Monday, December 17, 2012

My Heart is Walking Around

President Obama gave the address of his life last night. Part speech, part sermon, part call to arms – if by arms we mean reaching out with love.

As he spoke I could see the case he was building. Slowly... Gently... A trail of love from one's own children to all the children. From one's own personal love for a baby to care and responsibility for one another. For the children's sake. Those who are now lost but whose tragic deaths must remain a beacon of light – showing the way. Those alive and growing. Those yet to be born. And the child in all of us.

It seems to me the president has not only found his voice but has sketched out a unifying theme for his second term. A theme which touches on every piece of important legislation facing us as a nation.

It is time to put away tools of violence. Be they metal or verbal. Time to turn our hearts to healing. Time to care for all God's children. Here. There. Everywhere.

In old age – I think I'm now qualified to know – it's so easy to resume the timelessness of childhood. Spending a day with a two year old, for example. Living in the now. A state you could call enlightenment having been granted along with increasing years.

So engrossed in the now was I on Friday that I knew nothing of the tragedy. Until my beloved little one had been collected by his mother. Wearing his new socks and shoes that had just been delivered to my door that day. Oh, yes, he is not mine – but my heart is walking around in him. My heart will be warm - in the snowsuit and mittens that came the day before.

Somewhere I read that “clothing” someone – in biblical terms – means “encircling with love.”

That's what Obama is talking about. As a society we must reach out and encircle with love.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Balancing Act. A hopeful outcome.

I'm reading historical fiction.  Hilary Mantel:  Twofold winner of the Man Booker Prize.  All her accolades are well deserved.

I'm thinking about two qualities.  And the delicate balance between them.  One is the ability to rise to the occasion.  To the level of our most deeply held convictions.  To act as our conscience bids.  Regardless of personal consequences.  The other is the ability to consult, to be aware of personal limitations, thus to seek advice.  Good counsel from those we deem trustworthy.  And finding inner balance between these.

I'm thinking also of a different kind of balance.  A social creation - rare and wonderful - so easily disrupted for good or ill.  A cooperative endeavor, win-win, for a mutual outcome.  Versus a zero-sum "individualism" über alles.  By the latter I mean, of course, something different from a game one plays, where all the players have agreed-on rules.  Where pleasure is in playing.  And even watching is enjoyable.  Play, I think, is part of the cooperative balance rare and wonderful.

Cooperation is so easily disrupted, isn't it?  But such a joy when it goes along smoothly.  Best when equals interact perhaps.  Unless good education, wonderful teaching, true learning understood and undertaken.  The good hour in therapy.  Play with a child you love.  Making love - in its truest, widest sense.  

The more people, the more complicated, of course.  But something creative and unexpected may happen.  Under conditions of cooperation and mutuality.  All too many enjoy disrupting instead.  Or perhaps it's just a few - disrupting all too many times.  There must be a personality trait at work in "successful" internet trolls.  Or whatever passes for that in face-to-face maneuvers.  Joy in destruction.  A kind of social sadism.  

The internet is an interesting place.  Some people take time to lay out an argument.  Sometimes an interesting discussion emerges from that effort.  People working together:  SynergismThe outcome of it a discussion "there" for all time.  Win-win for everyone.  Even those who happen upon it long after it's occurred.  History records such events.  Or not.  The writing of a constitution.  The erecting of a cathedral.  The raising of a barn.  A child raised in a loving family.

But such endeavors also seem to attract the trolls - a ubiquitous disruptive presence wherever that's allowed.  Or tolerated.  Or simply ignored...   How to deal with society's malcontents?  How ingenious the malcontent.  How secretive or subtle.  Or stupidly obvious.  History records that too.

I have no solution.  Only musings.

Pondering.  Musing.  Old age is an especially good time for it.  (We won't quibble about what old age means, will we?)  Pondering and musing.  As long as the mind holds up...

If the mind does not hold up, I hope to God not to turn into the equivalent of a codger troll.  Wailing in a nursing home.  Please...  Dear God...  Let me be an addled angel instead.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Holy Mystery Knocks ~ This Sabbath Day

A death of someone I never knew.
A man who left behind an interview
I've yet to read.

I have to wait for the translation.

But even now his spirit
Seems to burn
Within my heart.

The power of his words and life
Igniting and uniting
The embers - ready, waiting.

