Someone who visited this site and spent some time exploring said “There is so much there! What about keeping it simple!”
We took that feedback to heart! And now we recommend that if this is your first time visiting this site simply consider three things:
1) Start or re-commit to a centering prayer practice. Click here for help: CENTERING PRAYER
2) Explore the core mystical theology of the Jesus Paradox. Click here: JESUS PARADOX
3) If you have further interest, read the book, Healing The Divide.
RCMR’S ABBREVIATED MISSION: RECOVER CHRISTIANITY’S MYSTIC ROOTS:
- 1. The ROOT daily DISCIPLINE of #CenteringPrayer
- 2. The ROOT life CALLING of #NewMonasticism
- 3. The ROOT study & EMULATION of #ChristianMysticism
- 4. The ROOT mystical THEOLOGY of the #JesusParadox
- 5. The ROOT ETHIC of #Nonviolence toward people & the earth
RCMR’S MISSION: RECOVER CHRISTIANITY’S MYSTIC ROOTS:
cultivate actual experience
CENTERING PRAYER (CP)
- Practice Centering Prayer 40 minutes a day (two 20 min. sits)
- Do 6 to 10 day yearly Centering Prayer retreats
NEW MONASTICISM (NM)
- Get involved in a Christian community (traditional, emergent, new monastic…)
- Integrate contemplative arts into your life & community
CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM (CM)
- Study root texts of Christian Mysticism
- Emulate mystics past and present
JESUS PARADOX (JP)
- Behold Christian Mysticism’s non-dual essence (JP)
- See holistically and cultivate unity within diversity
- Affirm the sanctity of all life and reduce violence
- Serve distressed ecological and human communities
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BOOK REVIEWS AMOS HAS WRITTEN ON AMAZON
(Note: Amos only writes reviews for books he likes):
BOOK REVIEWS RICH HAS WRITTEN ON AMAZON
RCMR YOUTUBE CHANNEL:
AMOS SMITH BELIEFNET VIDEO INTERVIEW:
AMOS SMITH YOUTUBE INTERVIEWS WITH DAVID HOLMES IN MANCHESTER, ENGLAND:
Phileena Heuertz on Contemplative Spirituality 1 (4:56)
Phileena Heuertz on Contemplative Spirituality 2 (5:02)
The Gravity Center on Solitude, Silence, and Stillness (6:38)
Parker Palmer on The Primacy of The Soul (3:59)
Richard Rohr on Prayer as a State of Communion (2:50)
Amos’ Journey Into Centering Prayer Powerpoint Slide Show (10:38)
Contemplative Outreach Introduction to Centering Prayer (6:53)
Thomas Keating on The Method of Centering Prayer (7:51)
RCMR THOROUGH OVERVIEW
All RCMR youtube playlists
AMOS SMITH 2016 AUDIO MESSAGES
HEALING THE DIVIDE RADIO INTERVIEW
AMOS SMITH 2015 AUDIO MESSAGES
RCMR RELATED ARTICLES
NONVIOLENCE TOWARD PEOPLE
COPTIC CROSS WITH TRANSLATION
Translation from the Coptic:
Top Left: abbreviation for Jesus
Top Right: abbreviation for Christ
Bottom Left: son
Bottom Right: abbreviation for God
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DESERT FATHERS & MOTHERS FAVORITE STORY
In seems that a young aspirant to holiness once came to visit the hermitage of an old holy man who was sitting in the doorway of his quarters at sunset. The old man’s dog stretched out across the threshold as the young spiritual seeker presented his problem to the holy man. “Why is it, Abba, that some who seek God come to the desert and are zealous in prayer but leave after a year or so, while other, like you, remain faithful to the quest for a lifetime?”
The man smiled and replied, “Let me tell you a story:”
“One day I was sitting here quietly in the sun with my dog. Suddenly a large white rabbit ran across in front of us. Well, my dog jumped up, barking loudly, and took off after that big rabbit. He chased the rabbit over the hills with passion. Soon, other dogs joined him, attracted by his barking. What a sight it was, as the pack of dogs ran barking across the creeks, up stony embankments and through thickets and thorns! Gradually, however, one by one, the other dogs dropped out of the pursuit, discouraged by the course and frustrated by the chase. Only my dog continued to hotly pursue the white rabbit.”
“In that story, young man, is the answer to your question.”
The young man sat in confused silence. Finally, he said, “Abba. I don’t understand. What is the connection between the rabbit chase and the quest for holiness?”
“You fail to understand,” answered the old hermit, “because you failed to ask the obvious question. Why did the other dogs stop the chase? And the answer to that question is that they had not see the rabbit. Unless you see your prey, the chase is just too difficult. You will lack the passion and determination necessary to perform all the hard work required by the discipline of your spiritual exercises.”
(Hays, Edward. In the Pursuit of the Great White Rabbit: Reflections on a Practical Spirituality (Easton, Kansas: Forest of Peace Books), 10-11)
RCMR GLOSSARY FROM HEALING THE DIVIDE
MINUS THE FOOTNOTES
The legacy of the Alexandrian Bishops (also known as The Holy See of Saint Mark) began with the apostle Mark, who wrote the Gospel of Mark, and who brought Christianity to Egypt. The Alexandrian Bishops claim an unbroken line, beginning with Mark in the first century. This line has continued through the ages to the current Alexandrian Bishop, who resides in Cairo, Egypt (instead of the historic seat of Alexandria). A distinguishing characteristic of the Alexandrian Bishopric is its emphasis on monastic experience. From the beginning, the Monastic Authority of the Alexandrian Bishops was not based on title or clerical hierarchy. It was based on direct experience in prayer in a monastic setting. To facilitate this direct experience in prayer, Alexandrian Bishops are required to have a monastic background. It is significant to note that before Cyril VI (d.1971) became the one hundred sixteenth Bishop he was a hermit of the Egyptian desert with deep experience in silent prayer. Cyril VI was a profound mystic, to whom many miracles were attributed. Because of the monasticism infused in the Alexandrian Bishopric, I sometimes refer to the Alexandrian Bishops as monk-bishops. See Alexandrian Mystics, Athanasius of Alexandria, Cyril of Alexandria, George Fox (in the context of Monastic Authority), Monastic Authority, and Neo-monasticism. For a complete list of the 117 Alexandrian Bishops, which have spanned two thousand years, see Meinardus, Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity.
See Alexandrian Mystics.
The Alexandrian Mystics are so named for their association with Alexandria, Egypt. The Alexandrian Mystics were the Christian monks, nuns, and hermits of the 4th through the 5th century (312–454 CE) who resided in the Egyptian Desert, near Alexandria. They are also the Alexandrian Bishops who resided in Alexandria during that time period. Some of the monks and hermits of the Egyptian Desert outside of Alexandria are better known as The Desert Fathers and Mothers. The Alexandrian Mystics were predominantly Miaphysite (which was fully developed by Cyril of Alexandria). They were also hesychasts. These monks and monk-bishops predate the split between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy (1054). They also predate the Oriental Orthodox split that eventually followed The Council of Chalcedon (451), so they rightfully belong to the Church universal. Scholars of patristics will prefer the more well known term “Alexandrian Fathers (312–454 CE)” to “Alexandrian Mystics (312–454 CE).” This is of course admissible. I prefer the less precise and broader term “Alexandrian Mystics” because it presses the point that the entire city of monasteries that flowered in the Egyptian Desert outside of Alexandria between 312 and 454 were predominantly Miaphysite in their experience, beliefs, and theology. And, like my sisters and brothers in the East, I cannot separate theology from mysticism. So, if the theology of the Egyptian Desert was predominantly Miaphysite (a mystical non-dual theology), they were Miaphysite in their experience and beliefs too. Hence the term, “Alexandrian Mystics.” An aside here… The reason I don’t reference much in the way of patristic writings in my book, Healing The Divide, is that aside from The Unity of Christ, by Cyril of Alexandria, the Alexandrian Fathers didn’t write much that directly pertained to Miaphysite theology. Miaphysite was the air the Alexandrian Mystics breathed, not something they wrote much about. See Alexandrian Bishops, Anthony of Egypt, Asceticism, Athanasius of Alexandria, Cyril of Alexandria, Desert Fathers and Mothers, Hesychasm, Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox), Monastic Authority, and Mystic Christianity.
American Friends Service Committee
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a peace and social justice arm of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). The AFSC was founded in 1917 to assist civilian victims of World War I. From the beginning the AFSC has provided those who object to war with constructive alternatives to military service. For their efforts, in 1947 the AFSC received the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Quakers throughout the world. See Catholic Worker Movement, Church of the Savior, Emergent Church, George Fox, Jesus’ Third Way, Liberation Theology, Peace Churches, Progressive Christianity, and Quakerism.
Anthony of Egypt (Anthony the Great, Saint Anthony)
Anthony, also known as Antony (d. 356), was the foremost monk of the Egyptian Desert. His journey is the prototype for all of Christian monasticism that followed him. He is called “Father of All Monks.” Athanasius’ biography of Anthony’s life, Life of Antony (360), helped spread the concept of monasticism, particularly in Western Europe, through Latin translations. Shortly after Anthony entered the Egyptian desert he went into seclusion in a cave for a number of years, where he diligently practiced silent prayer. When Anthony emerged from seclusion he was transfigured and radiant. Many flocked to the desert to bask in his light and he was reported to have healed many. After Anthony monasteries began appearing all over the Egyptian desert. See Alexandrian Mystics, Asceticism, Centering Prayer, Deification, Desert Fathers and Mothers, Divine Union, Hesychasm, Monastic Authority, Silent Prayer, and Tabor Light.
Asceticism has gotten a bad reputation in Western Society, yet rightly understood, it’s the key to restoring balance to our lives and communities. Asceticism is retreat from the senses, because God in the most profound mystical sense is beyond the senses. As scripture tells us, “we live by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Asceticism affirms that our deepest and most treasured life (that treasure in a field or pearl of great price Jesus spoke of in parables (Matthew 13:44–46)) is not of the senses. Its first language is silence. In order to make room for silence, other less important priorities are set aside. This laying aside of sense attractions, is asceticism rightly understood, which is not repressive, but liberating. We deny our senses, for a greater reward that is waiting in the pregnant silence. The extreme deprivations associated with asceticism in the past need to be recast. Yet, the primary insight that periodic abstinence from sensory stimulation (solitude), from auditory stimulation (silence), from food (fasting), from sex (abstinence), from incessant activity (stillness), et cetera, is liberating. The compulsive addiction to sense objects is what is actually repressive and enslaving. See Anthony of Egypt, Buddhist/Christian Dialogue, Centering Prayer, Cloud of Unknowing, Desert Fathers and Mothers, Dionysius The Areopagite, Dispassion, Essenes, Hesychasm, Monastic Authority, Mystic Christianity, Neo-monasticism, The Philokalia, Qumran, Silent Prayer, and Unloading.
Athanasius of Alexandria
Athanasius (d. 373) was the twentieth monk-bishop of Alexandria. He was bishop for forty five years, with over seventeen years spent in five exiles ordered by different Roman emperors. He had a leading role against the Arians in the First Council of Nicaea, arguing that Jesus is “of one being” (the Greek for being: hypostasis) with God (a precursor to what Cyril of Alexandria called Miaphysite). Athanasius was also the main contributor to the Nicene Creed. He had a profound interest in promoting monasticism, which included his book, Life of Antony, which became the best seller of his time and promoted Christian monasticism throughout the world. See Alexandrian Bishops, Alexandrian Mystics, Cyril of Alexandria, Monastic Authority, Neo-monasticism, and Nicene Creed.
Buddhist/Christian Dialogue is bearing promising fruit today. Excellent titles in this area are Living Buddha, Living Christ and Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers by Thich Nhat Hanh, The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus by the Dali Lama, and Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings by Marcus Borg and Jack Kornfield. Various schools of Buddhism have deep kinship with Christian monasticism. Hence, Thomas Merton’s well known comment: “Thich Nhat Hanh is more my brother than many who are nearer to me by race and nationality.” Merton and Hanh had a deep monastic kinship and both deplored the Vietnam War. See Asceticism, Centering Prayer, Cloud of Unknowing, Dionysius the Areopagite, Dispassion, Hesychasm, Jesus Prayer, Monastic Authority, The Philokalia, Prayer of the Heart, Silent Prayer, Unloading, and Vatican II.
See Hypostasis and Trinity.
Catholic Worker Movement
The Catholic Worker Movement was founded by Dorothy Day (d. 1980) and Peter Maurin (d. 1949) in 1933. It strove to embody Jesus’ social justice emphasis by reaching out to those on the margins of society, especially the homeless. There are over 213 Catholic Worker communities that provide various social services. Catholic Worker houses are diverse according to the needs of their particular communities. The houses actively oppose war as a viable solution and promote nonviolence and a more equitable distribution of wealth. The Catholic Worker house in New York City publishes a paper called The Catholic Worker, which sells for one cent. See American Friends Service Committee, Emergent Church, Jesus’ Third Way, Liberation Theology, Peace Churches, Progressive Christianity, and Quakerism.
Centering Prayer, a term first coined by Thomas Merton, is a method of silent prayer with deep historic roots, preserved in Western Contemplative tradition, most notably in The Cloud of Unknowing and in the teachings of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. Centering Prayer has been made contemporary in recent decades by Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, William Menninger, Cynthia Bourgeault, and others. Perhaps the seventh century monk, John Climacus, gave the best description of Centering Prayer: “the shedding of thoughts.” Another way to think about Centering Prayer is training the mind to become free from distractions so it can “rest in God.”
The evangelical arm, so to speak, of contemporary Centering Prayer tradition, is Contemplative Outreach, Ltd, which produces numerous resources, organizes Centering Prayer retreats worldwide, and administers a website, et cetera.
The best advice about Centering Prayer that I’ve received from seasoned practitioners over the years: A) Do Centering Prayer at least twice a day for at least twenty minutes each time (the second time exponentially increases the long term healing effects) B) Do Centering Prayer at the same times every day on an empty stomach C) Daily silent prayer has a cumulative effect and requires years of steady practice for deep healing to take place. Give it time! D) A regular exercise program speeds up Centering Prayer’s long term healing process E) Do at least one extended six to ten day Centering Prayer retreat yearly. This too, catapults progress. See Asceticism, Buddhist/Christian Dialogue, Cloud of Unknowing, Deification, Dispassion, Divine Union, Hesychasm, Mystic Christianity, The Philokalia, Prayer of the Heart, Silent Prayer, and Unloading.
See Mystic Christianity.
Christology is theology about Jesus, primarily concerned with Jesus’ nature and personhood (Jesus’ Divinity and humanity and the relationship of the Divinity with the humanity). Monophysite, Dyophysite, and Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox) represent a primal progression of depth and breadth in theology about Jesus: a progression from simple union (drop in the ocean), to separation (dissect), to dynamic union (behold). See Dyophysite, Historical Jesus, Jesus Seminar, Logos, Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox), and Monophysite.
