Saturday, May 26, 2018

Trinity

Today is Trinity Sunday.  It's a cliche in the American churches that observe this Sunday that this is the only feast day devoted to a doctrine rather than a person.  This shows us what a bad job the churches have done in educating their people, including their clergy!

It's true, there's a lot of ink spilled over the Trinity.  It's true that it became a tenet of faith in a way different from believing in the historical reality of Jesus, or relating to God the Creator.  But at its heart, the Trinity is no less about "people" or "history" or "experience" than is any other aspect of our faith.  In the Trinity we experience three persons, three faces of God.  We encounter the love of God, not only as it relates to us but as it forms the very being of God.

This may be the problem.  We seem to be onlookers in discussion of the Trinity.  It's all about God, and not about us!  Or so it seems.  Except that God's love for the world animates God to come to us, messed up as we are.  Except that God's love lives among us and within us, healing and renewing us daily.  It is all about God.  And it's about God's relationship to us.

But let's say it is about God in Godself.  I don't know about you, but I can be curious about the being of a person or thing quite separately from how they impact me.  Scientists and inquirers of all sorts demonstrate that, as do those who serve others.  So why not be curious about God's inner dynamics?  Yes, it's abstract and hard to get a handle on, but so are many things worth thinking about - perhaps most things worth thinking about.

The problem isn't that the Trinity is a doctrine.  The problem is that we have learned about it only as a doctrine.  As some friends say, we eat the menu and wonder why the meal doesn't taste good.  The doctrine is only the menu.  To taste God's goodness, we need to move into and beyond doctrine.  Lectio divina is one way.  Get curious.  Why these texts today?  What can you find, beyond the words "Father," "Son," "Spirit"?  Where do you hear love?

I will be in church.  I'll bind myself to the Trinity, the reality and archetype of dynamic relationship.  I'll sing the hymns and pray the prayers, and listen for the love of God.  May you do likewise.

Happy Trinity Sunday!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Sobornost

"What if humanity came together in the light and spirit poured out at Pentecost? Would it not be possible to become of one heart and mind and to discover a unity in the language of the heart taught by the Spirit, to make that society without fragmentation of which the ancients of Babylon dreamed? In such a society all people would find their place, neither lost in the collective, not alienated and alone outside of it. This ideal acquires an urgency in the age of globalization. Can we live together and touch the Divine?"
- Bishop Seraphim Sigrist, A Life Together

Yes.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Love





The past several weeks we've been reading from First Corinthians at Matins.  I had felt guilty that I wasn't writing much, but so much has been going on!  Then we read Chapters 12 and 13.  Paul is describing the variety of gifts in the Church, stressing that all are needed.  Then he crowns that with his chapter on love.  No matter which gifts I bring, if I don't have love I'm nothing and my gifts are nothing.

This helped me.  The commitments that have kept me from writing, I realized, have come from my increasing capacity to love those near at hand.  I'm more involved with people in face-to-face work, doing more community formation, trying to live the balanced and sane life our Covenant calls us to.  So sometimes my writing takes a back seat.  I suddenly saw that rather than being a problem, there's an invitation to listen with love, to listen to love, and do what is needed.

Don't get me wrong.  I "love" to reflect and write, and I feel such fondness for those of you who write back or respond.  But lives shift, concerns and needs and context shift, and those shifts call us to let go as well as take up.   I'm still writing, though not often.  But I'm thrilled beyond measure that some other calls, calls that brought me into religious life 18 years ago, are finally manifesting.

When I left New Mexico for the convent in 2000, I told people I was ready for the advanced course on love.  Wrong!  I was a mere beginner.  But living in community taught me how far I have to go.  Continuing this life as a Companion of Mary the Apostle is working on me.  I'm still not ready for the advanced course, but I'm making progress.

As we head toward Holy Week and the supreme acts of God's love, I invite you to be looking for the love you give and the love you withhold, or don't know how to give yet.  God will teach us, if we ask. But, as Jesus knew, love is a risky and painful business.   Asking to love is asking for trouble.

May you be blessed with trouble this season, and rise to new life in Christ.



Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Inclusion?



Everyone is buzzing about the Episcopal Diocese of Washington's resolution to adopt gender-neutral language for God.  Curiously, most of the reporting about this is from conservative or reactionary sources: whatever.  Friends are celebrating.  I am too, mostly, but I have a caveat.