An unknown death
Takes flight.
Bringing new life and light.
Like a live spark - jumping a firebreak
A kindred spirit
Sets my heart ablaze.

A torch
Of Wisdom
Passed -
And caught:

One more holy person
Calling me back
To my not self
Nothingness ~ Emptiness
Full of Mystery.

Words of Wisdom - an Indian proverb - from one of his last books:
First we learn, 
then we teach, 
then we retire and learn to keep quiet. 
And in the fourth stage, man learns to beg.
Yes!  Holy Mystery, if we are willing to learn, calls on us.  To become channels.  To give our life over.  To allow the Inner Mystery its Way.  An inner transformation.  Nothing but Live Coals.  Intensity of emotion.  Burning inner Prayer into our very souls.  Radiating out.  Radiating Cosmic Transfiguration.  If we just let go...  And accept everything that comes our way.  As part of this Ceaseless Call.  So mysterious.  So awesome.  So close.

RIP:   Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini

Addendum:  The (downloadable) translation includes these words, new to me today:
Fr. Karl Rahner liked to use the image of embers hidden under ashes. I see in the Church today so many ashes above the embers that I’m often assailed by a sense of powerlessness. How can the embers be freed from the ashes in order to rekindle the flame of love? First of all, we have to look for those embers.
My humble view:   This man is a saint and a prophet!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tracing the Outlines of Grace

From somewhere I copied this spiritual advice:
Just to continue
To express our nature and sincerity
in the simplest, most adequate way
And to appreciate it in the smallest existence. 
This is our task.  This is exactly what I was getting at in the previous post with this quote:
The Mystery of Christ
              is at work in
     however humble
                  or humdrum
Julian of Norwich, a medieval mystic, had a series of visions during a grave illness in her 30th year.  In one of them she beheld something tiny and precarious, about the size of a hazelnut in the palm of her hand.  So tiny, she sensed, it could fade into nothing.   She was given to understand that this tiny thing was all of creation, held in being through God's tender, loving care. 

A zen master described zen in this brief aphorism:
Zen is dried dung.
Gerard Manley Hopkins summed it up this way in Gods Grandeur:
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
None of this means that life is a bowl of cherries.  The zen saying makes that clear.  Julian's illness nearly killed her.  Hopkin's brief poem also references the seamy side of life.

But wisdom crystalizes one's attention.  As pressure and time turn coal into diamonds.

What is the meaning of the zen saying?  I can think of two things.  The first is that dung is what remains after one has digested whatever is consumed.   Often, people disparage wisdom or a path, as they might disparage dung.  But the task is to take the leavings and trace them back to the digestive process or the meal eaten or the seeds planted.  Alternatively, one can carry dried dung on a journey and use it for fuel.  Set alight, what seems worthless, is suddenly revealed as a source of heat and light.  It becomes useful.

Like what I'm trying to do here. 

Addendum IDo not miss this exquisite gift from an Islamic scholar:

hearts ablaze:  releasing the divine potential inside

Addendum II:  Thanks to a comment below, here is a brief quote from a website dedicated to a saintly Orthodox Bishop:
  "The Jesus Prayer is for moments of repentance. But in between these moments one is in the atmosphere of the Spirit, wordless and motionless - in the silence of deep hesychia which penetrates everything, including daily work. It is constant, never hindering earthly activities of any kind, but rather sanctifying them..."

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Awakened by Grace

Two picture books fascinated me in childhood.  One held photographs illustrating religions of the world.  The other, drawings of every type of musical instrument.  In the unfinished attic, across from our bedroom, was a mostly empty room.  I recall perusing Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman in a lovely large volume.  Of course I didn't read it all or even understand a lot.  But those waves of verse, first hints of mysticism and oneness (I've only just realized) were part of a unity.   At one with the woods and the church of my childhood Places where a child could be alone, a soul awakened.  Along with books which fed the soul and linked it to all that is and might be

Childhood has all too many straight-jackets.  Holy Mystery is a welcome reprieve.  Even if one doesn't really recognize it till much later.

