BOOK OF THE MONTH: WONDROUS ENCOUNTERS BY RICHARD ROHR

Week 5: The Way Up is the Way Down

Rohr Lent coverIn our final week of Wondrous Encounters by Richard Rohr, we’re contemplating the beautiful early Christian hymn found in Philippians 2. This is a good passage to ponder at the beginning of Holy Week because it lets us see the mind of Christ—the mind that chose to embrace death for our sake.

In many ways, the mind of Christ is not like our mind at all. Rohr writes:

God . . . has chosen to descend—in almost total counterpoint with our humanity that is always trying to climb, achieve, perform, and prove itself. He invites us to reverse the process too.

***

The hymn says that Jesus leaves the ascent to God, in God’s way, and in God’s time. What freedom! And it happens, better than any could have expected. “And because of this, God lifted him up, and gave him the name above all other names.” We call it resurrection or ascension. . . Who would have presumed that the way up could be the way down? It is, as Paul says, “the Secret Mystery.”

***

God draws us into Christ’s ascent, Christ’s mind, and this gives us freedom:

Trust the down, and God will take care of the up. This leaves humanity in solidarity with the life cycle, but also with one another, with no need to create success stories for itself . . . Humanity in Jesus is free to be human and soulful instead of any false climbing into “Spirit.” This was supposed to change everything, and it still will.

***

Scripture Reading:

Your mind must be the same as Christ’s. Though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God as something to be clung to. Instead he emptied himself, and became like a slave, and was born in the likeness of humanity . . . obediently accepting even death. — Philippians 2:5-7

***

May the way up be the way down for you this Holy Week.

Read Wondrous Encounters here.

BOOK OF THE MONTH: WONDROUS ENCOUNTERS BY RICHARD ROHR

Rohr Lent coverWeek Four: What Is Life and What Is Death?

This month at The Contemplative Writer, we’re reading Wondrous Encounters by Richard Rohr. Rohr is leading us through some Scripture meditations for the season of Lent.

The Scripture reading for yesterday, the fifth Sunday of Lent, is John 11:1-45, and its theme is key: life and death. Rohr writes:

Humans are the  only creatures who have knowledge of their own death . . . This places humans in a state of anxiety and insecurity from our early years.

***

On this last Sunday before Palm Sunday, we dare to look at the “last enemy,” death. And the only way we can dare to part the curtain and view death is to be told about our resurrection from it!

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We get a foretaste of resurrection in the raising of Lazarus, from the Gospel of John. Many of us are familiar with this story: in calling forth Lazarus from the grave, Jesus conquers death! I love what Rohr emphasizes about this passage:

[I]n a final brilliant finale to the story, he [Jesus] invites the onlookers to join him in making resurrection happen: “Move the stone away!. . . Unbind him, and let him go free!” It seems that we have a part to play in creating a culture of life and resurrection. We must unbind one another from our fears and doubts about the last enemy, death.

***

The stone to be moved away is always our fear of death, the finality of death, any blindness that keeps us from seeing that death is merely a part of the Larger Mystery called Life. It does not have the final word.

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Scripture Reading:

‘This sleep is not to end in death, but is instead to reveal the glory of God’. . . . With a sigh that came straight from the heart . . . He cried out in a loud voice, ‘Move the stone away! . . . Lazarus, come forth!’ . . . ‘Now, you unbind him and let him go free.’ — Jon 11:4, 34, 38, 43-44

***

Even as we prepare to accompany Jesus to his own death during this Lenten season, may we always remember that he is the resurrection and the life.

Read Wondrous Encounters here.

BOOK OF THE MONTH: WONDROUS ENCOUNTERS BY RICHARD ROHR

Rohr Lent coverWeek 3: Could the “New” Thing Be Inclusion?

This month at The Contemplative Writer, we’re reading Wondrous Encounters by Richard Rohr. Rohr is leading us through some Scripture meditations for the season of Lent.

In one of his meditations, Rohr discusses the Scripture readings for Monday of the fourth week of Lent (Isaiah 65:17-21 and John 4:43-54). Rohr teases out two themes from these readings: the big patterns of God’s story and the wonderful message of inclusion.

