Advent Manna 3: Being Virgin

Advent Manna – Short Takes on the Themes of Advent

Being Virgin

“A virgin is someone who is free of all false images and is detached toward God’s dearest wish and ready to fulfill it unceasingly, as was Jesus.” Meister Eckhart

Virgin comes from Latin and means, literally, slender branch, twig or shoot. The original sense of the word is a person who is one in him or herself. Such an individual is free from possession and possessiveness and capable of the total giving of self, body, as well as soul. The virgin aspect is that which is unpenetrated and unowned by humanity. It does not need to be validated or approved by anyone to know its own innate worth.

Virgin carries much of the same intent as the word holy, which means set apart, the temple. The Parthenon (literally the virgin’s place) was the temple to Athena on the acropolis in Athens. In the New Testament virgin is used to depict the host of the redeemed in Revelation and to refer to the church as the bride of Christ. But by far the most frequent use of the word virgin is in the Bible’s figurative description of cities, nations, and communities. We often find virgin daughter as an expression for Jerusalem.

The virgin is one who can hear and believe the anguished truth of a violated and profaned creation. The virgin does not indulge in denial or false hope. She has no illusions about the extent of the horror and suffering we inflict on one another and the earth.

For the virgin knows that it is not our empathy that heals, not our outrage that heals, not our grief that heals. It is our faith – our trust in the power of Goodness to prevail over darkness. The virgin does not respond to suffering and sin out of her own anxiety, fear and wounds, but rather out of her repose, her absolute serene trust in the one she carries in her womb and continuously delivers into the world. Such, as she, are the healers among us.

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My small daughter, playing with the holy family in the wooden stable sings her lullaby:  Round yon urgent mother and child, holy infant so tender and wild.

This mother, more urgent than virgin, smiles: Yes, indeed,  Holy Infant tender and wild, you are so wild, so undomesticated, so radically other than anything known and familiar. No matter how hard we coax, you will not eat out of our hands, but remain out in the timber hidden in the brush. We set out bait, offerings on the snow. Cowboy theologians toss ropes into the forest and lasso decoys. And rough-rider ecclesiastics try to corral you in sedate doctrines.

The virgin daughter of Jerusalem sings at the gate. In the dark we lay a trail of bread crumbs to our door. We wait, stilled, hushed. Come, Lord Jesus.

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered  violence and the violent take it by force. Matthew 11:12

But who can stand when you appear? The earth shudders, mountains topple, creatures shiver with fear. Shots ring out in the forest. Innocence awakens and moves toward us, and the rough hand grasps for its lost treasure.

 

The virgin daughter of Jerusalem stands on the path  and suddenly she is falling, falling into the blue sea and into the wide sky, falling through pain and fear and despair, falling faster and faster, picking up speed, plummeting like a stone, falling through a tunnel formed at the intersection of the cross hairs in the telescopic sight aimed at redemption where opposites meet and all things come together.

She is whizzing down the tunnel like a child’s slide, sleek and silent, silver in the sun, falling free. And the Realm of God does not suffer violence, and she is not taken by force and the two, who have been made for each other, delight to have found ground holy enough to hold each other’s purity, ground strong enough to bear each other’s pain. And in her joy she funnels greatness from the wideness of her hope down the narrow passage of her being into us.

So now I pray for passionate virgins who have died for love and dwell beyond the clutch and fever of desire. I pray for eccentric virgins who live on the outskirts of propriety, raise geese, and talk to trees. I pray for violated virgins and their re-consecration. I pray for virgins who find the courage to reject the lie that eats away their souls and whispers that what happened never happened and leads them down a winding path of mirages and fun house mirrors that mock Truth.

I pray for virgins who know they are only as holy as they are willing to see how horribly they have been profaned, and how horribly they profane. I pray for priestly virgins who preside at their own sacraments, who ordain themselves to Love, who anoint and purify, who refuse to bypass pain, but in their surrender to it and annihilation fall into the center of their humility to sit enthroned in the trust of total repose and divine indifference from which all healing flows.

I pray for virgins, calm and pure, who stable holiness, and for virgins, safe and gentle and true enough to conceive the Immaculate Tenderness without doing it violence. I pray for undomesticated virgins, unpenetrated by conventional values, virgins unconfined by reason and impervious to the demands of privileged authority.