Church of the Savior
The Church of the Savior is a network of nine independent faith communities based in Washington D.C, which has over forty ministries that advocate an alternative approach to conventional church. Their emphasis is Christian discipleship, which tries to reflect some of the vigor of the early church. The Church of the Savior has informed contemporary movements such as The Missional Church, The Emergent Church, and Neo-monasticism. Like the historic Quakers, the Church of the Savior tries to keep an exquisite balance between contemplation and social activism. Church of the Savior members are required to devote at least an hour a day to a spiritual practice and are required to volunteer (at least weekly) for a charitable service organization. See American Friends Service Committee, Catholic Worker Movement, Emergent Church, Neo-monasticism, and Quakerism.
Cloud of Unknowing
The Cloud of Unknowing was a spiritual guide for silent prayer practitioners in the latter half of the fourteenth century. It was written anonymously in Middle English and has proven a classic of the Western Contemplative Tradition. See Asceticism, Centering Prayer, Deification, Dispassion, Divine Union, Hesychasm, The Philokalia, Prayer of the Heart, Silent Prayer, and Unloading.
Most of what I have written in this book could be labeled Contemplative Christianity. Yet, I steer away from this term, because when people hear it, the first thing they think of is contemplating a sense object of some kind, such as a word, thought, or image. This is how I experience Contemplative Christianity. I think it’s important to identify Mystic Christianity as the core within Contemplative Christianity. To get away from the fixation on words and contemplating I also think it’s important to clarify that Christian Mysticism or Mystic Christianity, is ultimately not about contemplating (formation), but about beholding (deformation). In its highest form Mystic Christianity is not about “contemplating” any sense object. It is about basking in the freedom of primal undifferentiated silence, or what Gregory Palamas calls “God’s supraessential simplicity,” from which profound energy and creativity flow. It is about beholding the paradox at the center of our being in communion with Christ. This element of depth is what’s missing from Christianity today, especially in the West. We are overloaded with information. We don’t need any more cornucopias for the senses, even if they are of a contemplative variety! What we desperately need is to consistently and thoroughly behold the mystery at the center which, as The Philokalia continually reminds us, is beyond anything we can apprehend with the senses! See Logos, Monastic Authority, Mystic Christianity, The Philokalia, Progressive Christianity, and Quakerism.
Council of Chalcedon
The Council of Chalcedon is the fourth ecumenical church council that met in Chalcedon (Asia Minor) in 451, which condemned the “one united dynamic nature” or Miaphysite nature of Jesus, which was the spiritual legacy of the Alexandrian Mystics. Instead, Chalcedon, under pressure from Rome, proposed the dualistic theology that Jesus was “in two natures” (dyophysite). In my estimation, the crux of the dispute at Chalcedon was that The Roman Catholic Pope, Leo (d. 461), had no knowledge of Greek. As a result, he misinterpreted the Miaphysite theology of Alexandrian Bishop, Dioscorus (d. 454), which was passed down to Dioscorus from Cyril and Athanasius. Because Leo had no knowledge of primary Greek concepts, such as hypostasis, he confused the Greek term Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox). He and Rome’s misunderstandings of Miaphysite (Greek) were labeled monophysite (Latin) and condemned at Chalcedon. The unfortunate power struggle between the Roman See and the Alexandrian See for supremacy in Christendom played an integral part in the dispute.
The Council of Chalcedon led to the separation of the Church in the Eastern Roman Empire—the first and most significant Church split. For the most part, those who rejected the Council of Chalcedon eventually identified with the Oriental Orthodox Church. Those who accepted the Council of Chalcedon identified with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. There were many exceptions. See Christology, Dyophysite, Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox), and Monophysite. Also see Samuel, The Council of Chalcedon Re-examined.
Cyril of Alexandria
Cyril (376–444) was Alexandrian Bishop from 412–44, when Alexandria was at its height of power and influence in the Roman Empire. His predecessor, Athanasius of Alexandria, had refuted Arius’ dyophysite theology. Cyril followed some of the same lines of argument in his refutation of Nestorius’ dyophysite theology at the Council of Ephesus in 431. Cyril was the champion of Miaphysite theology—that Jesus is “at once God and human.” This was contrary to Arius and Nestorius, who in various ways denied the dynamic unity of Divinity and humanity in Jesus. If only Cyril had lived to see the Council of Chalcedon (451), the first church split may have been prevented and authentic Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox) theology may have been preserved by the Church as a whole. The healing medicine of Cyril was his ability to keep the balance. Before the incarnation Cyril could accept the two separate natures of Jesus’ Divinity and humanity. After the incarnation Cyril emphatically insisted on the one united dynamic nature. This appeased both sides of the Christological dispute for a time. Then, after Cyril died, the disputes all erupted again at Chalcedon, with no one able to effectively keep the delicate balance.
Readers familiar with Cyril’s biography will note that the first half of his life was characterized by some unfortunate violence. The redeeming message, confirmed by witnesses, is that Cyril experienced a transformation in the second half of his life. Along these lines, I am reminded of these words of Mohandas Gandhi: “There is hope for the violent man to become nonviolent. There is no hope for the coward.”
See Alexandrian Bishops, Alexandrian Mystics, Athanasius of Alexandria, and Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox).
Deification (theosis in Greek) is the culmination of profound dedication and diligence to the decades-long process of purification (usually through silent prayer), whereby practitioners enter into a deified or glorified state of consciousness. This state of consciousness is variously referred to in The Philokalia as incorruptible, immortal, and eternal. It is accepted that Saint Anthony of Egypt realized complete deification. As a result, he lived to be at least 105 years of age and was widely known for many miraculous healings. A famous quotation of the Eastern Church is “Jesus became human so humans could become divine (divine with a lower case d).” The best summary of deification I have seen is from Gregory Palamas in The Philokalia. The scriptural basis of deification, which The Philokalia refers to, is 1 Corinthians 6:17. See Anthony of Egypt, Centering Prayer, Cloud of Unknowing, Dispassion, Divine Union, Hesychasm, Original Nature, The Philokalia, Silent Prayer, Tabor Light, and Unloading.
Desert Fathers and Mothers (Desert Elders)
The Desert Fathers and Mothers were hermits, ascetics, and monks who lived in the Egyptian Desert between the third and sixth centuries. By the year of Saint Anthony’s death in 356, thousands of monks had flocked to the Egyptian Desert, primarily in Scetes, to follow Anthony’s example. Although sayings of the Desert Fathers have recently been popularized, most don’t realize that the Desert Fathers and Mothers were first and foremost mystics and that they were predominantly Miaphysite. See Alexandrian Mystics, Anthony of Egypt, Asceticism, Contemplative Christianity, Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox), Mystic Christianity, and The Philokalia.
Dionysius the Areopagite (Pseudo-Dionysius, Pseudo-Denys, Denys)
The writings attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite (an Athenian convert of Saint Paul in Acts 17:34) in The Philokalia and elsewhere, were later discovered by scholars to be wrongly attributed. This writer is appropriately referenced today as Pseudo-Dionysius, Pseudo-Denys, or Denys, who was a theologian and philosopher of the fifth and sixth centuries. Regardless of attribution, Denys is a giant in Mystic Christian theology. His most famous works are The Mystical Theology and The Divine Names. These brief works exhaust the reasoning mind’s tendency to codify or name God. As a result this opens the mind to mystical awareness beyond names and forms. These short works hold special importance for The Alexandrian Mystics and for the writers of The Philokalia. It is significant to note how much The Alexandrian Mystics on through the fourteenth century honored Denys. An example is this comment by Gregory Palamas: “St. Dionysius the Areopagite (Denys),the most eminent theologian after the divine apostles. . .” Yet, in my estimation the writings of Denys need to be tempered with Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox) for appropriate balance. The Jesus Paradox qualifies God (in the absolute unqualified sense offered by Denys) for Christians, tempering Denys with the mystical theology of Jesus. For those versed in Buddhism, The Mystical Theology and Divine Names of Denys have striking similarities to The Heart Sutra. See Asceticism, Buddhist/Christian Dialogue, Centering Prayer, Dispassion, Hesychasm, Mystic Christianity, The Philokalia, and Silent Prayer.
Dispassion is a state of mind free from passion or desire for sense objects. In this state of consciousness there is no attachment or aversion to any images, concepts, or other sense objects. In other words, in this state, the mind has no desire to possess anything whatsoever. A synonym for dispassion is equanimity, a term used in Buddhist tradition. Throughout The Philokalia, reaching the state of dispassion is considered a major breakthrough on the spiritual path. See Asceticism, Buddhist/Christian Dialogue, Dionysius the Areopagite, and The Philokalia.
Divine Union is the culmination of profound devotion and diligence to the decades-long path of purification, when the practitioner experiences ineffable union with God, and the abiding joy that accompanies the experience. This state of abiding joy is in contrast to the conflicting emotions (before divine union), which are characteristic of the human condition. The inexpressible divine union that takes place in the hearts and minds of spiritual athletes takes place symbolically during the Eucharist/holy communion. See Centering Prayer, Cloud of Unknowing, Deification, Dispassion, Hesychasm, Original Nature, Silent Prayer, Tabor Light, and Unloading.
Dyophysite (sometimes called Diphysite) is a Greek word that means “two natures.” The Council of Chalcedon conceived of the person of Christ “in two natures.” This is the unfortunate dualistic theology the West inherited. This dualistic theology was called dyophysite by its detractors. The Oriental Orthodox Church rejects the dyophysite Chalcedonian approach. In contrast, Oriental Orthodoxy embraces Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox). See Council of Chalcedon. For contrast, see Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox) and monophysite. Also see the Wikipedia article, “Dyophysite.”
The Emergent Church emphasizes the here and now, as opposed to future salvation. It also emphasizes social activism or “missional living.” The Emergent Church is exemplified in the writings of Phyllis Tickle and Brian McLaren, among others. The movement tends to transcend labels such as conservative and liberal and breaks down any and all denominational barriers. It is anchored in the pioneering spirit of our post-modern era, which has no trouble mixing and matching apparently disparate threads of Christian tradition. See American Friends Service Committee, Buddhist/Christian Dialogue, Catholic Worker Movement, Church of the Savior, Liberation Theology, Neo-monasticism, Quantum Physics, Red Letter Christians, Vatican II, and World Council of Churches.
The Essenes were an ancient Jewish sect that predate Jesus. One distinguishing characteristic of Essene spiritual practice, reserved for its adepts, was a forty day fast. Essene writings indicate that the forty day fast was not just a fast from food, but also from speech and thought. In order to survive a forty day fast all energy was preserved, including energy expended on speech and thoughts. A number of scholars have reasoned that John the Baptist was an Essene from the community of Qumran. And that’s why Jesus began his ministry with a forty day fast in the wilderness after being baptized by John in the Jordan River, which is walking distance from Qumran. In deed Jesus’ forty day fast didn’t occur in a vacuum (Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, Luke 4:1–13). Jesus’ John the Baptist/Essene connection points to the foundational significance of monastic experience in Christian tradition. See Asceticism, Monastic Authority, and Qumran.
George Fox (d. 1691) was the founder of the Quakers (The Society of Friends). He believed that communion with Christ in silent prayer is what gave one’s voice authenticity and authority, not the hierarchy of clergy. He, like The Alexandrian Mystics, believed that authority was based on personal experience with the Divine in silent prayer, not on title, position, or rank. Early on Fox influenced William Penn (d. 1718) and Oliver Cromwell (d. 1658). And he remains influential through the centuries. See American Friends Service Committee, Jesus’ Third Way, Monastic Authority, Neo-monasticism, Peace Churches, and Quakerism.
Fundamentalism (or absolutism) is the unwavering adherence to a set of irreducible beliefs. Adherence to these beliefs determines who is saved or damned, faithful or infidel. Fundamentalists don’t accept this label and its negative connotations, yet for the most part the label still holds. The absolute adherence to a set of beliefs provides relief from the myriad uncertainties of our times and the challenges they present, yet absolutism contributes to subtle and gross forms of violence throughout the world today. For contrast, see Jesus’ Third Way, Mainline Christianity, New Age, Peace Churches, Progressive Christianity, Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox), Vatican II Council, and World Council of Churches.
Gospel of Thomas
The Gospel of Thomas is a Coptic Text, which many scholars concur is the oldest and most authentic of the Gnostic Gospels. It is considered by most scholars to be an important source for understanding the historical Jesus. It has many mystical sayings, which are not found in the canonical Gospels. The Gospel of Thomas was discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945. Thomas has been dated as early as 40 and as late as 140 CE. See Contemplative Christianity, Historical Jesus, Jesus Seminar, Mystic Christianity, and Progressive Christianity.
Athletes of the soul from the fourth century on who followed Saint Anthony into the desert to pray were called hesychasts. Little is known about early hesychasm in the Egyptian desert because it was taught through oral tradition and was generally not written down for posterity. It’s safe to say that hesychasm was rooted in silent prayer, which was very similar to Centering Prayer as taught by Thomas Keating and others today.
The most precise early instruction on hesychasm may be John Climacus in The Ladder of Divine Ascent: “Take up your seat on a high place and watch, if only you know how, and then you will see in what manner, when, whence, how many and what kind of thieves come to enter and steal your clusters of grapes. When the watchman grows weary, he stands up and prays; and then he sits down again and courageously takes up his former task.” Climacus gives a similar account in The Philokalia. What we surmise from this quotation and others similar to it is that hesychasm was a vigilant eyes-open form of centering prayer, which clears the mind of all distractions and rests in primal silence. Among the more advanced circles of Centering Prayer practitioners today, there is a diversity of approaches. There are so called breathers (who follow the breath during silent prayer), worders (who use a sacred word during silent prayer), and gazers (who practice an undifferentiated gaze on the floor in front of them during silent prayer). Of the three, gazers are most akin to hesychast tradition. A characteristic of hesychasm is that purification, which takes place while practicing this silent prayer, is often accompanied by “cleansing tears” or “blessed tears.” Philokalia writers, especially Nikitas Stithatos, often refer to these tears as part of silent prayer’s purification process.
The term hesychasm encompasses other practices, which include crouching postures, rhythmic recitation of the Jesus Prayer, and breathing techniques. These techniques were offered to beginners to break up the monotony of their prayer practices and to decrease the likelihood that they would give up on silent prayer. Yet as Gregory Palamas reiterates in The Philokalia, these were preliminary exercises to the more advanced and pure hesychasm, as described above.
A primary aspect of hesychasm is what the Philokalia refers to as “radical humility” before God. As more and more expansive states of consciousness are introduced, the ego gets puffed up with pride. There are many humbling methods to counter this pride. One of the most widespread is constant recitation of the holy name, Jesus, through the various derivations of The Jesus Prayer. This recitation protects the mind from egoism and keeps the mind appropriately stayed on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of Christian faith (Hebrews 12:2).
