Monday, November 29, 2010

Not Something I've Heard Much About


pasted from

In the Biblico-patristic tradition we also see another way in which men will be judged in the future Judgement. It is said that men will be judged by the saints. We find this already in Christ's words to His disciples: "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28).

The Apostle Paul maintains the same thing. Reproaching the Christians for turning to worldly tribunals to solve their various affairs, he says: "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (1 Cor. 6:2). But how is this judgement known by the saints?

St. Symeon answers this point as well. He says that every man, finding himself faced with eternal life and that unutterable light, will see "one who is like him and will be judged by him". All men who have lived on earth in different ways of life will be judged by other men who have lived with them in the same conditions of life. And the ones lived in accord with the will of God, the others rejected His commandments. This means that there can be no excuse that the conditions of life were difficult and that therefore they could not live according to God's ordinances.

Thus fathers will be judged by fathers, relatives and friends by relatives and friends, brothers by brothers, the rich by those who were rich, the poor by those who were poor, the married by those who have excelled in the married state, etc. When sinners look at sinners who have repented, whoremongers who have not repented see penitent whoremongers, when the kings see holy kings, etc, and in general, when each person sees that someone like himself, who had the same nature, the same hands and eyes, the same conditions of life has been saved, this will be a self-condemnation, he will have no arguments and no excuses.

St. Symeon's words which I shall quote exactly are very characteristic: "Thus each of us sinners will be condemned by each of the saints, and likewise unbelievers by those who believe, and sinners who have failed to repent by those who perhaps have sinned more but have fervently repented".

It is terrible at that hour for someone to see in the glory of God "him who received the tonsure with him standing on the right hand, the one who ate and drank with him, his contemporary, his colleague” being completely surrounded by great glory like Christ, while he himself is the opposite. Then he will be unable to speak at all.

This is just what it means that we shall be judged by the saints. We will be censured by their penitence and by the fact that they lived under the same conditions and yet they have been shown to be recipients of the Holy Spirit, imitators of Christ in every respect.


Faith in Our Children's Mystery


"There is a double risk for parents when it comes to placing ... faith in their children. On the one hand, they are placing their faith in what cannot be known, controlled, or comprehended. If Levinas is correct in describing the face of the human other as the trace of the infinite, the child is a parent's most direct and profound access to the infinite. But as the trace of the infinite, the face simultaneously reveals and conceals. It gives us something to know in what it reveals to us. But the more we get to know what is revealed, the more we come to see the mystery hidden in the infinite from which it comes.

Insofar as children are both finite and a trace of the infinite, parents can and indeed must have faith in the infinite and mostly hidden dimension of a child's life. This is the dimension out of which the unique character, resiliency, and mettle of the child will be forged with the assistance of a parent's love, skill, and insight. In the hidden depths of the child's developing personality is the power to become that which we cannot fully anticipate. So parents are faced with the task of simultaneously nurturing and cultivating the seen and unseen dimensions of a child's personality. And these different dimensions are not clearly demarcated. They are interwoven with each other, the one affecting the other in multiple ways...

The incomprehensibility of the hidden dimensions of a child's life can be exasperating for parents. Often the most difficult situations for parents are those in which there is uncertainty and ambiguity. A child begins to whine, complain, and cry, sometimes for days at a time it seems, and for no obvious reason. The parent tries to soothe her, to understand what is bothering her, but sometimes there is no reasonable answer. The causes of her agitation are unclear to mother and child, making the situation difficult to address. As adolescents, children challenge parents with a full range of mysterious and incomprehensible behavior from brooding to silence to promiscuous sexual relations.

Faced with the difficulties and unpredictability of our children's emerging personalities, it sometimes seems as though even bad news is better than not knowing because it gives us a sense of direction, a point of reference from which we can formulate a strategy and orient our lives...[I]t can be paralyzing when the hidden dimension of a child's life is ambiguous and beyond our comprehension...

