Saturday, October 29, 2016

Holiness is visible

Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way: A Poem
by Mary Oliver

If you're John Muir you want trees to
live among. If you're Emily, a garden
will do.
Try to find the right place for yourself.
If you can't find it, at least dream of it. 
When one is alone and lonely, the body
gladly lingers in the wind or the rain,
or splashes into the cold river, or
pushes through the ice-crusted snow. 
Anything that touches. 
God, or the gods, are invisible, quite
understandable. But holiness is visible,
entirely. 
Some words will never leave God's mouth,
no matter how hard you listen. 
In all the works of Beethoven, you will
not find a single lie.
All important ideas must include the trees,
the mountains, and the rivers. 
To understand many things you must reach out
of your own condition. 
For how many years did I wander slowly
through the forest. What wonder and
glory I would have missed had I ever been
in a hurry!
Beauty can both shout and whisper, and still
it explains nothing. 
The point is, you're you, and that's for keeps.

This poem is excerpted with permission from Mary Oliver's latest collection of poetry, Felicity, published by Penguin Press in October, 2015.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Remembering Uncle Dan


Daniel Berrigan Memorial
September 30, 2016
St. Thomas More Parish, Kalamazoo
Jerry Berrigan

https://radicaldiscipleship.net/2016/10/18/remembering-his-uncle/

"Uncle Dan was a priest.  He left home at the age of 13 to join the Jesuits, was ordained with his class, and is now buried in a Jesuit cemetery in Auriesville, NY.  He told someone once that in walking the streets of New York the faces of passersby were as the beads of the Rosary to him, a prayer for each one, a moment to ponder the mysteries each person bore, sorrowful and joyful and glorious mysteries.

"All life is sacred, he believed, because life is created by God.  Humanity, this marvelous, fascinating tapestry of similarity and difference.  If life is threatened or taken by human design, if people are robbed of their dignity, this becomes a major problem for Uncle Dan.  His basic theology was that all Christians will try to protect the weak and work for justice and oppose war. ...
"He remained a priest.  I have felt the presence of God, on occasion.  He lived and breathed with God and reported back to the rest of us.  His words, and the congruence between his words and his deeds, rang true to many of us, and there was great beauty in what he said, and so we were brought along, headlong into traffic and other dangerous situations.
"He believed it, he lived it, God was real to him, the stories in the Book were real to him.  The Bible was a work of drama to him in that it was a script for actors.  We are to practice incarnation, which means to make the word flesh.  We are to live it.  If we do, it is alive and real.  If we don’t, it dies among so many hollow words and empty rituals."

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

the question that nobody knows how to answer

Thomas Merton
Drawing of a Cross
Pen and pencil, ca. 1949-1953
(from an exhibit at Columbia University in 2015, photo by Jim Forest)

God, my God, God Whom I meet in darkness,
with You it is always the same thing!
Always the same question that nobody knows how to answer!

- Thomas Merton, "Fire Watch", The Sign of  Jonas

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Your Darkness (no-man's land)

King Minos, Thomas Merton art

But oh!
How far I have to go to find You in Whom I have already arrived!
For now, oh my God, it is to You alone that I can talk,
because nobody else will understand.
I cannot bring any other on this earth
into the cloud where I dwell in Your light,
that is,
Your Darkness,
where I am lost and abashed.

I cannot explain to any other
the anguish which is Your joy
nor the loss which is the possession of You,
nor the distance from all things
which is the arrival in You.
nor the death which is the birth in You
because I do not know anything about it myself
and all I know
is that I wish it were over
-- I wish it were begun.

You have contradicted everything.
You have left me in no man's land.

- Thomas Merton
Dancing in the Water of Life, page 175, excerpted

Friday, October 14, 2016

who (contemplation is no pain-killer)

Thomas Merton's edited copy of his Seeds of Contemplation book, photo by Jim Forest from an exhibit at Columbia University in 2015


contemplation is not trance or ecstasy
not emotional fire and sweetness that come with religious exaltation
not enthusiasm, not the sense of being "seized" by an elemental force
and swept into liberation by mystical frenzy.
contemplation is no pain-killer.

In the end the contemplative suffers the anguish of realizing
that he no longer knows what God is;
this is a great gain,
because "God is not a what,"
not a "thing."

There is "no such thing" as God
because God is neither a "what" or a "thing"
but a pure "Who,"
the "Thou" before whom our inmost "I" springs
into awareness.

-Thomas Merton
New Seed of Contemplation, pages 10-13, excerpted

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