I pray for revolutionary virgins, who despise the shame, and take up the suffering for the joy that awaits. I pray for virgins whose land, enclosed by strength, is untouched and guarded by a flaming sword. I pray for virgins, who with unveiled eyes gaze unflinchingly at evil and at God and live to tell the tale. I pray for virgin martyrs, who are witnesses with the conviction to believe their own eyes. I pray for chaste, intrepid, impeccable virgins, incapable of doubt.

 

I pray for virgins who apply themselves to prayer until their souls become clear, focused lenses through which we spy, enlarged for us, the intricate dazzling structures of divinity. And God, hidden in the forest, is magnified by them; and glory sprints across the clearing kicking up a cloud of blessing.

I pray for virgins who are not afraid of greatness, neither the greatness of themselves, nor the greatness of God. And I pray for a virgin with a heart which dilates. A bold virgin, who when she has grown as big as she can be, when she has come to the outer reaches of the limits of her being and all that she thinks and knows and hums to herself, will give up encompassing Plentitude. I pray for a virgin who becomes Emptiness, who will let go of her edges, the taut boundaries that separate this from that, and flinging herself like crumbs in a fragrant trail from what was once her heart to the forest will say:

Let it be to me according to your word.

And the shy, tender God takes the bait. And she and holiness are won. And their child tumbles, wet and wild, into the wounded world to heal us with his stripes.

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Advent Manna are short pieces taken from my writing over the years on the themes of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. This post is an edited excerpt from my book, Letters from the Holy Ground – Seeing God Where You Are, Sheed & Ward, 2000. Chapter 10 “Urgent Mother and Child – Holy Indifference and the Repose of the Virgin,” p 39. It may be a challenging piece for some readers. I wrote it over 25 years ago following a workshop I led in New York state. The workshop topic was the spiritual aspects of recovery from sexual abuse and violence. After the presentation I was taken to the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception and guided to a small chapel. There I knelt before a larger than life bronze statue of the Virgin Mother, which embodied, both all pervading compassion, and perfect repose. Before her I felt all the pain of the women, whose stories I had heard at the workshop, drawn out of me and healed.
By the way, this piece could easily be adapted for several voices and used as a readers’ drama for worship. I can als0 hear music behind it…and slides of various artists’ depiction of the annunciation. Get creative!

 

Holy Ground – Quarterly Reflection on the Contemplative Life. See the summer issue here: Summer 2018 Holy Ground x

 

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Advent Manna 2: On Mute

Advent Manna – Short Takes on the Themes of Advent

Being Silent

The most beautiful thing a person can say about God would be for that person to remain silent from the wisdom of an inner wealth. So, be silent and quit flapping your gums about God.  – Meister Eckhart (1260-1329) translation by Matthew Fox.

 

You have to get past the miraculous son of Zechariah to get inside. The tall, gaunt figure looks down on you from his hollow eyes as you enter  St. John’s Abbey Church in Collegeville, Mn. Lean, muscular, and Spirit-haunted, the Baptizer brandishes a cross and is scary as all get out. He gestures with a gnarled hand toward the Baptismal Font.

John Baptist 4

If you think you are coming in here, wash up first. Repent!
Go under the flood. Die before you die.

The old priest, John’s father, did not believe the angel who showed up when Zechariah entered the Holy of Holies to burn the incense. The lot had fallen to him to step into the place so sacred that one might easily be consumed by the Furnace of Love. Gabriel’s wings fanned the smoke. His voice penetrated the old man’s mind, that rickety cupboard, where he kept jars of truth, possibility, impossibility,  reason, and a near empty cruse of hope.

“How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

His barren, wizened, Elizabeth have a child? The priest quibbled, doubted, split hairs, as those trained as religious professionals often do.

So Gabriel tied his tongue to the floor of his mouth and sewed his lips shut. This fellow could not be trusted with the truth of God. Hard to say how he might mess up the whole plan of salvation.

Messengers from God often do this to the people they visit. They press the mute button and enforce silence for a while.

Six months after Elizabeth conceives, Gabriel makes an announcement even more incredible to Mary. She asks one question, then tells Gabriel okay, whatever you say. I am God’s servant. Pondering the angel’s words, she holds her tongue, and departs to speak with her old cousin, Elizabeth. Joseph is left to get the news on his own through a dream. Mary remains with her cousin for three months in the hill country of Judah.

