Patient Trust In Ourselves
And in the Slow Work of God
Above all, trust in the slow work of God…
We are, quite naturally, impatient in everything to reach the end
We should like to skip all the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown,
And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made through some stages
And that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you…
Your ideas mature gradually- let them grow, let them shape themselves
Without undo haste.
Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be that today… What time
(that is to say, what grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
Will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Given our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
One of the central messages and abiding secrets of the spiritual life,
If we are to make progress in gaining any depth of understanding or make
any progress in our quest for meaning and wholeness, is learning to give up
in order that we might receive.
In the season of the year, in the various quests and journeys of our hearts, we are asked, and sometimes we are compelled to let go, give it up, release or surrender.
We submit willingly in order to make room in our hearts and minds for a new reality- to make room for a new kind of blessing, a new kind of freedom, a new way to participate in genuine family, authentic community.
There are so many new things that need to occupy our hands, fill our embrace,
And once we empty ourselves of our previous pre occupations and concerns, we make our hearts the home of a new hospitality, and we make our minds capable of welcoming new possibilities and realities.
Those who make themselves ready, those that willingly release, give room, energy, will and spirit to new directions… Directions that would transform our lives…
Whenever we risk letting go, we make it more possible to open ourselves to a larger hope, greater dreams….
“I am endeavoring to see God through service to humanity, for I know that God is neither in heaven, nor is God down below, but God can be found in every one.” Gandhi
There is a certain courage that comes when we greet the dawn, our shadows and uncertainties fade when we respond to the growing warmth, the glowing promise of the light.
At first, we can be startled by the entry of more light into our lives, and wistfully
Try to hold on to sleep, dreams, and solitude. We seek to preserve the darkness, for there is a strange comfort to be found there… Strange and true. Yet the light of day, the light of consciousness and the dawning of a true community beckons and entices us…
To rise from our darkness and to stand face to face with whatever the day promises to us. It is in this call to be who and what we truly are, to be willing to stand fearlessly and to respond openly, that we can find that which is essential to self and to our community… A way of being together that brightens the daystar of our souls.
May the light around us guide our footsteps, and hold fast to the best and to the most righteous we seek.
May the darkness around us, nurture our dreams, and give us rest so that we may give ourselves to the work of our world.
Let us seek to remember the wholeness of our lives, the weaving of light and shadow in this great and astonishing dance in which we move.
The Rev. Sally McTigue
Sanity and Sanctity
How do we learn about our differences, and how one person’s talent or skill is not to be envied, just as another person’s spiritual beliefs are not to be shunned or put down? Here is a story form the famous Black theologian, Howard Thurman that offers us an answer:
“I dreamt that God took my soul to Hell. To my right, there among the trees, were men and women hard at work making a garden. And I said, looking at them, ” I should like to go and work with them. Hell must be a very industrious place, filled with lots of personal success and much individual accomplishment.”
Then God said,” Nothing grows in the garden they are making.” Together we look more carefully: And I saw those people working among the bushes, digging holes, but instead of planting anything, there was nothing to fill these holes. The workers covered the holes with sticks, straw, leaves, and earth, and I noticed that each man as they walked back behind the bushes, they watched their footsteps very carefully, then the men hid themselves and intently watched their holes…
I asked God, “What were they doing?” And God said, “Oh, they are making pitfalls for any man or woman to fall in.” I said to God,” Why do they do it?” And God said, “Because each person who lives in Hell thinks when his brother or her sister falls, then they will more easily rise or succeed.
And then I asked, ” How will he or she rise?” God said,” They will not rise, but instead, they will fall into egotism and fail to truly succeed”
And I asked God,” Are these people sane?” God replied, ” They are not sane; there is no sane person in Hell.”
As I understand it, life requires us to accept with gratitude, the gifts and talents of others, and not seek to feel superior or inferior. Also, we are to honor all the different ways of understanding God, or what is good or what is considered to be Holy- We are not to sharply criticize the differences, but we are to compare, and to appreciate so that we can learn from them.
After all, if we are to trust the intent of World Scripture, we are given the view that God created humanity so that we can bless and care for one another, not so we could harm or judge each other- No one truly gets ahead when another person fails, and no one is made better by trickery or deceit, envy or revenge.
In fact, it could be said that only as we learn to tolerate and accept one another’s differences, and not try to create pitfalls, can we begin to find a genuine and lasting sense of inspiration within the diverse communities that we build, …
And only then, does even a glimpse of heaven become possible.
You and I are in the business of building kingdoms and queendoms together- to build the realms of wonder and sustain the structures of integrity and worth in which all of our sisters and brothers of the liberal and lively spirit work together and dwell….
This is ideal of community- It consists of the blessings and grace we can experience in caring for one another, and the that can be found in sharing our life’s journey with one another, thereby enriching and supporting each other all along life’s way….
An Ash Wednesday Homily:
The Practice of Forgiveness: On Becoming a Phoenix!
The time span between tonight, Ash Wednesday, to Easter morning, is the time in the history of Western church and its religious archetypal culture, that focuses on Jesus as a working, living, relational model for how to live our lives more fully, more compassionately.
His message is of particular importance to those among us who are seeking a more spiritual and empathetic basis for their lives. Depending on how you look at him, and I see him as a spiritually infused man who was called into a special intimacy with the Divine. In and through his teachings about having compassion for one another and ourselves, he models how to live our lives in a way that affirms and bears witness to all that is holy and loving in everyone of us. As a role model, we can see his example as both a challenge and a gift…
Among his hardest teachings to uphold were his indications on forgiveness. He sought to overcome the concept of tribal revenge, and he offered a remedy for all slights and injustices, which we know as the practice of forgiveness. When others asked him how this act of compassion was to be done, or what attitude promotes and accomplishes it, we can remember his words:
“[Love your enemies, bless those who would curse you,
pray for others who might abuse you. As you wish others would treat you or would do for you, do that for them. ...
