Sunday, August 31, 2008

Quotes from Shantaram (VI) on Killing Love

"They lied to me and betrayed me, leqaving jagged edges where all my trust had been, and I didn't like or respect or admire them any more, but still I loved them. I had no choice. I understood that, perfectly, standing in the white wilderness of snow. You can't kill love. You can't even kill it with hate. You can kill in-love, and loving, and even loveliness. You can kill them all, or numb them into dense, leaden regret, but you can't kill love itself. Love is the passionate search for a truth other than your own; and once you feel it, honestly and completely, love is forever. Every act of love, every moment of the heart reaching out, is a part of the universal good: it's a part of God, or what we call God, and it can never die."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quotes from Shantaram (V) on Our Greatest Fear

"At first, when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us. What we should fear and dread, of course, is that we won't stop loving them, even after they're dead and gone. For I still love you with the whole of my heart, Prabaker. I still love you. And sometimes, my friend, the love that I have, and can't give to you, crushes the breath from my chest. Sometimes, even now, my heart is drowwning in a sorrow that has no stars without you, and no laughter, and no sleep."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Quotes from Shantaram (IV) on Why We Crave Love

"One of the reasons we crave love, and seek it so desperately, is that love is the only cure for loneliness, and shame, and sorrow. But some feelings sink so deep in to the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths about yourself are so painful that only shame can help you live with them. And some things are just so sad that only your soul can do the crying for you."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Quotes from Shantaram (II) on Truth

"There's a truth that's deeper than experience. It's beyond what we see, or even what we feel. It's an order of truth that separates the profound from the merely clever, and the reality from the perception. We're helpless, usually, in the face of it; and the cost of knowing it, like the cost of knowing love, is sometimes greater than any heart would willingly pay. It doesn' t always help us to love the world, but it does prevent us from hating the world. And the only way to know that truth is to share it, from heart to heart."

Quotes from Shantaram (I) on Voices

"The voice is more than half of love."

--Afghan matchmaker

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Readiness for Ritual (I)

From Alternative Futures for Worship, by Cowan, Philibert, and Kilmartin:

"It is the work of poets and artists to inhabit the middle world between tacit hungers and articulate categories. But that is what the world of symbolism is all about. At the tacit dimension meaning feels like a hunger in the gut--for love, for significance, for meaning. We too easily domesticate the questing and yearning for the deep experiences of faith by naming the components with static categories. Often poets have been better at celebrating the shadow world between hunger and healing than have an older cast of theologians."

Friday, August 22, 2008

What is Mysticism? (IV)

From Practical Mysticism, Chapter 1:

The visionary is a mystic when his vision mediates to him an actuality beyond the reach of the senses. The philosopher is a mystic when he passes beyond thought to the pure apprehension of truth. The active man is a mystic when he knows his actions to be a part of a greater activity. Blake, Plotinus, Joan of Arc, and John of the Cross—there is a link which binds all these together: but if he is to make use of it, the inquirer must find that link for himself. All four exhibit different forms of the working of the contemplative consciousness; a faculty which is proper to all men, though few take the trouble to develop it. Their attention to life has changed its character, sharpened its focus: and as a result they see, some a wider landscape, some a more brilliant, more significant, more detailed world than that which is apparent to the less educated, less observant vision of common sense.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Readiness for Ritual (II): on Symbols

This chapter has much to say about symbols within liturgy. And about the need for imagination in keeping it alive. Some examples:

"We meet God through symbols"

"Symbols have the power to transport us out of the here and now into an originating past as well as into a fulfilling future."

"Ritual symbols characteristically respond to deep imaginative needs and intentions which are not easily transformed directly into common language."

"The word symbol seems to have been used in ancient times for an object much like today's passport. When a messenger bearing important information was sent to an authority or official, he was given a piece of a broken tablet which would identify himself as authorized when that piece was placed together with another matching piece in the possession of the official. Originally a Greek word, symbol (sum-ballein) meant to pull together aspects which have either been broken apart, sundered, or which have yet to find a synthetic fullness in being united."

