Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fasting

Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God. At the same time, fasting is an aid to open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live. Voluntary fasting enables us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends low and goes to the help of his suffering sister and brother. This practice needs to be rediscovered and encouraged again in our day.

Pope Benedict XVI
"The Great Joy of Fasting" 12.11.08

Monday, November 29, 2010

Robert Farrar Capon and Universalism


"I am and I am not a universalist. I am one if you are talking about what God in Christ has done to save the world. The Lamb of God has not taken away the sins of some — of only the good, or the cooperative, or the select few who can manage to get their act together and die as perfect peaches. He has taken away the sins of the world — of every last being in it — and he has dropped them down the black hole of Jesus’ death. On the cross, he has shut up forever on the subject of guilt: “There is therefore now no condemnation. . . .” All human beings, at all times and places, are home free whether they know it or not, feel it or not, believe it or not.
"But I am not a universalist if you are talking about what people may do about accepting that happy-go-lucky gift of God’s grace. I take with utter seriousness everything that Jesus had to say about hell, including the eternal torment that such a foolish non-acceptance of his already-given acceptance must entail. All theologians who hold Scripture to be the Word of God must inevitably include in their work a tractate on hell. But I will not — because Jesus did not — locate hell outside the realm of grace. Grace is forever sovereign, even in Jesus’ parables of judgment. No one is ever kicked out at the end of those parables who wasn’t included in at the beginning."
Quoted in the (all too brief) Wikipedia entry on Robert Farrar Capon, without any source, unfortunately.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fasting

Fasting is to be, as St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote, “a perfect quieting of all our impulses, fleshly and spiritual.” Fasting is not meant to drag us down, but to still us. It is not meant to distract us from the really real, but rather to silence us so that we can hear things as they most truly are.

Lauren Winner
Mudhouse Sabbath

Friday, November 26, 2010

Worship as political action

Christians are engaged in political action just by being part of the church. Worship is the leading political activity of Christians. In worship, we sing Psalms that call on God to judge the wicked and defend the oppressed, and God hears our Psalms; we pray for rulers to rule in righteousness; we hear the word of God that lays out our alternative way of life, and we sit at the table where we who are many are formed into one body, an alternative Christian polis, by sharing in the one loaf. The problem is that in many churches those things don’t happen. Churches don’t sing Psalms, and especially don’t sing the hard Psalms that call on God to judge the wicked. More churches are having weekly Eucharist, but in evangelicalism that is still more the exception than the rule. The first political agenda for American Christians is to get worship more into line with Scriptural requirements.

from an interview with Peter Leithart

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Keeping Jesus 'alive'

When emphasis is placed on the divine at the expense of the human (the conservative errror), Jesus becomes an ethereal authority figure who is remote from earthly life and experience. When he is thought of as merely human (the liberal error), he becomes nothing more than a superior social worker or a popular guru.

Gregory Wolfe, The New Religious Humanists, quoted in Kathleen Norris' Amazing Grace (pg 174).

Norris adds: The orthodox Christian seeks another way, that of living with paradox, of accepting the ways that seeming duatlities work together in Jesus Christ, and in our own lives.

And in the next paragraph: When I confessed this [her Christianity missing its centre] to a monk, he reassured me by saying, 'Oh, most of us feel that way at one time or another. Jesus is the hardest part of the religion to grasp, to keep alive.'

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

American religion

As I find it, religion in America is characteristically atheistic or agnostic. Religion has virtually nothing to do with God and has little to do with the practical lives of men in society. Religion seems, mainly, to have to do with religion. The churches--particularly of Protestantism--in the United States are, to a great extent, preoccupied with religion rather than with the Gospel.

William Stringfellow
, A Private and Public Faith

Our bodies and eternity


No doubt about it: we’re going to have these bodies forever, though in some transfigured form we can’t now imagine. Out bodies are blessed, but we don’t know how to live harmoniously in them. We drive them like vehicles, use them like tools to dig pleasure, and in the process damage them and distort our capacity to understand them. Fasting disciplines help us to quiet these impulsive demands, so that we can better hear what they need and how they are meant to work. It is a turning towards health, a way of honoring creation and preparing for eternity.

Frederica Mathewes-Green
The Illumined Heart

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kingdom of Heaven as a feast

I understood why Christians imagined the kingdom of heaven as a feast:  a banquet where nobody was excluded, where the weakest and most broken, the worst sinners and outcasts, were honored guests who welcomed one another in peace and shared their food.
Sara Miles
Take This Bread

See the review I wrote of this book. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Liked or loved?


[B]ehind the word 'like' there is an astonishing gentleness. The word 'love' which we have vastly overused can have for us the meaning of a forceful intervention to rescue us, and we can forget that behind a forceful intervention to rescue us, which may indeed be how love is shown in a particular circumstance, there is something much stronger, gentler and more continuous, not dependent at all on needing to rescue us. This is liking us.

What I want to suggest is that the word like in all its gentleness is the word appropriate for the extraordinarily unbothered, non-emergency power we mean by creation. It is that gentle liking that is the sign of a power which could not be in greater contrast with the power of the satanic. A power so gentle and so huge that we are not able to be afraid. In the midst of the false manufacturing of meaning and frightening power displayed by the satanic, we are being taught that our being liked and held in being is at the hands of something infinitely more powerful, infinitely restful, and we can live without fear.