The ultimate purpose of hesychasm is union with God. Also see Asceticism, Centering Prayer, Cloud of Unknowing, Deification, Dionysius the Areopagite, Dispassion, Divine Union, Jesus Prayer, Mystic Christianity, The Philokalia, Prayer of the Heart, Silent Prayer, Tabor Light, and Unloading.
The Historical Jesus is the reconstruction of the life of Jesus based on critical analysis and historical methods. It is strictly concerned with the Jesus of history, not the Jesus of faith. For this reconstruction primary sources (Gospel texts) are used, along with other historical sources. Other sources include fragments of early non-canonical Gospels, the writings of Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, and Roman documents, such as writings of imperial biographer Suetonius and the letters of Pliny to Emperor Trajan. The Historical Jesus is relevant to Christology, yet its underlying assumption smacks of the same hubris as the scientific/secular age, namely that Jesus is a historical human being, period. Divinity with a capital D, miracles, and the like are rejected out of hand by most historical Jesus scholars. See Christology, Jesus Seminar, Progressive Christianity, and Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox).
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According to the mystics the root of human dysfunction is our inability to find happiness. Our attempts to find happiness in fleeting sensory pleasures, in affection and esteem, in power and control, in status and position, or in financial security are misguided, leading to constant frustration, which results in a deep underlying anxiety and dissatisfaction. This is what mystics and other teachers, such as Thomas Keating, refer to as The Human Condition. Thoreau’s observation that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” summarizes the human condition. According to The Alexandrian Mystics and the writers of The Philokalia, the way to find an ever-flowing stream of happiness (not conflicting emotions) is to periodically renounce sensory stimulation and seek God in the interior depths of our consciousness, which is usually most effectively reached through disciplined silences. For contrast see Asceticism, Buddhist/ Christian Dialogue, Centering Prayer, Deification, Desert Fathers and Mothers, Dispassion, Divine Union, Essenes, Hesychasm, Jesus Prayer, Monastic Authority, Mystic Christianity, Original Nature, Prayer of the Heart, Unloading, and Silent Prayer.
Hypostasis (Greek) refers to the substantial unity (hypostatic union) of both the incarnation (“at once God and human”) and the Trinity (at once One and Three!). Athanasius and Cyril used the same Greek word, hypostasis, to describe both the unity of the incarnation and the unity of the Trinity. In the Nicene Creed (written primarily by Athanasius), Jesus’ relationship with God the Creator is characterized as “hypostatic union.” A key characteristic of hypostatic union is indivisibility. Indivisibility changes our paradigm/our frame of reference. According to The Alexandrian Mystics, in actuality there is no divide and there can never be a divide when it comes to the incarnation (this divide only exists in our fragmented minds). The incarnation is indivisible. The guiding lights for the early Church’s understanding of hypostasis were the Cappadocian Fathers (329–395, so named because they came from Cappadocia in what is now Turkey). See Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox), Nicene Creed, and Trinity.
Jesus Paradox (Miaphysite)
The Jesus Paradox (Miaphysite) is the core assertion of The Alexandrian Mystics going back to Cyril of Alexandria. The Jesus Paradox (my contemporary equivalent to Miaphysite) is the non-dual awareness of Christ, who as Cyril of Alexandria stated, is “at once God and human.” If Jesus is at once God and human, as believers we cannot refer to Jesus as God without qualifying that: “God in human form.” We also cannot refer to Jesus as human only, without qualifying that: “the human incarnation of God.” For more specifics, see Hypostasis, Miaphysite, and Trinity. For contrast, see Dyophysite and Monophysite. For a more general survey, see Alexandrian Mystics and Mystic Christianity. Also see the Wikipedia article,“Miaphysitism.”
The Jesus Prayer is: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me.” This prayer, based on Luke 18:13, is probably the earliest prayer of Christian tradition. Various lengths of the prayer (such as “Jesus Christ have mercy,” or “Lord, have mercy”) were repeated continuously, especially on retreat, by The Alexandrian Mystics. The writers of The Philokalia instruct monks to stick with one form of the prayer, as opposed to changing the wording, so that the prayer takes root in the mind. The Jesus Prayer was popularized among the monasteries of the Egyptian desert by a monk named Pachomius (d. 348). Along with The Jesus Prayer, Pachomius also popularized the use of prayer ropes, with variously numbered knots, to facilitate the recitation of the Prayer. The Jesus Prayer and prayer ropes remain prominent in the Eastern Church today. Prayer ropes have similarities with Roman Catholic rosaries and Buddhist malas. See Chumley, Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer. Also see Buddhist/Christian Dialogue, Hesychasm, The Philokalia, and Prayer of the Heart.
The Jesus Seminar is a group of about one hundred and fifty scholars and lay representatives founded in 1985 by Robert Funk. The seminar uses votes with colored beads to decide their collective view of the historicity of the deeds and sayings of Jesus found in the Gospels. They have produced new translations of the New Testament, which includes the Gospel of Thomas. The Jesus Seminar is relevant to Christology, yet its underlying assumption smacks of the same hubris as the secular age, namely that Jesus is a historical human being, period. Divinity with a capital D, miracles, and the like are regularly and summarily rejected by fellows of the Jesus Seminar. See Christology, Gospel of Thomas, and Historical Jesus.
Jesus’ Third Way
Author Walter Wink writes cogently about how many of Jesus’ Gospel teachings advocate what he calls Jesus’ Third Way, also known as the Peace Testimony. Jesus’ Third Way is not fight or flight. It is a way that is both assertive and non-violent. Select Gospel passages, when interpreted correctly illuminate The Third Way of Jesus. Exemplary passages include Matthew 5:39b, Mark 15:21, and Matthew 5:40. The general passage associated with Jesus’ Third Way is The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chaps. 5–7).
When I think of Jesus’ Third Way, Renee Girard’s profound treatment of the ultimate meaning of the Cross comes immediately to mind. For Girard, the Cross is the definitive subversion of society’s underlying systemic scapegoating and violence. See American Friends Service Committee, Catholic Worker Movement, George Fox, Peace Churches, and Quakerism. See Wink, Engaging the Powers. Also see Girard, The Scapegoat.
Liberation Theology interprets Jesus’ teaching in terms of liberation from economic, political, and social injustice. It is Christianity through the eyes of the poor, with Marxist overtones. Liberation Theology is well represented in Gustavo Gutierrez’s book, A Theology of Liberation. See American Friends Service Committee, Catholic Worker Movement, and Progressive Christianity.
The Word (Logos in Greek) is the eternal aspect of Jesus that existed before the historic incarnation and after the incarnation (outside of time). Logos is referenced by many Greek monastic writers of The Philokalia, and others. The Logos is captured in the first chapter of John’s Gospel, verses 1–5. The mystery of the incarnation (The Jesus Paradox/Miaphysite) is found in the interplay between the pregnant energizing silence of God and God’s Word or Logos. This interplay is the basis of incarnational theology and exists outside of time. Jesus’ human body, born of Mary, existed for a brief period in the fullness of historic time, yet exists for all time as the primordial and paradoxical Logos. See Christology, Contemplative Christianity, Mystic Christianity, and The Philokalia.
See Prayer of the Heart.
By Mainline Christianity I mean all Christian denominations represented at the World Council of Churches (WCC), including the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC includes approximately three hundred forty two denominations from over one hundred countries. The WCC tends to weed out more fundamentalist and isolationist Christian factions. To me, the WCC represents ecumenism and centrist Christianity at its best. See Liberation Theology, Progressive Christianity, Trinity, and United Church of Christ.
Many feminist scholars point out that Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus and may have been one of the most prominent disciples, incurring the envy of other disciples. Mary is also an important symbol for balance between male and female in Christian tradition. It’s unfortunate that the early Church was threatened by Mary, and through what appears to have been a smear campaign, makes her out to be a demented prostitute, rather than a prominent (perhaps the most prominent) disciple of Jesus.
One of the most fascinating details of the Gospel accounts of the resurrection is that Mary Magdalene was the first witness to the resurrection. This gives Mary a prominent place in Christian tradition as “the apostle to the apostles.” According to literary critics, this detail also contributes to the authenticity of Gospel accounts of the resurrection. For, if the story was fabricated, a man (men were considered the most reliable authorities in the patriarchal culture of the time) would have been the first witness. See Progressive Christianity. See Bourgeault, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity.
Miaphysite (Jesus Paradox)
Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox), which is sometimes called Henophysite, is the core assertion of The Alexandrian Mystics, rooted in the teachings of Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria. I refer to Miaphysite (Greek) as opposed to monophysite (Latin). I do this because Miaphysite is the term Oriental Orthodox tradition accepts as authentic (largely because it is the actual word that Cyril used) and because of the negative connotations associated with the word monophysite. Miaphysite is the non-dual awareness of Christ, who as Cyril of Alexandria put it, is “at once God and human.” If Jesus is at once God and human, that means that as believers we cannot refer to Jesus as God without qualifying that: “God in human form.” We also cannot refer to Jesus as human only, without qualifying that: “the human incarnation of God.” My technical definition for Miaphysite is “one united dynamic nature.” I distinguish between simple union (monophysite in Latin) and dynamic union (Miaphysite in Greek). The legacy of Miaphysite. Some, like Richard Rohr, may refer to the dynamic of Miaphysite as imaginal causality. Scholastic philosophers may call it exemplary causality. Science today might call it morphogenic fields. Miaphysite theology is preserved today in the Oriental Orthodox Church (not to be confused with Eastern Orthodox). Miaphysite is the crown jewel of the Alexandrian Mystics. It is the center piece that holds the various strands of Mystic Christianity together. For more specifics, see Hypostasis, Jesus Paradox, and Trinity. For contrast, see Dyophysite and Monophysite. For a more general survey, see Alexandrian Mystics and Mystic Christianity. Also see the Wikipedia article, “Miaphysitism.”
Mind of Christ
George Fox and the Quakers refer to the “divine light within” or “that of God within” each person, or “the light of Christ” in each person (Genesis 1:27, Luke 17:21, Acts 9:3-4). The Philokalia makes references to our “original nature” or our “original purity.” Thomas Keating and the contemporary Centering Prayer movement refer to as the “divine indwelling,” what Paul refers to as “the Mind of Christ.” These are all different references to the same principle. I refer to the essence of this experience as entering or awakening to “the Mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). Contemplative author James Finley, who was a student of Thomas Merton, often refers to “the Mind of Christ.” And his one day workshop that he offers around the United States is titled “Entering the Mind of Christ.” The Mind of Christ is a dynamic unitive state of awareness that is available to us first in the depths of silent prayer. When we recognize the mind of Christ during prayer we begin to recognize and cultivate it elsewhere. We cultivate it in our lives and habits. We also recognize it in the legacy of Christian Mystics who have preceded us, in Jesus and the theology that beholds His non-dual essence (Jesus Paradox). The holistic vision of the Mind of Christ, the primordial Word at the beginning (John 1:1), changes the way we see everything. When awakened, he primordial freedom of the Mind of Christ transforms us from the inside out, then starts to transform our relationships and communities. Amos Smith and the RCMR network refers to “the Mind of Christ” as the holistic unitive vision of Christianity that can be awakened and cultivated by all Christians.
Regular retreats and habitual silent prayer are the key to Monastic Authority (spiritual authority). The Alexandrian Mystics believed that spiritual authority is not derived from one’s level of education, one’s position in the clerical hierarchy, one’s heredity, or any other designation. Spiritual authority is primarily rooted in direct experience of communion with God in prayer. This is why to this day in the Oriental Orthodox and East Orthodox traditions, there is a special reverence for monks and nuns and for monastic experience. And as the writers of The Philokalia often attest, it is not the robe or the monastery or celibacy that makes the monk or nun, but weeks, months, years, and decades of habitual silent prayer. For me the quintessential Monastic Authorities of Christian tradition are The Alexandrian Mystics. See Alexandrian Bishops, Alexandrian Mystics, Anthony of Egypt, Asceticism, Athanasius of Alexandria, Buddhist/Christian Dialogue, Contemplative Christianity, Cyril of Alexandria, George Fox, Mystic Christianity, and Neo-monasticism.
Monophysite is a heresy of the early church and was correctly condemned by early church leaders. Monophysite posits that the incarnation is “one simple nature,” or “one compounded nature.” This is in contrast to “one united dynamic nature” of Miaphysite. In other words, monophysite does not distinguish between the two aspects of Jesus (Divinity and humanity). Instead of a dynamic union there is an amalgam, where Jesus’ humanity is dwarfed and overwhelmed by Jesus’ Divinity, like a drop of water is overwhelmed and subsumed by the ocean. I distinguish clearly and painstakingly between simple union (monophysite in Latin) and dynamic union (Miaphysite in Greek). One challenge of adequately addressing monophysite is that there were many forms of it and many angles on it. For contrast, see Dyophysite and Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox). Also see the Wikipedia article, “Monophysitism.”
I prefer the terms Mystic Christianity or Christian Mysticism to the term Contemplative Christianity. Yet, I shy away from these terms unless they are made more precise. For me, the words that give Mystic Christianity disciplined specificity are “The Jesus Paradox/Miaphysite” and “The Alexandrian Mystics.” These terms ground Mystic Christianity, free it from nebulous hearsay, and give it tangibility, lineage, and integrity.
Mystic Christianity is not an esoteric science that occurred among some isolated mystics outside of mainstream Christianity. It is Christianity’s historic essence and core. It is Christianity rightly understood. It is to properly understand and silently behold the greatest mysteries of the faith: The Trinity and The Incarnation.
I think Mystic Christianity is convoluted in people’s minds because of wave upon wave of controversy that surrounds its root concepts. For me, a basic vocabulary of Mystic Christianity would include Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox), The Trinity (according to the Cappadocian Fathers), Hesychasm (Silent Prayer), The Mystical Theology and Divine Names of Denys, and The Philokalia. What all these subjects have in common is that they’ve been surrounded by controversy. The reasons for the controversies are that mystics and mystical concepts are easily misunderstood and misrepresented. They are also threatening to people who are unfamiliar with mystical experiences, especially church authorities. Because there is so much controversy around Mystic Christianity’s root concepts, most Contemplative Christians have steered clear of them. This is one of the tragedies of Christianity. And as a result, in many people’s minds, there is no unified and deeply rooted lineage of Christian Mystics, nor a core of mystical concepts that hold the legacy together. As a result, many Christians who are mystically inclined turn to new age experiments or to other religious traditions that have well developed mystical legacies. Hesychasm covers a much broader spectrum of practices than Silent Prayer, yet the two are more akin than most Westerners think. See Hesychasm in glossary. When it comes to Mystic Christianity, none of these concepts and nothing else whatsoever will substitute for the real daily practice of silent prayer.