It is of no credit to you to only love those who are lovable, but you are to lend and love, give and do, whatever is good and kind. Be merciful, and compassionate, even as your Father in Heaven has mercy and compassion for you."] Luke 6 NRSV adapted Mt. 5:48
In modern terms, his words and example ask us to live by empathy, and to live with a courage that extends your caring to others. Do not allow yourself to dwell in the toxic feelings of judgment, stuck in our resentments, bogged down by regrets, or wallowing in remorse or fear. Instead, his inspired and insightful teaching directs us to try to see your struggles and trials as reflected or shared by all people, and with sufficient wisdom or understanding, and a generous amount of forgiveness, we will win our heart’s release from any lingering bitterness or guilt.
Now, I am no stranger to fear, resentment, or guilt- throughout the many twists of fate, and those painful reversals of fortune, both in my personal life and in my larger ministry, there have been times when it seems that I could not do enough, be good enough, or be reconciled to the many different and difficult tasks that have been given to me.
I suspect that this is true for each of you… Whether your particular challenge or concern has been to be a good parent, spouse, worker, sibling, or caregiver, those nagging doubts and those disturbing feelings can lodge in our emotions or inhabit our hearts as deep feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and powerlessness.
Even if we can identify that these feelings are varieties of unhealthy guilt or shame, just knowing it isn’t enough… We must act to completely release or reduce those negative feelings.
While recognition and acceptance are good and necessary first steps, the next, more difficult, yet more complete steps in our freedom, our health, and our joy is what the spiritual teachers East and West recommend: forgiveness, which becomes our flight path up and out… Up and out towards an unselfish regard and abiding respect for others and ourselves.
My friend, professional colleague, Joan Borysenko, has previously outlined these differences in two books. … The first is called Guilt is the Teacher and Love is the Lesson, and the second is entitled Seventy Times Seven. She concludes that our whole society tends to run on unhealthy guilt… What are some of the signs she lists as unhealthy guilt?
First, being overly committed, having too much to do, too many activities, being too wired or plugged in, and thereby having no real time to yourself- especially when it comes to giving sufficient time to reflect on the meaning of one’s life and its actions. Guilt festers when you do not give yourself enough time to attend to your spiritual and ethical growth, to give time to your need for wellness, creativity, or real relationships…
She goes on in her list to include: perfectionism, playing the martyr, keeping negative partnerships for the sake of money or emotional insecurity… Or blaming yourself for your parent’s problems, and accepting false responsibility or excessively worrying about things that are out of your personal control! The list goes on… And I am sure you can add things of your own…
Her remedy is also mine, and both come from the wisdom of Jesus. Practice forgiveness- practice it daily, hourly, if need be, holding on to no poisonous thoughts or destructive feelings, and then be willing to look courageous and empathetically at your own flaws in a new light…
As my Jungian and archetypal studies have taught me, these flaws, these areas of weakness, inadequacy, or avoidance that we all have- are paradoxical and powerful. These shadow emotions and hurtful experiences -when they are understood, or when they are brought to our conscious awareness-, can become our disguised blessings. These flaws can be transformed into shining facets of wisdom and understanding- Since these experiences have been created from the pressures of life and our imperfections- that serve us well by refining and redefining us, and that keep us exploring, and growing.
When these troublesome feelings manifest, and take it from me, they always do… They are, in their positive light, asking us to understand them, heal them or release them…
and it is from the synergistic grace we receive from those personal struggles, that we can authentically come to know a greater sense of wholeness, equipoise, and peace.
I believe that we are all in need of forgiveness… therefore, we need to be always ready and willing to forgive ourselves and others, for it is from such humility that positive change is encouraged, and it is from that blessing of release, that we encourage the growth of wisdom in our hearts, creating a more resilient , multifaceted spiritual understanding of life.
In my research, and in my life practice, forgiveness has four general ways it expresses itself- two are self defeating and unproductive, and two are positive and are more effective or more redemptive.
Briefly, the two less useful or ineffective ways we express forgiveness center themselves on fear: first is when we will forgive because we are afraid to lose the friendship or partnership, so we forgive too quickly . We forgive without ever expecting a change in the behavior of those who have hurt you… In other words, we are too damn easy on them, too ready to excuse someone’s behavior, and so we can find ourselves saying, “Oh, they couldn’t help it!” This attitude often allows the callous or the egotistical behavior to continue… It gives permission for the cycle of any form of abuse to go on and on…
The second self-defeating approach is found in the refusal to forgive- when we continue to rehearse the hurt, hold on to grudges, or refuse to move on emotionally from the slights and insults we all can receive over a lifetime…
From my Buddhist Tara teachings, I was given clear instruction that advises anyone who chooses to work towards enlightenment , towards greater emotional clarity, we must first personally encounter, and then we have to overcome the three great psychic poisons: Regret, Remorse, and Resentment. Holding on to these toxic feelings imprisons you, and ultimately can rob you of your health and your life! They can never serve growth, good, or grace… When we spitefully hold on to negative feelings, it is as if we continue to drink poison, and then expect the other person to get sick!
The two more positive ways combine a willingness to accept and then forgive with the clear expectation of behavioral reform, or true sense of contrition by the offending person.