Advent invites us to withdraw and close the door on distractions and doubts. Will you allow yourself to be bound by silence? This ability to tie up all the strife, hunger, gossip, and turbulence, and keep one’s mouth shut is required of servants of God. One needs to allow ideas, projects, and seeds of new growth incubate and ripen. Talk may dissipate the necessary accumulation of energy and unconscious incubation to bring actions to maturity and achieve God’s fullest purpose and intent for our lives and work.

One must be discerning about to whom and when to speak of the visions we see, the words we hear, and what grows within us in order to protect both ourselves and the promise within us from exposure to threats to its development.

Do you have a bright idea or a promise developing within you?
Don’t prematurely tweet your transformation.

There will be plenty of time to raise a ruckus after the truth gets out, as old Zechariah soon found, when the Holy Spirit opened his mouth and he burst into song for his son:

… and you, child, will be called the prophet
of the Most High;
for you go before the Lord to prepare his way
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
through the tender mercy of our God,
when the day shall dawn upon us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet in the way of peace. Luke 1: 67-7

John Baptist 5

 

 

 

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Advent Manna are short pieces taken from my writing over the years on the themes of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. This essay about Zechariah and John the Baptist was previously posted in 2015.

It has been a while since I have written here. I have been busy moving from Kansas, where I have lived for 37 years to Iowa City, Iowa. It has been a time of challenge and transformation for me. I will continue to  do the Sanctuary ministry from my new location. I  am offering spiritual guidance, teaching, leading retreats, and will continue to publish Holy Ground – Quarterly Reflection on the Contemplative Life. See the summer issue below.

Summer 2018 Holy Ground x

Subscribe to Holy Ground here. And it it makes a great Christmas gift for a friend!

 

Advent Manna

Advent Manna – Short Takes on the Themes of Advent

Waiting

Excerpt from Adventually – A Readers Drama for six voices

shepherds 001blue

ONE:  Once I dreamed I was in an earthquake.  The floor shook and heaved and the walls crumbled and fell.  Next I rode in the back of a truck along the street of a bombed out city.  Enemy soldiers rode behind the truck.  Buildings lay in ruins, all was destroyed.  It was end-time, apocalypse, and I mourned for my unborn children.

ALL:  (building in intensity and volume)  For nation will wise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places … and brother will deliver up brother to death;  and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death … and alas for those who are with child in those days and for those who give suck in those days. Pray that it will not happen in winter. Mark 13

FIVE:  What does it take for us to see the messiah when the messiah comes?

FOUR:  No less than the total annihilation of all the familiar structures, and the comfortable and comforting ways of perceiving and describing reality that we have erected.

TWO:  Christ rents in two the shabby curtain of illusion we have draped over our lives on which we hang our hopes and justification.

ALL:  Our souls must become a desolate war zone where all we have worshiped, idolized, knelt before, and coveted is laid waste; where the enemy looms before us and we clearly see our own capacity for death, for evil, and for sin.

THREE:  Then naked, stripped of our roles and illusions, we come before the altar to wait in disciplined obedience.  Now, we know that to wait is a constant stream of yes’s in a drought of debilitating no’s

FOUR:  that to wait is an heroic willingness to martyr, to witness, to be one who has seen the living God, the risen Christ, and is therefore, forever possessed by hope.

FIVE:  The waiter is a fool, a clown, a nerd, a jerk, a cock-eyed optimist who sees Christ in the eyes of the outcast

SIX:  who finds beauty in the squalor of a city ghetto

ONE:  who forgives the murderer and the rapist

TWO:  who prays for enemies

THREE:  who passes out second chances freely

FOUR:  who never stops forgiving

SIX:  who suspects that people are plotting to make him happy

FIVE:  who thinks she makes a difference

ONE:  who even believes, most absurd of all, that the Holy One of Israel who made the seas and piled up the mountains

ALL:  loved us so much

FIVE:  that the Source of all goodness and truth shrunk across the universes of time and space

TWO:  and the massive distance, the infinite stretch between the Divine and humankind

SIX:  to cling to a young girl’s womb and slowly grow arms and legs and kick and roll and suck its thumb as she strode the rocky paths of Nazareth.

TWO:  Not like a Jupiter, who in disguise, would come to visit mortals and test their loyalty and reward and punish according to his haughty whim, this God risked everything.

FIVE:  The All-Powerful became a vulnerable babe of simple country parents.

