Calendar Religion or Religion of the Spirit?

April will be a month of Catholic Holy Days starting with Palm Sunday.  Catholics and Christians everywhere will be planning which Holy Day Services they will be attending, and who will be coming over for Easter Dinner. In my meditation this morning, I pondered about our kind of Calendar Religion. It’s good in some ways, of course, but it does tend to keep people thinking in terms of Religious vs Secular-type divisions in our minds. Like, Sunday is special because it’s Church, but Monday is just my ordinary life again. 

If I think about what Jesus showed us regarding such practices, I see something different. I see Him rebuking those who tried to censure His freedom of the Spirit at every moment, by quoting “the Rules of Religion” at Him. But it was in fact His ordinary life that was the place of many of His greatest miracles and parables. He lived His Spirituality every moment of every day, not just on the Sabbath day.  Why?  Because He was always Awake and Aware of His connection to The Divine!  Attentive and Centered within Himself, He clearly understood that His Union with the Father was a very Present Reality; one that was ever-active, regardless of what the Calendar said. 

He had respect for the proper Services of His Faith, but He was not limited by them.  He participated in Synagogue Services, but He would also wake up early in the morning to go apart by Himself to pray. He wanted no divides between people.  He wanted them to understand Truth from their hearts.  But for that to happen, they would have to wake-up to their actual lives and step out of their automatic conditioned behaviors. Jesus knew that would not be an easy thing for them.  Thanks be to God, He had a plan! 

Jesus did not leave us the New Testament. That came years later, after having been handed down and finally written down, and then after having been filtered through a Greek translation. He did not leave us a Religion of the Calendar. Or a structured Church system.  Jesus did leave us something of much greater value to our eternal destiny.  His Holy Spirit!  When His message was preached everywhere to whomever would listen from their hearts, those people would receive the Holy Spirit. That Free Gift of the Holy Spirit changed their reality! They did wake-up! And their ordinary, everyday lives were transformed from within!

TODAY – I Am Awake to the Presence of God in my Ordinary Life. I am grateful! I am loved! I am blessed!  


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LOVE Divine

1 Corinthians 13 vs 2:If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a Faith that can move mountains, but do not have Love, I am nothing…”

In my experience, there can be no stronger evidence for God having been infused into an incarnate being, through the Holy Spirit, than when one can behold the Love of God – so limitless and blissful – radiating from within the heart of a true devotee of The One we Christians call our Father in Heaven. The verse quoted above from 1st Corinthians says it all; Without Love, neither the supernatural graces of prophecy nor an intellect of exceptional ability, nor even such gifts of Spirit as Faith, Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge would amount to anything without that one supreme Gift that holds all other things together…Love!

Now, Love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul has told us (Romans 5:5). And Love is what motivated the preaching and heroic actions of the Apostles and Saints ever since.  Such is the Love that is still the particular sign – the evidence, if you will – that a new believer in Christ offers as the reason they know they have been called to conversion. To a “change of direction” in one’s course in life.  To a “going into the higher mind”.  A “turning around”. These expressions are the more accurate translations of that word, “conversion”, though most are not aware of its deeper meaning. 

The power of this Divine Infusion of Love is so profound in the life of the spirit that its influence remains long after the experience has faded.  If anything, what was begun as a seed infusion of Love grows ever more transformative over time.  As it grows, it provides the strength needed for the person to be able to turn away from whatever in one’s past was not in accord with this new path that it has been offered.  A Path of Healing, Wholeness and Reconciliation with one’s true Self and with one’s neighbor. 

In my own journey, Love has been the magnetic force emanating from my deepest center that continues to draw all lesser desires, inclinations, and confusion-of-opposites toward itself.  Without that Love, that free, unearned Gift of God, nothing would have convinced me that there was even a reason why I should turn my life around.  It takes such a dynamic force as Love to shine a Light on one’s darkness’s. That silent Light revealed to me that what I thought were my identifying characteristics; my “personality” once upon a time, were really just the cleverly constructed façade of my ego in defense of itself.  It’s “identity”.  The ego fears nothing more than a threat to its identity.  But Love gently and powerfully overcomes all such resistance.  What one needs to do, and to continue to do, is to surrender to it and allow itself to be guided. As Jesus Himself has said, “The Spirit will lead you into all Truth” 

TODAY – I offer this Prayer to All those who are observing this Holy Season of LENT and to All those who are reading this, whatever their present state or Faith Tradition, or lack there-of, that you rest quietly for a few minutes at some point today, mute your phones, silence your devices, and send out a wordless yearning from your heart to the Divine. Invite the Love into your life; your heart, your center of being, your finances, your health, your family relationships, your job situation…. Invite that Love to Come Now! (“Maranatha” Come, LORD; the Christian Mantra of the Benedictine Monk Fr. John Main, if you prefer using a word to anchor your attention) Invite with Faith… Hope… Trust.  And if you feel it.  Or, if you feel so inclined, remain there quietly in silence for another 15 minutes.  Be Still, Open, Receptive, Awaiting,…. May you be richly and abundantly blessed this very day!

