Sunday, January 14, 2018

2nd Epiphany 2018, Spirit Child

2nd Epiphany
Luke 2, 41-52

Every year his [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they took him with them. Now after they had gone there and fulfilled the custom during the days of the feast, they set off on their way home. But the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know this; they thought he was among the company of the travelers. After a day’s journey, they missed him among their friends and relations. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three
days they found him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And those who heard him were amazed at his mature understanding and his answers.

And when they saw him, they were taken aback, and his mother said to him, “My child, why have you done this to us? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”

And he said to them, “Why did you look for me? Did you not know that I must be and live in that which is my Father’s?”

But they did not understand the meaning of the words he spoke to them. And he went down with them again to Nazareth and followed them willingly in all things.

And his mother carefully kept all these things living in her heart. And Jesus progressed in wisdom, in maturity and grace [favor] in the sight of God and man.


2nd Epiphany
January 14, 2018
Luke 2:41-52

For perhaps long periods of time the stream of our life flows smoothly. Then suddenly something unexpected happens—a great event, a loss, a chance encounter, and something new breaks forth.

In today’s 
reading, this moment in the life of the young Jesus is just such a moment. It is a kind of second birth. For three days he was cocooned in the Temple as His soul was being born. The child is becoming a man. Things can no longer be what they once were. For a moment, the light flares up in great promise, awakening both fear and hope. The mother ponders this in her heart. But His parents’ grief and confusion over the loss of the sweet, uncomplicated child will ultimately be a gain for all of humanity.

But it is not yet time. The Spirit Child has a further path before him. And so he covers the flame again. He goes home in humble submission to his earthly parents, to grow, to progress, to mature. The poet expresses this moment:

I cover the divine flame in my heart
for if I turned God loose from my house
the earth would reveal to your eyes what mine always see—
existence is a lamp, and I …
the oil it

We, too, are nurturing a spirit child. He is brought to birth in prayer, in the Act of Consecration of Man. We hear Him speak of what belongs to the Father. We don’t always understand. But we ponder in our hearts. And we carry Him home, and out into the world with us where we, too,  ‘progress in wisdom, in maturity and grace in the sight of God and man.’ Luke 2: 52.

*“The Oil It Burns”, by Kabir, in Love Poems from God, Daniel Ladinsky, p. 234.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

1st Epiphany 2018, Innocence Grown

1st Epiphany
Matthew 2: 1-12 
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea—during the time of King Herod—behold: wise priest-kings from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the one born here King of the Jews? We have seen his star rise in the east and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. And he assembled all the high priests and scribes of the people and inquired of them in what place the Christ was to be born.
And they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it was written by the prophet:
And you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are by no means the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth the ruler
Who will be shepherd over my people, the true Israel.”
Then Herod, secretly calling the Magi together again, inquired from them the exact time when the star had appeared. He directed them to Bethlehem and said, “Go there and search carefully for the child, and when you find him, report to me, that I too may go and bow down before him.”
After they had heard the King, they went on their way, and behold, the star that they had
seen rising went before them, and led them in its course over the cities until it stood over the place where the child was.
Seeing the star, they were filled with [there awakened in them] an exceedingly great and holy joy.
Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; they fell down before him and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and offered him their gifts: gold and frankincense and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their country by another way.
1st Epiphany
January 7, 2018
Matthew 2: 1-12
There is an archetypal polarity in the world: whenever innocence, goodness, beauty or purity appear, there, immediately, is the predator. The one attracts the other. It is as though innocence and destruction are paired, as though they are destined to wed.
So it is no wonder that the innocent child Jesus attracts the attention of Herod. The child will escape death this time. It is protected by the angels, for its time has not yet come. But Innocence Grown will be murdered by the same predatory pride and fear that expressed itself in Herod.
Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

Yet that won’t be the end of the story. It will be just the beginning. For Innocence will not be utterly destroyed. Innocence Grown will wed itself to the destroyer Death. It will take the predator by the hand and lead it through hell into the light of love. It will die, but it will rise again as New Life.
When Herod says, “…search carefully for the child, and when you find him, report to me, that I too may go and bow down before him,’ we hear the lie, the irony in his words. Yet Herod was speaking an unconscious truth. For what the destroyer really wants is redemption. And it will happen, because Innocence Grown loves all—Herod, the Pharisees, all human souls.
The Destroyer lives inside each of us. It is the necessary partner to our innocent, untouchable spiritual core. It challenges us to find the pathway to Innocence Grown, to the one who shines in the darkness as our own New Life.