THREE:  The All-Knowing put on the distorted, nearsighted vision of the human cornea. Like a horse wearing blinders, the All-Loving accepted the constraining harness of mortality, and bearing the stinging whip, carried the whole wide creation on his broad back.

ONE:  Sooner or later our eyes are opened and then we see who really waits.

FOUR:  Who are the big time, professional waiters, the high in the art of waiting ones…. the poor, the afflicted, the despised:

ONE, TWO  (chanting softly and repeating under the lines of THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX):  I was hungry and you gave me food.  I was thirsty and you gave me drink.  I was naked and you clothed me.  I was sick and you visited me.  I was in prison and you came to me.

SIX:  in crowded welfare offices

FOUR:  in stuffy medical clinics

FIVE:  in refugee camps

THREE:  in lines in the rain for a bowl of rice

SIX:  in gutters

FOUR:  in abandoned houses

FIVE:  in lonely bedrooms

THREE:  on death rows

FOUR:  in greasy diners

FIVE:  in nursing homes

SIX: in hospitals

THREE:  in employment offices

(ONE and TWO stop chanting)

ALL:  These are the homeless, the lost, the lepers; and they wait for us to discover that it is they for whom we have been waiting.

FOUR:  That it is they in whom Christ waits for us

FOUR, SIX:  That it is they who bear the babe whom we are called to deliver that we may be redeemed

FOUR, SIX, ONE, THREE:  that we may know that it is God who has been waiting for us all along.

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Advent Manna are short pieces taken from my writing over the years on the themes of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Some of these pieces are available to purchase on line. This piece is an excerpt from a readers drama for advent I wrote a number of years ago. You can find it  HERE

It has been a while since I have written here. I have been busy moving from Kansas, where I have lived for 37 years to Iowa City, Iowa. It has been a time of challenge and transformation for me. I will continue to  do the Sanctuary ministry from my new location. I  am offering spiritual guidance, teaching, leading retreats, and will continue to publish Holy Ground – Quarterly Reflection on the Contemplative Life. See the summer issue below.

Summer 2018 Holy Ground x

Subscribe to Holy Ground here. And it it makes a great Christmas gift for a friend!

 

 

 

 

Living in the Presence

St._Jude_Thaddaeus_Bicci_di_Lorenzo_OPA_FlorenceWhen he is here, I see holiness. I tell you something different goes on between him and the Lord God. Sometimes I get to thinking that if the light was right, I might get a glimpse of God right beside him. They is that close, that familiar.  
                                                    Thaddaeus, Is It I, Lord?, Loretta F. Ross
Living in conscious awareness of the presence of God dramatically changes us and how we see and respond to the world around us. This issue of Holy Ground explores the experience of God’s presence.
There is a profound difference between our words, concepts, theologies about God and our experience of God. For some people our language about God and our denominational theological systems and beliefs create barriers to their experience and encounter with the Holy One.
God is an event of communion. Richard Rohr

Help Us Tell Our Story 

Do you have a story about how  The Sanctuary has made a difference in your life? Maybe you are a long time subscriber of Holy Ground, or came for spiritual guidance. You might have participated in a retreat or workshop. Did you read some of our publications or blog? Perhaps, you join us on Friday mornings for silence. The Sanctuary has been tending souls for nearly thirty years and we have crossed paths with many people.
Would you send us three or four sentences about why you support this ministry with your prayers, your gifts, or your presence? We would like to share your experience of The Sanctuary with others. You may also include any suggestions you have or what you would like to see us offer.
If you prefer that your name not be used, just let us know and we will leave it off anything we publish. Comment below, or  Email  us  
or  info@fromholyground.org
And thanks for making your story part of our story!
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The contemplative who can stand back from a situation and see it for what it is, is more threatening to an unjust social system than the frenzied  activist who is so involved in the situation that he cannot see clearly at all.  –  Karl Barth
“The Sanctuary reaches out to help people stand back and see the immensity, depth, and richness of faith.”                                                                  
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Contemporary Spirituality of Kansas City Upcoming Events
Wisdom Teachings for Spiritual Seekers
  May 5, 2018
 
Rethinking
Communion and Community
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Country Club Christian Church

 6101 Ward Parkway,  

Kansas City, MO 64113


July 20-21, 2018
 
Christianity as Planetary Faith: 
Engaging Teilhard’s Vision
 
Friday, July 20, 2018 – Saturday, July 21, 2018
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. & 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (lunch included)
Bishop Miege High School
5041 Reinhardt Drive
Roeland Park, KS 66205
To register and learn more: Eventbrite
or contact: Mike Matteuzzi at 913-253-2510  

