Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Part 1: What Was The First Sight He Saw?

What was the first sight St. Paul saw after Ananias laid hands on him and healed him?

What was the first sight the Christ saw, coming into the world?

What did the three Hebrew children see in the fiery furnace?

I will write more in Part 2...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pt. 7 HYMNS OF DIVINE LOVE by St. Symeon the New Theologian

"'But I speak of My friends and those I know
who are My sons.
It is of their actions. What are they?
Write briefly:
To consider themselves poorer than all men in the world...
to consider as a loss of eternal life
a small infraction of one of the least commandments.
To treat little children as adults
and to show reverence to them
as though they were among the very famous.
To show also honor to the blind
by thinking that I from on high see the actions of all men
and to do likewise on My behalf...
Do not harbor anything at all in your heart against anyone,
even if it be a simple emotion or the least suspicion.
Pray with all your soul in time of suffering in your heart,
with compassion for all who sin against you,
equally as for those who boldly would do the same against Me.
With tears implore their conversion,
at the same time bless them who curse you
and praise those who with jealousy constantly criticize you.
Consider your benefactors those who wish ill of you...'


Behold, my strength has left me.
I am nearing, O Savior, old age, nearing the portal of Death....
Do not give room against me to my cunning enemy,
who at each moment covers me with threats,
roaring against me, grinding his teeth
and who says to me:
'Where is the source of your confidence?
How do you hope to escape my hands
under the pretext that you leave me to run to Christ
and that you just now despise my commands?
But you will not at all escape, for where then would you run to?
Never will you be able completely to escape me,
for I have chased Adam and Eve from Paradise
and I made Cain an assasin of his brother.
It was I who, ever since the Deluge, have made
all men fall miserably into error and terrible death
who were completely seduced by my tricks.
It was I who led David astray into adultery and murder,
I who have waged a war against all the Saints
and I have caused many of them to die--
then you--how will you escape from me!
How can you have courage and hope, completely weak as you are?'
Hearing these words, O my Master and God and Creator,
my Maker and Judge, You having power over my soul and body
since You fashioned both of them,
I am afraid and completely tremble,
I shake all over, O unfortunate one.
The deceitful one suggest to me, saying, O my Christ, these words:
'Look, you do not keep the vigils,
you do not fast, look, you are not a man of prayer.
You do not do the prostrations.
You do not perform the labors as formerly you did,
and it is for these reasons alone that I will separate you from Christ
and I will send you into the inextinguishable fire!'
You know, O Master, I never trusted in my works or deeds for my salvation.
But it was only in Your mercy, O Lover of mankind, that I sought refuge,
having confidence that You will save me gratuitously, O all-Merciful One.
And You will have mercy on me who are God
as once You did show mercy on the adulterous woman
and as you showed mercy to the prodigal son
who confessed, 'I have sinned.'
In such faith, I have recourse, in such confidence,
I have come, in this hope, O Master, I approach you...
...Do not, O King, O Lord, allow him
You who once rescued me from the darkness, from the hands and the jaws
of that evil one, when You placed me free in Your light.
For seeing You, I am wounded deeply within my heart,
I am unable to look on You,
but I am incapable of not looking on You.
Your beauty is inaccessible; Your splendor not inimitable,
Your glory incomparable,
and whosoever has ever seen You
or whoever could see You completely, You, My God?
Whose eye indeed has the power to contemplate the All?
But He who is above the All, what mind could grasp Him,
be able to comprehend or render himself totally equal to His totality
and contemplate Him who holds together all things,
who is outside everything and fills the All and everything
and is found in an ineffable way always completely outside?
I see You especially as a sun;
I look on You as a star,
and I carry You within my breast like a pearl.
I see You also as a lamp, lighted, inside a lantern.
But because You do not grow, because You do not make me completely light
and You do not completely show Yourself,
such as You are and great as You are,
I do no seem to possess You completely, You, my life,
but I groan as one fallen from riches into poverty
and from glory into ignominity, stripped of any hope.
Thus seeing this, the enemy says to me:
'You are not saved, for behold, you are in check,
and have lost all hope because you no longer have as before
any confidence with God.'
To him I do not reply anything;
I do not honor him with an answer, O my God,
but I breathe over him and at once he disappears.
Thus I beg of You, O Master, thus I call upon You.
Give me Your mercy so that, my Savior, then, when my soul will depart from this body,
I may have the strength with a single breath to cover with confusion
all those wishing to attack me."

