“… The art of loving has to be learnt… Part of love is friendship, which knows how to combine affection with respect for the other person’s liberty. That means respect for the mystery of the other, and his or her still latent and unrealized potentialities. If love stops, we make a fixed image of each other. We judge and pin each other down. That is death. But love liberates us from these images and keeps the future open for the other person. We have hope for each other, so we wait for one another…” ~ Jurgen Moltmann, Jesus Christ for Today’s World, p. 25.
Over the last twenty-years, approx. I’ve kept running into German Reformed Theologian Jurgen Moltmann (b. 1926), mostly via books and journal articles, but also from time-to-time via podcasts and YouTube) A good friend has added a couple of Moltmann’s books to my library, and as I’m come across his books in my travels I’ve also added them to my library, which means I haven’t always read there, but they sit there for easy reference, and to be read at those times when Moltmann’s thinking is alive and I know I need to read a particular book or article.
Most recently I purchased in Whakatane (NZ) a good second-hand copy of Jesus Christ for Today’s World (SCM Press / Westminster, 1994 / I was interested to see that the original purchaser of the book lived in Murray Crescent in Kelowna BC Canada, and now its ended up at the bottom of the world in New Zealand.). I felt compelled to read it straight away, before it goes on my library shelf.
I was a good read, accessible, and a succinct overview of themes important to Moltmann, and in this instance particularly focused on Jesus Christ - Who Is Christ for Us Today? Jesus and the Kingdom of God (my favourite chapter!); The Passion of Christ and the Pain of God; The Anxiety of Christ; The Tortured Christ; The Resurrection of Christ – Hope for the World; The Cosmic Christ; Jesus Between Jews and Christians; and ‘Behold I m=Make All Things New’: The Great Invitation.
I valued the linkages he makes between theology and practice. The earlier chapters are more grounded in the practical than latter ones, but in all, he establishes a good theological framework out of which one can draw their own practical implications.
Here’s a couple of quotes from the book:
“…The church is a liberating community…”
“…The messianic hope can act in two opposite directions. It can draw the hearts of men and women away from the present into the future. Then it makes life in the present empty, and action in the present empty – and of course suffering over present oppression too. But it can also make the future of the messiah present, and fill the present with the consolation and happiness of the coming God. In this case what the messianic idea enforces is the very opposite of ‘deferred life’. It is life in anticipation, in which everything must already be done and accomplished in a final way, because the kingdom of God in its messianic form is already ‘at hand’.
A good starting point for more on Moltmann, or a good starting point if you’re new to Moltmann is Tyndale Seminary’s Jurgen Moltmann Reading Room.
I first heard Pádraig Ó Tuama in 2014 (my post here; no link to the interview, but I wanted to share one of his poems). He was interviewed about poetry and movingly read a number of his poems. Next up was an interview on Australia’s The Spirit of Things (my post and link here). Finally there was the On Being conversation that I listened to today. I so value his take on the importance of language.
“Pádraig Ó Tuama is a poet, theologian, and extraordinary healer in our world of fracture. He leads the Corrymeela community of Northern Ireland, a place that has offered refuge since the violent division that defined that country until the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. And Pádraig and Corrymeela extend a quiet, generative, and joyful force far beyond their northern coast to people around the world. “Over cups of tea, and over the experience of bringing people together,” Pádraig says, it becomes possible “to talk with each other and be in the same room with the people we talk about.””
Ó Tuama reflects of the fact that “agreement has rarely been the mandate for people who love each other. Maybe on some things, but actually, when you look at some people who are lovers and friends, you go actually they might disagree really deeply on things, but they’re somehow — I like the phrase “the argument of being alive.” Or in Irish, when you talk about trust, there’s a beautiful phrase from West Kerry where you say, “Mo sheasamh ort lá na choise tinne,” “You are the place where I stand on the day when my feet are sore.” And that is soft and kind language, but it is so robust. That is what we can have with each other.”
This week in Fr. Richard Rohr’s daily e-mails he’s had guest writer Cynthia Bourgeault exploring her specialty subject, the contemplative practice of Centering Prayer.
Here’s a summary of her week of reflections.
Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, and John Main recognized meditation not as a newfangled innovation, let alone the grafting onto Christianity of an Eastern practice, but rather, as something that had originally been at the very center of Christian practice and had become lost. (Sunday)
Centering Prayer is apathway of return in which every time the mind is released from engagement with a specific idea or impression, we move from a smaller and more constricted consciousness into that open, diffuse awareness in which our presence to divine reality makes itself known along a whole different pathway of perception. (Monday)
Each time you manage to disengage from a thought, you are doing so in solidarity with Jesus’ own kenotic stance; and in the process patterning that stance more and more deeply into your being until it eventually becomes your default response to all life’s situations. (Tuesday)
It could be said that in Centering Prayer your intention is “to be totally open to God”: totally available, all the way down to that innermost point of your being; deeper than your thinking, feelings, memories, and desires. (Wednesday)
There is a deeper current of awareness, a deeper and more intimate sense of belonging, which flows beneath the surface waters of your being and grows stronger and steadier as your attention is able to maintain itself as a unified field of objectless awareness. (Thursday)
Once you get the hang of it, attention of the heart allows you to be fully present to God, but at the same time fully present to the situation at hand, giving and taking from the spontaneity of your own authentic, surrendered presence. (Friday)
Practice: Centering Prayer
As Cynthia Bourgeault shared earlier this week, here is the simple method for practicing Centering Prayer as taught by Thomas Keating. I hope you’ll try it and stay with it for a while!
Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
When engaged with your thoughts [including body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections], return ever so gently to the sacred word.
At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. 
Gratefulness is a practice that I know is important, but which I find a struggle. It’s too easy to get caught up in the stresses and busyness of the ordinary and the everyday. I’m hoping to embed it a lot more in my life over the course of 2017.
“Happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy. Gratefulness is the key to happiness. Unless you are grateful for the gift, it won’t make you happy.”
“Gratefulness (which Br David Steindl-Rast) describes as being the same as mindfulness and prayerfulness) is like any other spiritual practice – it must be practiced!
Practice giving thanks for first things, for beginnings. When you wake in the morning, before you even open your eyes, give thanks for the gift of sight. (Br David makes a practice of praying at this moment for those who have no sight or who have impaired sight.) Give thanks for your first cup of tea or coffee – let all your senses come alive or wake up. Continue to mark out the little beginnings of each day – as you open your bedroom door and move into the rest of your house or as you open your front door and walk outside or as you put the key in your car ignition to begin your commute to work.
But also mark the endings of your day – when you arrive home and close your front door behind you or when you shut down your computer. (Too many people do not shut down their computer or log off from work – it tends to go on and on with no end or renewed beginning!)…”
“Human beings are moved by a dense complex of motives, both in the things we do from day to day and in our big decisions. What drives a young woman to become a doctor or a young man to be an engineer? Many things contribute: success, altruism, interest. Or what drives a woman who has smoked for years to quit or an obese man to get thin? Again, many things contribute: fear of death, desire for health, and concern of family. But they all interact in a kind of movement that eventually drives the person to act… Ignatius learned to think about those dense complexes of motives—images, ideas, attractions, and revulsions—as “spirits.”
… Consolation and Desolation
Ignatius noted that these dense complexes of motives and energies take on two configurations, which he identified with consolation and desolation. He discovered that both consolation and desolation can move you toward God or pull you away from God. Then he noted that sometimes consolation comes from a good spirit and sometimes from a bad spirit, and he noted the same thing about desolation…”
I also want to highlight Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ contemporary take on the Examen – a method of prayer Ignatius insisted his fellow Jesuits do daily. He regarded it as the most important and needful practice. Its aim is to discern the work and movement of the Spirit beneath the surface of ones life, beneath the surface of our consciousness / awareness. Change and growth occurs at the level of ones thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and motivations (desires etc). It is a practice aimed at “finding God in the diverse everyday happenings and circumstances of ones own life and living. The examen helps us journey into our depths. Thibodeaux’s book is titled Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from your Day (2015). It is a very practical and helpful guidebook. He will provide you with a diverse range of Examen outlines for your daily use.