Friday, January 12, 2018

New Year's Eve, 2017, Coming Toward Me

John 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God. 
He was in the beginning with God. 
All things came into being through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 
And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not [has not overcome it]. 
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 
The same came [as] for a witness, to bear witness to the light, that through him all might believe. 
He was not the light, but a witness of the light, for the true light that enlightens every man, was to come into the world. 
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, and the world knew him not. 
He came to men as individuals but individual men received him not.           
But those who received him could reveal themselves as children of God. 
Those who trusted in his name were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 
And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory (as) of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 
John bore witness of him and proclaimed clearly: this was he of whom I said: He will come after me who was before me, for he was the first. 
For out of his fullness have we all received grace upon grace. 
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ. 
Hitherto no man has beheld God with his eyes. The only begotten Son (God) who was within the Father Ground of the World, he has become the leader of men into this seeing.
New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2017
John 1:1-18
Stepping across a threshold into a brightly lighted space temporarily blinds us. Overwhelmed at first, we are only painfully aware of the change. But slowly our eyes adjust. Objects begin to emerge out of the dazzling brightness. Then we can begin to navigate in this lighted space. We can begin to become active participants there.
In this gospel reading, we are presented at first with an overwhelming grandiosity. The Word sounds forth out of the silence, creating. A light of lightning brightness, the light of life, radiates out into the darkness. At first, we human beings are uncomprehending, dazzled perhaps by too much light. But gradually details begin to emerge. There comes a man called John who bears witness, who talks to us about what we can barely make out. He is a guide. He helps us to make sense of the overpowering brightness coming toward us from across the threshold. He helps our eyes to see by reporting to us how things are related. He
shows us that all the numerous graces of our lives, our privileges, our richness, our inner wealth, comes from this light-filled fullness beyond. He encourages us to look around at this light-filled space. And to notice that once inside it, there will be a guide. That once we cross over into the realm of light, the One who created the light will guide us in apprehending what we see. Under His leadership, we will navigate the space. With His help, we will find our place and our task. For the Creator Spirit is also the Revealer. As we cross the threshold into a new time, we can say:

The hour is striking so close above me,
so clear and sharp,
that all my senses ring with it.
I feel it now: there’s a power in me
to grasp and give shape to my world.
I know that nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it.
All becoming has needed me.
My looking ripens things
and they come toward me, to meet and be met.*
Yea, so be it.
* Rilke’s Book of Hours, Macy and Barrows, page 47

Sunday, December 24, 2017

4th Advent 2017, Often, Often, Often

Matthew 25, 31-45

When the Son of Man comes, illumined by the light of revelation, surrounded by all angels, then he will ascend the throne of the kingdom of his revelation. He will gather before his countenance all the peoples of the world and he will cause a division among them, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, the sheep on his right, and the goats on his left. Then, as king, he will say to those on his right, “Come here, you who are blessed by my Father, you shall receive as your own the kingdom which has been intended for you from the creation of the world. I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; I was naked, and you clothed me; I was ill, and you looked after me; I was in prison and you came to me.”
Then those who are devoted to God will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you starving and we fed you, or saw you thirsty and gave you to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and take you in, or see you naked and clothe you? When did we visit you when you were you ailing or in prison?

And the king will say to them, “Yes, I say to you, what you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, that you did for me.”

Christ of the Breadline, Fritz Eichenberg
Then he will say to those standing on his left, “You will not remain near me. You are subject to the burning fire in which the aeon is consumed, and in which dwells the Adversary and his messengers! I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me to drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in; I was naked, and you did not clothe me; I was ill and in prison and you did not visit me.”

Then they will also answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and did not give you to eat, or thirsty and did not give you to drink, or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison and did not help you?”

Then he will answer, “Yes, I say to you, what you neglected to do for the least of my brethren, you failed to do for me.” And thy will become subject to the aeon of anguish, while those devoted to God shall find the aeon of life.

