost soul. This is a Christology, suggests Matthew Fox, in which Christ is understand not as Redeemer but as Reminder: ‘Christ came to remind us of our blessed and divine origins as images and likenesses of God in a grace-filled universe. The purpose of his coming is more our divinization than our redemption from sin and guilt.’[13]

How is this brought about, this ‘divinization’, this penetration to the ‘ground’ and ‘birth of God in the soul’? While Eckhart does refer to methods and practices, he seems to give far less weight to the ‘birth’ as the achievement of human effort than as the product of divine grace. The human role in the process, one of humble cooperation with grace, is clearly secondary. In Eckhart’s theology the divine life or ‘light’, a favoured symbol borrowed from the Fourth Gospel, emanates naturally, necessarily and irresistibly from the Godhead. ‘In this birth God pours forth His light in such a way that its richness floods the very ground and essence of the soul until it overflows into its powers, even to the outer person.’[14] This is how, through the agency and movement of the Trinity, God both creates the world out of nothing and enters the world as Son. ‘I sometimes mention two springs,’ says Eckhart, ‘the one, where grace wells up, is where the Father bears forth his only-begotten Son … the other is where creatures flow out from God.’[15] Importantly for Eckhart, the creation is not a past event but a continuous activity, such that ‘God is creating the whole world now in this instant.’[16] In the same way the Father’s bearing forth his Son is not limited to the one-off historical event of the birth of Jesus but occurs in the ‘eternal Now’ of the ground and is, from the perspective of time, a continuously present and manifold event. Thus, although there is only one ‘only-begotten Son’, the one Son is born over and over in the many, for we are the ‘same son as the Son of God.’[17]

Of the birth of the Son of God in the soul Eckhart once famously asked on behalf of us all: ‘What does it avail me that this birth is always happening, if it does not happen in me?’[18] The implication here is that for all the Divine outpouring of grace that makes the birth possible, something else is required to bring the event from the realm of ‘pure possibility’ to actuality within the individual in time. There must be in the individual a response to grace that is an opening up to God through a turning inward, a journey ‘into the silent land’ as Martin Laird has called it,[19] into the ‘vast and silent terrain’[20] that is the ground of the soul. What, then, must one do to undertake this inner journey?


Eckhart’s spirituality: the ‘Wayless Way’

The consensus among scholars seems to be that, while Eckhart tolerates whatever might be expedient for progress in the spiritual life, particularly for beginners, he sees such things as temporary crutches at best. This is not to say that he has no counsel for the spiritual seeker, just that it is less distinct and prescriptive than that offered, for example, in the ‘Jesus Prayer’ of the desert fathers, the Exercises of St Ignatius or the Practices of St Teresa of Avila. Eckhart prescribes no special techniques, practices, penances or pilgrimages, insisting that ‘whoever seeks God in a special way gets the way and misses God who lies hidden in it.’[21] It is for this reason that his spirituality is often referred to as a ‘wayless way’.

More than any particular method of contemplation Eckhart’s ‘way’ consists primarily of an inner attitude or orientation that is at once theocentric, contemplative and this-worldly. The fundamental orientation of Eckhart’s way is theocentric; its ‘true north’ is God. The goal of the spiritual life is simply to ‘have God.’ The person with such an inner desire or appetite for God will in Eckhart’s thinking also be temperamentally and morally equipped for ‘the way’, which is not for the ‘natural, undisciplined man, for he is entirely remote from, and totally ignorant of this birth.’[22]

The orientation of the spiritual seeker is, then, necessarily also contemplative, involving a disciplined attention of the intellect upon its Divine object, ‘quite collected and turned entirely inward, not running out through the five senses into the multiplicity of creatures’.[23] Through this ‘collected’ inwardness of contemplation, the ‘bare mind’, one is able to achieve the radical ‘detachment’ from ‘multiplicity’ and ‘creatures’ that is the prerequisite of the birth and the chief activity of Eckhart’s spirituality. This will ultimately include a detachment even from the ideas and images we use to give form to the formless One, the theological concepts with which we clothe naked ‘isness’. We must detach from the ‘imagined God’ that vanishes when the idea vanishes and be satisfied only with the ‘essential God’.[24]

The third aspect of this orientation is a radical this-worldliness whereby the God whom we seek is apprehended ‘equally in all things and all places’.[25] For Eckhart the contemplative life is fully consonant with the active and involved life, for God is in one’s ordinary life and it is there that he must be found. The best place to find God, says Eckhart, is ‘where we left him.’ Whoever and wherever I am, the ‘way’ for me must begin in the world of my own experience.


