Sacred Thresholds

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Week 2
Lent Gen 15:5-12, 17-18, Phil 3:17-4:1, Luke 9:28-36

Sacred thresholds seem to me to be somewhat of a  quandary?

Oxford dictionary defines  thresholds as “Limits of counsciousness, limit below which a stimulus ceased to be perceptible”.

How open are we at these entry points to the Spirit?

How open are we to perceiving and receiving spiritual encounters?

Do our thresholds  protect the sacred within or  defend against the unknown transcendent “Other”?

Have our thresholds in fact become strongholds of the mind barring our way to the unseen?

Daniel O’Leary reminds us: ” Do we forget that our senses are ‘the threshold of our soul’? “Listen, my child,” St Benedict wrote at the beginning of his Rule, “with the ear of your heart.”

Admitting the Spirit within every moment of our lives, is opening the portal of our senses to acknowledge the faith we profess.   It is opening and trusting the sensing of our heart to discern the Divine in all things.

Faith is the intentional act of seeking to find the Presence.  The intent of the seeker is to live in the Presence of the Spirit expecting and acknowledging the reality of the realm in the Spirit.

It is in  opening  the thresholds that we can behold things so differently. The cosmic connections, the mystical insight and understandings arise from a sensitive heart yielding to Truth beyond our human limits, which convicts and enlivens us.

Contemplative prayer enables us to grow in the practice of living in the Presence.

Asking questions is an important part of any spiritual journey.  It helps us clarify our direction and seek the path which is most relevant to us.  As we listen to questions which arise in our hearts we take courage to step into the unknown.   Questions open us to the unknown.  Let us ask and receive, seek and find.

Giving voice to your questions is letting the light shine on your darkness.


Suggested resources may include  –  Weekly reflections and interviews with writer, spiritual director and priest    Fr. Daniel O’Leary’s website  Begin with the Heart  – http://djoleary.com/pages/weekly.htm   

Author – of  “Thresholds of the Soul” and  “Windows of Wonder”. 

 

Out of Silence

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Week 1     Lent
Today’s Scriptures:  Deut 26:16-19   Matt 5:43-48


“Every human being has a gift,

yet often unknown;

the gift to care,

to be compassionate,

to become present to the other,

to listen, to hear, and to receive.”  

 

“Those who can sit in silence

with their fellow man (woman),

not knowing what to say,

but knowing that they should be there,

can bring new life to a dying heart.

 

“Why is it we keep that great gift

of care so deeply hidden?”

Quote by Henry Nouwen in “Out of Solitude: 3 Meditations on the Christian Life.”   p42 – 43.    Ave Maria Press, Indiana. 2004


Is 50:4-6

Lord Yahweh has given me a disciple’s tongue,

for me to know how to give a word of comfort

to the weary.

Morning by morning he makes my ear alert

to listen like a disciple.

Lord Yahweh has opened my ear

and I have not resisted,

I have not turned away.

Unveiled wisdom

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Wk 1 Lent    Today’s Scriptures: Jonah 3:1-10  Luke 11:29-32

I awoke this morning before dawn, and all was in darkness and stillness. I saw how partially and gently light reveals the presence. Initially there is no colour  or form.  Our senses strain to codify that in which we are immersed.

Despite our inadequacy we wrest words out of the darkness to give expression to that which remains veiled and uncertain.

I am reminded of John O’Donohue’s reflection:

“Behind the facade of the familiar, strange things await us.  …  

We reduce the wildness and mystery of person and landscape to the external, familiar image. …

Familiarity enables us to tame, control and ultimately forget the mystery.”

We are furtive creatures, tentative and stumbling in the dark;  uncertain, full of doubts and hiddenness.  We do not know or admit ourselves to the mystery to which we belong, nor fully comprehend ..

“We make our peace with the surface as image and we stay away from the otherness and fecund turbulence of the unknown which it masks.”

The journey of our life is deep within, slowly being unveiled…as yet unknown…a new creation .. we are becoming.  We behold ourselves as we really are in the flux of life.

Again O’Donoghue’s gift with words expresses the wisdom of the sages, of clans, philosophers, saints and mystics:

“You do not have to go away outside your self to come into real conversation with your soul and with the mysteries of the spiritual world The eternal is at home – within you.” 

 

Dante quote  source St. Lib Vic


 

John O’Donohue – Onbeing interview.   Anam Cara means soul friend.

Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World”. Published  Bantam Books, U.K.  1999.   p.121-122

Dante’s quote.. State Lib. Vic.