What is being revealed is the power of the Creator. 'Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.' ... It seems to me that the fruit of contemplation in the midst of the violence which is going on about us...is this: as we learn to desire through the eyes of another [Christ's], so we are given the heart of another, and what we learn is the extraordinarily benign, peaceful power of one holding everything in being, liking and delighting in us, without distinction.
James Allison in On Being Liked

Shalom and covenant

“Shalom and berith (“covenant”) are practically synonymous. Shalom refers to the state of those who participate in the harmonious society. Berith refers to the community and all the privileges and obligations that community implies. Covenant and shalom go hand in hand; God’s community must have one to experience the other.”

Jon Stock in Inhabiting the Church (“Stability”, pg 112)

Faithful and tender


“The Hebrew word “hesed” expresses two things: fidelity and tenderness. In our world we can be tender but unfaithful, and faithful without tenderness. The love of God is both tenderness and fidelity. Our world is waiting for communities of tenderness and fidelity. They are coming.”

Jean Vanier in Community and Growth

Paradox and tension

Like most searches for direction, I arrive again at paradox: my life is infinitely valuable and ultimately insignificant. Grasping after either side of this equation leads to dark and isolated places, narcissism on the one side and nihilism on the other. Holding these opposing realities in tension, however, liberates us to do something, to take a step, without fear.

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma
“Ashes round the yard” in catapult magazine

Monday, November 15, 2010

Change and security


In human beings there is a constant tension between order and disorder, connectedness and loneliness, evolution and revolution, security and insecurity. Our universe is constantly evolving: the old order gives way to a new order and this in its turn crumbles when the next order appears. It is no different in our lives in the movement from birth to death.

Change of one sort or another is the essence of life… when we try to prevent the forward movement of life, we may succeed for a while… but inevitably there is an explosion..

And so empires of ideas, as well as empires of wealth and power, come and go. To live well is to observe in today’s apparent order the tiny anomalies that are the seeds of change, the harbingers of the order of tomorrow. This means living in a state of a certain insecurity, in anguish and loneliness, which, at its best, can push us towards the new. Too much security and the refusal to evolve, to embrace change, leads to a kind of death. Too much insecurity, however, can also mean death. To be human is to create sufficient order so that we can move on into insecurity and seeming disorder. In this way we discover the new.

From Jean Vanier's Becoming Human, chapter 1 (Loneliness)

Andrew Wyeth

I do an awful lot of thinking and dreaming about things in the past and the future -- the timelessness of the rocks and the hills -- all the people who have existed there. I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.

Andrew Wyeth
“Andrew Wyeth: An Interview” by Richard Meryman
in LIFE Magazine (May 14, 1965)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dorothy Day


The sustained effort of writing, of putting pen to paper so many hours a day when there are human beings around who need me, when there is sickness, and hunger, and sorrow, is a harrowingly painful job. I feel that I have done nothing well. But I have done what I could.

Dorothy Day
The Long Loneliness

God's 'absurd' love

‘The first thing that must strike a non-Christian about the Christian’s faith is that it obviously presumes far too much. It is too good to be true: the mystery of being, revealed as absolute love, condescending to wash his creatures’ feet, and even their souls, taking upon himself all the confusion of guilt, all the God-directed hatred, all the accusations showered upon him with cudgels, all the disbelief that arrogantly covers up what he had revealed, all the mocking hostility that once and for all nailed down his inconceivable movement of self-abasement – in order to pardon his creature, before himself and the world’. – Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone is Credible (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 102.)

Doubt and Belief

While reading Kathleen Norris' Amazing Grace, particularly the chapter, Belief, Doubt and Sacred Ambiguity, it occurred to me that for both Christians and atheists it isn't the believing we have trouble with, but the doubts - or, you could say, it isn't the doubts we have trouble with, but the believing. And I'm not sure which is the truer.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Religion and Truth

Scott Peck wrote that, “there are two reasons people seek religion: to approach reality, and to escape reality.

Similarly, Sir Thomas More wrote: “God help me always to seek the truth; and protect me from those who have found it.”

Unanswered questions

The unanswered questions aren't nearly as dangerous as the unquestioned answers.

-attributed to Thomas Merton

Friday, November 05, 2010

The core of revelation


In all that babbling of ours we miss the core of biblical revelation when it speaks to our faith and asks questions of us. It will teach us neither the historical nor the physical facts of how the earth began, neither genetics nor cosmology. It asks a question -- a series of questions -- that is; it makes people responsible (obliged to respond) and throws us back upon our freedom.

Jacques Ellul
Living Faith

Awareness


"Awareness requires a rupture with the world we take for granted; then old categories of experience are called into question and revised."

-Shoshana Zuboff

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Held in prayer

"A life in prayer is a life in open hands where you are not ashamed of your weakness but realize that it is more perfect for a [human] to be led by the other than to seek to hold everything in [their] own hand."

- Henri J.M. Nouwen

The neverending search

Christian faith prompts inquiry, searches for deeper understanding, dares to raise questions. How could we ever be finished with the quest for a deeper understanding of God? What would be the likely result if we lacked the courage to ask, Do I rightly know who God is and what God wills?

Daniel Migliore
Faith Seeking Understanding