HOLY, HOLY, HOLY

FR RICHARD ROHR is one of the great inspirations of my life and I’m grateful to my friend Ivon Prefontaine for reminding me recently of Richard’s Daily Meditations.

In a series of Meditations on his “lineage”, whilst planning the opening of a new Living School for Action and Contemplation Fr Richard’s meditation on Sunday read

Orthopraxy in much of Buddhism and Hinduism

Orthopraxy is usually distinguished from orthodoxy. Orthodoxy refers to doctrinal correctness, whereas orthopraxy refers to right practice. What we see in many of the Eastern religions is not an emphasis upon verbal orthodoxy, but instead upon practices and lifestyles that, if you do them (not think about them, but do them), end up changing your consciousness.

This was summed up in the Eighth Core Principle of the Center for Action and Contemplation: We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. I hope that can be a central building block of the Living School.

And – joyfully – today I’ve been chestily croaking ALLELUIA! upon reading today’s thoughts about the witness of art

Unique witness of mythology, poetry, and art

My earliest recordings often included mythological stories, poetry, or art to make the point. Many people are more right-brained learners than left-brained. When you bring in a story, or a poem, or refer to a piece of art, you can see people’s interest triple: “Wow, I’m with you!” Whereas, if you stay on the verbal level all the time, their eyes glaze over, they lose interest, they lose fascination and identification with the message.

I don’t think Western preachers and teachers have really understood the importance of art in general. Until people can “catch” the message with an inner image, it usually does not go deep. We’ve also been afraid of myths that weren’t Christian. In fact, we were afraid of the very word “myth.” We thought it meant something that wasn’t true when, in fact, it’s something that’s always true—if it’s a true myth. This will be a very important substratum of the Living School curriculum.

One of the things I most love and admire about Richard Rohr is his generosity of heart, mind, soul and body. He’s open to seeing the Divine all around us, open to contemplation and to receiving the Wisdom from traditions other – though as he shows us, not always so very “other” – from his own. I love that Fr Richard balances the importance of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy; that he both thinks deeply and feels profoundly. That, it seems to me, is what the call of Jesus Christ – and of other great spiritual masters and teachers – is really all about. As Richard has it, “living ourselves into a new way of thinking”. That’s something all of us can do, all of the time, with or without particular religious frameworks – though many, in the living, will thrive in the kind of religious environment that seeks – as the word religion intends (from Latin religare – “to reconnect, to bind together”) – to bind up the whole.

My friend Mimi is a generous contemplative – Between Night And Day; as is the marvellous Rebecca Koo – Heads or Tails; and Bill Wooten’s – The Present Moment brings a wonderful word from Thomas Merton – and a stunning photo; Francesca Zelnick is as special as her Today’s Special; David Herbert is one of my diocesan friends and I love his latest post (and we share affection for Parker Palmer); and Rachael Elizabeth’s been having a good time doing Christology and incense-sampling ( ! ) in Durham; James Fielden – always showing us “The Way Home” – meditates exquisitely upon Time; Ginny at “Chasing the Perfect Moment” writes about Re-creation; Ria Gandhi has been wondering about who and what’s Beautiful and has flagged up one answer here; Jenni has been Watching the Symphony here.

What are we looking at in all these human “works of art”. What do I see as I reflect upon the colours, upon the wide spectrum that arches over the whole of my life?

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus

Holy, Holy, Holy

Multi-coloured and blessed sanctity – God’s art: whether we’re always aware of it – or not …

ALMOST SPELLING ‘HOLY’

WRITING ABOUT stained glass fragments “blown apart in wars” and haphazardly reassembled later, the priest poet David Scott, in the second stanza of his A Window in Ely Cathedral, tells of

A leering bit of face with twisted lips,
a bit of beard, and letters almost spelling ‘holy’,
a sheaf of corn, a leaf, and then the sun dips,
lighting Mary in her simple glory.

Piecing Together
A Window in Ely Cathedral,

stanza 2 of 3, page 29

In the economy of God there’s something afoot. I can feel it in my bones. The downtrodden, the dispossessed, the shattered, the fragmented and the forgotten, wherever they are in the world, are raising their voices. They cry for the reconciliation, resurrection and restoration of a humane humanity – for people of every race and nation, and of every creed (or lack thereof), or “class”, or colour. Too much has been blown apart by wars and for too long. But days wear on, the sun dips in her course, illuminating that which speaks of life’s real glory, and is thereby truly holy.