Yes, Catholic and Protestant Christianity has taught the mystics piece meal—this isolated mystic here, that one over there—The Cloud of Unknowing that happened to pop up there. Yet, the deeply rooted legacy dating back to the Earliest Christians is generally lost on Western tradition as a whole. To make matters worse, people genuinely inclined toward mysticism in contemporary western society are most often dismissed at best or accused of being deranged at worst, by those who have made reason and dualistic thinking their ultimate authority. In this post-modern era, with its distance from the ancient controversies and its pioneering spirit, I hope many will return to Mystic Christianity’s deeply rooted historic foundation. Mysticism is the deepest expression of any faith and any mysticism worth its salt must rest on a firm historic lineage and legacy. See Alexandrian Mystics, Asceticism, Contemplative Christianity, Deification, Desert Fathers and Mothers, Dionysius the Areopagite, Divine Union, Hesychasm, Logos, Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox), Monastic Authority, Natural Mystics, The Philokalia, Progressive Christianity, Silent Prayer, Tabor Light, and Trinity.
The Natural Mysticism of Christian Tradition is epitomized in the writings of Saint Francis, Saint Patrick, and Celtic Christianity, who show profound reverence for the natural world. For these writers the way of devotion to the Creator is to fall in love with creation. This same feeling is present in many Protestant Hymns such as “How Great Thou Art” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” In his book, Mysticism Sacred and Profane, R.C. Zaehner draws a hard and fast distinction between religious and natural mystical experiences. I don’t think it’s possible to make such a sharp distinction. For Mystics like Francis, religious and natural mystical experiences flowed together. See Mystic Christianity and Original Nature.
New Monasticism (Neo-monasticism)
New Monasticism is also referred to as neo-monasticism or lay monasticism. This term refers to people who have a regular practice of silent prayer, but who don’t reside in a monastery or cloister. Accusations of derangement seem to be an occupational hazard of Christian Mystics dating back to at least the sixth century. Maximus the Confessor writes, “For he who has been united with the truth has the assurance that all is well with him, even though most people rebuke him for being out of his mind. For without their being aware he has moved from delusion to the truth of real faith; and he knows for sure that he is not deranged, as they say. . .” (Palmer, et al., The Philokalia Vol. 2, 282). New monastics include self identified monk-priests, monk-ministers, monk-bishops, monk-accountants, monk-lawyers, et cetera. These people have demanding occupations of various kinds, yet remain devoted to a consistent silent prayer practice. To make progress in silent prayer the recommendation of Centering Prayer communities is to practice at least twenty minutes twice a day and to do at least one silent prayer retreat per year.
Denominations that encourage and develop neo-monasticism are The Quakers (FGC), The Church of the Savior, The Episcopalians, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics. My hope is that more leaders of Protestant denominations will support neo-monasticism within their congregations and judicatories. See Alexandrian Bishops, Asceticism, Church of the Savior, George Fox, Monastic Authority, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Quakerism.
The New Age was developed in the last half of the twentieth century and is influenced by psychology, parapsychology, and self-help. It experienced a kind of genesis and flowering in the 1960s, when various Indian gurus visited the West. New Age prefers an eclectic approach to the world religions and is not rooted in any one faith tradition in time. It is theologically imprecise and anti-authoritarian. It exerts a strong influence on Progressive Christianity. For contrast, see Fundamentalism.
The Nicene Creed (325) ) is Christianity’s broadest, most universal, and most uniting creed. It is also the most widely used creed or profession of faith in Christian liturgy today. It is called Nicene because it was adopted by three hundred and eighteen bishops in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council. Also see Athanasius and Hypostasis.
The Oriental Orthodox Church only accepts three ecumenical church councils: The first council of Nicaea (325), the First Council of Constantinople (381), and the First Council of Ephesus (431). They adamantly reject the Council of Chalcedon (451), which conceived of the person of Christ “in two natures” (dyophysite). Instead of the dualistic Chalcedonian approach, The Oriental Orthodox Church embraces Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox). See Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox). For contrast, see dyophysite and monophysite. Also see the Wikipedia article, “Oriental Orthodoxy.”
Original Nature (Original Purity, Original State)
The terms original nature, original purity, and original state pertain to the original nature of the intellect after the purification of consistent silent prayer. These terms are found throughout The Philokalia. In The Philokalia original nature is also referred to as “the pre-fallen state.” Our original purified nature is completely free of original sin or the human condition as it is variously called in Christianity and Psychology. It is a liberated primordial state of being that is intuitively inter-connected with both Creator and creation, to both Divinity and humanity. See Anthony of Egypt, Deification, Dispassion, Divine Union, Natural Mystics, The Philokalia, and Unloading. For contrast, see Human Condition.
The historic Peace Churches are the Church of the Brethren, the Mennonite, and the Quakers (FGC). These traditions believe in the peace testimony of Jesus, epitomized in The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chaps. 5–7). The historic application of the peace testimony has included resistance to serving in armed forces. See American Friends Service Committee, Catholic Worker Movement, George Fox, Jesus’ Third Way, Progressive Christianity, and Quakerism.
See Jesus’ Third Way.
The Philokalia is a collection of texts written between the 4th and 15th centuries by spiritual masters of the Orthodox hesychast tradition. It is a pillar of Eastern Mystic Christianity. The texts of The Philokalia were originally written for the guidance of monks. The collection was compiled in the 18th Century by Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain (Mount Athos in Greece) and Saint Makarios of Corinth. The Philokalia has recently been translated into English by Faber and Faber Publishing. The Philokalia illuminates subjects such as Anthony of Egypt, Asceticism, Deification, Desert Fathers and Mothers, Dionysius the Areopagite, Dispassion, Divine Union, Hesychasm, The Jesus Prayer, Logos, Monastic Authority, Mystic Christianity, Original Nature, Silent Prayer, and Tabor Light (all in the glossary).
Prayer of the Heart (John Main)
The Prayer of the Heart is similar to Centering Prayer, except that the sacred word, Maranatha, is repeated frequently, if not continuously during silent prayer. In this prayer form, Maranatha (“Come Lord Jesus” in Aramaic), serves as a kind of mantra, which is not only repeated during prayer, but also repeated when possible during the day. This practice was developed and contemporized by John Main (d. 1982) and Laurence Freeman. For more see Main, Word Into Silence and prayeroftheheart.com.
An ancient counterpart to this prayer form is The Jesus Prayer, which Orthodox monks repeat continuously to this day, especially on retreat. See Centering Prayer, Cloud of Unknowing, Hesychasm, and Jesus Prayer.
Process Theology stems from the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (d. 1947), which was further developed by Charles Hartshorne (d. 2000), Marjorie Suchocki, and others.
A basic understanding of Process Theology is that we are in process with God and that over time the relationship between God and humanity is changing both God and humanity. This means that we can influence God and vice versa (Genesis 18:26–33). We are in process with God. God is not omnipotent. God shares power with us—without our hands and feet, God has no hands and feet to act in the world. We need God and God needs us. A perfect example of this is the incarnation. Through the incarnation God is in process with us. The eternal has become and is becoming temporal. See Progressive Christianity.
Three hallmarks of Progressive Christianity are: 1) its inclusion of all peoples as children of God, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation 2) its respect for other religions and its willingness to enter into interfaith dialogue as mutually enriching 3) an emphasis on social justice and eco-justice. Some top Progressive Christian Magazines/Periodicals are The Christian Century, Sojourners, and Weavings. Some exemplary organizations are Church of the Savior and the Sojourners Community in Washington, D.C and The Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I affirm The Eight Points found on progressivechristianity.org, while also seeking to temper points one and two by rooting them in The Jesus Paradox of the Alexandrian Mystics. See American Friends Service Committee, Catholic Worker Movement, Contemplative Christianity, Liberation Theology, Mainline Christianity, Mary Magdalene, Mystic Christianity, Process Theology, Quakerism, United Church of Christ, and Vatican II. For contrast, see Fundamentalism.
There are three streams of Quakerism today, Evangelical Friends International (EFI), Friends United Meeting (FUM), and Friends General Conference (FGC). EFI and FUM are evangelical and have paid clergy. FGC is characterized by silent meetings for worship and doesn’t have paid clergy. FGC recognizes elders, who lead the community. FGC, along with the Mennonite and Brethren, are the three historic Peace Churches, who emphasize Jesus as the model for non-violence. The historic Quakers (FGC) understand the importance of keeping an exquisite balance between contemplation and social activism. See American Friends Service Committee, Contemplative Christianity, George Fox, Jesus’ Third Way, Mystic Christianity, and Peace Churches.
Quantum Physics asserts that if we measure a photon of light as a wave it will behave as a wave. If we observe a photon of light as a particle it will behave as a particle. Yet, a photon can’t be a wave and a particle at the same time. So, when we observe a photon of light in a certain way, we change the intrinsic nature of that photon. In other words, at the quantum level, there is no objective reality. How we observe phenomenon changes the nature of that phenomenon. Put differently, we are not observers of reality—we participate in it! See Hypostasis, Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox), Mystic Christianity, and Progressive Christianity. For contrast, see Fundamentalism.
Qumran is an archaeological site in the West Bank of Israel. Most scholars believe it was an ancient site of an Essene monastic community. John the Baptist was most likely an Essene from Qumran. Reasons for postulating this are that he was known to be a desert hermit (Matthew 3: 1, 4) and Qumran was a hermetic desert community. Also John the Baptist baptized people (including Jesus) in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13), which is in walking distance from Qumran. See Asceticism and Essenes.
Red Letter Christians
Red Letter Christians is a non-denominational movement that believes Christianity has been exploited by both right wing and left wing politics. This evangelical movement believes in focusing on the teachings of Jesus in the Bible (the red letters), especially when it comes to social issues. The book Red Letter Revolution by Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne captures the essence of the movement. I appreciate how the movement tries to get back to the center of the tradition: Jesus. My book asks the theological question, “Who is Jesus?” Red Letter Revolution asks the follow up question: “What did Jesus actually teach?” See Church of the Savior, Emergent Church, Jesus’ Third Way, and Liberation Theology.
Silent Prayer in the Christian context is always understood as prayer. Prayer is conversation and, at its deepest, communion with God. Most Christians understand prayer as a one-way conversation or monologue. Silent prayer balances this mistaken understanding of prayer by focusing on what’s most important: what is being communicated from the other end of the line. This deep listening requires letting go of any and all sensory distractions. In Western contemplative tradition silent prayer is referred to as the prayer of simplicity, the prayer of faith, the prayer of simple regard, and silent worship. In The Philokalia silent prayer is often referred to as watchfulness, blessed stillness, or noetic stillness. See Asceticism, Centering Prayer, Cloud of Unknowing, Deification, Dionysius the Areopagite, Dispassion, Divine Union, Hesychasm, Mystic Christianity, Prayer of the Heart, The Philokalia, and Unloading.
The Eastern Orthodox theology of the Tabor Light, also referred to as Light of Tabor, Uncreated Light and Divine Light, is the light Jesus emanated on Mount Tabor during his transfiguration (Matthew 7:2, Mark 9:3, Luke 9:29). This same Light is associated with Saint Paul’s conversion, when he was blinded by Light (Acts 9:3–9, 22:6–11). This Light is referenced throughout The Philokalia. This Light, revealed on Tabor, was understood to be the fulfillment of the promise that some of the disciples would not taste death until they beheld the kingdom of God (Mark 9:1). This Light is the manifestation of God’s kingdom, which was not only revealed to disciples two millennia ago, but which is still revealed to Christian Mystics in the depths of prayer. See Deification, Divine Union, Hesychasm, The Philokalia, and Mystic Christianity.
The theology of the Trinity was most fully developed by the Cappadocian Fathers: Basil the Great (d. 379), Gregory of Nyssa (d. 395), and Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 389). The theology of the Trinity pressed the “hypostatic union” of the Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit (both One and Three at the same time). While distinct in their relations with one another, they are One. Athanasius, Cyril, and the Alexandrian Mystics pressed this same “hypostatic union” of Jesus’ Divinity and humanity. While Jesus’ Divinity and humanity are distinct, they are one. The Trinity and the incarnation are the ultimate mysteries of Christian faith. The biblical bases of the Trinity are the numerous scriptures which say the Creator is God, that Jesus is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. In addition there are a plethora of scriptures that say God is One. See Hypostasis, Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox), and Nicene Creed.
United Church of Christ (UCC)
The United Church of Christ (UCC), with its Congregational (Puritan) roots, is the oldest Christian denomination in North America. The UCC is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination, which throughout its history has emphasized Jesus’ radical inclusion in the Gospels and social justice. The first woman, the first black man, and the first homosexual ever ordained in the United States, were all ordained within the UCC and its historic forbears. The UCC was also the first Christian denomination along with the Quakers, to formally oppose slavery in the United States. See Mainline Christianity and Progressive Christianity.
Unloading of the unconscious, or unloading in brief, is a term often used in the writings of Thomas Keating and in the teachings of the Centering Prayer community. Unloading is the release of psycho-toxins (referred to as “passions” in The Philokalia) from the mind, and subsequently from the body, which accompanies silent prayer. Another descriptor for passions/ psycho-toxins is the release of attachments and aversions to objects of the senses. Attachments and aversions to sensory stimulation are stored in the mind in the form of psycho-toxins and in the body in the form of muscle tension. Sometimes Unloading is accompanied by sensations of tingling, burning, tension, nausea, or tears. The patient endurance required to weather these painful sensations is referred to as “carrying one’s cross” and “asceticism” in The Philokalia. On a physiological level, unloading is characterized by the gradual healing and eventual restoration of the human nervous system. The understanding of the unloading of psycho-toxins during disciplined silences is not unique to Centering Prayer and Mystic Christianity. In Theravada Buddhist tradition, fifth century author, Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa, writes of similar phenomena throughout his classic, The Path of Purification. It is also important to note that the healing of the human nervous system and tension stored in the body’s muscle tissue can happen on different levels through various means such as regular massage, Rolfing, healing relationships, healing community, music therapy, etcetera. Yet, Thomas Keating and others maintain that the deepest and most thorough healing of the nervous system and holistic healing of body, soul, mind, and spirit is accomplished through the unloading described here, which progresses in stages, through years (usually decades) of diligent silent prayer. See Asceticism, Buddhist/ Christian Dialogue, Centering Prayer, Cloud of Unknowing, Deification, Dispassion, Divine Union, Hesychasm, and Silent Prayer.
Vatican II Council
The second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church (1962–65), spawned by Pope John XXIII (d. 1963), opened flood gates to interfaith dialogue, more open communication with Protestants, and increased dialogue with the Eastern Church. Vatican II was a giant step toward relevancy to Twenty-first Century sensibilities like pluralism. See Buddhist/ Christian Dialogue, Emergent Church, Neo-monasticism, and Progressive Christianity.
World Council of Churches
See Mainline Christianity.