About the prophet Isaiah, Rohr writes:

Prophets are seers of the big patterns; they see what is always and forever true . . . One of the big patterns is that God’s message always gets wider and more universal, despite our best attempts to limit it.

When Isaiah speaks of the “new heavens and a new earth,”

he is not so much talking about concrete particulars as he is talking about universals, the big things that are always true, and might also be true here or there.

***

And what does this tell us about today’s passage in the Gospel of John, when Jesus heals the son of an outsider (a royal official and a non-Jew)? Rohr writes that it illustrates one of the big patterns of God’s story:

The circle of the biblical revelation keeps widening to create that “new earth” of Isaiah, and within a century a people who will call themselves catholic or universal. Here comes everybody! One wonders how we ever made religion into any kind of exclusionary system whatsoever when the vast majority of Jesus’ healings seem to happen to the excluded ones and maybe even the unworthy ones.

***

Scripture Readings:

The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create. — Isaiah 65:17-18

***

The man put his trust in the word that Jesus had spoken to him, and set of for home . . . He and his whole household thereupon became believers. — John 4:50, 53

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May we rejoice in the ever-widening vision of God this season.

Read Wondrous Encounters here.

BOOK OF THE MONTH: WONDROUS ENCOUNTERS BY RICHARD ROHR

Rohr Lent coverThis month on The Contemplative Writer, we’re reading Wondrous Encounters. Richard Rohr is leading us through a series of Scripture meditations for Lent.

Rohr’s meditation for the fourth Sunday of Lent (which is this Sunday) is about blindness, light, and seeing. First, Rohr diagnoses the human condition:

Because humans cannot see their own truth very well, they do not read reality very well either. We all have our tragic flaws and blind spots. Humans always need more “light” or enlightenment about themselves and about the endless mystery of God.

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Good news! The Gospel of John speaks into this condition. In John 9, Jesus heals a man born blind. Rohr makes the following observations (along with others) about this Gospel reading:

The “man born blind” is the archetype for all of us at the beginning of life’s journey.

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Spirituality is about seeing. Sin is about blindness, or as Saint Gregory of Nyssa will say, “Sin is always a refusal to grow.”

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The one who knows little, learns much (what we call “beginner’s mind”) and those who have all their answers already, learn nothing.

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Scripture Readings

“I do not know whether [Jesus] is a sinner or not, I only know this much, I was once blind, and now I see.” — John 9:25

***

“I came into the world to divide it, to make the sightless see and to reveal to those who think they see it all that they are blind.” — John 9:39

May we all learn to see a little better this Lenten season.

Read Wondrous Encounters here.

 

BOOK OF THE MONTH: WONDROUS ENCOUNTERS BY RICHARD ROHR

Rohr Lent coverOur Book of the Month is Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent by Richard Rohr. In this meditative book, Rohr takes us through the Lenten season with a meditation and Scripture for each day.

One of the meditations for the second (full) week in Lent is entitled “Good Mirroring and Bad Mirroring.” In this meditation, Rohr talks about humans knowing themselves through the gaze of others.

A good parent, like God, naturally blesses the child through their receptive and affirming face. It is the eternal blessing to the children of Israel, “May Yahweh let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May Yahweh uncover her face to you and bring you peace!” (Numbers 6:25).

In the reading for the day from the Gospel of Luke, Rohr writes, we see this divine mirroring at work:

Receive God’s compassion, and you will be able to be compassionate . . . Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Give and it shall be given to you. Jesus describes a perfect reciprocity between what we have received or not received and how we will give or not give.

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Once you know that you are inside Trinitarian Love, you are connected to an infinite Source, and one is never sure who is doing the giving and who is doing the receiving. It is all Flow and Outpouring. It is you and yet it is God. Thus Jesus ends this Gospel by a wonderful image of overflowing abundance.

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Gospel Reading:

Full measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap, because the measure you measure out with will be measured back to you. – Luke 6:38

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May God’s overflowing abundance be yours this season.

Read Wondrous Encounters here.

 

BOOK OF THE MONTH: PREPARING FOR JESUS BY WALTER WANGERIN, JR.