...Whether intervening with conditions and terms, or letting the child be, we are called to walk a fine line between the seen and unseen, the known and unknowable, the conditional and unconditional...Most often, our choices are made with only a partial view of the situation, incomplete knowledge of the relevant data. We choose with intensity, but we choose also with faith: faith in our children and the incomprehensible potential and resilience that resides beneath their laughs and tears, successes and failures, joys and pains..."



Blessed Astonishment


"Rather than turning away from the world, [Heraclitus] urges us to turn into it with all its strife to find meaning, to find coherence, to find the Logos. This turn into the world rather than away from it is unsettling, initially, because we abandon what is familiar and come face-to-face with the deep and confusing impermanence of things and the uncertainty and unpredictability that goes with it.

Friedrich Nietzsche explains that there is a reward waiting for those of us who do not try to escape the world and all of its difficulties when he writes that the impermanence and apparent chaos of things is 'a terrible, paralyzing thought...It takes astonishing strength to transform this reaction into its opposite, into sublimity and the feeling of blessed astonishment.'"



Sunday, November 28, 2010



"...the believer must seek the tension, not shy from it...

Brooke Foss Wescott, bishop of Durham in the 1890's, confessed that he never felt he was on safe ground theologically until he found the paradox."

(from THE FEAST by Gregory Post and Charles Turner)

Hmmm...and how do we know we've found the paradox? Maybe by the way it feels--simultaneously impossible (like dancing on a razor's edge) and liberating, relief-full (like being home).


Saturday, November 27, 2010

"How Wondrous Strange It Was at That Moment to Be in the Flesh"


How Wondrous Strange It Was at That Moment to Be in the Flesh

The year we lived in our car,
there were clouds above us
like mountains
that did not weigh anything.
There were voices rising through the static
singing San Diego Serenade or Benedictus
Qui Venit and once Hardenberger played
an Albioni trumpet solo somewhere
in Ohio and you sitting behind the wheel
turned to me and said:
"It's like slicing butter in heaven."
How wondrous strange it was at that moment
to be in the flesh. Far off, fleets
of clouds moved over the grass.
And on the ground, their shadows
that will never be aloft
raced after them.
And everywhere we looked there were dandelions.
Those lights that have grown up out of the earth.

(by Malena Morling)


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

St. John Chrysostom on Not Getting Lost Inside Our Own Heads


For when the soul is fevered with reasonings, and stormy, then it questions, but when it is in a sound state, it does not question, but receives the faith. But from questionings and strifes of words nothing can be discovered. For when the things which faith only promises are received by an inquisitive spirit, it neither demonstrates them, nor suffers us to understand them. If one should close his eyes, he would not be able to find anything he sought: or if, again with his eyes open, he should bury himself, and exclude the sun, he would be unable to find anything, thus seeking. So without faith nothing can be discerned, but contentions must needs arise." (Homily 17 on First Timothy)


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thinking About a Song


...that profoundly, though perhaps ungrammatically, asks God to "speak a little softer so I can hear You..."

(Maybe it should be "a little more softly"?)

We tend to want everything God says to us to be really obvious and even blatant...I love the way this prayer subverts that false desire! The prayer seems as mischievous--against the whiny, insecure parts of us that would eschew mystery!) as it is joyful.


Thursday, November 18, 2010


This morning I'm thinking about the unresolved stuff in my life--relationships, etc.-- not merely unresolved but seemingly unresolvable.

And I look around me and see that there is unresolved stuff in other people's lives too.

But there is a kind of painful beauty, even a glory in the the very fact that nothing's finished yet, that it's still all going on, molecule by molecule, nano-second by nano-second, generation by generation, visibly and invisibly...

In it. We are in it.