This is exciting. This is the stuff of the reign of the Source of all of our lives, to whom we have prayed, and with whom we have yearned, in every time and place, in every political and religious tradition, for so very long. Whether we’re speaking of ordinary Libyans standing up to be counted, intent on “occupying” their own entitlement to a bit of their own space as human beings; whether we’re speaking of Occupy New York, or Occupy London, or occupy-a-space-in-the-queue for fresh air, or clean water, or a bowl of rice, something is most assuredly afoot. The sun dips, lighting Mary in her simple glory, and because at evensong we’re rather quieter than usual we may hear her softly say and pray

he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek

Come Christ-Mass this year the stable and the tent will not be featured only in hand-picked and glossy Christmas cards. Tents and stables are being raised up alongside cathedrals and churches. Tents and stables are being raised up in our dreams and in our slowly-awakening hearts. Here are opportunities to catch real glimpses for the possibilities of life’s glory, opportunities that are thereby truly holy. Some amongst us, nonetheless, will not look any more kindly upon such fragmented opportunities than they would ever have looked upon the teenage mother in the stable of Bethlehem.

But something of and from the divine is afoot. The leering bit of face with twisted lips, a bit of beard, and letters almost spelling ‘holy’, must give way to the sun’s dipping

lighting Mary in her simple glory.

MAXIMILIAN’S BAPTISM

THE FULL HOUSE for the joy-filled Baptism of Maximilian this morning gives me (another) opportunity to head up this post with my very favourite account, by a simply wonderful narrator, of Jesus’ Baptism! But more than that, it’s always such a joy when our House for the Church is full of people come to celebrate the goodness of God and the richness of the gifts we revel in. And there’s no greater gift to a family than that of an infant. Nor, perhaps, any greater responsibility laid upon older shoulders. Bringing infants to Baptism in and into the House of the Lord provides glorious opportunity for all of us to reflect upon the giftedness and gratuitousness of our lives, upon our hopes and our aspirations, what – in co-creating with, and in, and surrounded by God – we want to make of our world, our humanity, our society, our church – for Maximilian, for ourselves, and for God.

“I baptise with water”, said John the Baptist. One who will come after me will baptise with Holy Spirit. And so it came to pass. Today and every day humankind is baptised “new every morning” by the Spirit of Divine Grace and Love. Perhaps that’s why Maximilian and his wonderful parents were smiling so much in our sacramental celebration of the fact this morning. Perhaps that’s why people had travelled from far and wide to celebrate the gift and the treasure. Yes! – wherever and whenever humankind is “baptised” in the Spirit of God we can rest assured that the Source of our Life continues to turn the world upside down. “Whoever has seen (this human) me has seen the Father” said the anointed Jesus to Philip. And this morning he might have said “whoever has seen Maximilian has seen the Father”. What a joy, what a commission, what a responsibility – this living of the Life and Love of God in and through each one of us, dear created people.

DIVINE PARENT,
Mother and Father, Sister and Brother of us all,
in company with Jesus,
in the power of your Spirit,
with prophets, priests and royal leaders,
and with every woman, man and child
upon the face of the earth,
we bless you for the gift of life and of abundance.
And as we bless you we also ask
your blessing for ourselves that we may be
inspired, strengthened and encouraged daily
to share that life and that abundance
throughout the world.

WHAT’S IT (SAYING) TO ME?

click photo to enlarge

I’VE BEEN PONDERING the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I don’t want to let it go again just yet, don’t want simply to consign it to next January, Sunday’s having come and gone, and having made a happy visit to “someone else’s church”, because the question, the important question that such a week begs is to do with what kind of “life in all its fullness” do we think we’re looking for? What might the Divine will for unity be? What’s the ‘theme for 2011’ really asking us to see? –

One in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. Acts 2 : 42-47

– what kind of teaching were the apostles one in? What kind of fellowship? What’s the breaking of bread about? What kind of prayer? Why does anybody care? What has any of this got to say to me, about me? Because it must be first about something that matters to, that speaks to me, before I can hope to know, to feel in another human soul, any kind of real unity. And yet I do know and I do feel real unity between me and many another human person who calls me beyond my “I” to a life-enhancing “We”. And not all of them by a long chalk walk the spiritual paths that the Church would always recognise as Christianity.