Week 3: A Christ-absorbed Advent

Wangering cover 2This month, we’re reading Preparing for Jesus, an Advent devotional by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

“Prepare” is a word we hear a lot this time of year. We’re preparing for Christmas, preparing our homes, preparing a feast, preparing for company — all kinds of preparations. Somewhere in there we’re also, hopefully, preparing for the coming of Jesus.

Wangerin writes on what it means to prepare by reflecting on John the Baptist, who burst out of the wilderness crying, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” John announces the Advent of Jesus’ public ministry and also a second Advent, the return of Christ which is yet to come.

As John, who cried Prepare to Israel, was the messenger of that first appearing [of Jesus], so John is the messenger now of the reappearing, the Second Coming of Christ!

 

Still, still he cries: Prepare!

 

Are we listening?

 

Do we, who are busy preparing for Christmas, parties and presents and decorations and food and church programs—and visitors—do we prepare with equal fervor for the visitation of the Lord?

 

What sort of Advent is this imminent Advent for you? If you are consumed by one more Christmas (one mere Christmas among two thousand) your Advent is fleeting, time-bound, and likely self-absorbed. Desperate preparations often indicate an anxiety about the opinions of others regarding ourselves. But if your participation in this temporal Advent truly signifies preparations for the final Advent, you are Christ-absorbed.

Read more here.

 

 

BOOK OF THE MONTH: PREPARING FOR JESUS BY WALTER WANGERIN, JR.

Wangering cover 2Week 2: Let it be a “Yes!”

This month we’re reading Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin, Jr., a wonderful Advent devotional that will help you get ready for the coming of Christ.

In his reflection for December 11, Wangerin leads us to meditate on Mary, mother of Jesus. Mary joins four women named by Matthew as ancestors of Christ. Mary enters a sisterhood that we are called to enter, too.

In the passage below, Wangerin asks us to emulate Mary’s “Yes!” to the angel that announced Christ’s coming:

Mary, mother of our Lord, I wish I could be as pure a disciple as you were even from the beginning!

 

For you were invited to join a sisterhood–with Tamar and Bath-sheba–of sorrow and human suffering, since the child of your womb would draw the hatreds and the outrages of a scoundrel world.

 

And you said, “Yes.”

 

For you were asked to serve faithfully on behalf of others, like Rahab to protect a few for the sake of the many, like Ruth to turn disappointment into joy.

 

And you said, “Yes.”

 

. . .

 

For heaven itself was swelling within you, and you were the door. Not in terrible glory would he come, this Son of the Most High God. Not in the primal blinding light, not as the shout by which God uttered the universe, nor yet with the trumpet that shall conclude it, but through your human womb, as an infant bawling and hungry. By your labor, Mary, by the fierce contractions of your uterus, eternity would enter time. The angel said, Will you be the door of the Lord into this place?

 

And you said, “Yes.”

 

. . .

 

You, the first of all the disciples of Jesus, said, “Yes.”

What would you say?

Read more here.

BOOK OF THE MONTH: PREPARING FOR JESUS BY WALTER WANGERIN, JR.

Week One: What would you say?

Wangering cover 2One of my favorite Advent devotionals is Preparing for Jesus: Meditations on the Coming of Christ, Advent, Christmas, and the Kingdom by Walter Wangerin, Jr. I thought I’d share it with you this year. In this book, Wangerin offers thirty-seven reflections for the Advent and Christmas seasons.

In his meditation for December 5, Wangerin leads us to reflect on how Zecharaiah, the father of John the Baptist, reacted when God announced that Zechariah’s wife would soon bear a son. He reacted in disbelief. He did not trust God.

In Zechariah’s doubt is a question for us. For we are expecting a son, too. The Son of Man is coming to us, not just at Christmas, but at the end of time. How do we react to the Lord’s promise that he is coming soon? Wangerin writes:

Friend, unto you the Lord says, “Surely I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:20).

 

And what do you say to that promise? Do you by your unconscious behavior utter doubt? Does an earthbound vision deny the possibility? Are you scared to consider an end to the world?

 

“Can’t be.”