Pt. 6 HYMNS OF DIVINE LOVE by St. Symeon the New Theologian

"Consider then carefully about what kind of light I am speaking to you.
I do not mean the light even of faith nor that of works,
nor of repentance, nor at all of fasting,
nor of poverty nor of wisdom nor of knowledge,
not even that of teaching.
None of these is the light or the radiance of the light
of which I speak.
Nor is it exterior piety nor a humble and poor attitude.
For all of these are actions and the fulfillment of the commandments,
if they are done properly and carried out as
the Creator Himself orders.
Tears pour forth in many different ways
and they are either very profitable or rather even harmful
to such a point that they in themselves are totally without value...
And this is why we say that nothing of all of these virtuous actions
is called the light.
Even all taken together as one, all the actions
and virtues in a block are not the divine light...
they are like a lamp having no light.
For just as we cannnot say that the coals alone are the fire
and even more so that the wood is the live coal or flame,
so likewise neither the complete faith nor works
nor actions nor the observance of the commandments
are fire, flame, or the divine light.
For they really are not these things.
But that they are able to receive the fire,
approach the light and be illumined by an unspeakable union,
all of this is praise and glory of virtues.
And for this reason all asceticism and all these actions are
accomplished by us in order to share in the divine light as a lamp does.
For like a single candle, so the soul projects all of the virtuous actions
towards the unapproachable light,
or rather, as a papyrus is plunged into the burning candle,
so the soul, bulging with all the virtues,
is completely set on fire by the light,
insofar as it is capable totally of seeing it,
as it has a place to lead it into its house.
And then the virtues illuminated from intimate communion with the divine light
are they themselves called also light,
or rather, they themselves are the light, having become melded with the light.
And they reflect brilliantly the light on the soul itself
and also the body; and they illumine truly first him who possesses them
and then all those others living in the darkness of life.
Enlighten us in Your Most Holy Spirit, O Christ,
and make us heirs of the Heavenly Kingdom
with all Your Saints, now and forever, amen."

Pt. 5 HYMNS OF DIVINE LOVE by St. Symeon the New Theologian

"When you reveal Yourself, Master of the Universe,
and show the glory of Your face with more clearness,
I begin to tremble all over, to see You,
as far as is possible, to the lowliness of my nature,
I am filled with fear and, full of fright, I say:
'All that belongs to You, my God, is above my comprehension,
for I am impure, absolutely unworthy
to see You, You, the pure and holy Master
whom the angels venerate and serve trembling
and whose face disturbs the whole creation.'


....I magnify Your incomprehensibility
and, proclaiming Your kindness, I cry to You:
'Glory to the One who has so glorified our essence,
glory, O my Savior, to You incommensurable condescension,
glory to Your mercy, glory to Your power,
glory to You! because, remaining immutable and without change,
You are completely immovable and also completely in movement,
completely outside creation and completely in every creature,
You fill everything completely, You who are completely
outside everything, above everything, O Master, above all
beginning, above all essence, above the nature of nature,
above all ages, above all light, O Savior,
above intellectual Essences--for they too are Your work,
or rather the work of Your mind.
...You are simplicity itself and yet You are all diversity--
and our mind is totally incapable of fathoming
the diversity of Your glory and the splendor of Your beauty.
You then, who are nothing of all that is, for You are above
everything, You who are outside everything, for You are
the God of everything, invisible, inaccessible, unseizable,
intangible, yes, You became a man, You came into the world
and showed Yourself to all, accessible, in the body that You assumed.