"Another obstacle is the adults failure to utilize the full scope of memory and imaging in theological thinking and ritual expression."

"For the fully alive adult is someone who, thought a lesser degree than children, scans the environment, taking in more stimulation than can be dealt with immediately. Even adults seek fuller meanings. As we will argue later, adults who do not know the playful nature of ritual and ritualization--the exploratory range of deep, questing interactions within the formal structure of repeated rites--will become dead to the enlivening potential of their cosmic surroundings as well as thoroughly bored with the ritual dynamics of their community. For these reasons it will be important to keep in mind how fluid a notion play is for Erikson and how integrally it functions in the elaboration of his theory of the "ontogeny of ritualization."

Worn out and more to come

I am all registered for my first class ("Worship and Sacraments") at St. Bernard's seminary next week. I have all 6 books in hand, a 60 page PDF to read, and something online called "Moodle" to explore for more reading. I'm in for it indeed.

Look's like God is going to have to pull another rabbit out of His endless hat if I'm going to make this work.

The class replaces one previously titled "Sacramental Theology". Yum!!!

And while yes, I'm feeling a bit intimidated, and a bit overwhelmed given this hateful week I've been having, my initial reading is generating excitement.

I'll post a few snippets in days to come.

Pray for me.

Augustine Weeps

I wept at the beauty of your hymns and canticles, and was
powerfully moved at the sweet sound of your Church singing.
These sounds flowed into my ears, and the truth streamed into my

-- St. Augustine of Hippo

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On Horrible Mystery... (What is Mysticism? III)

From Practical Mysticism, Chapter 1:

Because mystery is horrible to us, we have agreed for the most part to live in a world of labels; to make of them the current coin of experience, and ignore their merely symbolic character, the infinite gradation of values which they misrepresent. We simply do not attempt to unite with Reality. But now and then that symbolic character is suddenly brought home to us. Some great emotion, some devastating visitation of beauty, love, or pain, lifts us to another level of consciousness; and we are aware for a moment of the difference between the neat collection of discrete objects and experiences which we call the world, and the height, the depth, the breadth of that living, growing, changing Fact, of which thought, life, and energy are parts, and in which we “live and move and have our being.” Then we realise that our whole life is enmeshed in great and living forces; terrible because unknown.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Song of the Soul and the Bridegroom (XXX-XXXI)

Of emeralds, and of flowers
In the early morning gathered,
We will make the garlands,
Flowering in Your love,
And bound together with one hair of my head.

By that one hair
You have observed fluttering on my neck,
And on my neck regarded,
You were captivated;
And wounded by one of my eyes.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

How do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

The Door of God

The door of God is humility.

-- John the Short

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Song of the Soul and the Bridegroom (XXXVI-XXXIX)

Let us rejoice, O my Beloved!
Let us go forth to see ourselves in Your beauty,
To the mountain and the hill,
Where the pure water flows:
Let us enter into the heart of the thicket.

We shall go at once
To the deep caverns of the rock
Which are all secret,
There we shall enter in
And taste of the new wine of the pomegranate.

There you will show me
That which my soul desired;
And there You will give at once,
O You, my life!
That which You gave me the other day.

The breathing of the air,
The song of the sweet nightingale,
The grove and its beauty
In the serene night,
With the flame that consumes, and gives no pains.

Friday, August 15, 2008

C.S. Lewis on What God Wants

From Mere Christianity:

"Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What is Mysticism? (II)

From Practical Mysticism, Chapter 1:

Real knowledge, since it always implies an intuitive sympathy more or less intense, is far more accurately suggested by the symbols of touch and taste than by those of hearing and sight. True, analytic thought follows swiftly upon the contact, the apprehension, the union...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bernard on the Sweetness of Christ

Jesus the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see
And in Thy presence rest.

-- Bernard of Clairvaux

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Song of the Soul and the Bridegroom (XXVII-XXIX)

There He gave me His breasts,
There He taught me the science full of sweetness.
And there I gave to Him
Myself without reserve;
There I promised to be His bride.