The end: inextricable from the process through which it is slowly and strangely revealed.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010



St. John Chrysostom:

For not only faith is necessary, but love. Since there are many still who believe that Christ is God, who yet love Him not, nor act like those who love Him. For how is it when they prefer everything to Him, money, nativity, fate, augury, divinations, omens? When we live in defiance of Him, pray, where is our love? Has any one a warm and affectionate friend? Let him love Christ but equally. ... What? How shall it appear that we do not love God even as our friends, you say? ... For consider: friends, that are truly friends, will often suffer loss for those they love. But for Christ, no one will suffer loss, or even be content with his present state. For a friend we can readily submit to insults, and undertake quarrels; but for Christ, no one can endure enmity: and the saying is, "Be loved for nothing--but be not hated for nothing."

None of us would fail to relieve a friend who was hungering, but when Christ comes to us from day to day, and asks no great matter, but only bread, we do not even regard him, yea though we are nauseously over full, and swollen with gluttony: though our breath betrays the wine of yesterday, and we live in luxury, and waste our substance on harlots and parasites and flatterers, and even on monsters, idiots, and dwarfs; for men convert the natural defects of such into matter for amusement. Again, friends, that are truly such, we do not envy, nor are mortified at their success, yet we feel this toward (the minister of) [1126] Christ, and our friendship for men is seen to be more powerful than the fear of God, for the envious and the insincere plainly respect men more than God. And how is this? God sees the heart, yet man does not forbear to practice deceit in His sight; yet if the same man were detected in deceit by men, he thinks himself undone, and blushes for shame. And why speak of this? If a friend be in distress, we visit him, and should fear to be condemned, if we deferred it for a little time. But we do not visit Christ, though He die again and again in prison; nay, if we have friends among the faithful, we visit them, not because they are Christians, but because they are our friends. Thus we do nothing from the fear or the love of God, but some things from friendship, some from custom. When we see a friend depart on travel, we weep and are troubled, and if we see his death, we bewail him, though we know that we shall not be long separated, that he will be restored to us at the Resurrection. But though Christ departs from us, or rather we reject Him daily, we do not grieve, nor think it strange, to injure, to offend, to provoke Him by doing what is displeasing to Him; and the fearful thing is not that we do not treat Him as a friend; for I will show that we even treat Him as an enemy. How, do you ask? because "the carnal mind is enmity against God," as Paul has said, and this we always carry about us. And we persecute Christ, when He advances toward us, and comes to our very doors.**


St. John Chrysostom Waxes Paradoxical (Yet Again, sigh...)


1 Timothy 1:12-14:
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;

...Having said therefore that "the Gospel was committed to his trust"; lest this should seem to be said from pride, he checks himself at once, adding by way of correction, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry." Thus everywhere, we see, he conceals his own merit, and ascribes everything to God, yet so far only, as not to take away free will. For the unbeliever might perhaps say, If everything is of God, and we contribute nothing of ourselves, while He turns us, as if we were mere wood and stone, from wickedness to the love of wisdom, why then did He make Paul such as he was, and not Judas? To remove this objection, mark the prudence of his expression, "Which was committed," he says, "to my trust." This was his own excellence and merit, but not wholly his own; for he says, "I thank Christ Jesus, who enabled me." This is God's part: then his own again, "Because He counted me faithful." Surely because he would be serviceable of his own part.

Thus we see him acknowledge both his own part and that of God, and whilst he ascribes the greater part to the providence of God, he extenuates his own, yet so far only, as we said before, as was consistent with free will. And what is this, "Who enabled me"? I will tell you. He had so heavy a burden to sustain, that he needed much aid from above... This was the effect of no human power, and yet not of Divine influence alone, but of his own resolution also. For that Christ chose him with a foreknowledge of what he would be, is plain from the testimony He bore to him before the commencement of his preaching. "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings." (Acts 9:15.)..."I thank the Lord, who hath enabled me." Observe how he thanks God even for that which was his own part....What then does he mean when he says, "He counted me faithful"? He would give up no right of his Master's: even his own part he ascribed to Him, and assumed nothing to himself, nor claimed for his own the glory which was due to God...


Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm Thankful for People Who Can Express This Stuff


"This inner core of a person has a profundity and a simplicity that is literally beyond words. The core of the soul is not a place upon which to take a stand; nor is it a thing to be grasped. To speak of the core of a person in such terms is very misleading. Our deepest center stretches far beyond what can be conceived in clear and distinct ideas and what can be fully expressed in words. As we grow in our appreciation of this personal center, its presence dawns, alluringly shrouded in mist and mystery. Such mysteriousness does not imply cloudy ambiguity. Rather, within the shifting mists of this inner mysterious realm there can dawn a great quiet and clarity of vision. Allowing ourselves to be led further into this core of self facilitates a wonderful process of simplification. Life's complexities fuse into an undaunted simplicity. A noisy world hushes into a resounding quiet. And a polluted heart is stripped clear and clean. This core of the soul is marked by a simple calm and quiet beyond any cataclysmic storms and brutalizing temper tantrums. This deepest core of soul speaks of the infinite simplicity of God and of love beyond words that, even as you now read, is breathing life within you.

But such a profound depth of personal center can also frighten people in a dizzying vertigo of two types. First, there is the fear of being trapped in a suffocating loneliness. Entering into their deepest center can easily confront people with the potential danger of a loneliness whose suffocating effect just does not seem worth the risk. For these people discovering a greater sense of one's uniqueness seems inevitably to entail ever greater loneliness. Surely, loneliness is unavoidable and can, at times, swamp us in fearsome ways. But the same loneliness, when properly dealt with, can serve to teach the invaluable lesson of how precious our uniqueness is and yet how communitarian our personal identity is. In the core of the soul no deadening loneliness sucks away the breath of our life. Rather in the core of our soul God's creative love is breathing the gift of life into us moment by moment, now, and on into eternity. It is this same creative love, unique to each one of us, that breathes life into each and every person. And so, as we are led ever deeper into the core of our soul, our experience of God and of ourselves becomes ever more profound, personal, and unique. This God-centeredness is not meant to segregate each of us into a lonely solitariness, but rather to root and unite us in the community of the universal human family created in the image of God's Trinity. Finally, we are not, and never can be, alone.

A second fear can be even more frightening. Once we know the potential for evil within ourselves, a question with ominous consequences can stare us to a standstill. What runs deeper within me: goodness or evil? It is easy to become so frightened by a potentially 'evil' answer to my question that either I aggressively shun any deepening of self-discovery or I force and fabricate a 'good' answer that is finally illusory and very unreal. Such a fear often plays itself out in a furious pace of busy distraction and empty activity. But such a fear has often been addressed by God--and with a clarity unmistakable in the revelation of Christ...God reveals that in every human person what runs deepest is the goodness of divine love and forgiveness. There is in each of us a deepest central point where evil cannot reach, and where only the beauty of God's creative love exists in all its uniqueness. Such continuing proclamation in the church can quiet fear and invite an evolving abandonment into our deepest truest self in the love of God that is Christ Jesus...

...Our most profound and personal experience of God, as mentioned earlier, is in the core of our soul. The core's profundity is not given to intensely exhilarating experiences. Because the waters of our core identity run deep beyond words, God's love is not experienced there like the excitement of cresting and breaking waves of emotion. Rather God's love resounds as a presence perduring and endearing. This profundity of God's perduring presence can produce an inner quiet - like the catching of one's breath - behind and beyond all exciting spontaneity and breathless activity.

At our deepest center we are not actually doing or feeling anything. This is the point where we are - where we are in God, and are continually coming to be in the breath of God's loving Spirit. This center of being, this presence does not completely elude conscious grasp. Moments of prayerful reflection, sometimes carefully attuned to our breathing, can reveal a deep inner calm and quiet, that does not have a deadening effect but rather renews and enlivens. This is holy ground. In the holiness of this quiet sanctuary, with an attractiveness beyond imagining, God's love is grasping, laying claim to and identifying each of us in Christ. It is the still point in the ever turning world of our own person and of the whole cosmos."