...By the flesh You belong to our race, by divinity we belong
to Yours, since, by assuming our flesh, You gave us Your
Divine Spirit, and, all together, we have become the unique
House of David through what belongs to You only, by our
community of race with You.
...And when we assemble, we become one single family,
that is to say, that we are all of the same race,
we are all Your brothers.
How not tremble in the presence of this marvel, or who
could without shivering no matter how little, conceive
this idea, welcome this revelation:
You are with us, now and forever,
You make Your home in each one and You live in everyone
and for all of us You become our home and we live in You,
each one of us entirely, O Savior, with You entirely,
with each one of us, You are alone with him alone
and above us all, You are also, alone and all entire.
So You are, then, in us, about to do all these awesome marvels;
what marvels?--Among many, listen to these few:
for even if all we have said already surpasses all amazement,
nevertheless, listen to more formidable marvels!
We become members of Christ--and Christ becomes our members,
Christ becomes my hand, Christ, my miserable foot;
and I, unhappy one, am Christ's hand, Christ's foot!
I move my hand, and my hand is the whole Christ
since, do not forget it, God is indivisible in His divinity--;
I move my foot, and behold it shines like That--one!"

Pt. 4 HYMNS OF DIVINE LOVE by St. Symeon the New Theologian

"How do I adore You within myself and yet I perceive you at a distance?
How do I embrace You within me and I see You in the heavens?
You alone know it, You, the author of these things who shine like the sun
in my heart, my material heart, immaterially,
You who made the light of Your glory shine on me, O my God..."

Pt. 3 HYMNS OF DIVINE LOVE by St. Symeon the New Theologian

How are You at once the source of fire,
how also the fountain of dew?
How at once burning and sweetness,
how a remedy for all corruption?

How do You make gods of us men,
how do You make the darkness light?
How do You make one reascend from Hell,
how do You make us mortals imperishable?

How do You draw darkness to light,
how do You triumph over night?
How do You illumine the heart?
how do You transform me entirely?

How do You become one with sons of men,
how do You make them sons of God?
How do You burn them with Your love,
how do You wound them without a sword?

How can You be patient, how can You endure?
How do You not renumerate at once?
How do You see the actions of all,
You who dwell beyond all creatures?

How do You look at the conduct of each one,
You, who are so far from us?
Give patience to Your servants,
so that trials may not overwhelm them!

Pt. 2 HYMNS OF DIVINE LOVE by St. Symeon the New Theologian

"You, oh Christ, are the Kingdom of Heaven; You, the land promised to the gentle; You the grazing lands of paradise; You, the hall of the of the celestial banquet; You, the ineffable marriage chamber; You, the table set for all,
You, the bread of life; You, the unheard-of drink;
You, both the urn for the water and the life-giving water;
You, moreover, the inextinguishable lamp for each one of the saints;
You, the garment and the crown and the one who distributes the crowns;
You, the joy and rest; You, the delight and glory;
You, the gaiety; You, the mirth;
and Your grace, grace of the Spirit of all sanctity, will shine
like the sun in all the saints; and You, inaccessible sun, will shine in
their midst and all will shine brightly, to the degree of their faith,
their asceticism, their hope and their love, their purification and
their illumination by Your Spirit.
Oh God, sole, long-enduring One and Judge of all men.
They will receive different dwellings and different places:
their degree of radiance, their extent of love and the vision
that they will have of You, the guage of the greatness
of their glory, of their happiness, of their reputation
will distinguish their abodes, their marvellous dwellings."

From HYMNS OF DIVINE LOVE by St. Symeon the New Theologian

Invocation to the Holy Spirit, by the one who already sees Him.

Come, true light. Come, eternal life. Come, hidden mystery. Come, nameless treasure. Come, ineffable reality. Come, inconceivable person. Come, endless bliss. Come, non-setting sun. Come, infallible expectation of all those who must be saved. Come, awakening of those who are asleep. Come, resurrection of the dead. Come, O Powerful One, who always creates and recreates and transforms by Your will alone. Come, O invisible and totally intangible and impalpable. Come, You who always remain motionless and at each moment move completely and come to us, asleep in hell, O, You, above all the heavens. Come, O beloved Name and repeated everywhere, but of whom it is absolutely forbidden to express the existence or know the nature. Come, eternal joy. Come, non-tarnishing crown. Come, purple of the great king our God. Come crystalline cincture, studded with precious stones. Come, inaccessible sandal. Come, royal purple. Come, truly sovereign right hand. Come, You who my miserable soul has desired and desires. Come, You the Lonely, to the lonely, since You see I am lonely. Come, You who have separated me from everything and made me solitary in this world. Come, You who have become Yourself desire in me, who have made me desire You, You, the absolutely inaccessible one. Come, my breath and my life. Come, consolation of my poor soul. Come, my joy, my glory, my endless delight.

