Tag Archives: Heart

November 9, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: ix – ‘Dogma means little to people seeking hope.’

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Reasoned argument seeks to break things down into constituent parts; it is story-telling that shows how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Reasoned argument draws on things that worked in the past, story-telling offers a new world of possibilities. Could this be why Jesus used parable to communicate truth? Maybe even why he said unless you become as little children… children love stories!

We do well to remember that Jesus was at home in the world of story, because he was born of story, the story of creation and all its tremendous potential. Life looks very different when we set him within story – free of the world of rational argument.

It would never have occurred to anyone to doubt the existence of God if theologians had not tried to prove it. The Creed is a collection of dogmas, deemed to be eternally binding – beginning with the Creator, and ending with today’s guardian of dogmatic truth – the Church. Surely this is more to do with power than faith? The intention is good – to empower people with the gift of faith – but it effectively disempowers by making us passive recipients of truths rather than passionate seekers after Truth.

In the dogmatic system growth in faith is assessed by conformity to religious practice – which can become a form of co-dependence. Without doubt many have broken through these limitations, making commitment of heart and mind – showing how structures need to be assessed as to whether they serve the life or are self-serving. Jesus does not belong within such structures.

A different Jesus emerged, champion of equality, fired by intuition, intent on empowering the powerless and marginalised and inevitably seen as a threat to establishment – bringing down the mighty… raising the lowly – Luke 1.52. Dogma means little to people seeking hope. Preaching Christ carries no lasting impact; being Christ is what matters. This is not a rational option, but an emotional choice rising out of the heart – it is an option for love over truth.

AMcC

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22 July: “Day Break into Song”: Mary Magdalene.


sun-clouds-golden

One time I thought it was my brain
That made the songs I sing;
But now I know it is a heart
That loveth every thing.

And while his heart’s blood feeds his brain.
To keep it warm and young
A man can live a hundred years,
And day break into song.

Here, for Mary Magdalene, are two more stanzas from The Song of Love by W.H. Davies.

Which sit well with three verses from Psalm 119 (145-147):

With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord!
 I will keep your statutes.
I call to you; save me,
that I may observe your testimonies.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I hope in your words.

Mary rose before dawn – but was there hope in her heart that Easter morning? She did not give in to despair, but rose before dawn to make her way with her women friends to observe the laws and anoint the body of their Beloved.

Their hearts were still full of love and that daybreak her brain caught up with her heart and hope rose within her. ‘Rabboni!’ (John 20:16).

We celebrate that moment in song to this day:

Dic nobis, Maria.
Quid vidisti in via?
Sepulchrum Christi viventis
Et gloriam vidi resurgentis.

Angelicos testes.
Sudarium et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea;
Praecedet suos in Galilaeam.

 
Or
 
Tell us Mary Magdalene, say, what you saw when on your way.
I saw the tomb where Christ had lain; I saw his glory as he rose again;
Napkin and linen clothes, and Angels twain.
Yes, Christ my hope is risen, and he will go before you into Galilee.
MB.

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29 May: Before the tourists arrive, Canterbury Cathedral is quiet.

 

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I wandered into town before most of the shops were open, an errand to run for Mrs T.

Job done, I took myself to the Cathedral, expecting peace and quiet. At first glance the nave was empty but as I crossed this vast space I saw that there was a scaffold at the East End in front of the choir, there were boards high up below the roof vaults, and hard-hatted men in a human chain, passing more boards vertically up to the top of the scaffold. Purposeful activity with no fuss. I remembered poor William of Sens, the mediaeval architect, who was badly injured falling from a scaffold in the rebuilding after one of the Cathedral fires.

I also remembered that the scaffold had gone from the great South Window. Even on a grey morning, it was a joy to behold the ancestors of the Lord in their rightful place.

So down to the crypt where it’s always quiet. Not quite today. The workers could not help a degree of banging penetrating below ground. Someone seemed to be tuning the organ, then playing a hymn or two, softly. The first tourists – or pilgrims – were already on site; builders strode past: the place was alive!