PESACH – PASSAGE, 2

Pesach – Passage,  No. 2

This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. All who are hungry, come and eat! All in need, come and join in celebrating Pesach!
This year we are here, next year we will be in the land of Israel!
This year we are slaves, next year we will be free men!
                                                – Haggadah, Gerald Garouste, Marc-Alain Ouaknin

The night we celebrated Pesach –
what did he say, what did he mean
“leaving”
and that we knew the way to where he was going?

I was trying to work it
out when another sea split open
not waters humping up like steel cliffs
but a great scythe slashing
through the middle of everything
and him falling, tumbling down into the rift

a passage
where there had been none before
death leering from either side.

I heard the soldiers coming,
swords clanking, down the path.
My lungs burned in the acrid air
eyes stung to see flames
draped from clouds in smoky sheets.

And while they dragged him off
blood blossomed
over the vast lintel and door posts
of the writhing world
and ran down quietly
like tears.

 

 

 

 

 

This is a slightly altered poem from an earlier series of lenten poems I wrote called, Love in Small Doses.  Pesach, or Pasach, also spelled Pascha  is Hebrew for Passover or passage. The verbal form means to protect and to have compassion as well as pass over. Exodus 12 -14; John 14-19

PESACH – PASSAGE, 1

Pesach – Passage,  1

This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. All who are hungry, come and eat! All in need, come and join in celebrating Pesach!
This year we are here, next year we will be in the land of Israel!
This year we are slaves, next year we will be free men!
                                                – Haggadah, Gerald Garouste, Marc-Alain Ouaknin

After we were passed over
we passed over.

When the waters split
drew back
a shimmering wall rose
seething strength, waves
smacking, spitting above us.

Some of us hesitated –
to weigh the odds
consider and debate.
Was it more magic?
Who was this son of Abraham
with his stave of almond wood?

Crippled from scrabbling straw in the fields
mixing mortar for the man
meeting his cruel quotas
we dawdled on the shore.

Others, children, especially, ran out
skipping over the coral
through the sea grass
past the shipwrecks
and green turtles
raising their mottled beaks, amazed.

We heard hooves pounding,
shouts, thunder of chariot wheels.
Death before, death behind.
Better to drown
than die by the hands of those bastards.

The kids, though,
did not flinch,
tossing up fistfuls of sand,
diamonds in the sun,
playing on the seabed
like shrimp.

We hobbled over,
leaning on each other,
fearful, fretting.
Seems when a soul is crushed
it takes a long time to rinse out the slave.

Though at Pesach, when we gathered,
it would all come back.
We would shake off another chain
see more clearly, sip
liberty like wine.

 

Mural from American Visionary Arts Museum, Baltimore, MD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a slightly altered poem from an earlier series of lenten poems I wrote called, Love in Small Doses.  Pesach, or Pasach, also spelled Pascha  is Hebrew for Passover or passage. The verbal form means to protect and to have compassion as well as pass over. Exodus 12 -14; John 14-19

The Profligate Daughter

“Truly I tell you, wherever, this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” Matthew 26: 13

We remember
how you ran through the streets of Bethany
clutching the precious flask under your shawl
dodging merchants, beggars
searching for the house of Simon
peering in dim doorways
hurrying to be back in time for supperhow with bold extravagance you broke the flask

and poured the fragrant oil on the One at table
and then were gone
while the oil ran like hot tears

from his brow
down his cheeks
dripping onto shoulders
soon to be soaked in the whip’s bloody lather.

And truly, where the gospel is preached,
women remember you
in acts of reckless outpouring love –
the egg money, hoarded over months for a new sofa,
handed to a daughter on a spring afternoon
for a prom dress
cakes and pies and holiday meals prepared for long into the night
visits to the sick and shut-ins on days off
patient listening to the tales of children
hours of rocking, holding, folding,
smoothing, soothing, embracing, forgiving,
breaking open the alabaster walls of self
and pouring love onto love
in the name of Love.
We remember,

blessed by your daring waste
of a Love which knows no scarcities.

 

 

“In the twilight of life, God will not judge us on our earthly possessions and human successes, but on how well we have loved.”
― San Juan de la Cruz