JESUS PARADOX LITURGY
Lectionary Year A: Proper 16 or
Lectionary Year A: Easter 5
1) “This Is the Day” (New Century Hymnal #84 with drum)
2) “You Have Come down to the Lakeshore” (New Century Hymnal #173)
3) “I Heard My Mother Say” (New Century Hymnal #409)
Other Hymn Possibilities:
“Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love” (New Century Hymnal #498)
“In Christ There Is No East or West” (New Century Hymnal #395)
First Reading: Matthew 16:13-20
Second Reading: John 14:8-11
Curing Christianity’s Ills?
Call to Worship
One: Holy One, you are beyond names.
Many: Yet, we name you Jesus.
One: Holy One, your love is beyond understanding.
Many: Yet, through Jesus, we understand.
One: Holy One, you are beyond all space.
Many: Yet, we call you Emanuel
One: Holy One, you are beyond all time
Many: Yet, you are born of Mary.
One: Holy One, we sometimes forget who you are.
Many: Yet, you remind us that in Jesus you are both God and human.
Gracious God, You have come to us in human form. You have been revealed to us in the person of Jesus. May we absorb the power of Your human incarnation! May we stand in awe of the Divine mystery: “God with us.” The world will never be the same again. For through Jesus you became vulnerable, taking on all the challenges of our human life. Now, You identify with us, in all of our suffering. You have shattered the distance between Divinity and humanity. And you have shown us the way of life—the way of compassion. Jesus you are our brother and our sovereign forever and even. Amen.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Holy One, you could never be divided. You are one nature, not two. We thank You that in the fullness of time Your loving presence was mediated for us and interpreted for us through Jesus. We thank You for that dynamic union! We thank You for the Divine essence and for the human form! Amen.
MESSAGE: CURE FOR CHRISTIANITY’S ILLS?
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.
-Colossians 2:9 (NIV)
There is a crisis in Christianity today…The epicenter of this crisis centers on the person of Jesus. Who is Jesus? This is the central question of our faith.
We may say Jesus is Lord or Savior or Messiah. But, what does that mean?
The crisis in Christianity is that there is no unity on who the person of Jesus is.
Fundamentalist Christians claim that Jesus is God period, end of story. Jesus is the only way to God.
New Age Christians believe that Jesus is human period, end of story. For New Age Christians Jesus is a wisdom teacher like other wisdom teachers who founded world religions.
The problem of fundamentalism is that it claims a corner on the truth. There is only one truth and conveniently it happens to be my truth. Fundamentalism holds the lure of absolutism. Questions cease. The truth with a capital T is found and that is the end of the story. One of the primary problems with this mind set is that it denies at least two-thirds of humanity from access to God. It is also hopelessly proud. There is only one truth—my truth. It is my way or the highway.
The lure of this perspective is that we desperately yearn for finality. In a world of gray areas we want black and white. We want yes and no. The twenty-first century is bewildering and it would be comforting to have some solid ground to stand on. In the shifting sands of our post-modern world, where everything seems relative, fast moving, and up for grabs, we want an anchor to hold onto. We want the direct route to God.
One problem that comes up for us, however, is that to deny people access to God is the first step toward dehumanizing them.
Many, when they come to grips with the fundamentalist mind set retreat to New Age Christianity. Yet New Age Christianity is also rife with problems.
New Age Christian Problems
With New Age Christianity, Jesus is seen as a wisdom teacher like other founders of world religions. For New Age Christians Jesus is only human, not Divine with a capital D—“not God with us.”
The severe problem with this approach to Jesus is that it discounts two thousand years of Christian witness, who have claimed that something unique happened with Jesus. Jesus was not just a holy man or God dwelling within a human being. There were numerous prophets and prophetesses who were holy and in whom God dwelt. According to the Christian witness Jesus is something the world has never seen before or since. Jesus is the unique human incarnation of God. That means that God actually became human. We are not talking about God dwelling in someone’s heart, we are talking about incarnation.
The understanding that Jesus is the human incarnation of God is what makes Christianity unique and distinct among the world’s religions. No other world religion claims that the Supreme Being became human. Hinduism believes in avatars, who are incarnations of deities (plural). But no religion aside from Christianity claims that the Deity with a capital D dwelt among us.
New Age Christianity takes the very heart out of the tradition. A Christianity that does not claim Jesus as the unique human incarnation of God is no longer recognizably Christian. It is something else. Indeed New Age Christianity would not be considered Christian by generations of witnesses. For the incarnation is the very heart and soul of the tradition.
I attended a church in Berkeley where the folks actually said, “we don’t use the J word here (Jesus), too many people have been burned by it.” Granted Jesus has been used by fundamentalists as a litmus test to bludgeon all who don’t believe. But, this doesn’t mean we don’t use the J word. That would be ludicrous. We are called “Christians!” The name of our faith bears the name Christ.
Where Do We Go From Here?
So, where do we go from here? If we affirm that Jesus is God period we deny two thirds of the world’s population from access to God. If we affirm that Jesus is human period, we discount the primary witness of our two thousand year old tradition. Both positions are reductionist and gut the mystery of the incarnation. So, where do we stand?
I believe that the unique approach of the Mainline Protestant churches is to forge a zigzagging path between the extremes. We are not fundamentalists and we are not new age. So what are we? For me the unique place to stand is the claim of the early Christian mystics, who believed that Jesus was “at once God and human.” In other words, Jesus is both at the same time.
This is the profound mystery of our faith. That Jesus was both God and human at the same time. This affirmation may seem academic. Yet, it much more than that… For most of the early Christian mystics of the fifth century, many of whom were known as Desert Fathers and Mothers, staked their life on this claim and many were martyred on account of this faith.
Why is this tempered approach so important? Why is it the basis of sanity? The reason is that it holds the key that saves us from the extremes, that saves us from the ills of fundamentalism and the new age. If we hold to this truth—that Jesus is God and human at the same time, we no longer fall for the sins of absolutism or the sins of relativism. We hold the balance. We do not claim that Jesus is God, without qualifying that: “God in human form.” And as believers, we also do not claim that Jesus is human, without qualifying that by saying “the human incarnation of God.”
This opens up the tradition. It clarifies that we worship God’s human form. But, it does not deny the possibility that God can be revealed in other forms. It is an approach that maintains humility before the ultimate Mystery. Yes, we claim that God has come to us in human form. Jesus is our window into God–our pathway for understanding who God is. Yet, we don’t take this the next arrogant step, and say no one else has access to God. We leave open the possibility that God is revealed to humanity in other ways.
This approach to Jesus also affirms the tradition that has been passed down to us for centuries—that Jesus is God’s human incarnation.
This is the mystery, the paradox, the heart of our faith. It is also the path of sanity. Another name for the Jesus Paradox is non-absolutism. Other ways of holding the mystery of the Jesus Paradox is what a number of mystics call “New Mind” or “Non-dual awareness.” We don’t have to settle for us verse them, Divinity verse humanity, Creator verse creature, eternity verse time. At the mystical moment of rapture they become one taste.
Jesus is fully God and fully human. In him humanity is glorified. In him God is humbled, becoming a servant of us all (Philippians 2:7). This is the way of balance, the way of sanity. It is the legacy of the Alexandrian Mystics and of Mainline Protestantism!
The Jesus Paradox (Miaphysite) offers a more nuanced and dynamic faith for our times. May we never lose sight of Jesus’ humanity, thus avoiding the pit of fundamentalism. And may we never lose sight of Jesus’ Divinity with a capital D, thus avoiding the pit of new age. Jesus is old age! Jesus is Emmanuel—God with us. May Jesus guide us into wholeness and balance. May Jesus save us from the extremes that threaten Christian Tradition.
We all have a God-shaped-hole in our lives. May Jesus fill that hole with the dynamism—with the moving target—of the incarnation!
In the above Amish Quilt you will see imperfections and inconsistencies in color patterning. This is an intentional characteristic of Amish Quilts, which presses the point that all human works are flawed–that only God is perfect. Accepting the imperfection of all our created works puts us in right relationship with God. A reminder for when you come across the inevitable imperfections in my writing!
RCMR MOVIE LIST
Thomas Keating: Rising Tide of Silence
(can be downloaded here: http://www.fatherthomaskeating.com/)
Star Wars Trilogy
Of Gods and Men
Good Will Hunting
The Black Stallion
The Razor’s Edge
Dances with Wolves
Jesus of Montreal
The Hunt for Red October
The Dead Poet’s Society
Leap of Faith
An Inconvenient Truth
The Bagdad Café
The Emerald Forest
Secrets and Lies
Sex, Lies, and Video Tapes
Mother Teresa (PBS Documentary)
RCMR MUSIC LISTS (TOP 40 SONGS)
Chant: The Benedictine Monks of Santa Domingo de Silos
TOP 20 ECLECTIC SONGS
1. Joy To The World–Aaron Neville/The Blind Boys of Alabama
2. Alleluia, Beatus Vir Qui Suffert—The Benedictine Monks of Santa Domingo de Silos
3. Jesus Christ The Apple Tree—The American Boychoir
5. There Will Be A Light—Ben Harper & The Blind Boys of Alabama
6. By The Mark—Gillian Welch
7. Orphan Girl—Gillian Welch
8. Roll Away The Stone—Kelly Joe Phelps
9. When The Role Is Called Up Yonder—Kelly Joe Phelps
10. Rejoice—Ladysmith Black Mambazo
11. Walk In Jerusalem—Mahalia Jackson
12. Wings of a Dove—Nanci Griffith
13. Jesus Remember Me (Taize Chant)—Saint Thomas Music Group
14. Allelulia, Behold the Bridegroom—Saint Petersburg Chamber Choir
15. Down By The River Side—Sweet Honey In The Rock
16. I Remember, I Believe—Sweet Honey in The Rock
17. Wanting Memories—Sweet Honey in The Rock
18. Keep On The Sunny Side—Lonnie Donegan
19. Since I’ve Laid My Burden Down—Mississippi John Hurt
20. Everything Comes Alive—We Are Messengers
TOP 20 ROCK SONGS
1. God Of Wonders—Third Day
2. I Believe—Third Day
3. It Is You—Newsboys
4. Beautiful Sound—Newsboys
5. Frail—Jars of Clay
6. Dead Man (Carry Me)—Jars of Clay
7. Washed By The Water–Needtobreathe
8. Sense of Purpose—Third World
9. Committed (With Jamaiski)—Third World
10. Like A Prayer—Madonna
11. Watching The River Flow—Bob Dylan
12. Heart of Gold—Neil Young
13. Strength, Courage, and Wisdom–India Arie
15. Pride (In The Name of Love)—U2
16. Ripple—The Grateful Dead
17. Mary—Patti Griffin
18. And So It Goes—The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and John Denver
19. It’s Never Too Late—Michael Franti and Spearhead
20. I Saw The Light—David Crowder Band
RCMR RELATED ORGANIZATIONS (GENERAL)
CENTER FOR ACTION AND CONTEMPLATION:
GRAVITY: A CENTER FOR CONTEMPLATIVE ACTIVISM:
INCARNATIONAL CONTEMPLATION WITH DAVID FRENETTE:
THE SHALEM INSTITUTE:
FOUNDATION FOR NEW MONASTICISM:
LOMBARD MENNONITE PEACE CENTER:
AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE:
THE RAVEN FOUNDATION:
CENTER FOR NONVIOLENT COMMUNICATION:
ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND:
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE:
EARTH POLICY INSTITUTE:
THE CLIMATE REALITY PROJECT:
THE NATURE CONSERVANCY:
RCMR RELATED ORGANIZATIONS (TUCSON REGION)
RCMR RELATED PHOTOS (GENERAL)
Here & Now Sign
The Earth is the most exquisite work of art inspired by the greatest Artist!
Full image of “Christ Pantocrator Icon” on the RCMR website home page
Mentor Sandra Casey Martusat base of Teton Mountains in Wyoming
Amos with Contemplative UCC Pastor and Mentor, Ken Barnes
Thomas Keating exuding joy after decades of Centering Prayer
Retreat House at Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado
Sanctuary at Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass
Panoramic View of Pechersk Lavra Orthodox Monastery from Dnieper River In Kiev, Ukraine, where Amos visited in 1990
10 Day Centering Prayer Retreat with Thomas Keating at Benedict’s Monastery in 2000
Butterfly on book cover of Healing The Divide
Favorite picture of author and speaker Phileena Heuertz
Favorite picture of George Fox from the portrait by Sir Peter Lely
Favorite picture of Thomas Merton
Favorite picture of Richard Rohr with Sister Joan Chittister
RCMR RELATED PHOTOS (TUCSON REGION)
The Sonoran Desert in Tucson, Arizona
Amos Smith and Rich Lewis in New Mexico in 2016
Rich and Amos with Richard Rohr in New Mexico in 2016
Desert House of Prayer in Tucson, Arizona
Desert House of Prayer Sanctuary in Tucson
UCC Centering Prayer Group in Tucson
Centering Prayer Workshop offered by Phoenix Contemplative Outreach & held in Tucson on September 20, 2014
Spiral labyrinth with shadow of cross
Rich Lewis (RCMR Leadership Team)
Sign for the Arizona Foundation for Contemporary Theology
Amos gives a “Jesus Paradox” presentation in Phoenix
for the Arizona Foundation for Contemporary Theology in 2013
Amos and author Lee Wimberly in Tucson after a 2014 forum about bridging the gap between Science and Religion
2014 Confirmation Class in Tucson
Santa Rita Abbey in Sonoita, Arizona
Retreat House at Santa Rita Abbey in Sonoita, Arizona
UCC Ministers from Tucson gathered for the installation of Marshallese Minister, Rev. Wendell Langrine
Amos Smith with wife Cristianne
GO BACK TO MAIN MENU
MYSTIC POETRY OF CHRISTIAN TRADITION
GOD OUR SOVEREIGN IS…
more affectionate than any friend,
more just than any ruler,
more loving than any father,
more a part of us than our own limbs,
more necessary to us than our own heart.
WITHIN THE HEART ARE UNFATHOMABLE DEPTHS…
It is but a small vessel
and yet dragons and lions are there,
and there poisonous creatures and all the treasures of wickedness;
rough, uneven paths are there, and gaping chasms.
There likewise is God,
there are the angels
there life and the Kingdom,
there light and the Apostles,
the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace:
all things are there.
-The Homilies of Macarius
Because of the great,
infinite love which God has for all humankind,
he makes no distinction in love between the blessed soul of Christ
and the lowliest of the souls that are to be saved . . . .
We should highly rejoice that God dwells in our soul
and still more highly should we rejoice that our soul dwells in God.
Our soul is made to be God’s dwelling place,
and the dwelling place of our soul
is God who was never made.
– Julian of Norwich
O world invisible, we view thee
O world intangible, we touch thee
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Incomprehensible, we clutch thee.
SONG TO THE CREATOR
Word of God
are the light of primordial
daybreak over the spheres.