Alive at many levels not all of them noisy. It does not take long to stop fidgeting, physically and mentally, in such a sacred space.

Maybe one day I should light a candle.

WT

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10 April: The Big Mile, or Patient Trust.

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Jesus, arms outstretched, at the start of his earthly life. Statue at Hales Place.  The Sacred Heart emblem has been lost from his breast, but the Cross is on his shoulder.

 

One Sunday after Mass Friends of the Franciscan Study Centre walked  to Hales Place Jesuit Chapel in aid of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society’s Big Mile appeal. There we read the following prayer by Père Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, once a student at the Jesuit College, since demolished.

 

 

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

Ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/8078/prayer-of-theilhard-de-chardin

 

Holy Week must have seemed a long and anxious time for Jesus.

Let us bring before him all the impatience, instability, anxiety and incompleteness felt by ourselves and those we love. I ask you to remember especially all of us connected with the Franciscan Study Centre as its mission here in Canterbury comes to an end.

MMB.


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18 March: Human Will XII: To Singers

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We continue reading poems by Radclyffe Hall. A great deal of her work has not aged well, but we have collected these  in Agnellus’ Mirror because they invite us to reflect.

This scrap of verse comments on giving the Human will full expression. Singers, dancers, writers, artists in any field; parents, teachers, carers: we will be more effective in our work if we combine mind and heart, intellect and soul; if we bring our whole selves to the work.

Sing with your intellect and soul combined;

Not all technique, nor yet all wild emotion,

Thus shall you touch the heart and please the mind,

Winning a real and merited devotion.

Radclyffe Hall lived in Sussex; this window of King David and others singing is in Sussex’s Cathedral at Chichester.

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25 February: “If We Live in the Sacred Heart”…

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More from Father Andrew, SDC; written in war time.

If we just live in this world we do have tribulation, but if we live in the Sacred Heart we are able to be of good cheer though we are in the midst of that which is cheerless, for He Who told us to be of good cheer is Himself in the midst of us.

I shall indeed keep you in my heart and my prayer, my dear Child.

God Bless and keep you.

The Life and Letters of Father Andrew, p 120. Edited Kathleen E Burne, Mowbrays, 1948.

And God bless and keep you all, all our readers. Thank you for being with us.

MMB.

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25 January: Break, break, break!

 

cold-grey-sea

The train’s dirty window enhanced the gloom: the person I was meant to be meeting was ‘in a bad place’; it was cold, grey and drizzling. The English Channel was cold and grey. Brrr.

Break, break, break: I thought of Tennyson’s lines.

Break, break, break,
On thy cold grey stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O well for the fisherman’s boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish’d hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

The rest of the world gets on with life, but we may well feel speechless, heartbroken. Break, break, break!

And he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death; stay you here, and watch. And when he was gone forward a little, he fell flat on the ground; and he prayed, that if it might be, the hour might pass from him. And he saith: Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee: remove this chalice from me; but not what I will, but what thou wilt.

Mark 14:34-36.

Let’s remember the broken-hearted and remember, too, seafarers, far from home, and the Apostleship of the Sea who take care of them in port.

Wt.

 

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July 24, John Cassian VIII: Storing up Honey

 

 

Yesterday we saw that Cassian teaches the necessity of interior “fasting.”  The person who does not practice fasting from cynicism, jealousy, anger and so forth, on the level of his heart, stores up poison there.  These vices, largely connected with the way we view our neighbour, are so many offences against love of neighbour, therefore.

For Cassian in the fifth century, as for us in the twenty-first, the wisdom lies in “owning” our problems, as we say now.  Then we are less apt to project them onto a friend, spouse, colleague, son or daughter.  Cassian goes even deeper.  There is a profound benefit to be gained within the vessel of the heart if we own our problems.  It changes not only the way we look at others, it changes our very heart.  Here is what he advises:

[We] must not seek all kinds of virtue from one person.  For there is one adorned with the flowers of knowledge, another who is more strongly fortified by the practice of discretion, another who is solidly founded in patience, one who excels in the virtue of humility and another in that of abstinence, while still another is decked with the grace of simplicity.  Therefore [he] who, like a most prudent bee, is desirous of storing up spiritual honey must suck the flower of a particular virtue from those who possess it more intimately and he must lay it up carefully in the vessel of his heart (Institutes 5:IV).