Recently someone asked me a question.  Based upon a book I'd loaned.  The question related to the concept of the elemental - a term translated from French, best explained by these quotes from the book:
"Elemental," as I understand it, means "reduced to the essential." ... The elemental refers to the origins, the ground, the constitutive qualities of something. ... The elemental becomes a "carrier" or an epiphany of the essential.  ... The essential, in its turn, designates the primary, the vital, the indispensable, and the necessary.  The essential is the irreducible truth of a reality; its authentic identity and raison d'être.
One illustration, suggested by the author, is the Virgin of the Sign (icon).  I paired it here with a numinous scene from nature which extends and amplifies it, setting up a kind of resonance within ourselves and the natural world, which points at the same time to the beyond in our midst.   My first paragraph and my next point to the same relationship.

Like a musical theme that runs through our lives.  The simplest events of daily living.  As in this calligraphy quote I have before me:  The Mystery of Christ is at work in everything however humble or humdrum.  Like whatever it is that bids the quanta leap at once but in direction free.  So pondering the question asked the elemental has revealed itself in inconsequential moments.  The making and the drinking of my morning tea.  Chopping vegetables for dinner.  The ritual of breakfast.  The ritual of dinner.  Watering the garden or writing this.  Streaming the theme of hidden celestial music.

All creation vibrates.  Is tuned.  Each single note is sacred. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sacrament of Our Brokenness

This quote really intrigues me.:
The kenotic sense of Christ on the cross sharing the suffering of everyone as they face the moral dilemmas of life could help to develop a more adequate moral compass if it could be better understood and elaborated philosophically and theologically.

I wish I could flesh out the "moral compass" the writer calls for.

There is another quote of his that perhaps provides a further clue:
The image of the self-emptying Christ (Philippians 2:6-11) helps to strip away what may now be counterproductive remnants from the past in our sacred symbol system.
"To strip away... counterproductive remnants." I suspect there would be big controversy over what exactly is "counterproductive" - and I'm not sure myself if the problem is with the "symbol system" - as the writer suggests.  Though I suppose it depends on how one understands those words, that conceptual system.  But stripping away - leaving oneself open to a kenosis, a self-emptying.  Now that makes sense to me.

It reminds me of Andre Louf's book, The Way of HumilityHow our broken hearts are themselves the opening for God's work in us.  How our puffed up selves run so counter to God's unceasing efforts to reach and transform us.  How it is in our darkest moments, when we turn ... from within our own emptiness ... with a pinpoint yearning, stretching out with every fiber of our being, then letting go.  And simply falling into the outstretched, already waiting arms of God ...

And I wonder if the act of allowing ourselves to really endure the suffering of remaining, resting, within the fiery furnace of an ethical conflict or a spiritual struggle isn't what's called for here.  Not an intellectual exercise.  Not necessarily yielding a rational argument one could articulate.  But it seems to me that if one can endure the suffering of the various sides of any conflict - resting within that sacrament where we meet God who, even now, suffers with and for us...  that perhaps a transformation may come to pass.  Or a transfiguration.  Where we find ourselves in a new and promised land.  Able to take the path unfolding before us.  Or follow the footprints suddenly appearing.  Or accept a hidden doorway beckoning.

As we pray.  From a place.  Of utter extremity:
       [Psalm 130: 1]              
[Psalm 119: 126]            

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why Orthodoxy?

About a year ago, on occasion, there appeared a young man in our small parish.  So tiny is our little church that the presence of a visitor never goes unnoticed.  And always is appreciated.  I had occasion to speak with him.  I miss him.  For he was a genuine seeker.  And longed to convert.  Yet his wife was, for reasons I won't go into, securely wedded to the roman catholic tradition. 

This young man was studying for a Master's Degree in Religious Education.  At a nearby catholic institution of higher learning.  He was in a quandary.  For when he compared the tenets and scaffolding of the roman church to those of the eastern church, he found the former full of such conflicting doctrines that he was at a loss for how to present them in succinct and convincing form.  Even to himself!  And this, of course, was the subject of his studies, his future career as an educator.  On the other hand, he found Orthodoxy simple and coherent in terms of both his own understanding and his ability to present and explain.  I believe he was doing a paper on this - to make matters more pressing.  A stark comparisonSeveral times he made this clear to me.  Along with his dilemma.  What to do?

Now at the time I was a mere babe within Orthodoxy.  Whereas now I might be considered a toddler, I suppose.  At 67.  But his words and his conviction have stayed with me.  I am saddened at his departure.  I might have learned a great deal more from this young man.  Torn between communions.  Torn as a husband.  And father.  And future teacher.  One of life's mysteries is to lose touch with people.  And maybe never know....  (One can only imagine how his dilemma has been magnified by recent events.)