"A Hidden Self Grown Strong" by George Aschenbrenner, S.J.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Admitting We're Wrong


"'Our capacity to tolerate error,' Gadd said, 'depends on our capacity to tolerate emotion.'...[Virtually] all of [our mistakes] require us to feel something: a wash of dismay, a moment of foolishness, guilt over our dismissive treatment of someone else who turned out to be right... It is the presentiment of these feelings, and the recoil from them, that renders us so defensive in the face of possible error...[O]ur resistance to error is, in no small part, a resistance to being left alone with too few certainties and too many emotions.

...For some people, this experience is essentially unbearable...All of us know people...whose rigidity serves to protect a certain inner fragility, who cannot bend precisely because they are at risk of breaking...

...[In] failing to face up to wrongness...we miss out on the wrongness itself. If the ability to admit that we are wrong depends on the ability to tolerate emotion, it is because being wrong, like grieving or falling in love, is fundamentally an emotional exerience. Such experiences can be agonizing, but the corny truism about them is true: If you haven't experienced them, you haven't fully lived. As with love and loss, so too with error. Sure, it can hurt you, but the only way to protect yourself from that potential is by closing yourself off to new experiences and other people. And to do that is to throw your life out with the bathwater."

BEING WRONG by Kathryn Schulz


Crystal or Iceberg?


...[T]here's ... an unsurmountable difference between the way I understand you and the way I understand myself. I might understand you by analogy to myself, but I cannot understand you as a self. A self, by definition, can only be understood as such from the inside. That understanding isn't necessarily accurate;...self-knowledge, too, can fail us. But it is very different from understanding someone from the outside, which is the only way I can understand other people.

This fundamental difference in perspective has an important practical corollary. Because we know other people only from the outside, we assume they can be known from the outside; we think we can understand people reasonably well based on their words and deeds. At the same time, because we know ourselves from the inside, we think we can only be known from the inside. Each of us lives, day in and day out, with an intricate internal reality: with the fluctuations of our moods, the complexity of our emotions, the ongoing committee meeting in our brain, the things we think but never say out loud. As a consequence, it's easy to feel that no one can grasp our true nature without access to this rich and dynamic inner world.

...It's as if we regard other people as psychological crystals, with everything important refracted to the visible surface, while regarding ourselves as psychological icebergs, with the majority of what matters submerged and invisible.

....[W]e think we can know other people based on criteria we reject for ourselves."

(Footnote: "This assymetry can take a toll on relationships of all sorts. Psychological studies have shown that people in shared living situations generally think they do more chores than their housemates, that people in relationships tend to think they try harder than their partner to resolve conjugal issues, and that each of the colleagues collaborating on a project typically thinks he or she is pulling more weight than everyone else. Granted, sometimes there's a genuine disparity between one person's work and another's. But at least as often, the hour I spent scrubbing the scum from the bathroom tiles (or talking about intimacy issues with my therapist, or drawing up a five-year budget for the project proposal) is just particularly real to me, whereas whatever work you might have done remains an abstraction--at worst unnoticed and at best fleetingly appreciated, but certainly not minutely calibrated in terms of time and energy expended.")

BEING WRONG by Kathryn Schulz


Not the Case


"It is not the case that I am caught in a web of beliefs...Rather, I am caught in a network of witnesses..."

Avishai Margalit


Is This True?


"Could reality come into direct contact with sense and consciousness, could we enter into immediate communion with things and with ourselves, probably art would be useless."



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Proof of God": Excerpts from the novel A CORNER OF THE VEIL by Laurence Cosse


"The government is terribly upset to learn that the proof [of God's existence] is established. And still more to imagine it broadcast. It has put its experts to work to get an idea of what could become of our societies once they're informed of the matter. The predictions are alarming. The first effect would obviously be chaos.

"Our complex, fragile economies will be turned upside down. Dazzled by God, men will have no further reason to keep working to make the machine turn the way it used to. The primacy of economic matters will crumble. Ninety percent of human undertakings will look foolish, meaningless, pathetic. The ad man, the beautician, all the merchants of dreams and escape, will close up shop. The arms merchant all the more so. The only tenable behavior will be more or less what contemplatives do: prayer and frugality. I don't see research in general, and theology in particular, retaining the slightest importance any longer, my dear colleagues. An archaic economy will develop. Suddenly money changers will close down, and stock exchanges throughout the world, and university chairs in international finance, and business schools. Frugality and prayer.