If we can manage to overlook the rather flowery fifth-century language, we can see that this is good news indeed.  There is nothing unrealistic here.  The person described by Cassian knows that no one possesses every virtue in its fullness.  But rather than despairing, or posing as the perennial critic, such a person is beginning to realise that every sign of goodness he finds in others represents a great victory for grace.  He accepts that there will be a certain unevenness in the goodness of all people.  Still, to recognise what is good in others is to “store up spiritual honey.”  This bears fruit on the level of his heart.  It becomes “sweet.”

SJC.

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July 23, John Cassian VII: What are we Storing Up?

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Say we have persevered in our endeavour to face our “shadow”, and to dispossess ourselves of superfluous material goods.  Say we have even managed to make some headway here, and have not slipped back into “compulsive consumerism”, but have gradually come to live a life of greater freedom from such an addiction.  Then, Cassian challenges us to take a closer look at the vessel of our heart.  This is what he says to those who have begun to do the real work of facing their evil thoughts:

…[W]e should not believe that mere fasting from visible food can suffice for our [purity] of heart if a fasting of the soul has not also been joined to it, for it has its own harmful foods by which it is fattened.  Its food is detraction, and it is delightful indeed.  Its food is anger, as well.  Envy is the food of the mind, corrupting it ceaselessly with someone else’s prosperity and success.  Vainglory is its food.  If, then, we abstain from these as much as we are able, we shall well and aptly observe bodily fasting (Institutes 5:21).

 

mercylogoThe heart needs to fast, according to Cassian.  Gluttony has a spiritual counterpart.  A true Christian is not one who lives and eats abstemiously, while maintaining the personality of a cynical critic.  He is a person who knows his own imperfections and is therefore able to be merciful to others as they struggle with their own weaknesses.

The question, ‘What are we storing up?’ has many layers.  Have we noticed pride in our heart, maybe?  Anger?  Impatience?  With searing insight, Cassian says,

Sometimes, when we have been overcome by pride or impatience we complain that we are in need of solitude, as if we would find the virtue of patience in a place where no one would bother us, saying that [our faults] stem not from our own impatience but from our neighbours’ faults.  But, as long as we attribute our own wrongdoing to other people, we shall never be able to get near to patience (Institutes 8: XVI).

Here, John Cassian enjoins us simply to own our problems and not pine for an existence free of all annoyances in the belief that under such circumstances our anger and impatience would disappear.  Disturbances to our supposed equilibrium do not cause our moral weaknesses, teaches Cassian; on the contrary, they merely expose them.  If we were never provoked, we would imagine ourselves to be virtuous, whereas in fact, we simply have not been put to the test.

SJC.

Picture: CD.

 

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July 21, John Cassian V: What Next?

 

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The one who has made an effort to cut down on superfluous material things will find himself less occupied by concerns about maintaining them, repairing them, updating them.  The heart begins to be free.  It becomes possible to pray more, according to John Cassian.  But this does not mean that purity of heart has now been achieved.  It is not unusual, under such circumstances, to develop a more intense awareness of one’s own weaknesses and sinful tendencies.

Rather than seeing unending streams of light proceeding from within, one may find what Cassian calls “evil thoughts” emerging.  According to Cassian, this shouldn’t come as any surprise, for Jesus himself warns us that this is what we are like: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander” (Mt. 15: 19).  Perhaps I am someone who has read that passage many times in scripture, yet, when I finally realise that this is a home truth about me, it can be shocking.

This is where Cassian comes to assist – not with false consolation that endeavours to sweep all the difficulties under the carpet.  He comes with true insight into the reality of our interior life.  Cassian enumerates eight principal vices, or “evil thoughts,” as he calls them.  He calls them “thoughts” because he knows that our deeds, whether good or bad, are conceived first as thoughts before they become actions.  So, it is there, on the level of our thoughts, that conversion needs to occur.

SJC.

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