The first way is simply known as Acceptance. Accepting what has happened to us, knowing what our role in this experience has been, and seeking understanding for both the offense and our reactions. The best response towards regaining our peace of mind, and a quietness of heart, is our willingness to let go of those feelings that can capture or control us….
and to know or realize that the path to our freedom is found by gaining the wisdom from the lessons learned, and it is made complete by having compassion for all who were involved… Then, taking what we know as our inner teacher, we can use that wisdom as our guide to moving past it or to getting on with our lives in ways that preserve our dignity, and keep us from being trapped into any repetitive patterns…
I know that it is often really difficult to grasp or accept the awful truth that we might never receive an apology, never genuinely hear “I am sorry”, but as long we have actually learned from the situation, we can consciously choose to let it go… In that conscious act of letting go, we can detoxify our hearts… Remember this insight: Acceptance does not excuse or forgive the abuser or the actions, but it does release the burdens from being stuck in our hearts and minds…
The last approach I would call Genuine Forgiveness.
It involves not holding a grudge, but it does clearly expect behavioral changes that can eventually restore trust, friendship, and intimacy. If those changes are not made, the relationship remains broken, and there is no complete or authentic sense of forgiveness to be found!
Forgiveness, as a personal healing process, is affirmed in one’s heart and it is recognized as something that is good, right, and true…
It is received by one’s conscience, or by inner moral compass, and it understood by our sense of justice and empathy. When Jesus’ disciples asked him how much or how often they were to forgive, he replied, “seventy times seven” or until your own perfection arrives! Only then are you allowed to cast stones or pass judgments. He knew that harsh judgments never improved anyone, and often they impeded change by the burden of anger or resentment. …
Yet, he did not offer an easy form or a blanket forgiveness that is without behavioral demands… Only with such an tough love stance, can lasting change ever take place. …
There is, in my understanding, a supernal, or a higher altruism that is also as a part of acceptance and forgiveness. There is a gracious synergy or a healing energy that is released when we truly forgive… Every time we forgive, we generate a quality of warmth that builds into a greater fire of compassion, and as we forgive, we give birth to a new transcending, loving force for good, that is more accessible to all humankind…
Like a grand fiery orange Phoenix that arises from the ashes of the ego, whose nest was filled with all the slights and sufferings we humans can experience, we can, through wisdom and grace, be propelled upward into a new flight, a new life!
Forgiveness renews our souls, as the ancient Jewish texts declare, we carried up on the wings of a great bird, that lifts itself from the ashes of despair, and begins to fly beyond any regrets to become enlivened, unburdened, and free! (Hebrew neshar)
In closing, let us remember this timeless, transcendent lesson from this Lenten season:
As we live, we must forgive…
As we love, we rise above…
And, so it is, that we gather on this Ash Wednesday night… To attend reverently to an ancient and powerful ritual that will work to anoint us with the holy promise of God that can release us from any guilt and pain, so that we can continue our lifelong flight towards integrity and wholeness, compassion, and peace…
Shalom & Shalem AMEN, So Be IT!
From a min-course in healing: Thoughts inspired from A Course In Miracles by Jerry Jamplowsky, MD.
“Whenever I see someone else as guilty, I am reinforcing my own sense of guilt or unworthiness…
I cannot truly forgive myself unless I am willing to forgive others… Only through forgiveness can my release from lingering guilt or fear be complete.
So today, let me choose to let go of all my past misconceptions and see myself and others in the light of true forgiveness.
I was mistaken in believing that I could give anyone anything other than what I wanted for myself…
Offering love is the only way I can accept love for myself.
The irreverent and anti-establishment psychiatrist, Thomas Szasz encapsulates the teachings of forgiveness in these pithy and declarative words:
The stupid neither forgive nor forget
The naive forgive, and forget
The wise forgive, but do not forget….
Children and Forgiveness:
When we are young, we learn from our parents…
When we are older, we judge their actions…
And when we are old enough, and wise enough, we learn to forgive them… . Adapted from Oscar Wilde
“[We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. Any of us who is devoid of the power to truly forgive, is also devoid of the power to truly love.
It is true that there is some good in the worst of us, and there is some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate, and more open to life and love.]” From Martin Luther King, Jr.
Because so many present day seekers have come from other, more conservative and conventional churches when they were young, many of us have been exposed to the season of Lent as having a historical and theological significance. In our Western religious culture, one cannot escape at least a superficial acquaintance with its meaning and purpose.
Lent is a time often described as a time for increased piety, extra prayer and worship services, and self sacrifice. Historically, Christians and particularly those Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans who were required to abstain from certain practices, habits, or activities and most often were instructed to fast or abstain from eating certain foods.
Now, the ideal or best practices associated with the Lenten season can be summarized as attitudes that encouraged retreat from the world’s fast pace and demands. Then to take that freed up time, and focus it on becoming more contemplative, looking at those areas of your life that might need improvement or reform, and to focus of new insights that can help to release you from habits and fears. The noble ideal behind the food restrictions was to help us to break our attachments, addictions, and pleasures- any tie we had to external material rewards and egotistical routines. The goal of these Lenten disciplines was to make the Christian more properly ascetic: that is, more able to give up their problems, in order to receive or claim more freedom, becoming more willing to release ego preoccupations and spend time in discerning their next steps and what sources of inspiration and guidance were available to them in their lives.
Classically, it is from our souls being more disciplined or aligned with God that we are freed to practice more loving self acceptance and more intelligent self control. …
Now, among those of you who were made to observe Lent when you were growing up, did anyone ever satisfactorily explain it to you in that way? Is there any lasting value in Lenten observance for you now, as U-U’s? I will venture my own interpretation, and I will offer to try to provide you with a viable alternative.