4th Advent
December 24, 2017
Matthew 25, 31-45

This is the time of the year when we are inspired to be charitable. A mood of generosity descends on most of us. Yet it can be short-lived. We often lack the inner and outer resources to continue in this way all year.

It may be worth noting that today’s reading is addressed to groups of people, to the collective, not to individuals. These groups will arise naturally, out of themselves, at the end of the aeon. On the one side are those in whom good will dwells. This good will toward everyone arises out of the ability to put aside self-centeredness and fear.  It arises out a habit of generosity and great-heartedness. On the other side are those who are perhaps themselves locked down, ill in spirit, trying to satisfy their own hungers and thirsts.  

As individuals, we may be able to help a few. It is not possible for one individual to care for all in need. Our strength is in numbers; it takes a group, many people dedicating themselves to helping those in need. Our strength is in making generosity a cultural habit, year in and year out.

Interestingly, the king does not chide either group for not recognizing the
William Holman Hunt
connection between himself and those in need. Recognizing Christ behind everyone in need would be too easy. In our blindness lies our freedom of choice and the test of our character. Apparently, in the end, the quality of good will is more important here than a capacity for conscious knowledge. It is the quality of our will, our good deeds, our love, which will be revealed at the end of the aeon, 
not only individually, but collectively.

At the same time, the question arises: in what way is Christ is connected with those in need? The reading suggests that he is identical with them. In descending from the heavens, Christ has taken on all of humankind, and all of its weaknesses and sufferings, in all humility. Amazing to think that He needs something from us. He needs us to be his hands, his feet, to help all in need, to nourish and comfort them. An old Celtic rune sums it up:

I saw a stranger yesterday
I put food in the eating place
Drink in the drinking place
Music in the listening place
And in the blessed name of the Triune
He blessed myself and my house
My cattle and my dear ones.
And the lark said in her song
”Often, often, often,
Goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.”

Sunday, December 17, 2017

3rd Advent Sunday, 2017, Guardians of His Beauty

Stephen B. Whatley
Advent (2nd, 3rd or 4th)
Philippians 4:1, 4:4-9

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown of glory, stand firm in the power of the Lord.

Rejoice in the nearness of the Lord at all times! And I say it again: Rejoice!

Let a gentle kindliness be evident toward all human beings you encounter. The Lord is near! Let not worry have power over you; let your concerns in all things be known to God by sending your supplication and prayer upward in thankful thoughts. And the peace of God, which transcends anything that the intellect can grasp, will keep your hearts and thoughts safe in the Being of Christ….

And lastly dear brothers I say to you:
all that is true,
all that is worthy of reverence,
all that is good and holy,
all that is lovely to look at and beautiful to hear,
all that has virtue and deserves praise:

let these be the content of your conversations and thoughts. All that you have had handed on to you, what you have heard from me and seen in me—put all this into practice; then the God of Peace will be with you!

Fra Angelico
3rd Advent Sunday
December 17, 2017 
Philippians 4.1 and 4.4-9

If you were about to receive an important guest, you would probably want to prepare your home. You would probably first de-clutter and clean, rid the space of the debris of everyday life. Then you could proceed to add elements of beauty: arrange fresh flowers, light a warm fire or fragrant candles, set the table and prepare refreshments.

On this our third Advent Sunday, we continue our inner preparations for Christ’s coming. We are preparing the house of the soul for the coming of the Guest.
In the reading, Paul suggests first that we clear out the debris of worries by sending them to God. And when that inner de-cluttering is done, we can proceed with positive additions to our own soul space. Paul encourages us to fill our inner space with the aroma of gratitude and the warmth of loving-kindness. He suggests that we beautify the soul with thoughts that celebrate truth; with good and wholesome things to contemplate that evoke reverence; with lovely and praiseworthy virtue.