God works in mysterious ways.   It's evident in scripture.  It's evident in one's own life.  So much of the spiritual path occurs in darkness.  The daily humdrum.   But every once in a while things fall together.   And when that happens it seems like an illumination across one's life, across scripture - into the heart of Holy Mystery.  Like a glimmer of certainty.  Like a sign or a mark that yes, this is the path.  And yes, the same path whose markers have been glimpsed before.  Such an event discloses meaning - personal meaning for one's life, together with cosmic meaning - Life as inner and outer.   A rapid succession of insights as more and more falls into place.  A sense of God's Guiding Presence.  Across a lifetime.  Across so many dimensions.  

One book has clarified this.  And I've hardly started it.  A book on Origin, the early Christian writerSpirit and FireHis method of biblical theology so familiar.  So close to my own inclinations.  Even his themes as set out by von Balthasar.  And the astonishing connection to themes and writers we studied in college.  During the time of Vatican II.  Resurfacing in the past few years through my new connections to Orthodoxy.  But also evident in Cistercian writers influenced by Orthodoxy.  Or converted to Orthodoxy.   The confluence of authentic catholic spirituality (in the widest and deepest sense).  This book's introduction speaking of tents and wells - images I've used in past and recent posts.   Origin's method of asking questions on the basis of anomalies, then searching scripture guided by the rule of faith, so in tune with my own approach.

It's like finding an archeological site and recognizing your own deepest yearnings mapped out already long ago.  Waiting to be rediscovered.  Laid out like a kind of blueprint for spiritual writings read and pondered over the years.  

It's kind of scary when this happens.  "Holy Fear" a man of holiness used to tell me.  For my signpost signals:  Go ahead.  You're on the right path.  I am with you.  Do not fear.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Nearly half a century on... I have not forgotten.

One priest influenced me most deeply during my college years.  Someone I never took a course from.  But somehow his homilies from daily Mass - our last two years - must have sunk into me.

Over the years I was sad to see that the Vatican deprived him of his job.  Though he never ceased teaching and writing.

It is good to see Charles Curran weighing in on the crisis of our day - as he did during Vatican II in my college long ago.

I honestly can't describe how or in what way he influenced me.  It must have seeped in, like gentle rain falling on ground which I didn't even know was thirsty for the influence of a catholic thinker in my young life - in a catholic college, which encouraged us to THINK!

Having recently returned from a reunion with many of my classmates, I am struck by the beautiful women we have become - women now the exact age of the year of our graduation.  Women who think for themselves.  Women who have grown far beyond the uniformity of the current hierarchy, which ironically terms itself catholic.  Women grown into the same kind of spirit-filled heart-giving souls which LCWR sisters embody today and encouraged in our youth.

Charles Curran, I never forgot your name.  I have no idea how your presence and homilies seeped into me.  You never knew my name.  In your humility you came and went.  And left your presence in my heart.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It Was Never About Religion

[Repost - Originally posted on the Saturday after NY voted to approve gay marriage.]
“I apologize for those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, adding, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife."
                        [Republican NYState Senator, conservative, married 46 years]               
Look, do Muslims expect all of us to fast on Ramadan?  No!  Do Jews expect everybody to keep Kosher? No!  Do Mormons expect us all to wear magic underwear?  No!  Did Jesus say a word about gay people?  No!  

This was not about whether to solemnize a relationship in church or synagogue or mosque or temple.   It was not about who would officiate.  Nobody's religious rights have been infringed.  

This is about love and commitment.  About family rights and responsibilities.  About children being able to say their parents are married.   It's like citizenship for an immigrant.  Full stature in society.  I mean, who wants to be viewed as an alien?
“Their love is worth the same as your love,” Mr. Cuomo said [to lawmakers]. “Their partnership is worth the same as your partnership. And they are equal in your eyes to you. That is the driving issue.” 
Sure I can talk about all that in a spiritual way.  And I have.  On numerous occasions. 

Today is a day for rejoicing!  The Sabbath.  Even if I'm not Jewish. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dear God... Almighty!