First, a little religious background for all of you who were ever curious about what your Catholic and other high school friends were going through… Originally, Lent was a brief and intense time that prepared a person for Baptism. It was that soul-searching time before someone declared themselves a Christian in the early, and often persecuted Church. Considered to be a time for deep reflection and profound decision-making, it was a momentous step in a person’s life. This time of Lent was originally only 40 hours long, to reflect the time period between Good Friday and Easter morning. However, then it was a time of complete fasting, and a rigorous mental discipline.
This practice went through many historical changes. The principal one happening during the Middle Ages, when the time period for Lent was increased or prolonged to reflect a correspondence to Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. This extended time period was accompanied by a selected fast from meat and dairy products for all healthy people between the ages of 12 to 60; the only exceptions being nursing mothers. Unfortunately, or shall I say, predictably, this eclesial rule of a selected fast was dolefully interpreted as being a time for self-sacrifice and deprivation, rather than as a time associated with grateful remembrance and devotion.
The attitude of self deprivation, especially when enforced by a particularly dogmatic clergy and inflexible church structure has yielded some interesting and contradictory results. The most appealing begin the creation of of many preLenten revels, all-out parties, and celebrations… The most famous of these are French “Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras” or the Portuguese Rio Carnivale. … For you see, the words carnivore and carnival relate to the same kind of fleshly cravings and indulgences! Therefore, Mardi Gras and Carnavales were the reluctantly condoned revels or church-related orgies just before the days and weeks of required self-sacrifice. (Remember, the restriction of one’s diet is a common religious occurrence; for example, there are Kosher food laws, Islamic fasts during the month of Ramaden. Tragically, part of our misunderstanding of food practices has contributed sociological and psychologically in the development of dietary imbalances and psychological illnesses- from our society’s chronic pre-occupation over weight to the tragedies of bulimia and anorexia that are now affecting 20% of all young women (1 in 5) and is currently growing in older women (and in some men) being seen in increasing amounts in women of mid life Or ages 35-55…
I can remember meatless Wednesdays and Fridays all through my Catholic youth. At that time, I considered it quite a hardship, and its rationale was a perplexing, obtuse mystery. ( It was much later, when reading anecdotes in church history that I discovered that the Pope, in the 1800′s, instituted the eat fish laws in order to help out the Italian fishing industry!
These eating restrictions were was told to me as something we all have to do! I really did not like the idea at all, and I wasn’t a member of the Big Mac/Whopper generation of today! After all, my traditional fare of lentil beans, cornmeal, and some fish, no matter how nutritious, got a little boring, and even I could get tired of pasta! (When I was 10, My Father & Mother went off to an FBI school, so my Aunt Frances had to care for me feed me. Every Wednesday and Friday night she said that I could have my choice: I can have pasta and beans or beans and pasta! Story about the Statues around her home; St. Anthony; ; dialogues; turning him around! Also I have included a more serious and somber reflection on Ash Wednesday and Lent on my webpage)
So you see, the idea of Lent was related to me as a time to be endured, not understood. An almost morose pallor engulfed my family during the week. We all looked forward to the big Sunday meal, our weekly indulgence.
That was a big feast with all the chicken, sausage, and meatballs you could stuff in! Some quality religious observance that was!
One time, my family held a ravioli eating contest… I came in second, or first in the junior division, having eaten 48 raviolis (big squares!) Of course, there was a lot of Pepto Bismal in my future, as I could not eat another thing for the next two days!
When I look back on the prevalent family attitude, it was far from holy or reverent. Now, I find that it is all too ironic,that as an adult, I have sharply reduced my eating of any meat without any overtones of religious persuasion … but that would involve another sermon on world hunger, ecology, and proper nutrition…
Needless to say, much of the original intent, the symbolic and spiritually based reasoning behind Lent was never adequately explained, and that has resulted in generations of people playing out empty, self-defeating rituals. So I have had to ask myself, if there is any lasting value in Lenten remembrance for us today, if so, what might it be?
As I see it, the lasting principle found in a sincere Lenten observance is the time when each of us can reflect on having more personal motives and consequences, and the human need to learn greater objectivity and self control. Stripped of its pious baggage, Lent can become a time, for setting new priorities for one’s life, and for cultivating purposeful actions that free us from any negativity, and that assist us in accomplishing our higher goals.
Many of us who shared a similar dutiful childhood, and as a consequence, later, as adults, we have become religious liberals because we balk at the imposition of sanctions and limits, especially when enforced by some restrictive irrational and unexplainable moral code. However, when these disciplines are of your own devising, we can use them to focus our willpower and to develop greater inner peace and self-control. Rather than just going the way of all of our inner cravings, Lent can be a time to remedy or reduce these faulty inclinations all of us have, and we can apply ourselves to the task of greater self understanding.
I believe that every one of us has some demon or habit or character trait that is unflattering, that has to be faced and overcome. Therefore, because it is human and universal, there can be no judgment nor room for arrogance; no need for any lasting remorse or endless regret. Instead, Lent can be that personally bestowed gift of time and focus we give to ourselves to help us clarify and release the emotional or personal struggles any of us, and all of us might have.
In truth, we must, in some measure, agree or be willing to accept the consequences of some behavior in order to continue it. Even if that conduct is self-defeating, risky or unhealthy, we have to agree to it or else it would soon disappear. In that way, Lent is a time to reacquaint yourself with your own limits and to energize your own potentials and to begin positive steps towards growth, freedom, and greater awareness.
And yes, sometimes what we are faced with are issues and problems in our lives that are unsettling, awkward, and often damn difficult! Yet, that self admission is no grounds for being severe, hateful, or unkind toward yourself or any one else. These steps toward greater responsibility and freedom for one’s mind, body and spirit, for one’s health, relationships, and ideals, bringing us to of humility and to the advocacy of compassion. As Jesus put it, “Only those who are without sin can cast stones.”