I give you thanks that You have become one spirit with me, without confusion, without mutation, without transformation, You the God above everything, and that You have become all for me, inexpressible and perfectly gratuitious nourishment, which without end inexhaustibly flows to the lips of my soul and gushes out into the fountain of my heart, dazzling garment which destroys the devils, purification which bathes me with these imperishable and holy tears, that Your presence brings to those whom You visit. I give You thanks that for me You have become non-setting light, non-declining sun; for You who fill the universe with Your glory have nowhere to hide Yourself!

No, You have never hidden Yourself from anyone, but we are the ones who always hide from You, by refusing to go to You; but then where would You hide, You who nowhere find the place of Your repose? Why would You hide, You who do not turn away from a single creature, who do not reject a single one? Today then, O Master come pitch Your tent within me; until the end, make Your home and live continually, inseparably, within me, You slave, O most kind One that I also may find myself again in You at my departure from this world and after my departure may I reign with You God who is above everything.

O Master, stay and do not leave me alone so that my enemies, arriving unexpectedly, they who are always seeking to destroy my soul, may find You living within me and that they may take flight, in defeat powerless against me, seeing You, You more powerful than everything, installed interiorly in the home of my poor soul. Yes, Master, just as You remembered me when I was in the world and that in the midst of my ignorance, it is You who chose me and separated me from the world and set me before Your glorious face, so, now, keep me interiorly by Your dwelling within me, forever upright, resolute; that by perpetually seeing You, I, the corpse, may live; that by possessing You, I the beggar may always be rich, richer than kings that by eating You and drinking You, by putting You on at each moment, I go from delight to delight in inexpressible blessings; for it is to You, holy, consubstantial and vivifying Trinity that the glory belongs, You whom the faithful venerate, confess, adore and serve in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Disguised Loneliness in Families

From Marianne Wiggins' The Shadow Catcher:

"I don't think children can identify loneliness in others.

Although lonely themselves, sometimes, I don't think children have the depth of experience to recognize loneliness as a state of being that exists in others.

I don't think we, as adults, are especially aware of loneliness in others, either, unless that person is obviously alone, sitting on a bench, sitting at a remove, picking idly through trash on a street corner, staring from a window.

When loneliness exists inside a family, it havens its own silence. Families breed loneliness that's disguised as shyness, or as boredom, or as sleep.

Families are designed to be the social antidote to solitude, so to learn to search for signs of loneliness inside a family goes against our instincts.

We're not taught to look for loneliness, so it passes, like a shadow, over dinners, over evenings watching the TV, between married couples, between parents and their children.

The silence that was probably a kind of dull ache in my father emanated to me as a kind of comfort."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Guilty Ones

"The guilty ones don't interest me anymore," says a character who has suffered much in Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum's novel, A Day of Small Beginnings. "I save my strength for wrestling with God Himself, for asking what is the nature of His will."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Kind of like Romans 1:20?

Looking for God

"Affinity" by Lydia Davis--disconcerting!

"We feel an affinity with a certain thinker because we agree with him; or because he shows us what we were already thinking; or because he shows us in a more articulate form what we were already thinking; or because he shows us what we were on the point of thinking; or what we would sooner or later have thought; or what we would have thought much later if we hadn't read it now; or what we would have been likely to think but never would have thought if we hadn't read it now; or what we would have liked to think but never would have thought if we hadn't read it now."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Putting a Burden Down"

Putting a Burden Down

Putting a burden down feels so empty
you almost want to hoist it up again,
for to carry nothing means there is no "me"

almost. Then freedom, like air, creeps in
as into a nearly airtight house, estranging
you and your burden, making a breach to leap in,

changing an airless place into a landscape,
an outdoors so full of air it leaves you breathless,
there's so much to breathe. Now you escape

what you didn't even know had held you.
It's so big, the outside! How will you ever carry it?
No, no, no you are only meant to live in it.