Folks, I have better things to do...  So do you.   But, for whatever reason... the Holy Spirit has put such a burr under the saddles of the self-important RCC hierarchs!  And is encouraging them to make such fools of themselves.  That the toppling of the structure is going to look like the biggest slapstick comedy EVER!

The Holy Spirit is Grieved...

But Her sense of humor is my saving grace.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Mystery of Being

Alan calls this Ripples

We need a new language.

A language for what we
       consider to be
 The Holy in our Midst.
       So close to us 
we can hardly articulate
    what that might be.

  So Transcendent we are
in awe of the bending low 
to be 
              with us.

A language for all of us, 

the great chain of being
Water in a Fountain (1/4000 Sec) via Alan
  of which we are a part,

which transcends space and time - binding all humanity 

in some kind of Life 
we hold eternally.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Whole Earth is Our Hospital

You can ponder scripture.   

Or you can ponder the events of daily life. 

It's all the same...

I am reminded of words spoken to a retreat director, by an elderly nun, who simply told him – after a long, long silence - during which he sensed that something really profound was being pondered:  “Father," she insisted, "Everything leads to God.   Everything.   Everything.   Everything.

Now it's nice when that “everything” is a sunny morning in Spring.  A cloudless sky, intense blue hovering over dewy grass that hasn't yet been mowed.  Plants springing up, everything budding, unless already leafed out.  Like this morning.  How easy it is to let that lead you to God!

But that's not what this post is about.

I have another quote in mind, related to the spiritual path being “not about self-improvement but about self-abandonment.” But what does that mean?  And how does it relate to the quiet certainty of an elderly nun? How does it relate to something I read this morning about “temperament” in a sport one generally connects with politeness, green grass and the beauty of nature?  And what benefit can we glean from this?

Consider these interesting thoughts from a sports writer:
All golfers understand intuitively the pursuit of that blend of Zen calm and athletic aggressiveness that goes hand-in-hand with the best performance.

[Versus] … a perfectionist’s torment, dropping clubs, closing his eyes in disgust, his whole body deflating as he missed putts.
You glimpse how mercilessly golf waits for your serenity, your sense of self or skill or dignity, to alter or deteriorate, or simply change in any way, so that it can drive you deeper into your private perditions — all while you perform in public.  
Under pressure, his current temperament … [coming] precariously close to disintegrating.

Elite-level golf, where every act takes place as you stand isolated, demands more of us than many religions and offers less support. Are we forgiving of ourselves? Do we feel persecuted or unlucky? Any lack of self-esteem reveals itself. Are we jealous of those who are more gifted or getting good breaks? Do we look for excuses or ways to shift blame? Can we be satisfied with our best effort, or is a successful result essential? Are we forgiving of ourselves?
What especially caught my eye was this: “the pursuit of that blend of Zen calm and athletic aggressiveness” .... [which] “demands more of us than many religions and offers less support.”   Um... no.  I beg to differ!

To paraphrase the elderly nun:  Everything points us in the direction of Holy Mystery.   Everything asks of us self-abandonment.  Selflessness.  Letting go of efforts to force things, to control them.  Even while practicing one's craft.  Be it prayer.  Be it work.  Be it play.

There are many Zen stories and Sufi stories, stories of religious saints of whatever persuasion where you find that it is the gardener or the cook or the servant who has attained that blend of “Zen calm” and transformed “aggression” - which is the mark of a true saint.  A person of total compassion and ego-emptiness, a person of pin-point being in the moment, able to speak or act true to the moment.  That's the nothingness I keep circling in post after post.  The emptiness which is a kind of readiness based on long experience with just the very kind of difficulties described by the writer above.   But instead of “golf” let us substitute “life”:
You glimpse how mercilessly [life] waits for your serenity, your sense of self or skill or dignity, to alter or deteriorate, or simply change in any way, so that it can drive you deeper into your private perditions — all while you perform in public.
Now, you're probably thinking that what “drive[s] you deeper into your private perditions” isn't necessarily a public act. But maybe you can agree with the rest of it.

I think the key problem is letting go of “performing”. Letting go of performance.  That's where self or ego become problematic.  That's when we aren't really being in the moment but instead have become spectators of our own performance.   Evaluators!