As I see it, to live, is to be involved in a continual, evolutionary and ethical process, for each person has to deal honestly with their personal banes and come to know and be grateful for their individual blessings. Each of us has to understand how, or in what ways they might need to explore, change, or transform their lives.
I would propose two healthful measures that have been useful to me. They come from two diverse sources: from training in Gestalt therapy, and from training in Buddhist philosophy. The Gestalt or psychological format asks us to appraise our behavior patterns without censure. It simply states that we are to evaluate our feelings and actions by whether they are nourishing or toxic to us.
When behavior is nourishing, it give us dignity, awareness, understanding and self-respect. When because is toxic, then it is harmful to our self-esteem, our health, our families, to our well-being. I find that to be a simple and effective measure or standard to apply for greater self-awareness that is free of punitive conclusions and self righteous moral judgments.
The second guideline I would recommend is from Buddhist teachings. It emphasizes justice and sobriety, balance and the avoidance of excess; be it dietary, financial, relational, mental or physical. It states that we are to act without any feelings of self-denial nor act in ways that are self-indulgent. We are simply, to think ethically, act soberly, and speak broadmindedly. It emphasizes justice over judgment, equity over imbalance, moderation in thought, feeling and behavior. In this way, our tendencies and habits, problems and pressures, do not or will not control or victimize us. It can be summarized as this: That it our shared human need to establish inner personal guidelines so that we can overcome our actions that can lead to addiction- which is simply defined as the human tendency to try to get too much of what we don’t truly do not need.
This Lenten season, try to take some time each day to reflect on various virtues and principles you would like to see manifest in your lives. Then look at your lifestyle, your choices, your patterns for living and then try to notice if there is anything that could use some improvement, some further balance, some greater empathy and understanding.
Be willing to examine your goals- decide for a more positive, creative, and inspired approach to living. Maybe you can begin to keep a dream log, start a journal, or an exercise program, attend a class, or be aware of how your sacred intentions or prayers can bring new insights and empowerment to you with persistent progress.
And remember to begin soon, because according to the consensus of opinion in psychological circles, it takes at least three weeks to break a negative habit, establish new learning, or develop a lasting initiative that can span this Lenten season.
Lent can become a holy time- a gift your give to yourself as a time when you can discover who and what you are, and with inner guidance and grace, all that you can truly be.
Amen, So Be it!
According to Catholic tradition and legend, one of the most valued legacies of the sainted ones are the gifts of healing and enlightenment accomplished by intercessionary prayer and their inspiration as role models for our lives. One of the most enduring rituals that honor the gift of healing and spiritual embodiment comes down to us as The Blessing Of The Throats.
In the ritual that follows this explanation, we will offer this ancient rite and ask that it will open us up to greater spiritual expressiveness, prophetic outspokenness, that advances the realm of God within and among us.
St. Blaze or Blaise was an early church bishop in Asia Minor during the 4th century AD. Not much is known of this saint except that he was a physician before he became a bishop and that he was a gifted healer who generously offered himself to people and to animals who were brought to him. The particular healing associated with the throat relates to the story of how he saved a young boy from choking.
we honor and recall this gift of healing today by understanding the importance of the throat area as not only the physical center for swallowing, speaking and breathing, but for what that vital part of our body correlates to in our feelings and in our consciousness. When looked at metaphysically, the throat is the center of the true self or our authenticity.
It is the area that deals with the passions of deception, denial, and lying. It is also the part of our psyches that needs to speak up for oneself, and address others- to speak up to oppression, manipulation, or subservience. As a spiritual truth, we are all equal, and deserving of compassion and being heard.
Speaking up for justice with integrity is an important quality for the healing of our society, for freeing our personal and soulful progress, and for empowering our world’s health, safety, and evolution.
In this ritual, we will pray together to be open to these inner truths, as well as affirm the right to restorative healing, the uninterrupted flow of breath, blood, life and language that are given to us by God.
RITUAL: People wishing to receive the blessing/healing or the freeing/strengthening of this ritual, will be asked to kneel before the priest, and let the crossed candles touch each side of their throats. Then the priest will speak the words of invocation, release and blessing and offer the transmission:
“May the grace and power of God free you from whatever binds you; May you be released and healed to express your true self, your life in God, in every way.” AMEN 9
This morning, as I kindle the fire upon the hearth, I pray that the flame of God’s love may burn in my heart, and in the hearts of all I meet today.
I pray that no envy and malice, no hatred or fear, may smother the flame.
I pray that indifference and apathy, contempt and pride, may not pour like cold water on the fire.
Instead, may the spark of God’s love light the love in my heart, that it may burn brightly through the day.
And may I warm those whoa re lonely, whose hearts are cold and lifeless, so that all may know the comfort of God’s love.
Be with us, Bridget, might Celtic triple goddess of the flame and the flood, crafts, weaving, and creativity.
You who bring inspiration, art, healing, poetry, medicine and smithcraft, be with us today.
Stir for us, the cauldron of ideas and transformation!
Come to us with air, creating inspiring words and thoughts.
Come to us with fire, for the potter’s kiln, the smithy’s forge.
Come to us with water, to heal the sick with love and compassion.
Come to us with earth, and bless our creations, born at Solstice, now to manifest!
For February 2nd and 3rd- St.Blaise\Candlemas
Selected Reading: The Light Within
["The truth is that we cannot be left unchanged by encountering others... Every relationship of our lives, every turning toward one another rather than away from
others, or choosing to hide oneself, is an ever-deepening encounter with God, and with our essential humanness.