My soul is occupied,
And all my substance in His service;
Now I guard no flock,
Nor have I any other employment:
My sole occupation is love.

If, then, on the common land
I am no longer seen or found,
You will say that I am lost;
That, being enamored,
I lost myself; and yet was found.

Truth as Symphony

“Truth is symphonic.”

--Hans Urs von Balthasar

Monday, August 11, 2008

What is Mysticism? (I)

From Practical Mysticism, Chapter 1:

Mysticism is the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment. ... the word “union” represents not so much a rare and unimaginable operation, as something which he is doing, in a vague, imperfect fashion, at every moment of his conscious life; and doing with intensity and thoroughness in all the more valid moments of that life. We know a thing only by uniting with it; by assimilating it; by an interpenetration of it and ourselves. It gives itself to us, just in so far as we give ourselves to it; and it is because our outflow towards things is usually so perfunctory and so languid, that our comprehension of things is so perfunctory and languid too. The great Sufi who said that “Pilgrimage to the place of the wise, is to escape the flame of separation” spoke the literal truth. Wisdom is the fruit of communion; ignorance the inevitable portion of those who “keep themselves to themselves,” and stand apart, judging, analysing the things which they have never truly known.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

C.S. Lewis on Eternity

"A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do."

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Excerpts from The Road to Cana (II)

Jesus is in the desert, suffering through all the experiences of his lifetime, and realizing that that is what each of us will have to do when we end our lives.

"In the night I awoke. Was this my own voice reciting what was written? "'And every secret thing shall be opened, and every dark place illuminated.'"

Dear God, no, do not let them know this, do not let them know the great accumulation of all of this, this agony and joy, this misery, this solace, this reaching, this gouging pain, this...

But they will know, each and every one of them will know. They will know because what you are remembering is what has happened to each and every one of them. Did you think this was more or less for you? Did you think--?

And when they are called to account, when they stand naked before God and every incident and utterance is laid bare--you, you will know all of it with each and every one of them!

I knelt in the sand.

Is this possible, Lord, to be with each of them when he or she comes to know? To be there for every single cry of anguish? For the grief-stricken remembrance of every incomplete joy?... Dear God I cannot... but I will. I will.

I sobbed aloud. I will. O Father in Heaven, I am reaching to You with hands of flesh and blood. I am longing for You in Your perfection with this heart that is imperfection! And I reach up for You with what is decaying before my very eyes, and I stare at Your stars from within the prison of this body, but this is not my prison, this is my Will. This is Your Will.

Simone Weil on the Hand of God

From Gravity and Grace:

The man who has known pure joy, if only for a the only man for whom affliction is something devastating. At the same time he is the only man who has not deserved the punishment. But, after all, for him it is no punishment; it is God holding his hand and pressing rather hard. For, if he remains constant, what he will discover buried deep under the sound of his own lamentations is the pearl of the silence of God.

— Simone Weil

Friday, August 8, 2008

John Bunyan on Christ

Christ is the desire of nations, the joy of angels, the delight
of the Father. What solace then must that soul be filled with
that hath the possession of Him to all eternity!

-- John Bunyan

Song of the Soul and the Bridegroom (XXII)

The bride has entered
The pleasant and desirable garden,
And there reposes to her heart’s content;
Her neck reclining
On the sweet arms of the Beloved.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Excerpts from The Road to Cana (I)

I am reading the 2nd in Anne Rice's series on the life of Jesus. This one explores the period in which his time is coming. I am moved by Rice's handling of his love for a young woman of his village, Avigail, and am comforted that he was (is?) like us in all things save sin.

I hesitate a bit to include these snippets here, in case they are merely sentimental out of context. But here goes.

In this passage, Yeshua talks with his mother about Avigail.

Mary says "This has made you miserable. I've seen this before, but never as bad as it is now."

"Is it so bad?" I whispered. I looked away, as men do when they only want to see their thoughts. "I don't know that it's been bad for me, Mother. What is bad for me? To love as I love Avigail--it has a luster, a great and beautiful luster."

She waited.