So any person who seeks anything at all bumps up against this struggle.  This need to practice while simultaneously letting go of attainment, letting go of self-consciousness.   It's the same whether we're discussing meditation or Tai-Chi or chopping vegetables for stir-fry.  It all starts with desire to achieve.   With the mustering of effort – which means an aspect of “aggression” enters in.  The “drive” to achieve relates to aggression.  Aggression can be our friend.   And aggression can be our enemy.

And I wonder if one's whole (spiritual) life is nothing more than this wresting match – I'm thinking of Jacob wrestling all night with the angel.   And I'm thinking of a line from T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets:

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

And remember, the wrestling match ended with Jacob being given a new name, but only after his hip socket has been dislocated (permanently!) “because you have contended with the divine and have prevailed.”  Prevailed?  Not exactly, I'd say.  Not in the sense of achieving.   Only in the sense of personal transformation – through struggle – and at a price.  The loss of one's former self.  A kind of death.  In exchange for a new perspective:  A graced gift.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Secret of the Soul

The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart opens on the front flyleaf - in white lettering - on stark, black paper:
In the midst of silence
  there was spoken within me
       a secret word.

But where is the silence,
  and where is the place
         the word is spoken?

It is in
   the purest thing
     that the soul is capable of,
       in the noblest part,
          the ground.

Indeed, in the very
   essence of the soul, 
     which is the 
        soul's most secret part.

Which rings of Merton's words on nothingness: 
At the center of our being is a point of nothingness, which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point, a spark, which belongs entirely to God.
It's like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven.  It is in everybody!
I have no program to seize this.  It is only given.   But the Gate of Heaven is everywhere!

There is nothing more to say.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Paradox of Repentance

Lest I lose readers simply due to the title, I'll get right to the point:  If you've ever had an experience, I mean truly had an experience of God's tender care for you personally... you may find yourself left with two competing feelings (well... at least two).  One is a sense of awe, wonder, amazement, maybe even verging on disbelief or doubt.  On the other hand, you've likely had a sense of how tiny you are in the vast scheme of things, a speck in a vast universe, as well as a conviction of unworthiness, perhaps even a sense of dread.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dust and Ashes and Transfiguration

Biblical stories seem to become increasingly our own stories.  If we pay attention and ponder.

For us, the Burning Bush. 
For us, the Call
The sacred struggle.
Burning coal touched to unclean lips.

For us, the handwriting on the wall
The Fall.

Exile....  And merciful homecoming.
Immense Gratitude!  For undeserved Mercy

Healing.   Spiritual anointing.

Becoming the Blessing one Receives.

Many saints - across the centuries - have testified to such experiences, infused wisdom - which actually befriends us we are told.  Arriving out of the blue.  Or at times of utter extremity or holy visitation - when Holy Mystery and one's intense yearning meet - Divine Mercy answering wordless supplication, stretching forth from every fiber of one's being.  Sort of like a cosmic SOSSent out.  And answered - at a time not of our choosing.  Out of the blue.  Indeed, I think it could happen due to someone else.  Even someone unknown to us - sending out an SOS-prayer into the cosmos -  today, long ago, or even in the future.  For time, as we know it, has no bearing on this unreserved and undeserved redemption - which greets us like a Holy WHAM!

I've noticed that the greatest saints were among the greatest sinners.  Indeed, if you ever meet this wisdom WHAM, you instantly know that for a fact; I find that comforting actually.  (St. Mary of Egypt is one of the few women of this type, no matter how much of a legend is her "history" as conveyed by St. Sophronius.)  Yes!  There is comfort and wisdom for us all here.  That and the Mercy of this tender creative Mystery - so Transcendent and yet so compassionately, personally Intimate.

I think passion is the key for why great sinners become great saints.  Passionate Gratitude.  Passion humbled; no longer dissipated.  Passion honed to a fine point, as if to the finest knife edge of oneself.  Passionate stretching out in awareness of our utter emptiness / nothingness - after we come smash (!) into our own limitations and we know the utter depth of our need.  When that need reaches down to our roots.  And our yearning is stretched tight - striving to reach that last distance - totally aware that we can never make it further on our own.  (That all our efforts to wing it ourselves have failed.)  That we require Divine Assistance.

At that moment we live the cry of the Psalmist:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my prayer.
With a pinpoint willingness for risk-taking - to make a leap of faith and yield to the Mercy held out to us.  A Passionate Mercy, too, I might add - arriving in a totally unexpected way - at a totally unexpected moment.