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The Sign of Jonas60 by Thomas Merton

read by Bro. Mark

thesignofjonas60.mp3

Posted in Audio Books MP3's, Christian Contemplative Practices, Christian Meditation, Contemplation, Hermits of the Holy Cross, Spirituality & Prayer, Thoughts in Solitude | Leave a comment

The Sign of Jonas59 by Thomas Merton

read by Bro. Mark

thesignofjonas59.mp3

Posted in Audio Books MP3's, Christian Contemplative Practices, Christian Meditation, Contemplation, Hermits of the Holy Cross, Spirituality & Prayer, Thoughts in Solitude | Leave a comment

HOPE – The Perceivable Grace

“Why are you cast down, my Soul.  Why groan within me?  HOPE in God; I will Praise Him still….”                     (PS 43:5)

Yesterday, I spoke of a perceptible emptiness I called, Faith.  Today, it’s all about HOPE. I believe as Christians of this 21st century, we are in dire need of some language revisions to better communicate our spiritual journeys to each other. The language of years passed served the times for which they were intended.  But, unfortunately, those same word choices now carry the baggage of their years, as their meaning seems no longer to establish their original intention in a positive way.  One such word is, Grace.

In my youth, Grace was always one of those words that I had to accept as meaning something I could in no way see, feel, touch, taste or hear, yet it was a very real thing in the spiritual life of all Christians.  I knew I was in a “state of Grace” whenever I went to Confession and did my Penance.  I knew that receiving the Sacraments gave me Grace. I knew because I was taught as much. 

Here I now am as an Adult.  I have seen much failure, disappointment, un-happy endings, illness, deaths and suffered many losses, unforeseen changes, relationship issues, and so on…as have we all.  So, what of Hope, now that all the old definitions have lost their meaning?  It took me a while and several Meditation sessions to comprehend Hope in an entirely new way…as the perceivable Grace.  Why? Because that was the way it kept coming to me.  It wasn’t my idea.  But there it was…

During my time of processing, I again became Aware that, much like we already discovered with Faith, we all have spiritual faculties that can perceive very delicate energies, if we are attuned to them. But we must learn, through our Spiritual Practices and Disciplines, to focus our Attention on these energies, rather than on the more dense energies of our five senses.

What I found was that with HOPE, there IS the perceivable Grace manifesting itself as something like Wonder in the face of what is unknown, unseen and beyond our rational Mind to understand, but, yet, a thing of Certainty.  We KNOW something.  Something greater than what our circumstances are showing us.  When life is upside down and we have exhausted all possibilities to rectify it, it is Faith that first steps into the Void our helplessness leaves us in.  A certain letting go from deep within that we learn to sense, followed by an acceptance of a sort. Nothing in our circumstances or in the world of our 5 senses has changed.  But we Know through a different way of perceiving that we have, in fact, experienced an interior change that is undeniable.  Only then, HOPE is born!  If you think about that moment, you will recognize that actual, dimly perceivable moment when Hope is suddenly there and a new energy to move forward has been activated within.  And you understand that you can Trust that “something”.  That… that Moment of Perceivable GRACE…  HOPE!


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FAITH – A Perceptible Emptiness

FAITH – A Perceptible Emptiness

Speaking now of Faith as one of the three Theological Virtues, and not the faith one has in one’s youthful strength or good health or strong will or financial independence.  Such faith has little to do with God and much to do with one’s erroneous confidence in one’s self and in the all the delights and comforts one has surrounded one’s self with through either one’s own efforts or by inheritance.  No, I am speaking of that Faith which makes itself known when one has come face to face with the Cross of Interior Emptiness and does not flee. 

In our usual ordinary way of thinking, our brain does the work of connecting us with instantaneous solutions to various stages ofdiscomfort, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.  If we are cold, a sweater is at hand that we automatically reach for.  If we are depressed, a pill is at hand to automatically relieve us.  If we are lonesome, facebook fills that void with the touch of a keyboard log-in. We associate these automatic solutions as us just being US…ours…our own…belonging to US. This part of “US” is the domain of the ego which understands that it’swork is to provide satisfaction to the US we believe ourselves to be and to restore our peace as quickly as possible by re-establishing the status-quo. 

Now, if one has been observing the Spiritual Practice of Meditation, a surprisingly new Awareness may have arisen. Between the thought and the action of its resolution, there is this barely noticeable, momentary void.  A Perceivable moment of emptiness.  In the gap of this emptiness, if one be still enough, all things of life and eternity are present. But it is not a presence that our ordinary senses can perceive. On the contrary, this “presence” makes our ordinary senses seek relief and escape, rather than perception. But, this emptiness as “presence” is perceptible to our higher and much more finely-tuned spiritual senses.  It is here where many of us first become aware of our true spiritual poverty. If we do not run from it or end our Meditation session pre-maturely, we are given the valuable opportunity to look into the abyss of our fearful and frightened, ego-identified, false self (sometimes called our lower self). And even just that momentary glimpse can terrify us.  I believe it is the reason why a lot of people do not take up Mediation as a Spiritual Practice.  They fear the stilling of their ever-active, ever over-stimulated thoughts.  They fear they will not know who they are without them as the constant, ready proof that they are alive.