You, the foreknowing
mind of divinity,
foresaw all your works
as you willed them,
your prescience hidden
in the heart of your power,
your power like a wheel around the world,
whose circling never began
and never slides to an end.
-Hildegard of Bingen
Imagine a sheer deep crag, with a projecting edge at the top.
Now imagine what a person would probably feel if he put his foot on the edge of the precipice,
and looking down into the chasm below, saw no solid footing nor anything to hold on to.
This is what I think the soul experiences when it goes beyond its footing in material things,
in its quest for that which has no dimension and which exists from all eternity.
For here there is nothing it can take hold of, neither place nor time, neither measure or anything else;
our minds cannot approach it.
And thus the soul, slipping at every point from what cannot be grasped,
becomes dizzy and perplexed and returns once again to what is connatural to it,
content now to know merely this about the Transcendent,
that it is completely different from the nature of things that the soul knows.
-Gregory of Nyssa
GOD ALONE IS ENOUGH
Let nothing upset you,
let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
all it seeks.
Whoever has God
God alone is enough.
-St Teresa Avila
Leave the senses and the workings of the intellect
and all that the senses and the intellect can perceive,
and all that is not and that is;
and through unknowing reach out, so far as this is possible,
towards oneness with him who is beyond all being and knowledge.
In this way, through an uncompromising, absolute and pure detachment
from yourself and from all things,
transcending all things and released from all,
you will be led towards that radiance of the divine darkness
which is beyond all being.
Entering the darkness that surpasses understanding,
we shall find ourselves brought, not just to brevity of speech,
but to perfect silence and unknowing.
Emptied of all knowledge, man (woman) is joined in the highest part of himself (herself),
not with any created thing, nor with himself (herself), nor with another,
but with the One who is altogether unknowable;
and in knowing nothing, he (she) knows in a manner that surpasses understanding.
-Dionysius the Areopagite
CONTEMPORARY MYSTIC POETRY
BY AMOS SMITH AND RICH LEWIS
I have known the madness of the blazing sun
I have tasted the sword of discipline
I have wrestled with Jacob and his angel
All that I have touched and seen fade like morning mist
Rabbi Abraham Heschel was right—
“Nothing worth building can be built in a generation”
My breath and my generation will be no more
May I light a torch that’s passed to generations unborn
May I whisper wisdom to decades of wrestlers who the dawn will name
Sister/Brother I bless you
I no longer call you Jacob
I will call you Israel
WHY DO I SIT IN SILENCE
Why do I sit in silence?
I sit in silence to be with God.
I sit in silence so God can act in me.
I sit in silence to forget me.
I sit in silence so God can refresh me.
I sit in silence so God’s love can fill me.
I sit in silence so I will take God’s action into my non silent parts of the day.
I am circling the labyrinth
I am climbing Jacob’s ladder
I am falling in the shadows
I am bailing hay from the inmost corner of my red barn
I am grooming horses with a large soft brush
I have been here before
Circling, climbing, falling, bailing, grooming
The difference now is that my eyes are sure and my hand steady
The soles of my feet are granite
My fingernails: tree branches
My eyes: moths longing to be consumed by fire
Who is your true self?
I suppose some of us know who this is.
Some of us are still searching.
Others aren’t even thinking about this.
For me, my true self is the God within waiting to be expressed.
He is best expressed when I push aside the small me.
This small me is expressed when I feel angry, jealous, insecure, afraid.
This small me is expressed when I am unwilling to listen to or accept someone who I view as different.
My true self is calm, confident, content, unafraid.
My true self quietly listens with no judgment.
My true self accepts love and speaks love.
My true self works best when I remind myself that I am connected to the Divine.
My true self is more than connected to the Divine.
My true self is the Divine within.
My true self knows that I am loved by the Divine and that is all that really matters.
Everyday my true self yearns for expression.
Chopping wood, carrying water
What could be more ordinary?
To be a transgressing human being
What could be more ordinary?
I take refuge in my ordinary humanity
I delight in common things…
The brush of my spouse’s leg as she sleeps
My heaving chest as I breathe in and out
My ordinary religion passed down through generations of farm hands
The ordinary monks whose eyes are open to the dawn
I want to walk this earth, not set apart, but in communion
With ordinary things like caterpillars and butterflies, like tadpoles and frogs
Like the rancher in Montana with calloused hands and piercing eyes
The trees are rustling
The blood is flowing
I say Amen
You have eyes and fail to see. Mark 8:18.
What do we fail to see?
Is it other people who simply want a friend, someone to listen to them?
Is it a member of the community who does not know how he will receive his next meal or pay his outstanding rent or utility bill?
Is it the beauty of nature on a simple walk?
Is it my own child who simply wants a few minutes of my attention so I can play with her?
Is it taking time for ourselves to just stop working and read a book, write in our journal or sit and do nothing?
Is it a local organization that has the resources but needs people on the ground to volunteer?
What do we fail to see?
I have come to the river many times to drink
The water is cold and pure
I submerge my naked body
I am aching and trembling, but clean
Can I give to others what the river has given to me?
I can only nudge
There is an exquisite method that is beyond all methods
There is an exquisite organization that is beyond all organizations
There is a luminous darkness brighter than any light
There is an exquisite timing that is beyond all precise clocks
We arrive at this wisdom by letting go
We let go of all organization, methods, clocks, and so-called lights
It is there that we embrace the immeasurable darkness that illuminates the world
It is there that we forget all knowing, forget all pathways, forget our own name
And it is there that we are found in immensity, intensity, and intimacy
PRAYER OF SAINT FRANCIS
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
PRAYER OF THOMAS MERTON
God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
PRAYER OF BARBARA BROWN TAYLOR
May we make bread or love, dig in the earth, feed an animal or cook for a stranger—these activities require no extensive commentary, no lucid theology. All they require is someone willing to bend, reach, chop, stir. Most of these tasks are so full of pleasure that there is no need to complicate things by calling them holy. And yet these are the same activities that change lives, sometimes all at once and sometimes more slowly, the way dripping water changes stone. In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, may such bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life.
A version of THE LORD’S PRAYER
from The New Zealand Prayer Book
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and for ever. Amen.
The Welcoming Prayer
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment
because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions,
persons, situations and conditions.
I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.
I let go of my desire to change any
person, or myself.
I open to the
love and presence of God
the healing action and grace within.
––– Mary Mrozowski 1925-1993
The creator and spiritual mother of the welcoming prayer practice
1. RCMR PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS TO COPY & DISTRIBUTE
Book Cover Image
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2. RCMR & HEALING THE DIVIDE PROMOTION SUGGESTIONS
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RCMR NOTABLE QUOTATIONS PAST & PRESENT
Practice stillness and know God.
A pole-vaulter, in order to move forward & fly upward, begins by going backward…
-We should not imagine that we have nothing to learn from them (The Eastern Church). It may happen that with centuries of more intimate contact, the dimension of depth may again enter Western thinking.
Mysticism keeps men (women) sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.
If charismatics gave me my high school diploma in the ways of the Spirit, it was from Catholic contemplatives that I entered an undergraduate degree in the liberal arts of the Spirit (I would add that the graduate degree in the ways of the Spirit is offered by the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox)
Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Although we contemporary Western people don’t like to think of ourselves as submitting to anyone, our identities are largely a matter of to whom we bow, whom we honor, to whom we submit. P.T. Forsyth was correct in saying, ‘The first duty of the soul is not to find its freedom, but rather to find its master.’ Or as Bob Dylan put it, ‘Everybody serves somebody.’ The free, unattached, autonomous self is a modern conceit.
What belonged to each showed him (Jesus) to be man and God-in one respect born, in the other not born; in one respect fleshly, in the other spiritual; in one sense weak, in the other exceedingly mighty; in the one sense dying, in the other living.
Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world, because it is the only thing that ever has.
Nothing worth building can be built in a generation.
Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice.
Carbon emissions can be cut by systematically raising world energy efficiency, by restructuring transportation systems, and by shifting from burning fossil fuels to tapping the earth’s wealth of wind, solar, and geothermal energy… It is time to ban deforestation worldwide, as some countries already have done, and plant billions of trees to sequester carbon.
ZINGER THOMAS MERTON QUOTATIONS FROM THE ALL-TIME SPIRITUAL CLASSIC, NEW SEEDS OF CONTEMPLATION (I’ve taken the liberty of making Merton’s quotations gender inclusive)
Poetry, music and art have something in common with the contemplative experience. But contemplation is beyond aesthetic intuition, beyond art, beyond poetry. Indeed, it is also beyond philosophy, beyond speculative theology. It…transcends and fulfills them all… (pg. 2)
Hell can be described as a perpetual alienation from our true being, our true self, which is in God. (pg. 7)
…The saint is never offended by anything and judges no person’s sin because the saint does not know sin. The saint knows the mercy of God. The saint’s mission on earth is to bring that mercy to all people. (pg. 24-25)
Instead of worshiping God through God’s creation we are always trying to worship ourselves… (pg. 26)
The problem of sanctity and salvation is in the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self. (pg. 31)
We do not know clearly beforehand what the result of this work (the work of our calling) will be. The secret of my full identity is hidden in God. God alone can make me who I am, or rather who I will be when at last I fully begin to be. (pg. 33)
God’s infinite simplicity admits no division and no distinction. (pr. 35)
I break through the superficial exterior appearances that form my routine vision of the world and of my own self, and I find myself in the presence of hidden majesty… The primitive saints and prophets saw this divine presence in visions as a light or an angel or a man or a burning bush, or a blazing glory upheld by cherubim. Only thus could their minds do justice to the supreme reality of what they experienced. Yet this is a majesty we do not see with our eyes and it is all within ourselves. (pg. 41-42)
…I am born in selfishness. I am born self-centered. And this is original sin. Even when I try to please God, I try to please my own ambition, God’s enemy… True contemplation means the complete destruction of all selfishness—the most pure poverty and cleanness of the heart. (pg. 43)
Set me free from the laziness that goes about disguised as activity when activity is not required of me… Give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens. (pg. 45)
Very often it is the solitary who has the most to say; not that she uses many words, but what the she says is new, substantial, and unique…She has something real to give because she herself is real. (pg. 54)
There is no true peace possible for the man who still imagines that some accident or talent or grace or virtue segregates him from other people and places him above them… God does not give us graces or talents or virtues for ourselves alone. We are members one of another and everything that is given to one member is given for the whole body. (pg. 56)
The saints are like doctors and nurses who are better than the sick in the sense that they are healthy and possess arts of healing them, and yet they make themselves the servants of the sick and devote their own health and their art to them… The saints are what they are, not because their sanctity makes them admirable to others, but because the gift of sainthood makes it possible for them to admire everybody else. It gives them a clarity of compassion that can find good in the most terrible criminals. It delivers them from the burden of judging others, condemning other people. It teaches them to bring the good out of others by compassion, mercy and pardon. (pg. 57)
In dying on the Cross, Christ manifested the holiness of God in apparent contradiction with itself…this manifestation was the complete denial and rejection of all human ideas of holiness and perfection. (pg. 62)
The wounds that tear people from union with one another widen and open out into huge wars. Murders, massacres, revolution, hatred, the slaughter and torture of the bodies and souls of people, the destruction of cities by fire, the starvation of millions, the annihilation of populations and finally the cosmic inhumanity of atomic war… The history of the world, with the material destruction of cities and nations and people, expressed the interior division that tyrannizes the souls of all people. (pr. 71)
The person who is able to hate strongly and with a quiet conscience is one who is complacently blind to all unworthiness in himself and serenely capable of seeing all his own wrongs in someone else. (pg. 74)
The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved. The faith that one is loved by God. (pg. 75)
This abyss of interior solitude is a hunger that will never be satisfied with any created thing. The only way to find solitude is by hunger and thirst and sorrow and poverty and desire, and the person who has found solitude is empty, as if she had been emptied by death… She has advanced beyond all horizons. There are no directions left in which she can travel. This is a country whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. You do not find it by traveling buy by standing still. Yet is it in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin. It is here that you discover act without motion, labor that is profound repose, vision in obscurity, and, beyond all desire, a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity. (pg. 81)
There are men dedicated to God whose lives are full of restlessness and who have no real desire to be alone. They admit that exterior solitude is good, in theory, but they insist that it is far better to preserve interior solitude while living in the midst of others. In practice, their lives are devoured by activities and strangled with attachments. Interior solitude is impossible for them. They fear it. They do everything they can to escape it. What is worse, they try to draw everyone else into activities as senseless and as devouring as their own. They are great promoters of useless work. They love to organize meetings and banquets and conferences and lectures. They print circulars, write letters, talk for hours on the telephone in order that they may gather a hundred people together in a large room where they will…make a great deal of noise and roar at one another and clap their hands and stagger home at last patting one another on the back with the assurance that they have all done great things to spread the Kingdom of God. (pg. 83)
The concepts of sin, suffering, damnation, punishment, the justice of God, retribution, the end of the world and so on, are things over which they smack their lips with unspeakable pleasure. Perhaps this is because they derive deep, subconscious comfort from the thought that many other people will fall into the hell which they themselves are going to escape. (pg. 92)
Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious people are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. (pg. 98)
People are in a hurry to magnify themselves by imitating what is popular—and too lazy to think anything better…Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success and they are in such haste to get it that they cannot take time to be true to themselves. (pg. 98-99)
True faith is never merely a source of spiritual comfort. It may indeed bring peace, but before it does so it must involve us in struggle. (pg. 105)
That which is oldest is most young and most new. There is nothing so ancient and so dead as human novelty. The “latest” is always stillborn. It never even manages to arrive. What is really new is what was there all the time. (pg. 107)
…As long as you pretend to live in pure autonomy, as your own master, without even a god to rule you, you will inevitably live as a servant of another person or as the alienated member of an organization. Paradoxically it is the acceptance of God that makes you free and delivers you from human tyranny, for when you serve God you are no longer permitted to alienate your spirit in human servitude. (pg. 110)
At the root of all war is fear; not so much the fear men have of one another as the fear they have of everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another; they do not even trust themselves. It they are not sure when someone else may turn around and kill them, they are still less sure when they may turn around and kill themselves. They cannot trust anything, because they have ceased to believe in God… It is not only our hatred of others that is dangerous but also and above all our hatred of ourselves: particularly that hatred of ourselves which is too deep and too powerful to be consciously faced. For it is this which makes us see our own evil in others and unable to see it in ourselves. (pg. 112)
In our refusal to accept the partially good intentions of others and work with them (of course prudently and with resignation to the inevitable imperfection of the result we are unconsciously proclaiming our own malice, our own intolerance, our own lack of realism, our own ethical and political quackery. (pg. 116)
We will never get anywhere unless we can accept the fact that politics is an inextricable tangle of good and evil motives in which, perhaps, the evil predominate but where one must continue to hope doggedly in what little good can still be found. (pg. 116).