 

“Prove it.”

 

Sadly, the sign of our mistrust shall be the doubt itself, together with all the anxieties and suspicions and loneliness which doubt engenders. And these will last until we come to trust, or else until his coming comes to pass.

 

Jesus says, “I am coming soon!”

 

And how do you respond? Oh, let it be as a bride responds to the promise of the bridegroom, adorning yourself for his return, joyfully shouting with the Spirit, “Come!” (Rev. 21:2, 9; 22:17). Then your joy, your present beauty, your complete sense of assurance and belonging–these shall be signs of the Lord’s trustworthiness and of our trust, signs of his love until he comes in glory.

 

“Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”

Read Preparing for Jesus here.

BOOK OF THE MONTH: HILDEGARD OF BINGEN: A SPIRITUAL READER

Week 4: Get Your Sparkle On

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In reading Hildegard of Bingen’s work, it becomes clear that she highly valued creation and creativity. In our final week exploring Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader, we’ll see what she says about this theme.

Two songs that Hildegard wrote tell of God as designer and animator (the titles to these songs were added by Carmen Butcher, who compiled the selections in the spiritual reader):

The First Daylight

 

You’re the Word of our Father,
the light of the first sunrise,
God’s omnipotent thought.
Before anything was made,
You saw it,
You designed it, and
You tucked Your all-seeing nature in the middle of Your sinew,
like a spinning wheel
with no beginning and no end,
still encircling everything.

*****

The First Verb

 

The Holy Spirit animates
all, moves
all, roots
all, forgives
all, cleanses
all, erases
all
our past mistakes, and then
puts medicine on our wounds.
We praise this Spirit of incandescence
for awakening
and reawakening
all
creation.

*****

In her letters, Hildegard frequently reminded others of God’s creativity. To the Abbess of Bamberg, she wrote:

In the same way that the stars illuminate the sky at night, God made humanity to sparkle. We’re created for maturity. We’re made to give out light like the sun, the moon, and the stars. If a black cloud covered these, the earth and every creature in it would worry that the end had come.

*****

In a letter to Pope Anastasius IV, Hildegard makes a striking moral statement about creativity. She tells the pope that we must reject corruption, injustice, and evil because they are not creative. They are a form of anti-creativity:

Don’t forget that whatever God made, radiates. So listen. Before God made the world, He said to Himself, “There’s My dear Son!” and from this original Word, the world was formed. Then God said, “Be!” and all kinds of animals appeared. Our God creates, but evil is never creative. It’s nothing, merely the by-product of rebellion. Through His Son, God saved humanity, clearly rejecting immorality—stealing, stubbornness, murder, hypocrisy, and bullies.

 

That’s why you as pope must never collude with corruption. If you do, you confuse those who look to you as their leader, because, in effect, you’re saying to them, “Embrace what’s really nothing.”

*****

Read more.

For reflection:

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BOOK OF THE MONTH: HILDEGARD OF BINGEN: A SPIRITUAL READER

Week 3: Bloom Abundantly
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This month, we’re dipping into Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader (compiled and translated by Carmen Acevedo Butcher). The past two weeks, we looked at selections from Hildegard’s major theological work, the Scivias.

Hildegard was also a prolific correspondent. She wrote letters to rulers, other religious, and friends. These letters are full of admonition, advice, and encouragement.

In the excerpts below, Hildegard writes to Empress Irene, the wife of Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Commenus. She speaks prophetic words of encouragement to the empress. Let yourself be encouraged, too:

Listen to what God’s Spirit has to say to you. In winter, God lets the tree He loves hibernate, but in Summer, He makes it bloom abundantly and protects it from every disease. This is you. Remember also that every polluted body of water is purified by the stream gushing from the rock in the East, a clean, fast-running river. Who is like this river? Those whom God grants success and honor. They’re not ruled by the poisonous North wind and its advancing evil.

*****

Turn to God. Be confident that He has touched you. Continue to give Him the burnt offerings of your heart’s openness. Sigh, and know He hears you. . . . Yes, the Living Eye watches over you. He wants you to live eternally.

*****

Read more.

For reflection:

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