Returning now to the Emptiness….  In the fraction of a second between the thought and its connection to other thoughts or acts, this emptiness is extremely important to note.  If one is self-aware and proceeding toward Christian Maturity, one may then begin to observe that even after one’s Meditation session has ended, there can now be ordinary daily moments when this “gap of emptiness” becomes spiritually perceptible.  As one learns to let go of thoughts more and more even in one’s waking hours, that gap lengthens.  And with years and Grace, one finds one’s home more and more within the gap, rather than distracted from this blessed and sacred emptiness by thoughts of entertainment, the phone or the internet.  What is this spiritually perceptible emptiness?  For me, it is Faith.  Why? Because whenever I have found myself in a crisis – whether health related or other –  and have exhausted all my own best efforts to resolve it to no avail, there It Is…that same perceptible emptiness.  That utter sense of my own helpless-ness whispering terror to my senses. In that very instant, it is Faith alone that tells me to Surrender. To humbly present myself to the Lord knowing my need for His assistance and my dependence upon His Grace.  I know if I can learn the lessons of Faith offered me in Meditation, then I can also learn to understand the value of Faith in practice. And the amazing Grace it offers!  As St. John of the Cross once said, we must “learn to be at home in the darkness”.

Today, with God’s Grace, I will consciously develop the capacity to remain in Faith.  I will not seek to fill in the gaps of the day with frivolous entertainment to distract me from this precious emptiness wherein I shall make my Home.

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The Sign of Jonas58 by Thomas Merton

read by Bro. Mark

thesignofjonas58.mp3

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The Sign of Jonas57 by Thomas Merton

read by Bro. Mark

thsignofjonas57.mp3

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WATER

Earlier this week, I posted a blog about entering into one’s actions consciously, rather than from learned behavior patterns automatically performed from habit; reactive conditioned behaviors proceeding from the ego- portion of our conscious Mind, if you will.  Well, it seems Grace has provided me ample material for Practice in that last night, our Building Management informed us that they would be working on the pipes and plumbing to repair some breakage in the line all day Today.  And that we would have no Water for the entire day as a result. How one can be so ignorant of the extent to which the simple and humble resource of Water is essential to every part of one’s daily life is amazing to me!  The Water has been off since early this morning and already I have gone to the tap at least 15 times. And I am trying to remain Conscious…HA! There has been the pouring of water to take my medications, the water needed to brush my teeth, to wash my breakfast dishes, to make a cup of coffee.  There has been the flushing of the toilet, the washing my face, the rinsing off of food from my hands.  No laundry can be done today.  Water needed in the iron to iron my clothing.  Water to quench my thirst.  I had made it a Practice some time ago never to waste Water, turning off the tap in between teeth brushing and rinsing, etc. But, to be without it altogether….

Beyond my own needs, I thenthought of the people of Southern California, who so often suffer from the lackof rainfall.  I thought of the farmerswho beyond doubt are much more aware of the importance of Water for thesuccessful growth of their crops and harvest than I.  I thought of the thoughtless pollution of ourRivers and Streams which render much of our Water undrinkable. I think you getthe idea.

For Lent today, my opportunityhas been offered me by Grace to accept and make use of this sacrifice of Waterand all it entails.  To ponder thesufferings of others who suffer this regularly as part of their normal lives,as well as my own 24-hour inconvenience,for which I am already repenting my ignorance to Thank God daily for thiswondrous blessing, so easily taken for granted in our modern day and age.

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LENT: A Time To Surrender What Is Most False

“Repent” means “change the direction in which you are looking for happiness.” The call to repentance is the invitation to take stock of our emotional programs for happiness based on instinctual needs and to change them. This is the fundamental program of Lent.”
Thomas Keating, The Mystery of Christ

How am I to enter into Lent? What will my choice/s be?
How to “change the direction in which I am looking for happiness.“?
What shall I give up and of what shall I partake as food
for the journey to resurrected life? **Newsletter from Contemplative Outreach

The late Fr. Thomas Keating did much to assist us in the understanding of our ego-based desire body with all its cravings, and likes and dislike programming. He showed us all that we each have been conditioned from even before our birth, as a result of the prevailing mental and emotional states of our mothers. And after our birth, by our cultural and our societal norms. These learned dispositions were implanted within our sub-conscious minds long before we actually were able to choose our own beliefs and behaviors. And it is from these unconscious patterns that many of us still function. This is what you might hear referred to as EGO-ic Consciousness, or the “false Self”. Our Conscious Mind therefore Re-acts according to these patterns, rather than Choosing-to Act from the Freedom which Our Lord through His sacrifice on the Cross attained for us, and to which we have all been granted access, by His Infinite and Merciful Grace.

Today, with the help of God’s Grace, I choose with care to Act, rather than to Re-act to any and all events and circumstances of this day. I choose to think before speaking, whether it is to comment on the News or to engage the conversation of a Friend. And I choose to be Grateful every time I am consciously aware of the opportunities to practice in this way throughout all the days of Lent, one day at a time…Amen!

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