We must try to accept ourselves, whether individually or collectively, not only as perfectly good or perfectly bad, but in our mysterious, unaccountable mixture of good and evil. We have to stand by the modicum of good that is in us without exaggerating it. We have to defend our real rights, because unless we respect our own rights we will certainly not respect the rights of others. (pg. 117)
The peace the world pretends to desire is really no peace at all. To some people peace merely means the liberty to exploit other people without fear of retaliation or interference… Instead of loving what you think is peace, love other people and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmakers, hat the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. (pg. 122)
Our God is a consuming fire. And if we, by love, become transformed into God and burn as God burns, God’s fire will be our everlasting joy. (pg. 124)
This (theology) is not the final object of faith. Faith goes beyond words and formulas and brings us the light of God Herself… The importance of the (theological) formulas is not that they are ends in themselves, but that they are means through which God communicates truth to us… They (the theological formulas) must be clean windows, so that they may not obscure or hinder the light that comes to us. (pg. 129)
Faith is the opening of an inward eye, the eye of the heart, to be filled with the presence of Divine light…Ultimately faith is the only key to the universe. The final meaning of human existence, and the answers to questions on which all our happiness depends cannot be reached in any other way. (pg. 130)
Since God cannot be seen or imagined, the visions of God we read of the saints having are not so much visions of God as visions about God; for to see any limited form is not to see God. (pg. 132)
…You receive the gift of an interior light that is so simple that it baffles description and so pure that it would be coarse to call it an experience. But it is a true light, perfecting the intellect of people with a perfection far beyond knowledge. (pg. 133)
…We hesitate to accept the truth of revealed doctrine…we feel the weakness and instability of our spirit in the presence of the awful mystery of God. (pg. 134)
…It is in the deepest darkness that we most fully possess God on earth, because it is then that our minds are most truly liberated from the weak, created lights that are darkness in comparison to God; it is then that we are filled with God’s infinite Light which seems pure darkness to our reason. (pg. 135)
…The most meaningful depths of a person’s own being…remain obscure and unknown because they are too simple and too deep to be attained by reason. (pg. 135)
We tend to imagine ourselves as a conscious mind which is “above” and a subconscious mind that is “below the conscious.” The image tends to be misleading. The conscious mind of a person is exceeded in all directions by the person’s unconscious. (pg. 137)
(There is an) important distinction between the animal, emotional and instinctive components of our unconscious and the spiritual, one might almost say the “divine,” elements in our superconscious mind. (pg. 138)
You keep finding this anonymous Accomplice burning within you like a deep peaceful fire. (pg. 162)
Do not think that you can show your love for Christ by hating those who seem to be Christ’s enemies on earth. Suppose they really hate Christ: nevertheless Christ loves them, and you cannot be united with Christ unless you love them too… If you hate the enemies of the Church instead of loving them, you too will run the risk of becoming an enemy of the Church, and of Christ; for Christ said: “love you enemies.” (pg. 176-177)
Do not be too quick to condemn the person who no longer believes in God, for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice, your mediocrity and materialism, your sensuality and selfishness that have killed that person’s faith. (pg. 177)
Self-confidence is a precious natural gift, a sign of health. But it is not the same thing as faith. Faith is much deeper…true faith must be able to go on even when everything else is taken away from us. (pg. 187)
A humble person is not disturbed by praise. Since she is no longer concerned with herself, and since she knows where the good that is in her comes from, she does not refuse praise, because it belongs to the God she loves, and in receiving it she keeps nothing for herself but gives it all, with great joy, to her God. (pg. 188)
The humble man receives praise the way a clean window take the light of the sun. The truer and more intense the light is, the less you see of the glass. (pg. 189)
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The most dangerous person in the world is the contemplative who is guided by nobody. (pg. 194)
I wonder if there are twenty people alive in the world now who see things as they really are. They would mean that there were twenty people who were free, who were not dominated or even influenced by any attachment to any created thing or to their own selves or to any gift of God, even to the highest, the most supernaturally pure of God’s graces. I don’t believe there are twenty such people alive in the world. But there must be one or two. They are the ones who are holding everything together and keeping the universe from falling apart. (pg. 203)
…Many contemplatives never become great saints, never enter into close friendship with God, never find a deep participation in God’s immense joys, because they cling to the miserable little consolations that are given to beginners in the contemplative way. (pg. 206)
How many there must be who have smothered the first sparks of contemplation by piling up wood on the fire before it was well lit. The stimulation of interior prayer so excites them that they launch out into ambitious projects for teaching and converting the whole world, when all that God asks of them is to be quiet and keep themselves at peace, attentive to the secret work God is beginning in their souls. (pg. 207)
There is a kind of crude materialism in religious life which makes sincerely holy people believe that abnegation means simply giving up things that please the five senses. But that is scarcely the beginning of abnegation. Of course we have to be detached from gross and sensual things before the interior life can even begin. But once it has begun it will make little progress unless we become more and more detached even from rational and intellectual and spiritual goods… there lies an abyss which can only be crossed by a blind leap of ascetic detachment…Without the mystical death that completely separates a person from created things (thoughts, images, perceptions), there is no perfect freedom and no advance into the promised land of mystical union. (pg. 208-210)
First it (meditation) is supposed to give you sufficient control over your mind and memory and will to enable you to recollect yourself and withdraw from exterior things and the business and activities and thoughts and concerns of temporal existence, and second –this is the real end of meditation—it teaches you how to become aware of the presence of God; and most of all it aims at bringing you to a state of almost constant loving attention to God, and dependence on God…The real work of meditation is this: to teach a person how to work free of created things and temporal concerns, in which he finds only confusion and sorrow, and enter into a conscious and loving contact with God. (pg. 217)
…It is the will to pray that is the essence of prayer…it is much better to desire God without being able to think clearly of God, than to have marvelous thoughts about God without desiring to enter into union with God’s will. (pg. 224)
God touches us with a touch of emptiness and empties us. God moves us with simplicity that simplifies us. All variety, all complexity, all paradox, all multiplicity cease. Our mind swims in the air of an understanding, a reality that is dark and serene and includes in itself everything. Nothing more is desired. Nothing more is wanted. (pg. 227)
The situation of soul in contemplation is something like the situation of Adam and Eve in Paradise. Everything is yours, but on one infinitely important condition: that it is all given. (pg. 229)
It is our emptiness in the presence of the abyss of God’s reality, our silence in the presence of God’s infinitely rich silence, our joy in the bosom of this serene darkness in which God’s light holds us absorbed, it is all this that praises God. It is this that causes love of God and wonder and adoration to swim up into us like tidal waves out of the depths of that peace, and break upon the shores of our consciousness in a vast, hushed surf of inarticulate praise, praise and glory! (pg. 231)
In the vivid darkness of God within us there sometimes come deep movements of love that deliver us entirely, for a moment, from our old burden of selfishness… (pg. 231)
This is the gift of understanding: we pass out of ourselves into the joy of emptiness, of nothingness, in which there are no longer any particular objects of knowledge but only God’s truth without limit, without defect, without stain. This clean light, which tastes of Paradise, is beyond all pride, beyond comment, beyond proprietorship, beyond solitude. It is in all, and for all. (pg. 232)
A few isolated, though intense, flashes of the spirit of understanding and wisdom will not make a person a contemplative in the full sense of the word; contemplative prayer is only truly what it is called when it becomes more or less habitual. (pg. 234)
(At the threshold of contemplation) people are being peacefully and gently purified of false hopes and illusory conceptions, and they are being made ready for the journey in the desert which, after many privations, leads at last to the Promised Land. (pg. 234)
…All useless attempts to meditate only upset and disturb them (contemplatives); but at the same time, when they (contemplatives) stay quiet in the muteness of naked truth, resting in a simple and open-eyed awareness, attentive to the darkness which baffles them, a subtle and indefinable peace begins to seep into their souls and occupies them with a deep and inexplicable satisfaction. This satisfaction is tenuous and dark. It cannot be grasped or identified. It slips out of focus and gets away. Yet it is there. (pg. 237-238)
The absence of activity in contemplative prayer is only apparent. Below the surface, the mind and will are drawn into the orbit of an activity that is deep and intense and supernatural, and which overflows into our whole being and brings forth incalculable fruits. (pg. 243)
Many of those who seem to be superior to the sensible element of religion show, by their devotions, their taste for sentimental pictures and sticky music and mushy spiritual reading, that their whole interior life is a concentrated campaign of “lights” and “consolations” and “tears of compunction,” if not “interior words” with, perhaps, the faintly disguised hope of a vision or two and, eventually, the stigmata… This taste for “experiences” can be on of the most dangerous obstacles in the interior life… People do not always clearly understand the difference between mystical contemplation in the proper sense and all the accidentals… Remain peacefully indifferent toward them (emotional experiences)… When there is nothing you can do to prevent these feelings of inebriation and spiritual joy you accept them with patience…waiting for the hour of your deliverance into the real joys, the purely spiritual joys of a contemplation in which your nature and your emotions and your own selfhood no longer run riot, but in which you are absorbed and immersed, not in the staggering drunkenness of the senses but in the clean, intensely pure intoxication of the spirit liberated in God. (pg. 247-248)
It is not filth and hunger that make saints, nor even poverty itself, but love of poverty and love of the poor. (pg. 251)
…The simplicity of a life of work and poverty can at times be more beautiful than the elaborate life of those who think their money can buy them beauty and surround them with pleasant things. Anybody who has been in the house of a French or Italian peasant knows that much…It often happens that an old brother who has spent his life making cheese or baking bread or repairing shoes or driving a team of mules is a greater contemplative and more of a saint than a priest who has absorbed all Scripture and Theology and knows the writings of great saints and mystics and has had more time for meditation and contemplation and prayer. (pg. 252-253)
Contemplation, far from being opposed to theology, is in fact the normal perfection of theology. (pg. 254)
One of the first things to learn if you want to be a contemplative is how to mind your own business… Nothing is more suspicious, in someone who seems holy, than an impatient desire to reform other people. (pg. 255)
The issue on which all sanctity depends is renunciation, detachment… (pg. 255)
…It may easily happen that our resolutions are dictated by the vice we need to get rid of. And so the proud man resolves to fast more and punish his flesh more because he wants to make himself feel like an athlete: his fasts and disciplines are imposed on him by his own vanity, and they strengthen the thing in him that most needs to be killed. (pg. 257)
Do no forget that, for all your efforts, you only won because of God, Who did the fighting in you. (pg. 257)
…The time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked and helpless and alone; in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strength and the hollowness of our strongest virtues. (pg. 258)
…You were not created for pleasure; you were created for spiritual JOY. And if you do not know the difference between pleasure and spiritual joy you have not yet begun to live. (pg. 259)
God’s…work in your soul demands the sacrifice of all that you desire and delight in, and, indeed, of all that you are. So keep still, and let God do some work. This is what it means to renounce not only pleasures and possessions, but even your own self. (pg. 261)
…The whole meaning of our life is (spiritual) poverty and emptiness… (pg. 264)
(The contemplative) can no longer rest in anything that is her own will. Her peace is in the will of another. Her freedom is found in dependence upon God…A mature contemplative is far more simple than any child or any novice, because theirs is a more or less negative simplicity—the simplicity of those in whom potential complications have not yet had a chance to develop…in the contemplative, all complexities have now begun to straighten themselves out and dissolve into unity and emptiness and interior peace. (pg. 265)
We experience God in proportion as we are stripped and emptied of attachment of God’s creatures. And when we have been delivered from every other desire we shall taste the perfection of an incorruptible joy. (pg. 268)
…As soon as you think of yourself as teaching contemplation to others, you make another mistake. No one teaches contemplation except God. (pg. 271)
Often we will do much more to make people contemplatives by leaving them along and minding our own business—which is contemplation itself—than by breaking in on them with what we think we know about the interior life. (pg. 272)
One…can do immense things for the souls of other people by keeping himself quietly attentive to the obscure presence of God, about which he could not possibly hope to formulate an intelligible sentence. (pg. 273)
1. The best of these kinds of beginnings (in contemplation) is a sudden emptying of the soul in which images vanish, concepts and words are silent, and freedom and clarity suddenly open out within you until your whole being embraces the wonder, the depth, the obviousness and yet the emptiness and unfathomable incomprehensibility of God. This touch, this clean breath of understanding comes relatively rarely…. 2. The most usual entrance to contemplation is through a desert of aridity in which, although you see nothing and apprehend nothing and are conscious only of a certain interior suffering and anxiety, yet you are drawn and held in this darkness and dryness because it is the only place in which you can find any kind of stability and peace. As you progress, you learn to rest in this arid quietude, and the assurance of a comforting and mighty presence at the heart of this experience grows on you more and more, until you gradually realize that it is God revealing God’s Self to you in a light that is painful to your nature and to all its faculties, because it is infinitely above them and because its purity is at war with your own selfishness and darkness and imperfection… 3. Then there is a…tranquility full of savor and rest and unction in which, although there is nothing to feed and satisfy either the senses or the imagination or the intellect, the will rests in a deep, luminous and absorbing experience of love. This love is like the shining cloud that enveloped the Apostles on Tabor so that they exclaimed: “Lord, it is good for us to be here!” (pg. 275-276)
…As long as there is this sense of separation, this awareness of distance and difference between ourselves and God, we have not yet entered into the fullness of contemplation. As long as there is an “I” that is the definite subject of a contemplative experience, as “I” that is aware of itself and of its contemplation, and “I” that can possess a certain “degree of spirituality,” then we have not yet passed over the Red Sea, we have not yet “gone out of Egypt (the land of slavery).” (pg. 279)
It is a great mistake to confuse the person (the spiritual and hidden self, united with God) and the ego, the exterior, empirical self, the psychological individuality who forms a kind of mask for the inner and hidden self. This outer self is nothing but an evanescent shadow. Its biography and its existence both end together at death. Of the inmost self, there is neither a biography nor end. The outward self can “have” much, “enjoy” much, “accomplish” much, but in the end all its possessions, joys and accomplishments are nothing, and the outer self is, itself, nothing: a shadow, a garment that is cast off and consumed by decay… One of the main effects of the fall (is) that people have become alienated from their inner self which is the image of God… As long as we experience ourselves in prayer as an “I” standing on the threshold of the abyss of purity and emptiness that is God, waiting to “receive something” from God, we are still far from the most intimate and secret unitive knowledge that is pure contemplation. (pg. 279-280, 282)
What happens (at the final stage of contemplation) is that the separate entity that is you apparently disappears and mothering seems to be left but a pure freedom indistinguishable from infinite Freedom, love identified with Love. Not two loves, one waiting for the other, striving for the other, seeking for the other, but Love Loving in Freedom…. It seems wrong…to speak of it (the final stage of contemplation) as something that happens. Because things that happen have to happen to some subject, and experiences have to be experienced by someone. But here the subject of any divided or limited or creature experience seems to have vanished. You are not you, you are fruition. It you like, you do not have an experience, you become Experience: but that is entirely different, because you no longer exist in such a way that you can reflect on yourself or see yourself having an experience… And here all the adjectives fall to pieces. Words become stupid… What it is, is freedom. It is perfect love. It is pure renunciation. It is the fruition of God… It is freedom living and circulating in God, Who is Freedom. It is love loving in Love. It is the purity of God rejoicing in God’s own liberty. (pg. 284)
Yet this too (this final stage of contemplation) is a beginning. It is the lowest level in a new order in which all the levels are immeasurable and unthinkable. It is not yet the perfection of the interior life… The most important thing that remains to be said about this perfect contemplation in which the soul vanishes out of itself by the perfect renunciation of all desires and all things, it that it can have nothing to do with our ideas of greatness and exaltation, and it not therefore something which is subject to the sin of pride. In fact, this perfect contemplation implies, by its very essence, the perfection of all humility. Pride is incompatible with it in every possible way. Morally speaking she (the person in perfect contemplation) is annihilated, because the source and agent and term of all her acts is God… To think that a person could be proud of this joy, once it had discovered her and delivered her, would be like saying: “This woman is proud because the air is free.” “This other woman is proud because the sea is wet.” “And here is one who is proud because the mountains are high and the snow on their summits is clean… (pg. 285-286)
It is in this ecstasy of pure love that we arrive at a true fulfillment of the First Commandment, loving God with our whole hear and our whole mind and all our strength. Therefor it is something that all people who desire to please God ought to desire—not for a minute, nor for half an hour, but forever. It is in these souls that peace is established in the world. They are the strength of the world, because they are the tabernacles of God in the world. They are the ones who keep the univers from being destroyed. They are the little ones. They do not know themselves. The whole earth depends on them. Nobody seems to realize it. These are the ones for whom it was all created in the first place. (pg. 288)
The Lord made the world and made people in order that God might descend into the world, that God might become human. (pg. 290)
God said: I do not laugh at my enemies, because I wish to make it impossible for anyone to be my enemy. Therefore I identify myself with my enemy’s own secret self. (pg. 293)
He (Jesus) hid Himself, becoming an anonymous and unimportant person in a very important place. And He refused any time to Lord it over people, or to be a King, or to be a Leader, or to be a Reformer, or to be in any way Superior to His own creatures. He would be nothing else but their brother, and their counselor, and their servant, and their friend. He was in no accepted human sense an important person, though since that time we have made Him The Most Important Person. (pg. 293)
…To God strength and weakness, life and death are dualities with which God is not concerned, being above them in God’s transcendent unity. Yet God would raise us also above these dualities by making us one with God. (pg. 294)
We have the choice of two identities: the external mask which seems to be real and which lives by a shadowy autonomy for the brief moment of earthly existence, and the hidden, inner person, who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give herself eternally to the truth in whom she subsists. It is this inner self that is taken up into the mystery of Christ, by His love, by the Holy Spirit, so that in secret we live “in Christ.” (pg. 295)
What is serious to people is often very trivial in the sight of God. What to God might appear to us as “play” is perhaps what God takes most seriously. At any rate God plays and diverts God’s Self in the garden of creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear God’s call and follow God in God’s mysterious cosmic dance. (pg. 296)
ZINGER TERESA OF AVILA QUOTATION FROM THE ALL-TIME SPIRITUAL CLASSIC, INTERIOR CASTLE
1. WHILE I was begging our Lord to-day to speak for me, since I knew not what to say nor how to commence this work which obedience has laid upon me, an idea occurred to me which I will explain, and which will serve as a foundation for that I am about to write.