When we allow ourselves to experience this, when we love, we discover that our fear can only be finally dispelled by the confrontation, by the embrace and the grace of the encounter itself. Each time we are willing to live in the light, the shadows covering ourselves are dispelled and less fear survives. The reality of such love and courage casts out our fears, the more practiced, the more perfect it becomes."]
HAPPY NEW YEAR! As we launch into 2014 we at the Teilhard de Chardin Project are reminded of the New Year’s prayer Teilhard once offered:
“At the beginning of this new year, what we ask of that universal presence which envelops us all, is first to reunite us, as in a shared, living center with those whom we love, those who, so far away from us here, are themselves beginning this same new year. On January 1, 1932, Teilhard de Chardin found himself in Central China with some 40 other men engaged in Citroën’s Croisiére Jaune, an event described this way by a New York Time movie review of a documentary made about it.
“La Croisière Jaune (The Yellow Journey) is the record of an astonishing motor trip from Beirut, Syria, across Afghanistan, the Himalaya Mountains, the Gobi Desert and the rest of Asia to Peiping.” It follows “the itinerary of the two heroic little groups who drove in [all-terrain vehicles] along the fabled [Silk Road] where six centuries ago Marco Polo crept along by foot and caravan. The main group started from Beirut going east, while a smaller group worked westward from Peiping, later falling into the hands of the war lord of Sinkiang, who commandeered the autos and imprisoned the men.”
Teilhard was traveling with the westward group, which had left Tientsin on April 6, 1931. Having successfully joined forces with the eastward group in Sianking Province, they were now working their way back to Peking. Thus, on this New Year’s Day, after 8 months of sharing rigorous hardships on the road, the 40 members of the Citroën Expedition gathered shortly after dawn at a small mission church to attend a Mass celebrated by their colleague Pere Teilhard de Chardin. In addressing them Teilhard acknowledges the fact that most of them are unbelievers. The leader of the expedition, Audouin-Dubreil, kept a copy of his address: My dear friends, we have met this morning, in this little church, in the heart of China, in order to come before God at the beginning of this new year. Of course, probably for not one of us here does God mean, or seem, the same thing as for any other of us. And yet, because we are all intelligent beings, not one of us can escape the feeling, or reflection, that above and beyond ourselves there exists some superior force, and that, since it is superior to ourselves, it must possess some superior form of our own intelligence and our own will. It is in this mighty presence that we should recollect ourselves for a moment at the beginning of this new year. What we ask of that universal presence which envelops us all, is first to reunite us, as in a shared, living center with those whom we love, those who, so far away from us here, are themselves beginning this same new year. Then, considering what must be the boundless power of this force, we beseech it to take a favorable hand for us and for our friends and families in the tangled and seemingly uncontrollable web of events that await us in the months ahead. So may success crown our enterprises. So may joy dwell in our hearts and all around us. So may what sorrow cannot be spared us be transfigured into a finer joy, the joy of know that we have occupied each his own station in the universe, and that, in that station, we have done as we ought. Around us and in us, God, through his deep-reaching power, can bring all this about. And it is in order that he may indeed do so that, for all of you, I am about to offer him this Mass, the highest form of Christian prayer.
We wish you and all those you love, wherever they may be, a joyful new year with a renewed zest for life!
We return thanks to our mother, the earth, which sustains us.
We return thanks to the rivers and streams, which supply us with water.
We return thanks to all herbs, which furnish medicines for the cure of our diseases.
We return thanks to the moon and stars, which have given to us their light when the sun was gone. We return thanks to the sun, that has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye.
Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit, in Whom is embodied all goodness, and Who directs all things for the good of Her children.
Iroquois Prayer, adapted
(Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace)
Prayer for Autumn Days
God of the seasons, there is a time for everything; there is a time for dying and a time for rising. We need courage to enter into the transformation process.
God of autumn, the trees are saying good bye to their green, letting go of what has been. We, too, have our moments of surrender, with all their insecurity and risk. Help us to let go when we need to do so.
God of fallen leaves lying in colored patterns on the ground, our lives have their own patterns. As we see the patterns of our own growth, may we learn from them.
God of misty days and harvest moon nights, there is always the dimension of mystery and wonder in our lives. We always need to recognize your power-filled presence. May we gain strength from this.
God of harvest wagons and fields of ripened grain, many gifts of growth lie within the season of our surrender. We must wait for harvest in faith and hope. Grant us patience when we do not see the blessings.
God of geese going south for another season, your wisdom enables us to know what needs to be left behind and what needs to be carried into the future. We yearn for insight and vision. God of flowers touched with frost and windows wearing white designs, may your love keep our hearts from growing cold in the empty seasons.
God of life, you believe in us, you enrich us, you entrust us with the freedom to choose life. For all this, we are grateful.
Author Unknown Appropriate for many faiths
I am Thankful for the Renewal of Hope in Our Country
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all...
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
If we were to accept the dire reports of national economic difficulties uncritically, there would be little reason for hope during this Holiday season. While strong and often convincing in its details, all those mounting reports can lead to the feelings of powerlessness and increase our sense of despair. I feel that Hope is our best remedy.
As the Western Scriptures remind us, ” Hope is the anchor of our faith.” Within that assurance, it is important to avoid either the Pollyanna response that everything will be all right, or worse, that everything will return to the way it was. I see it as our spiritual imperative not to give in to despair, discouragement, or the difficulties we all face, that we all share…
In the words of another one of our poets, Edna St. Vincent Millay, we are experiencing an “anxious autumn”, and quite possibly a cold, harsh winter… But Spring with its promise, is natural harbinger of hope, just as our places of worship can serve as our invaluable sources of support, caring, and shared sense of hope among us.