"We've had a hard enough time putting a little order on earth over twenty centuries. And that order will be undermined at the roots! The order of priorities, the scale of importance, the distinction between essential and incidental...The basic values of the model societies here below will come unbolted: values of work, of enrichment/development, of social organization...

"In the longer run, a world dedicated to the good is not a reassuring one. I can understand that the paradox would shock you. But do you really believe that a world of praying people would be liveable?...Mankind hasn't done so badly, with electricity, vaccines, nuclear science--let's admit it, even the atomic bomb. Some rye seed always gets in with the good grain, inextricably, and overall we've come pretty close to a balance. It worked. Why try to unbalance everything?

"The good, the pure good--we know where that leads...The rejection of life and its ambiguity, all its fecund ambiguity...Believe me, this proof is loaded with danger."


"...Within six months, within a year, we have to imagine France as one huge monastery. Everything that today is the motivating force of the advanced liberal societies--the spirit of enterprise, the quest for wealth, the concern for efficiency, the work ethic...briefly, what others might call the every-man-for-himself, the activism, the copycat greed, money as guiding light--at the annoucement that God exists, all of that will no longer seem important to our fellow citizens. God becomes a certainty in our midst. How do we react? We spend all our time on Him. We just about cease to work. We earn much less money, but what does it matter? We no longer yearn to change apartments, go off on vacation, send our children to American business schools. We no longer chase after money. If we do work, it's just enough for what we need to eat and be clothed, to have a roof over our heads. Most of our time we spend meditating, praying. We study Scripture. We succor the poor, we comfort the lonely. We gaze on nature. We feel we're opening our eyes for the first time. We breathe."

...What about me, Marasquin was thinking, what becomes of me in this whole thing?

What will I have left in the scuffle? Torin wondered.

I go under in this shitheap, Dupont had already decided....

...Beloeil went on..."We can predict that the effect will be inversely proportional to the social weight of the individual. And for this paradoxical reason that in our society, the indispensable tasks are the ones least respected these days, while prestige attaches to all sorts of useless activities.

"I'll explain myself. The garbage collector, the shoemaker, the truck farmer, all the little people we can't do without, will lead more or less the same lives as before. Like everyone else, they will render unto the Creator the best portion, but their social positions won't suffer; on the contrary. Their work will be more necessary than ever. They always earned three cents, they'll still be earning three cents, but now nobody will expect to earn any more than that.

"The same cannot be said of the big shots of the world. What will become of the sports gods when the spirit of competition has disappeared? The automobile racers? The fashion models? The champagne heirs? The hosts of television shows that nobody will be watching?...The tranquilizer manufacturers? The directors of marketing...?

..."Everything in our lives that was not in the service of God and His splendor will fall away like dead skin...After which we shall disappear into the anonymity of the Good..."


Monday, November 8, 2010




Your immensity is something you keep
under lock and key because it is terrifying to you.
At night your immensity wakes you up,

banging its metal cup against the bars
of the cage where you keep it. Your immensity
wears seven-light-year boots and can cross

between stars with a single stride. Your immensity
can look at a table or a refrigerator or a window
and see each separate particle that makes it up.

Your immensity's head is the size of the rolling earth,
and its dreams boil like magma inside of a skull of rock.
From time to time an island in the Pacific erupts

and you know a terrifying clarity, terrifying because
it does not last, cannot help you in the everyday
routine where you exist without your immensity,

because you don't know what to do with it,
how to take it out in public, how to teach it
to work with you in the world

rather than turning you into a fool with glazed,
vacant eyes. So you make your immensity wait
until you're ready for it, until you're done

with the world, until you're ready
to leave behind the beloved things
that your immensity dwarfs.

~Dave Awl


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Too funny, too true