The resolution calls for "inclusive" language and images, but also, and more clearly, for "neutral" ones.  I've spent a long time praying in gender-neutral language, and it does indeed make God more accessible to me and many others.  I've also learned from that, however, how deeply the masculine abides within the neuter/neutral.

When I say "God" instead of "He" or "Father," people are mostly OK.  But if I say "She" or "Mother," I can hear the breath drawn in throughout a congregation.  This reaction isn't just from opponents; it's often a breath of delight, of daring to claim such an affiliation with God.  I have heard of parishioners who've said it's "disrespectful" to refer to God in the feminine.  Both sets of reaction tell me that "neutral" is often a license to avoid the fact that "God" is still masculine.

We learned this more deeply by reading the daily lessons as written, but substituting feminine pronouns for God.  So "She" goes to war, issues commandments, punishes, as well as nurturing and covenanting.  It sounds different.  It will bend not only your image of God, but your image of the feminine.  That's a good thing.

When the language is neutral, we don't have to notice.  It's like the Elizabethan compromise: you can believe what you want, just use these words when we pray together.  And that may be as good as it will get for a generation - or longer.  But it's not the goal.

My goal is that we can really celebrate God's excess of meaning, God's beyond-ness, not by silencing but by multiplying images.  Father and Mother.  Divine Daughers and Sons.  Fierce mothers and tender fathers.  Plus all the images from the Scriptures that don't have easy genders.  Plus all the gender-bending mothers and fathers and daughters and sons.

Julian of Norwich wrote that Jesus is our mother.  That's where I'm going.
God, Wondrous Mother.  Until we can say that without stumbling, we won't be an inclusive Church.

Onward!


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Freedom and Frankness

We are reading a lot of John Main lately, and look to continue for quite a while.  He is not as widely known as some contemporary teachers, but Elizabeth and I find him to be a rare soul, full of love, and a guide on our road of new forms of community.  He left England to found a Benedictine priory in Montreal, in which they shared the practice of mantra meditation along with the traditional Benedictine life.  He died too soon, in 1982, and the priory eventually closed, but his successor continued to build the network.  Today it is the World Community for Christian Meditation.  Check it out at http://wccm.org.

Today I read these words:
"As our society becomes increasingly less religious its need for the authentically spiritual intensifies.  Religion is the sacred expression of the spiritual but if the spiritual experience is lacking then the religious form becomes hollow and superficial and self-important. . .

How often does the violence with which men [sic] assert or defend their beliefs betray an attempt to convince themselves that they do really believe or that their beliefs are authentic?  The spectre of our actual unbelief can be so frightening that we can be plunged into extreme, self-contradictory ways of imposing our beliefs on others rather than simply, peacefully, living them ourselves.

When religion begins to bully or to insinuate, it has become unspiritual because the first gift of the Spirit, creatively moving in man's [sic] nature, is freedom and frankness."

May you be blessed with that Spirit today.

(Source: John Main: a selection of his writing, ed. Clare Hallward.  Springfield IL:  Templegate.)

Our January Newsletter

Happy Florence Li Tim-Oi Day!

And here's the link to our January newsletter:

http://conta.cc/2F2KEE1

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Happy Anniversary!



Today is five years since Elizabeth and I made our initial declarations of intent to live as community.  You might think of it as our postulancy reception, except no one was receiving us - we were stepping into a space we were creating as we went.  We made our declaration at Vespers at Holy Cross Monastery.  We said:

I desire to know God and serve God with my whole being.  I desire to walk with others on the road of discipleship, and to learn about life as a Companion of Mary the Apostle.

The next month someone came to us asking us to start a women's group.  Since then we have been growing and evolving and learning, struggling and rejoicing.

We are still only two in residence, but we see the community developing around us.  We are welcoming three new candidates for Covenant Companionship, and beginning a new Covenant Group for people who are exploring their vocation with us.  We are surrounded by gifted and loving advisors and counselors.  Something is happening.  God is with us.

Please join us in giving thanks this day for all those who follow their hearts in seeking God.  Give thanks for those who help others on this path.  We give thanks for you, and for one another.  God is awesome.  Hallelujah!