Hope is a courageous emotion; It is defiant and persevering, for it seeks to find and affirm whatever is good and noble in our struggles. We rely on hope as a path to wisdom, and it is through sharing our hopes and affirming what we are truly grateful for in our lives that makes holiday worship so meaningful for so many of us.
Even if we are struggling, as a nation, through an “anxious Autumn”, let us reflect on the words of our contemporary author, Barbara Kingsolver, who reflects on the nature of hope in these words:
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most [courageous thing] you can do is to live inside that hope.”
Matthew Fox:Today we are discussing ecology and spirituality. Now who can deny that it doesn’t matter what your particular tradition is, or if you’re an atheist, if your backyard is burning up and you can’t plant food anymore, and the waters are rising? We’re all in trouble. And it can finally bring religions together and get over their narcissism.
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: I hope so. Mysticism, as you know, has always held this common thread underneath religion – the union of inner experience. Part of the reason I edited the book Spiritual Ecology was to try to bring that into the ecological debate because I felt that, although it was present, it wasn’t voiced enough.
MF: Absolutely. That’s what I’ve been trying to do with the archetype of the cosmic Christ — to awaken at least Christians that crucifixion is not something that happened 2,000 years ago, it’s happening with the killing of the rainforests and the whales and the polar bears and everything else today.
LV-L: It’s happening to the Earth.
MF: To me, that not only can energize spiritual warriors to get work done today, but it also can reinvent our faith traditions themselves, which I think fall into narcissism as distinct from mysticism.
LV-L: I have a concern that somehow people who have a spiritual awakening or awareness are somehow too focused on their own individual inner spiritual journey, and to me this is a travesty of real spiritual awakening or spiritual awareness, which has to do with the whole, and this whole includes the Earth.
MF: I couldn’t agree more. If your breakthrough does not lead to transpersonal service, to compassion, to justice, including eco-justice, then I doubt its authenticity. And Jesus said it very simply, that by their fruits you’ll know them. And we can be so taken by our spiritual experiences that we don’t realize this about energizing you to serve.
LV-L: In Sufism they actually say after the station of oneness comes the state of servant-hood, that one is then in service. Sufis are known as servants.
MF: Or as Jack Kornfield put it, after ecstasy comes the laundry.
LV-L: Somehow we have become so focused on our own human journey that we’ve forgotten that this human journey is part of the Earth’s journey. There used to be, I’m sure you’re aware of this, a deeper understanding that our soul is part of the world’s soul, the anima mundi, and we’ve lost that connection. We’ve lost that understanding that our spiritual light is part of the light of the world. And we have to regain that.
MF: Right. And how the Earth story itself is part of the cosmic story.
LV-L: It’s all one. It’s all one living, breathing, inter-related, interdependent spiritual organism as much as a physical organism, and I think we have, for some extraordinary reason, forgotten that.
MF: I think there are a lot of reasons, and one of them is the anthropocentrism and the narcissism of the modern consciousness. But I also think part of it too is the beating up of matter over the centuries by theologically influential thinkers. That kind of separation, that kind of dualism is so destructive because then you think the body is secondary, and then Mother Earth is secondary, and everything else. To put things in context, we wouldn’t have our imaginations and our breath and our food and our existence without matter. Matter is not an obstacle to spirit.
LV-L: I think the early rejection of all of the Earth-based spirituality by the Christian church has left a very sad vacuum that we’re now, in a way, seeing the result of.
MF: Paying the price for. And I think it goes back, actually, to the 4th century. If you’re going to run an empire – as the church more or less inherited the empire in the 4th century, it behooves you to split matter from spirit, and also to talk about original sin, and get people confused about their own inner nobility and empowerment, and divinity, really. I think that it has served political interests and cultural power trips to split people that way.
LV-L: Well, the male domination of nature kind of took the high ground, and now we have to, in a very few years, try to redress this balance and reclaim the sacred nature of creation. And what is central to me is to try to bring that into the ecological debate because I don’t see how we can address this physical devastation of creation, this ecocide, unless we look at its spiritual roots and reconnect ourselves to the sacred nature that is the world around us.
MF: And within us. And that’s what makes deep ecology different from ecology.
Lewellyn Vaughan-Lee: The mystics teach simple things, but those simple things change people’s worlds. How can we re-energize that mystical perspective so we can bring it into this global arena that is calling out to us? I mean, the Earth is calling. That’s why I called this book Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth because the Earth is crying, the soul of the Earth is crying. We need to respond from our own soul as well as with our hands.
Matthew Fox: And, of course, Einstein said it’s from intuition and feeling that we get values, not from the intellect. He says the intellect gives us methods; it does not give us values. And I think when you look back at it, this is how various traditions of monastic learning also included the heart in some way or other.
LV-L: When you say including the heart, I would suggest something even more radical. How can we bring our love for the Earth into the center of this concern with the well-being of the Earth? In fact, Thich Nhat Hanh recently said real change will only happen when we fall in love with our planet. As a mystic, I believe in the primacy of love, and we have this love for the Earth. It is so generous. It has given us life. It has given us breath. It has given us water. And we have treated it so badly in response. I feel that this mystical center of divine love is really the power behind the planet, because it is really what gives life to us all. I mean, it’s a really radical thought to bring that essential quality into the ecological debate. And although we have this physical responsibility, how can we bring this love that belongs also to our sense of the sacred? How can we learn once again to live in love with the Earth in the way we live, in our daily activities so that everything becomes imbued with this sense of the sacred? One can educate the mind, but also we somehow have been stripped of the power of love, which is, as a mystic, the greatest power in creation.
MF: In our traditions, certainly the Jewish tradition but also Aquinas, it is said too that the mind resides in the heart. We don’t have to, how should I say, pit one against the other. That real heart knowledge - when you’re really in love with something, you want to learn more about it.