I think its increasingly important to be able to “read the signs of the times”, but more than that, as we are pulled and pushed from/in every direction, it will become critical to learn to discern what Tetlow calls our own “lifeworld”, and God’s activity within it.
“If we cannot love our past, we cannot accept and love ourselves and our present, because we are products of that past with all its good and bad elements.” Which, of course, is an important way of reminding us that we are the products of our past with all that was good, and all that was less than the good we had hoped for from life.”
~ William A. Barry SJ.
I’ve mentioned Jesuit priest, author, and spiritual director before. His books have been really meaningful to me at various points over the years. I most recently mentioned him in this post.
Barry has been a Jesuit Priest for over 50-years now, and in places it’s a little dated, but nonetheless remains useful and indeed, insightful, tracking as it does the changes that have occurred in Jesuit spirituality within Western Catholicism and the USA. He starts out with a great quote from Win Blevins’ 1995 novel Stone Song: A Novel of the Life of Crazy Horse, which includes these lines:
“The old way was beautiful. We turn backward to it and in taking leave we offer it our love. Then we turn forward and walk forth blindly, offering our love. Yes, blindly.”
Barry names and expounds a little on each of what he considers the “traditional marks of Jesuit spirituality”:
The recovery of the meaning of the fifteenth annotation, found in the “Introductory Explanation” of the Exercises.
The variety of prayer forms
Adaptation to the Individual
The Role of Desires
The Discernment of Spirits
The Account of Conscience.
Reminding me, in parts, of Al Roxburgh, he makes these statements: “…What’s the problem [the Jesuits / Catholics / Christians in the West, are facing] our cultural maps no longer are accurate…What’s the solution? Our spirituality is a … means of finding the way of the risen Jesus in our time. What time is it? A time of crisis for our world…”
You’ll find the PDF (scanned copy of journal) here. Barry’s essay comes in at 39 pages plus the cover and some additional pages. Additionally he quotes a section of the Rule of Life of the Anglican Society of Saint John the Evangelist, which you will find online (PDF) here. It is also a useful read and something to think about at the beginning on a New Year.
Our religion is not working well. Another year has ended—a new year begins—in which suffering, fear, violence, injustice, greed, and meaninglessness still abound. This is not even close to the reign of God that Jesus taught. And we must be frank: in their behavior and impact upon the world, Christians are not much different than other people.
The majority of Christians are not highly transformed people, but tend to reflect their own culture more than they operate as any kind of leaven within it. I speak especially of American Christians, because I am one. But if you are from another country, look at the Christians where you live and see if the same is true there.
Let’s be honest: religion has probably never had such a bad name. Christianity is now seen as “irrelevant” by many and often as part of the problem more than any kind of solution. Some of us are almost embarrassed to say we are Christian because of the negative images that word conjures in others’ minds. Young people especially are turned off by how judgmental, exclusionary, impractical, and ineffective Christian culture seems to be. The church seems hostile toward most science (the objective outer world) and thus unable to talk about its inner dimensions with any authority. As we saw in the recent U.S. election, Christians overall showed little prophetic or compassionate presence.
Most Christians have not been taught how to plug into the “mind of Christ;” thus they often reflect the common mind of power, greed, and war instead. The dualistic mind reads reality in simple binaries—good and bad, right and wrong—and thinks itself smart because it chooses one side. This is getting us nowhere.
Today, a wonderful conversation with one of the most profound influences on my Jesus-following journey, Eugene Peterson. Peterson is talking to Krista Tippett on On Being. The interview aired 22 December 2016.
“"Prayers are tools not for doing or getting, but for being and becoming." These are words of the beloved biblical interpreter, teacher, and pastor Eugene Peterson. Frustrated with the unimaginative way he found his congregants treating their Bibles, he translated it himself and that translation has sold millions of copies around the world. Eugene Peterson’s down-to-earth faith hinges on a love of metaphor and a commitment to the Bible’s poetry as what keeps it alive to the world.”
You’ll find it here. The photo credit is Greg Fromholz, himself an interesting character. For a filmed conversation between Bono and Peterson (released earlier this year), see this April 2016 post.