This wide plain infused with a sunset? Here?
With distant mountains and a glittering sea?
With distant burdens and glittering "me," here.

Molly Peacock

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Not a Number

"Reality consists of a multiplicity of things. But one is not a number; the first number is two, and with it multiplicity and reality begin."


What God Promised

What God promised is that everything that can be shaken will be shaken.

Very likely not this time or the next time, or even the time after that, but then, you never know--why not this time or the next time, or the time after that?

I think that this can be taken on both the macro and on the micro levels--the macro level of economic and political systems, and the micro level of our own individual well-being (which, after all, is macro to each of us!). Maybe the economy will right itself, but each of us will still, after all, eventually die.

How strange that this promise of shaking is actually a good thing--but, apparently, it is:
"But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

"Lift up your heads, O gates, And be lifted up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in!"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Instrumental vs. Expressive Actions

from Parker Palmer's The Active Life:

"The instrumental image, which dominates Western culture, portrays
action as a means to predetermined ends, as an instrument or tool of our
intentions. The only possible measure of such action is whether it achieves
the ends at which it is aimed. Instrumental action is governed by the logic
of success and failure; it discourages us from risk-taking because it values
success over learning, and it abhors failure whether we learn from it or
not... Only when we act expressively do we move toward full aliveness
and authentic power. An expressive act is one that I take not to achieve a
goal outside myself but to express a conviction, a leading, a truth that is
within me. An expressive act is often taken because if I did not take it I
would be denying my own insight, gift, nature. By taking an expressive
act, an act not obsessed with outcomes, I come closer to making the
contribution that is mine to make in the scheme of things."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Novelty Vs. Birth of the New

Novelty is easy, even facile compared to the birth of the new, which seems to arrive in this world accompanied by significant resistance on every level, including spiritual warfare. The Incarnation of the Son of God was not exempt from this--quite the opposite--consider the anguish in the slaughter of the Innocents, and the stress of the flight into Egypt.

If something genuinely new is coming to birth in your life without such suffering on your part, maybe someone else--someone you don't even know--is undergoing the struggle for your sake. And maybe some of your life struggle is for the sake of someone you have never met. As Charles Williams wrote, "The altar must often be built in one place so that the fire may come down in another place."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Map: Interactive

What the viewer longs for, or imagines he/she longs for, is the only unmoving spot, represented by "DESIRE X" in the center, around which we see the islands of desire (of which only a few are represented here), not fixed, but migratory, ever restless, ever rearranging themselves.
I am sure that readers could identify other islands that belong on the map!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hopko quote from LIFE magazine's "The Meaning of Life"

"We are here for communion with God who is Love, the One in whose image and likeness each one of us is made. We find this communion by loving as God loves us.

...Each person accepts or rejects communion with God in his or her own unique manner. For some the way includes an encounter with Christ. For all it includes the encounter with God's Word and Spirit dwelling within us. There are, in any case, no techniques for its accomplishment. The act of communion comes always as grace. For those who know it, it is not life's meaning, purpose, or goal. It is life itself: God with us making us what God is."

Fr. Thomas Hopko

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Entering the Presence"

"How often we struggle to understand God without entering His presence! This never works with God, and it never works with people.

What happens when we enter the Lord's presence? Ps. 73:16-17 puts it this way:

When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood.

When bringing some problem or question to the Lord, I find He seldom answers me directly. Instead He just wants to be with me, to enjoy my company, and He hopes I too will enjoy Him. In this mutual enjoyment, my problems and questions begin to dissolve. They do not disappear, exactly, but their hold on my mind loosens. Problems change shape, and questions turn into mysteries."

from Practicing the Presence of People by Mike Mason