Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Via Dolorosa

I've been thinking alot about the Way of Suffering. Not because I need any more, mind you. In fact, I'm usually appalled by those people who have to find artificial and arbitrary ways to suffer--you know, like kneeling on glass or something. I think of those people the same way I do of "cutters" (people who mutilate themselves by cutting their body to produce pain). They use the pain like any other distraction: their suffering is non-redemptive because it leads away from the Way of Suffering, not along it.

So what type of suffering is profitable, then? I think that metanoia requires suffering. Again, not that pain itself is somehow profitable. Instead, I believe that the change of the nous requires somes neurological changes that produce pain from the organismic level. As a therapist, I believe that we adapt to the crazy patchwork-quilt of conditional love that we encounter through our life, that we adapt in our bodies, including neurologically. Change at the organism level requires letting go of those adaptions that have shaped my internal tensions and neurological filters that "make" me "feel" safe. Thus, change leaves me anxious and hurting as I fear for my own survival: the more radical change, the more severe the pain.

I think this is why Jesus had to come to save me. I cannot change enough on my own, regardless of whatever method of "salvation" I choose, because I am too afraid of death. Jesus overcame the reality of death. He became human to provide a pathway for me to become divine (whoa, easy there) and he took on the pain of that transition, a pain I believe I could never handle. That's why I must join my miniscule suffering with that of Jesus, because he is the way and the vehicle out of my sin and suffering, a way I could never have traveled.

This makes me think of Francis' focus on the crucifixion. I used to find it macabre; now I believe that old Father Francis knew what he was doing. The more I join myself to (and allow myself to be joined with) the suffering and death of Jesus, the more I am freed to accept the divine life that is available to me, eternally. Not in a masochistic sense, though, since that way only increases the "sin"--the missing of the target. It just means that I embrace the Passion and the Cross because they are the only hope I have of escaping the pain that I have taken on in hope of feeling loved. So I seek those things that increase my "suffering"--the monastic ascetical practices that help sweep the house clean of distraction, for example--so that it becomes more radically like Jesus' suffering. Francis succeeded to the point of the stigmata, an incredible blessing when one looks at it through this lens.

Kinda makes me want to pray for more people "in" purgatory, since the whole concept focuses on purgation of what is "unclean" of me and in me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary

This very Franciscan saying (not attributed to Francis, though) describes a problem I've had all my life--when is it "necessary" to use words and are they all that helpful anyway. Ham used to speculate that writing was something we did for ourselves, helping one to focus and clarify one's thoughts. As a family systems therapist, I think of words as filling the "space" between actions and an attempt to manipulate others. As a communications therapist, I think that words are like arrows shot into the void--at best accidentally hitting some "target". Given that Francis spent much of his time in contemplative solitude in rude hermitages, I bet he didn't center his life on words.

Yet, Francis is known even secularly for his writings--among the first extant ones in the "Italian" vernacular. He used words to preach to the birds and the wolf as well as the people. Perhaps his speech was simply an integrated part of his actions, an unconscious action like lifting one's feet when running.

I think I am uncomfortable with words because they often do not point to mystery. They often appear vain, pointing to my intellectual vanities rather than to the glory of God. This gets paradoxical again--speak without "speaking", simply revealing. Perhaps words are okay as long as they are art, pointing to the golden shekinah that expands from the icons to fill the temple. Yes, that seems to fit: when they reveal God's presence they are golden and when they reveal my emptiness they are drab.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Uncertainty and Mystery

As I was watching and reverencing the elements of consecration during the Great Entrance of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday I suddenly was aware of the meaning of Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty. An odd thought, you may wonder, given the context. Actually, I was remembering a discussion with Dr. Hawksteeple as to exactly when the elements are transubstantiated. He had made the wonderful point that it was very Western to ask "when"; he offered the uncertainty that the transubstantiation could have "already" occurred by the epiclesis.

The problem is the paradox I create by trying to apply a (Western) filter of sequential time to an eternal event that is viewed through transubstantion. This is similar to the paradox Heisenberg uncovered, except he was thinking of location--that hitting an atomic particle with a photon (to "see" it) changes the position of the particle, so I can not be certain where it is even when I "see" it.

Part of my "breathing with both lungs" is learning to view the world in other ways than the Western way of locating things in four dimensions, which frees me to "see" the eternal in this world. I find this difficult because I don't like to feel uncertain about the world I construct around me--a poverty, no?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Eternal and Everlasting

The difference of emphasis between Eastern and Western Christianity can be seen in little things. For example, in the Western Rites we pray

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.
whereas in the Eastern Rites
Glory be to the Father + and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever, and forever.
It may seem a small thing, the difference between the last two phrases, yet it shows the difference in emphasis. The Western focus on beginning, present, and future, with its implicit notion of sequential time--everlasting life. The Eastern focus is on the now as it is across time, as we experience it in Heaven--eternal life. Both are important for Christians, as we contemplate God both incarnate in time and beyond time as a mystery.
O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth! You are everywhere present and fill all things. Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life, come and dwell within us, cleanse us of all stain, and save our souls, O gracious Lord.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Primo unctio et postea

Yet another newbie blogger; this one is about the balance and tension between "Eastern" and "Western" Christianity; analytical and emotional mind; Occidental and Oriental; Mythos and Logos (but not "or"). How do we live in balance between the personal search for holiness as we encounter the mystical and yet receive the benefits of the shared wisdom of the Logos ("the kingdom of God is within/among us"). I am recently a Byzantine Rite Catholic, a long-time computer professional and licensed marriage and family therapist, as well as a "recovering" intellectual (not yet a "barrel rider", though).

I'm not interested in psycho- or theo-babble. This is hard work, staying in balance between spacious language and living the Gospel of Jesus. Right now I'm meditating on the motto "
Primo unctio et postea speculatio" (First holiness, then learning), and the Franciscan ideal of learning. Francis was wary of the Universities and their appeal to the independent authority of "learning" (nice discussion of the medieval appeal to authority) that was pitted against the authority of the Church and the "Holy Roman Empire". He had been a participant himself in the bloody fruit of this struggle. He became more keen on taming Brother Ass, perhaps because he had realized the emptiness of "learning" outside of his relationship with God. How can we, besotted with books and webpages, stay on our via crucis while partaking of the experience of others?