2. I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal, and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions. If we reflect, sisters, we shall see that the soul of the just man is but a paradise, in which, God tells us, He takes His delight. What, do you imagine, must that dwelling be in which a King so mighty, so wise, and so pure, containing in Himself all good, can delight to rest? Nothing can be compared to the great beauty and capabilities of a soul; however keen our intellects may be, they are as unable to comprehend them as to comprehend God, for, as He has told us, He created us in His own image and likeness.
3. As this is so, we need not tire ourselves by trying to realize all the beauty of this castle, although, being His creature, there is all the difference between the soul and God that there is between the creature and the Creator; the fact that it is made in God’s image teaches us how great are its dignity and loveliness. It is no small misfortune and disgrace that, through our own fault, we neither understand our nature nor our origin. Would it not be gross ignorance, my daughters, if, when a man was questioned about his name, or country, or parents, he could not answer? Stupid as this would be, it is unspeakably more foolish to care to learn nothing of our nature except that we possess bodies, and only to realize vaguely that we have souls, because people say so and it is a doctrine of faith. Rarely do we reflect upon what gifts our souls may possess, Who dwells within them, or how extremely precious they are. Therefore we do little to preserve their beauty; all our care is concentrated on our bodies, which are but the coarse setting of the diamond, or the outer walls of the castle.
4. Let us imagine, as I said, that there are many rooms in this castle, of which some are above, some below, others at the side; in the center, in the very midst of them all, is the principal chamber in which God and the soul hold their most secret intercourse. Think over this comparison very carefully; God grant it may enlighten you about the different kinds of graces He is pleased to bestow upon the soul. No one can know all about them, much less a person so ignorant as I am. The knowledge that such things are possible will console you greatly should our Lord ever grant you any of these favors; people themselves deprived of them can then at least praise Him for His great goodness in bestowing them on others. The thought of heaven and the happiness of the saints does us no harm, but cheers and urges us to win this joy for ourselves, nor will it injure us to know that during this exile God can communicate Himself to us loathsome worms; it will rather make us love Him for such immense goodness and infinite mercy.
5. I feel sure that vexation at thinking that during our life on earth God can bestow these graces on the souls of others shows a want of humility and charity for one’s neighbor, for why should we not feel glad at a brother’s receiving divine favors which do not deprive us of our own share? Should we not rather rejoice at His Majesty’s thus manifesting His greatness wherever He chooses? Sometimes our Lord acts thus solely for the sake of showing His power, as He declared when the Apostles questioned whether the blind man whom He cured had been suffering for his own or his parents’ sins. 9 God does not bestow these favors on certain souls because they are more holy than others who do not receive them, but to manifest His greatness, as in the case of St. Paul and St. Mary Magdalene, and that we may glorify Him in His creatures.
6. People may say such things appear impossible and it is best not to scandalize the weak in faith by speaking about them. But it is better that the latter should disbelieve us, than that we should desist from enlightening souls which receive these graces, that they may rejoice and may endeavor to love God better for His favors, seeing He is so mighty and so great. There is no danger here of shocking those for whom I write by treating of such matters, for they know and believe that God gives even greater proofs of His love. I am certain that if any one of you doubts the truth of this, God will never allow her to learn it by experience, for He desires that no limits should be set to His work: therefore, never discredit them because you are not thus led yourselves.
7. Now let us return to our beautiful and charming castle and discover how to enter it. This appears incongruous: if this castle is the soul, clearly no one can have to enter it, for it is the person himself: one might as well tell some one to go into a room he is already in! There are, however, very different ways of being in this castle; many souls live in the courtyard of the building where the sentinels stand, neither caring to enter farther, nor to know who dwells in that most delightful place, what is in it and what rooms it contains.
8. Certain books on prayer that you have read advise the soul to enter into itself, and this is what I mean. I was recently told by a great theologian that souls without prayer are like bodies, palsied and lame, having hands and feet they cannot use. Just so, there are souls so infirm and accustomed to think of nothing but earthly matters, that there seems no cure for them. It appears impossible for them to retire into their own hearts; accustomed as they are to be with the reptiles and other creatures which live outside the castle, they have come at last to imitate their habits. Though these souls are by their nature so richly endowed, capable of communion even with God Himself, yet their case seems hopeless. Unless they endeavor to understand and remedy their most miserable plight, their minds will become, as it were, bereft of movement, just as Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt for looking backwards in disobedience to God’s command.
9. As far as I can understand, the gate by which to enter this castle is prayer and meditation.
RCMR READING LISTS BY SUBJECT
-Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Zondervan, 2006.
-de Caussade, Jean-Pierre. The Sacrament of the Present Moment. Harpers, 1989.
-Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. Harper, 2002 (especially chapters 2, 4, 6, and 7).
-McColman, Carl. Answering the Contemplative Call: First Steps on the Mystical Path. Hampton Roads, 2013.
-Talbot, John Michael. The Universal Monk: The Way of the New Monastics. Liturgical Press, 2011.
-Tickle, Phyllis. The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. Baker, 2008.
-Wilson-Hartgrove, Jonathan. New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church. Brazos, 2008
-Bourgeault, Cynthia. Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening. Cowley, 2004.
-Finley, James. Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God. HarperOne, 2005
–*Frenette, David. The Path of Centering Prayer: Deepening Your Experience of God. Sounds True, 2012.
-Johnston, William & Smith, Houston. The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Counseling. Image, 1996.
–*Keating, Thomas. Contemplative Prayer. Sounds True Audio, 2004.
-Keating, Thomas. Open Mind, Open Heart. Bloomsbury Academic, 2006.
-Keating, Thomas. Manifesting God. Lantern Books, 2005.
–*Dionysius the Areopagite. The Divine Names and the Mystical Theology. Translated by C.E. Rolt. Dover, 1994.
-Markides, Kyriacos. The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality. Image, 2002.
-McColman, Carl. The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality. Hampton Roads, 2010.
-McGinn, Bernard & Patricia Ferris. Early Christian Mystics: The Divine Vision of Spiritual Masters. Crossroad, 2003.
-McGinn, Bernard. The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism. Modern Library, 2006.
–*Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation. New Directions, 1972.
–*The Philokalia: The Complete Text Vol. 1-4, compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth. Faber and Faber, 1983-95 (I would start with volume 2, which focuses on Maximos The Confessor).
–*Rohr, Richard. Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. Crossroad, 2003.
–*Rohr, Richard. The Immortal Diamond: Searching For Our True Self. Jossey-Bass, 2013.
–*Rohr, Richard. The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See. Crossroad, 2009.
-Rohr, Richard. What The Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self. Crossroad Publsihing, 2015.
-Taylor, Barbara Brown. Learning to Walk in the Dark. HarperOne, 2015.
-Taylor, Barbara Brown. The Luminous Web: Essays on Science and Religion. Cowley, 2000.
-Ware, Kallistos. The Inner Kingdom. Saint Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2000.
–*Ware, Kallistos. The Orthodox Way. Saint Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1995.
-Beals, Timothy J. The Red Letters: The Sayings and Teachings of Jesus. Crossway, 2009.
-Chittister, Joan. Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life. Image, 2015.
–*Cyril of Alexandria. The Unity of Christ. Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2000.
-Gebru, Mebratu Kiros. Miaphysite Christology: An Ethiopian Perspective. Gorgias, 2010.
–*Greenleaf, Robert K. Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. Paulist Press, 1977.
–*Palmer, Parker J. A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. Jossey-Bass, 2004.
–*Palmer, Parker J. The Promise of Paradox. Jossey-Bass, 2008.
-Robinson, Anthony. What’s Theology got to do with it?: Convictions, Vitality, and the Church. The Alban Institute, 2006.
-Samuel, V.C. The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined. British Orthodox Press, 2001.
–*Smith, Amos. Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots. Wipf & Stock, 2013.
-Thiede, Carsten Peter. and d’Ancona, Matthew. Eyewitness to Jesus: Amazing New Manuscript Evidence about the Origin of the Gospels. Doubleday, 1996.
NONVIOLENCE TOWARD PEOPLE
-Brock, Rita Nakashima and Lettini, Gabriella, Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War. Beacon, 2013.
-Hedges, Chris. War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. Public Affairs, 2014.
-Jones, Ann, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars. Haymarket, 2014.
-Merton, Thomas. Gandhi On Nonviolence. New Directions, 2007.
–*Warren, James. Compassion Or Apocalypse?: A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of Rene -Girard. Christian Alternative Press, 2013.
-Wink, Walter, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination. Fortress, 1992.
–*Wink, Walter. Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way. Fortress Press, 2003.
NONVIOLENCE TOWARD THE EARTH
–*Brown, Lester R. World on The Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse. W W Norton & Co., 2011.
-Christie, Douglas. The Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Notes for a Contemplative Ecology. Oxford University Press, 2012.
–*Gore, Al. An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It. Rodale Books, 2006.
-Marshall, George. Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change. Bloomsbury, 2014.
-McKibben, Bill. Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families. Plume, 1999.
*Books with asterisks should be read first.
RCMR SELECT SCRIPTURE REFERENCES BY SUBJECT
*Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Remember the Sabbath day (for Christians, “a sense of Sabbath” built into our week), by keeping it holy.
I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.
*For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
*But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to God, who is unseen. Then God, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
God is my shepherd, I shall not want. God makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. God restores my soul.
-Psalm 23: 1-3a
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
TEXTS OF CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
*Be still and know that I am God.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but EMPTIED HIMSELF, taking the form of a servant.
I will entice you into the desert and there I will speak to you in the depths of your heart.
After fasting forty days and forty nights… Then Jesus was filled with the power of the Spirit…
-Matthew 4:2a, Luke 4:14a
The Word (God) became flesh and lived among us.
*God and I are one.
God is in me and I am in God.
-John 10: 38b
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
-1 Corinthians 3:11
So God created humankind in God’s image… God saw everything that was made (the whole natural world), and indeed, it was very good.
-Genesis 1:27a, 31a
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
*But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” (“the Pharisees” represent systems of exclusion and purity codes. “Herod” represents systems of domination and violence.)
Mystical statements about God, God’s dominion, and the power of God
The kingdom of God is within you.
‘In God we live and move and have our being.’
God is spirit, and those who worship God must worship God must worship in spirit and truth.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.
-1 Kings 19: 11-13a
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
Divine Light (Taborian Light)
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them (This phenomena is referred to as “Taborian Light” or “The Light of Tabor” in the Eastern Church and is believed to recur today among advanced practitioners of silent prayer).
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He (Paul) fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
God is characterized by love
God is love.
-1 John 4:8b
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
-1 Corinthians 13
Humility, Surrender, Forgiveness, Equanimity
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble
“God, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus said, “God, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (spoken to Jesus’ executioners and accomplices while he was hanging from the cross).
God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
Ultimately God is Mystery
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
The peace of God…surpasses all understanding.
Make no images of God because God is ultimately beyond human conception.
God is in process with us
And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” Abraham answered, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
RCMR LEADERSHIP TEAM (ABBREVIATED)
- Amos Smith: Founding, Writing, Publicity
- Rich Lewis: Writing, Publicity
- Dee Anne Phillips: Editing, Multimedia
- Kimberly Holman: Editing
- Trina Lewis: Editing
- Brad Peterson: Web Design