Joy

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From Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching: “The Fifth Factor of Awakening is joy (priti). Joy goes with happiness (sukha), but there are differences. When you are thirsty and a glass of water is being served to you, that is joy. When you are actually able to drink the water, that is happiness. It is possible to develop joy in your mind, even when your body is not well. This will, in turn, help your body. Joy comes from touching things that are refreshing and beautiful, within and outside of ourselves. Usually we touch only what’s wrong. If we can expand our vision and also see what is right, this wider picture always brings joy.”

Roger

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Leaves

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From Wendy Farley’s The Wounding and Healing of Desire: “There are a million or more ways to wrestle with the nature of personhood or the peculiarities of our minds or the difficulties of our fate. Desire is the clue we will be tracking here. We will begin by looking at the way people sing of the poignant yearning that undergirds desire. Thinking about all of the ordinary things people long for opens us to a memory of the depth and mystery of our hearts, because we long not only for this or that thing but for happiness itself, for wisdom, and for love that abides. This kind of desire, which the things of the world do not completely satisfy, also tells us something about ourselves. When we look at leaves on trees, they appear to us green and lovely, but when the sun hits them just right, they glint like stars fallen to earth. Desire is like this. Surging underneath our ordinary desires is a brilliant desire that makes us glisten like stars.”

Roger

New Creation

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From Michael Crosby’s Fruit of the Spirit: Pauline Mysticism for the Church Today: “If everything old has passed away and everything has become new by being “in Christ,” this includes how we think about the passion and death of Jesus and especially how we understand and interpret his resurrection and embodiment in the lives of believers, who are the church. Thus Luke Timothy Johnson writes, “Thinking about the Resurrection in temporal terms, however, is misleading. The Resurrection is better spoken of as an existential reality; not as one event among others but as an act of God that reveals and changes the structures of existence. Paul speaks of the resurrection-life as a ‘new creation’ (Gal. 6:15) in which everything old has passed away and ‘behold, everything is new’ (2 Cor. 5:17).” It is not only how we understand the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our embodiment of this reality in our experience, but that we are to give evidence of being “in Christ” in the way we move from everything old that separates to bring about a new structure of existence based on inclusion and communion. This new creation is to be the personal and social identifier of every individual Christian and each and every Christian community.”

Roger

Surrender

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From Wendy Farley’s The Thirst for God: Contemplating God’s Love with Three Women Mystics [speaking here of the medieval mystic Mechtild of Magdeburg]: “Mechthild uses the poetic image of surrender to make a theological point: divine power allows love to displace might. Surrender is a way of saying that the divine impulse to redeem humanity is overwhelming and irresistible. Just as Romeo galloped across Italy to return to Juliet, the Trinity is overmastered by Love’s compulsion to abandon majestic sterility. “When God could no longer contain himself, he created the soul and, in his immense love, gave himself to her as her own.” In this image, God is powerless to withhold God’s power; God is enslaved by love for humanity. This metaphorical excess is familiar in love songs and poetry: the lover would walk five hundred miles or swim the deepest ocean or stand out in the rain. There are no mountains too high or rivers too wide to keep lovers apart. In these exuberant love songs, love is the extravagant delight of lovers willing to bleed out their whole being for the other. From Mechthild’s perspective, if our theology or spirituality is governed by terrifying images of a divine judge or jailer, we will not understand that this kind of power is rejected by God. The Trinity has surrendered to love and will stop at nothing to entice the beloved soul back. This divine alchemy resists direct description and can only be hinted at through a variety of metaphors. Surrender is a temporal metaphor for something that is always the case: the deepest truth of creation lies in the presence of God to the human soul, unimpeded by egocentrism, suffering, or sin. This eternal truth is damaged by the fall, but its fundamental reality is not destroyed.”

Roger

Open-Ended

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From Pema Chodron’s The Places and Scare You: “As a species, we should never underestimate our low tolerance for discomfort. To be encouraged to stay with our vulnerability is news that we can use. Sitting meditation is our support for learning how to do this. Sitting meditation, also known as mindfulness-awareness practice… Sitting meditation cultivates loving-kindness and compassion…It gives us a way to move closer to our thoughts and emotions and to get in touch with our bodies. It is a method of cultivating unconditional friendliness toward ourselves and for parting the curtain of indifference that distances us from the suffering of others. It is our vehicle for learning to be a truly loving person. Gradually, through meditation, we begin to notice that there are gaps in our internal dialogue. In the midst of continually talking to ourselves, we experience a pause, as if awakening from a dream. We recognize our capacity to relax with the clarity, the space, the open-ended awareness that already exists in our minds. We experience moments of being right here that feel simple, direct, and uncluttered. This coming back to the immediacy of our experience is training in unconditional bodhichitta. By simply staying here, we relax more and more into the open dimension of our being. It feels like stepping out of a fantasy world and discovering the simple truth.”

Roger

The Power of Mercy

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From Wendy Farley’s The Thirst for God: Contemplating God’s Love with Three Women Mystics [speaking here of the medieval mystic Mechtild of Magdeburg]: “As all good Christians know, sin separates us from God and deserves to be punished. But in Mechthild’s theology, God is like the priest at the beginning of Les Misérables: God surrenders the right to condemn and in this great mercy reconverts the soul back toward its divine origin. Mechthild poeticizes this conversion as God’s delight in surrendering to the mutual love between divinity and the soul. Mechthild sometimes describes this as God’s surrender to her desire to free souls from purgatory. In response to her prayers, God promises to allow her desire for their redemption to win out over strict justice: “yes, when two wrestle with one another, the weaker will go under. I want to be weaker, though I am almighty.” God seems to enjoy being cajoled into using God’s power to free prisoners and absolve sin. In these images of divine surrender, Mechthild acknowledges that there is a kind of power that demands strict justice and leaves the guilty to languish in their prison. Those rulers, judges, and prison guards who have the power to torture or imprison exercise a particularly real and terrifying power on earth. But she withholds this kind of power from God. This is not because God has less power than these wielders of might but because that kind of power is a diseased and distorted power. Out of love, the Father abandons the power to perpetuate suffering because the deeper and more authentic power is what redeems, heals, and restores. Mercy is a different kind of almighty-ness which draws even those brutalized by sin back into loving communion. The kind of power that is revered and feared in human society is a fallen and distorted shadow of divine power. Mechthild uses the poetic image of surrender to make a theological point: divine power allows love to displace might.”

Roger