In this way we truly ready the soul’s house for the coming of Christ, by making our hearts a beautiful and worthy place for the Great Guest, the Prince of Peace.
For in the words of the poet:

We are the guardians of His Beauty.
We are the protectors of the Sun.
There is only one reason
We have followed God into this world:
To encourage laughter, freedom, dance
And love….
We are the companions of His Beauty.
We are the guardians
Of Truth.
Every man, plant and creature in Existence…
Is a servant of our Beloved—
A harbinger of joy,
A harbinger of

* Hafiz “Guardians of His Beauty,” in The Subject Tonight is Love, by Daniel Ladinsky, p.46.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

2nd Advent Sunday 2017, My Spirit Rejoices

2nd Advent
December 10, 2017

Luke 1: 26-56

During the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth to a maiden engaged to a man named Joseph of the descendants of David, and the maiden’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said her, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”

But she was confused at those words, and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High,
And the Lord your God will give him the Throne of David your father.
And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever;
And his kingdom will have no end. “

And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I have never known a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;

Visitation, St. James Altarpiece
And for that reason, the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your kinswoman Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For no word is spoken in the worlds of the spirit that does not have the power to become reality on earth.”

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the Lord’s handmaid; may it be to me according to your word.“

And the angel departed from her.

2nd Advent
December 10, 2017
Luke 1: 26-56

We are approaching the sunset of the year. As the days grow shorter, we may find ourselves becoming more contemplative. But at the same time our souls are drawn outward. At sunset, the angels of color weave in grandeur, and we are elevated by the slowly changing interplay of color. Our souls can expand in gratitude for what we are allowed to experience.

SB Whatley
In intimate but mighty pictures, the Gospel reading describes a cosmic sunset—the descent of the Sun-God into humanity. The soul of the young Mary soul opens in question and assents in humility. Afterward, she does not remain in her chamber but will rise up to go out and visit her aged cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth, although old, is also experiencing a descent in her expectancy of John, the one who will himself be a kind of angelic messenger, the baptizer of Christ Jesus. Angels interweave. Mary brings with her the nearness of the Lord to quicken John. Elizabeth feels joy and gratitude. Both souls, young and old, expand in praise. The Lord’s nearness inspires Mary’s great hymn of praise, the Magnificat:

My soul grows great in praising you, O Lord of Life.
My spirit rejoices before you, O bringer of Healing. 

Mary represents what humankind can feel now: His approach, His nearness. We anticipate in praise. For every sunset implies a coming sunrise. At Christmas, at midnight, the light of the Sun-God will shine again in the darkness. We can already sense the coming Light. Our souls grow great in praising Him because His approaching power of Light creates lightness in us.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

1st Advent Sunday 2015, Alive

1st Advent

Luke 21:25-36

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars; and upon the earth, the nations will be constricted with anxiety and doubt with the advent of these spiritual revelations, as before a roaring sea and waves. And men will lose their inner strength of soul out of fear and foreboding of what is coming over the living earth: for the dynamic powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud, in the sphere of life, with dynamic power and great radiant glory.
And when these things begin to happen, stand upright and lift up [raise] your soul to the spirit, for your deliverance draws near.
And he gave them a comparison, saying, ‘Observe [behold] the fig tree and all the trees when they burst into leaf. Seeing this, you know yourselves that summer is near. So also when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
Amen, the truth I say to you: this present age of Man’s being shall not pass away until all has happened.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Guard yourselves lest the perceptive power of your hearts be smothered by excess of food and drink and by over-concern with the cares and worries of life, and the light of these spirit events break upon you suddenly like a snare…for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. So be awake in the spirit at all times, praying, so that you may have the strength to live through all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

1st Advent
Luke 21:25-36

In the midst of turmoil and destruction, somehow, somewhere, a silent light shines. The breaking up of the old, the disturbances are themselves a sign that something new is beginning.

We are entering the season of Advent, which signals the beginning of the liturgical year. It is not an easy time; for something new is trying to be born. In the reading, we hear about the coming, the advent of the Son of Man. His is a great light-filled power. We are challenged to raise our sights, to rise up and to remain upright before His face.

To do so requires that we find our own still point, our center. It is in inner stillness and silence that the light of what is coming into being can be perceived.  This is a particular challenge at this time of the year. And yet this is where the seasonal prayers would direct our attention—to find the stillness; to listen to the silence of a new beginning. Our material culture tries to shout Him down, wrap Him in a mantle of commercial images, suffocate Him in a blanket of sound. But in the words of the poet:

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves
with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead in winter
and later proves to be alive.*
 *Pablo Neruda, “Keeping Quiet”  in Extravagario, translated by Alastair Reid