I was asked, ‘Some people shun all company and always want to be alone; their peace depends on it, and on being in church. Was that the best thing?’ And I said, ‘No!’ Now see why. He who is in a right state, is always in a right state wherever he is, and with everybody … He has only God, thinks only of God, and all things are for him nothing but God.[26]


Jean-Pierre de Caussade S.J. and the "Sacrament of the Present Moment"
my source: Spirituality & Practice
Jean-Pierre de Caussade (born 1675) was a French Jesuit who died on this day in 1751. He was appointed spiritual director of a community of nuns and decided to share with them his ideas on the spiritual life. The material was published a century after his death as Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence. The book has become a Christian devotional classic.
.De Caussade gives us a rich and imaginative appreciation for the many ways that God speaks to us and others in the present moment. He also has a strong sense of everyday spirituality; in one passage, this eighteenth century spiritual director states that we are the sequel to the New Testament that is being written by the Holy Spirit. He challenges us to read "the book of life," the record of divine action in the world, because we each have a divine purpose "in the plot of the Holy Scripture which unfolds every day."
[Although a Jesuit, de Caussade is one of the principle spiritual guides of members of the English Benedictine Congregation to which our monastery belongs.  It has enabled English Benedictines to undertake all kinds of tasks not normally associated with monastic life in a coherent way and with a sense of continuity with the strictly monastic life as being provided by Divine Providence .  Both St Benedict and de Caussade see the Christian life as a conflict between abandonment to Divine Providence through the practice of obedience and our self-will or auto-sufficiency.]


The Infinite Riches of the Present Moment

"The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love. The more a soul loves, the more it longs, the more it hopes, the more it finds. The will of God is manifest in each moment, an immense ocean which the heart only fathoms in so far as it overflows with faith, trust, and love."
from Sacrament of the Present Moment


Discover God in the Smallest and Most Ordinary Things

"To discover God in the smallest and most ordinary things, as well as in the greatest, is to possess a rare and sublime faith. To find contentment in the present moment is to relish and adore the divine will in the succession of all the things to be done and suffered which make up the duty to the present moment."
from Sacrament of the Present Moment


Make Use of Everything

"Those who have abandoned themselves to God always lead mysterious lives and receive from him exceptional and miraculous gifts by means of the most ordinary, natural and chance experiences in which there appears to be nothing unusual. The simplest sermon, the most banal conversation, the least erudite books become a source of knowledge and wisdom to these souls by virtue of God's purpose. This is why they carefully pick up crumbs which clever minds tread under foot, for to them everything is precious and a source of enrichment. They exist in a state of total impartiality, neglecting nothing, respecting and making use of everything."
from The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin

It is the Lord!
"Jesus Christ, after his resurrection, surprised the disciples when he appeared before them in disguise, only to vanish as soon as he declared himself. The same Jesus still lives and works among us, still surprises our souls whose faith is not sufficiently pure and strong. There is no moment when God is not manifest in the form of some affliction, obligation or duty. Everything that happens to us, in us, and through us, embraces and conceals God's divine but veiled purpose, so that we are always being taken by surprise and never recognize it until it has been accomplished. If we could pierce that veil and if we were vigilant and attentive, God would unceasingly reveal himself to us and we would rejoice in his works and in all that happens to us. We would say to everything: 'It is the Lord!' And we would discover that every circumstance is a gift from God; that human beings, frail creatures though they are, will never lack anything; and that God's unceasing concern is to give them what is best for them."
from The Sacrament of the Present Moment


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