A Personally-Attuned, Sacred Moment.

A moment of Pure Choice!  Of meeting and transformation.  Transfiguration.  A moment which, if seized, seizes you at the same time.  A kind of life-and-death moment  Even in the ultimate one of the those moments, which we term death, we die into it.  Into transformation, transfiguration.  Nothing to fear...

Now, it may seem that I have written about this before.  But I have never really understood it this way before.  I may have experienced it.  I may have read about it.  Or stretched my deepest self in such a direction (consciously or unconsciously).  But for whatever reason it's only "fallen together" for me over the last few days.  It's still falling together...  Partly because of things I've read or pondered.  Partly the time of year.  Partly because of deep concern on behalf of the suffering, even dying, of others. And how to assist someone Godward, one might say.  Which is just about as much of a stretch as trying to make that leap oneself.  For each one's journey is unique.  As one of the saints has written (in my phrasing):  "The road toward Intimacy with Holy Mystery is the very path The Holy One has already beaten in our direction."   Ponder that one!

A two-way street.  Unique for each of us.  For which the saints are willing to be called MAD - having staked everything to set out into the biblical darkness and the desert

Have you ever seen the desert in bloom?  A rare event - I once felt its personal Presence.  Yearned to see it "for real."  Amazingly, it was granted to me.  By chance (is anything ever really by chance?) the very Spring we set out on a month's journey to the southwest was a Spring of rains in the desert.  So we arrived to find Joshua Tree National Park in resplendent beauty -  just behind our campsite, in addition to the drives we took.

What I'm getting at here....  the saints try to convey this.  A few dare to describe mystical experiences.  It all sounds so tantalizing, yet esoteric.  So impossible for normal humans to pursue.

And yes, there is a training part to it.  Once I anticipated a 10 day intensive meditation retreat for a whole year.  Training for it - as one trains for a marathon, so to speak.  Did it in the dead of winter.  In the mountains. 

Structure may be of assistance, to be sure.  But the sacred moment of God's choosing can also occur within one's everyday - to use Rahner's vocabulary.  Sister Wendy is a prime example.  Though I warn you, that "moment" (those moments...) will turn your life inside-out and upside-down.  (I actually think these moments are far more available than we could ever imagine - if we just paid more attention, were poised and ready, our lamps trimmed, just waiting to be set alight.)

But this is not just something for the saints.  This is God's great Invitation to us all.   The banquet we're all invited to:  Come to MeWhen Me is also THREE.  And hospitality is at its uttermost.  Bread and Wine being its Common Meal we partake in - to celebrate the Great and Holy Mystery held out to us.  Ever knocking on our hearts.  If we just grant a moment's supreme attention and risk the Divine Embrace.

As again and again we too set out across the desert or up the mountain.  Experience anointing.  Follow a call.  Fall.  Wander astray from the route.  Come across it again.  As God makes straight our zig-zag twists and turns.

Have a little sympathy for Holy Mystery.  Whose search for us poor blighted, error-prone humans is so sorely tried!  And who, daily, hourly, moment by moment, stands ready to run and meet us - holding out two holy hands - Son and Spirit - to surround us prodigals in the Divine Embrace, inviting us to dance - at the banquet commissioned in our honor.

As we "turn" - in a state of utter extremity, utter depth - to the Unknown ~ Holy Mystery, at a moment, in a manner, we may least expect it.  And take the risk held out to us.

There's no "one experience" for this.  It could be we find ourselves resonating to a sound we seem to hear both inside and outside - our whole being in tune with the Beyond within.  It could be like an indwelling which also surrounds us at the same time.  Or like an upwelling from within or through us.  Or a flame that leaps up and surrounds or lies within.  Or like a gushing inner well, spilling over into tears.  But... do we grasp the moment?  Do we turn and meet it?  Do we leap and take the risky invitation?  Sell all for the pearl of great price?  Stake our very lives upon it?

Your mystery and my mystery.  Unique.  Death, as I've mentioned, is the "ultimate" in this regard.  But it's the same Mystery - which, each time, bids us leap, as one might leap from a burning building -  seeing appear beneath us (to our stunned eyes!) our very own "personal safety squad/God" - holding out that waiting "net" to catch us.

Ash Wednesday, in my 67th year....