And I’m becoming more and more sure that a great deal of that knowing and a great deal of that feeling emanates from my quietly growing ability to “let it be”. The repenting, the metanoia, the turning around to look at life – and at this and that – from a different angle keeps confronting me with “let it be”.

The apostles’ teaching encourages us to follow in The Way of Jesus whose life was an essay in being free from anxious thought about anything. “Behold the birds of the air and the lilies of the field which neither reap nor spin, yet your heavenly Father cares for them”. The fellowship the apostles shared arose from their attendance at the same school of life. The bread they broke and shared spoke of hospitality given and received by a whole humankind that simply wouldn’t be alive without it! And then there was the poetry of their prayer. That which lay within them, “in there”, that every human being on earth is – one might almost say – pre-programmed to need to share. For ever and ever Amen. Even unto martyrdom if necessary.

Where’s our unity? How shall we love God and one another more beautifully? Over thirty years ago Brother Roger Schütz of Taizé and many hundreds of young pilgrims from every part of the globe sowed a seed that’s still alive in me. A seed that has flourished and been nurtured and watered through years of ensuing worship. And the gentle breeze of the Spirit that now wafts through her leaves and branches whispers “let it be” … that’s how you’ll come to know life in all its fullness, that’s where you’ll find your real self … “let it be” … that’s where you’ll find real unity.

What was it that Rachel Mann was “saying” to me over the weekend? And Giles Fraser, too:

I WONDER what it might be like for us religious types to let go of our need to matter, and to embrace our irrelevance. I suspect that we might be more relaxed and a little more attractive. – Rachel Mann

Forget church politics. The wilderness – even an ecumenical one – is an opportunity to discover what is most important: to search out the source of life, and to share that life with others. This is what all baptised Christians are called to do. – Giles Fraser

What might the Divine will for unity be? What’s the ‘theme for 2011’ really asking us to see? And what’s any of it saying to, what’s any of it got to do with me? And (in this year of the AV) with thee?

A SUPREME WONDER …

Remember, the supreme wonder of the Christian Church is that always in the moments when it has seemed most dead, out of its own body there has sprung up new life; so that in age after age it has renewed itself, and age after age by its renewal has carried the world forward into new stages of progress, as it will do for us in our day, if only we give ourselves in devotion to its Lord and take our place in its service.

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1942–44
Christian Faith and Life, SCM, 1963, p133

IT’S NOT JUST OUR HEATED DEBATES about who’s really to be described as Anglican (or just plain “Christian”) and who’s not;

not just our perpetual concerns with the nature of authority, autonomy, belonging and vocation;

not just the abiding (too often dehumanising) circular debates about human sexuality;

not just the alarming trends in favour of Biblical fundamentalism;

not just a tendency towards saccharine ‘makes me feel good’ offerings of “Worship” or “Praise”;

not just our constantly looking over our shoulders and wondering what other Christian denominations are thinking of us;

not just the disagreeableness of those who set themselves up to judge “who’s in and who’s out”;

not just my hunch that the fiercely defended (but non-too-willingly paid for) porticoes of our man-made temples may well fall down and crush us;

not just my gnawing shame about our abiding care-less-ness – whether through unjust sharing of basic resources or too great a complacency in the face of present day warfare;

not just my constantly wondering “where the funds are going to come from”, that are of enormous concern to me at this moment in English Church history:

Of greater concern by far is the sense I have, too frequently, that the public accounting of our religious institutions barely remembers Almighty God, barely asks what Jesus would have to say to, or about, any or all of the above.

So I’m grateful to a great Archbishop I’ve only ever read about. I’m grateful to Archbishop William Temple who called the Church to pay attention to a supreme wonder in her own midst and of her own self: the “Body of Christ”, our only hope, and the best, the Lord of Heaven and Earth.

May our “Covenant” with the Life of Almighty God in every man, woman and child upon earth, of every shade and hue of faith and none, be renewed. Jesus advocated nothing less. May we approach the things of God – and his beloved humankind perhaps especially – with a renewed and deeper humility, may we at least try to embrace any and all our present-day “outcasts” remembering that “we’re no longer strangers but pilgrims”, moved to gratitude because

age after age by its renewal [the Church] has carried the world forward into new stages of progress, as it will do for us in our day, if only we give ourselves in devotion to its Lord and take our place in its service.