"There come these moments," I said. "These heartbreaking moments--the moments when we first feel joy and sadness intertwined. Such a discovery that is, when grief becomes sweet. I remember feeling this perhaps for the very first time when we came to this place, all of us together, and I walked up the hill above Nazareth and saw the green grass alive with flowers, the tiniest flowers--so many flowers, and all of it, grass and flowers and trees, moving as if in a great dance. It hurt."

She said nothing.

Finally I looked at her. I touched my chest with my fist lightly. "It hurt," I said. "But it was to be cherished... forever."
She smiled. Again she kissed me, and she leaned on my should as she rose to go. ... I stared at the reddened coals.

"How long, O Lord?" I whispered. How long?

Sweet was the love...

From The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapter 22:

Sweet was that love betwixt our Lord and Mary.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

G.K. Chesterton on a Life of Practical Romance

From Orthodoxy:

"But nearly all people I have ever met in this western society in which I live would agree to the general proposition that we need this life of practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure. We need so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome. We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable."

Transcendent Wonder

Worship is transcendent wonder.

-- Thomas Carlyle

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Song of the Soul and the Bridegroom (XIV-XV)

My Beloved is the mountains,
The solitary wooded valleys,
The strange islands,
The roaring torrents,
The whisper of the amorous gales;

The tranquil night
At the approaches of the dawn,
The silent music,
The murmuring solitude,
The supper which revives, and enkindles love.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

C.S. Lewis on Resurrected Senses

From Transposition:

"How far the life of the risen man will be sensory, we do not know. But I surmise that it will differ from the sensory life we know here, not as emptiness differs from water or water from wine but as a flower differs from a bulb or a cathedral differs from an architect's drawing."

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Song of the Soul and the Bridegroom (IX-XII)


Why, after wounding
This heart, have You not healed it?
And why, after stealing it,
Have You thus abandoned it,
And not carried away the stolen prey?


Quench my troubles,
For no one else can soothe them;
And let my eyes behold You,
For You are their light,
And I will keep them for You alone.


Reveal Your presence,
And let the vision and Your beauty kill me,
Behold the malady
Of love is incurable
Except in Your presence and before Your face.


O crystal well!
Oh that on Your silvered surface
You would mirror forth at once
Those eyes desired
Which are outlined in my heart!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

St. John of the Cross on Finding God within

From one of my new patrons:

"What more do you want, o soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfaction and kingdom -- your beloved whom you desire and seek? Desire him there, adore him there. Do not go in pursuit of him outside yourself. You will only become distracted and you won't find him, or enjoy him more than by seeking him within you."

-- Saint John of the Cross

On Severe Mercy

C.S. Lewis to his friend Sheldon Vanauken:

"I sometimes wonder whether bereavement is not, at bottom, the easiest and least perilous of the ways in which men lose the happiness of youthful love. For I believe it must always be lost in some way: every merely natural love has to be crucified before it can achieve resurrection..."

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Iron of My Eyes (by Gregory David Roberts)

The Iron of My Eyes

Oh my beloved,
After dreaming night when I woke
it was a strange and worrying thing
to find you standing
at the morning's dawn-eyed window
shedding tears,
your face like a flower
the sky has bruised with summer rain.

The last teardrop crossed your lips.
You turned slowly, came into my arms
and sensed my concern,
but your smile and answering kiss
ringing clear,
the sound like water
splashing in an oasis well.

It was not suffering, you said,
nor some fear or hurt that made you weep.
The tears that you shed
as you watched me sleeping came from
rising sheer,
the joy like thunder
trembling in drought's red river bed.

Love-struck happiness broke your heart
you said,
with such sweet pleasure in the breaking
that your very smile,
radiant with soul-fired changes
jewelling tears,
your light like sunrise
gleaming the dew-diamond desert.

It is a mystery to me
how this joy with tearful heartbreak sits,
but if pleasure set your tears free
then break your heart against the iron of my eyes,
and break it there again,
and again,
as often as you like.
I will pick up all the shattered pieces
one by one,
and press them to my lips,
to seal each precious fragment
with adoration's kiss.