LV-L: Also the heart and the mind in the heart see the oneness in things. Sufis say when the eye of the heart is open—the Sufis talk about the eye of the heart—then in each atom there are a million secrets. And we see the unity in life, in everything that we are part of. We need to reclaim that unity, that oneness, because life is dying and it’s dying because we split spirit and matter, we separated ourselves from creation. The analytic mind tries to split everything up into smaller and smaller pieces. We need to return to this oneness, this awareness of the interdependence of all of life, this web of life, which our ancestors knew and revered so deeply. Somehow we have lost connection with this spiritual dimension of creation, and to me that is the root of our present ecological imbalance because we don’t respect or revere creation as our ancestors and indigenous peoples have always done. And somehow, as you say, the mystics have held this thread in the West, but a thread is no longer enough. It needs to be a revolution, a revolution of the heart, a revolution of consciousness that sees the oneness that is within and all around us. I suppose the challenge is, how do we give this back to humanity, this forgotten treasure, this secret, this deep awareness of the real nature of creation, that it is not dead matter? I always say the world is not a problem to be solved, it’s a living being to be related to, and it is calling to us. It needs our attention, not just of our minds, but also of our hearts. It is our own awakened consciousness that can heal the Earth.
Matthew Fox: Another dimension, I think, including when it comes to the love, is grief. We don’t deal well with grief in our culture, and that’s one reason I think anger gets battered all over the walls. We don’t deal with anger in a constructive way very often. I do a lot of grief ceremonies – we need practices and rituals. When grief builds up, when you can’t deal with grief, not only does anger build up, but also the joy and love get clouded over, and people feel disempowered. So I think grief work is a part. What can I say? Who cannot be grieving today about what’s happening to the Earth? You’d have to be extremely busy covering up your grief and putting a lot of energy there.
Lewellyn Vaughan-Lee: I think we do. We’re a culture of mass distractions. We try to avoid at all costs seeing the real fruits of our actions. I would say the most important practice is to listen. Thich Nhat Hanh said to heal the Earth, listen to its cry because the Earth is crying, but we don’t know how to listen. We’ve forgotten this feminine wisdom of deep listening. If there is deep ecology, there is deep listening. We have to relearn this feminine wisdom of listening to the Earth. It is so old, it is so wise, it has been through many crises before, and we need to cooperate. Thomas Berry said we are only talking to ourselves; we are not talking to the rivers; we are not listening to the winds and stars; we have broken the great conversation. By breaking that conversation we have shattered the universe. And we have to learn again how to listen to the Earth, and how to open that ear of the heart. We have been told this great lie that we are separate from the Earth, that it is something out there. It is not out there, we are part of the Earth. We are made of stardust. We need to feel the grief within our own self for the Earth and learn to listen to the Earth, learn to hear it, learn to re-attune ourselves, just like the shamans did of old, just like the wise people who listened to the wind, who listened to the rivers, who felt the heartbeat of creation. And it might not sound very practical but it has a deep, deep wisdom within it, and I think we need all the help we can get at the moment.
MF: Absolutely. And that’s where the world’s spiritual traditions, if they get out of their anthropocentric, reptilian brain dimension of wanting to conquer each other and be number one or something gets shaken down, and as you say, bring this feminine dimension back, the receptivity and contemplation and silence.
LV-L: And not to rush for a quick fix, because I don’t think we can quickly fix this environmental crisis. It has been building up for centuries.
MF: I do think that the patriarchal mindset feeds the reptilian brain excessively, whereas, I think the real way to treat the reptilian brain is to learn to meditate and be still, because reptiles like to lie low and in the sun… We have to make room for that mammal brain, which is half as old as the reptilian brain in us, which is the brain of compassion and the brain of kinship and family, and also of getting along with the rest of nature.
LV-L: This is what Chief Oren Lyons said (in the book), when he spoke about our original instructions in the Native American tradition. He said one of the original instructions is we have to get along together. And it’s very simple, but once you realize we are one living community and we can only survive as one living community, it’s very fundamental. It’s not sophisticated, but we seem to have forgotten it, that we are part of this living, interdependent, interwoven organism that is all around us and that we are part of. I think we have a duty, any of us who have an awareness of this, to bring this into the forefront, to claim it; not to allow this dark side of our civilization to devour all the light. That’s why when you spoke about religious narcissism, and I spoke about my concern that spiritually awakened people are just using their own light for their own inner spiritual journey or their own image of spiritual progress, we have to make a relationship between our light and the world which is hungry for this light.
And there used to be always this relationship between the light of the individual soul and the light of the world’s soul, and somehow we need to reconnect with this Earth on a very deep, foundational, spiritual basis. We are part of one spiritual journey, one life journey, one evolution, and our soul and the soul of the world are not separate, and we have to reclaim this connection. And somehow, as you say, human spirituality and religion became narcissistic, and that was never the intention because Christ’s love was for the world; the Buddha’s peace was for the world. The message is always for the whole.
MF: I think today a lot of young people are being caught up in the vocation of re-sacralizing the Earth, but doing it through everything from the way we eat and farm to the way we do business and politics.
LV-L: It’s the attitude that we bring to it. It’s always the attitude. If we come in the deepest sense, with an attitude of prayer or even just respect and reverence for each other, for the Earth, for what is around us, then the healing can begin, and the forces of darkness will recede. But we will wait and see.
◊ Matthew Fox was described by Thomas Berry as possibly the “most creative, comprehensive & challenging religious-spiritual teacher in America”. Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee is a Sufi mystic & successor of Irina Tweedie who brought the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Indian Sufi Order to the West. This exchange of views was sponsored by Bioneers. Publ. here 10.9.2013.