 

Gifted

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 Today’s Scriptures:  Lev 19:1-2, 11-18  Mat 25:31-46

SAMSUNG

I was astounded…surprised… It was a gift to me that morning.  I saw this tiny flower   … as I passed.  It had stopped me in my tracks.  I hastened slowly. Like a flower in the desert it bloomed on a barren brick wall. Moved by its unexpected beauty I returned to take a photo.

To my greater surprise and delight, this young man chose to pose for me.

It became for me a moment of grace.  In some small way the flower was a precursor to a bigger experience.  It opened me to the wonder of that encounter.  The joy of the young man became my focus. He was quite unaware of the little flower and became the memorable gift.

We cannot be prepared for the unexpected; for those moments of inspiration or insight which come to us as gift.  No matter how much we may desire or seek after them, they are beyond our control …  they are gift given freely.

Something resounds deep in our spirit in these experiences. They remain with us as moments of being touched by the Other.  Often they prompt us or reorient our gaze or thought.

For people attuned in the arts this is the visitation of the creative spirit which imparts inspiration.

In Roman and Greek mythology, The Charites or Three Graces are daughters of the Gods,  known as benevolent spirits of giving and receiving – gracious in virtue, bestowing  beauty, wisdom and creative inspiration.  They were invoked particularly by artists, poets and musicians.

At various times, we all experience moments of grace –  bestowed on us as surprise from a source beyond us.   The experience is often marked by a spiritual recognition that this was “out of the ordinary”.

Often it is described as “suddenly”   or mysteriously,  and associated with an inner conviction of a truth or insight which is uniquely and personally significant. It may simply be a nuance or a word, but it resonates profoundly.

In some particular way grace finds us in a place of relative darkness and brings to us new light.  Grace is a light on our path to inspire us forward and leads us to new ways.

Whether we suppress them, forget them or cherish them, we are touched. Writers, artists and people of many cultures and faiths make space to wait upon the Spirit and become graciously receptive. They receive the gift and become instruments of the flow of grace.

Through contemplative spiritual direction individuals  revisit such experiences and prayerfully discern their personal meaning.  We grow slowly to recognize the spiritual presence and  foster an ongoing relationship with the Creator Spirit.


Suggested Reading:

“The God of Surprises”    Gerard Hughes.

Eerdmans Publishing Co.  2008

 

Bewildered

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Today’s Scriptures:   Deut 26:4-10 Romans 8-13 Luke 4:1-13

It is not easy to come to a quiet place and pray.  Some times we  back off from the spiritual journey.  We may become aware of fears that are surfacing,  or feel confronted or  overwhelmed by a sense of our vulnerability or exposure in prayer.

With the best intentions we resist settling into the quiet silence and sometimes flee into activities, reading or mental activity in an unconscious attempt to allay the tremors or succumb to diversions.

Alone we feel our powerlessness against temptations…

Even in the most isolated of places we bring with us our distractions and attractions which are prone to disturb us.   Yet, in these words of Luke 4:1  we may find a new peace –

“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus … was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there”.

It was the work of the Holy Spirit to lead Jesus through temptations and desert. And he prevailed.   We are all  disciples.  The master calls and leads.  We  pray as we were taught  “lead us not into temptation…deliver from evil”…

As we come to our place of meeting, we too seek the Holy Spirit as our guide and counsellor.  We may be tested sorely in entering the wilderness of our own interior, but it is only with the Spirit, who will teach us all things, that we will come to the fullness of life we seek.  In seeking the Spirit we are seeking and discovering what the mystics call ‘the ground of our being’.

Only then can we set aside the temptations, overcome the inner struggles and distractions, and persevering in trust, gradually grow into a deeper union with the Spirit.   Alone we can do nothing or may even become stranded or displaced or dishevelled in our journey.  Our journey is from the self focus and obsession to immersion in the mysterious Other whom Rudolf Otto termed ‘mysterium tremendum et fascinans’.

The word of God empowers each of us.

 Be filled with the Holy Spirit.


Suggested Reading:

Gerald G May, M.D. “Awakened Heart: Living Beyond Addiction.”

San Francisco, NY: Harper Collins, 1991.

Rudolf Otto  – an introduction his  concepts /overview :

http://www.bytrentsacred.co.uk/index.php/rudolf-otto/the-idea-of-the-holy-1-summary

Procession of life

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Today’s Scriptures: Isa 58:1-9, Matt 9:14-15

Today I continue yesterday’s theme:  ‘Struggles’. All life has struggles through which we become freer of our “old self,” and find a “new self.”

When I was in my early twenties I participated in a small group for personal growth.  After many months, and with the guidance of a professional, I came to recognize new visions and truths about myself.   In the process I had to sift my thoughts, feelings and values to find who I really wanted to be and how to discern my path ahead.   After a lot  soul-searching and heartache,  I remember vividly how I, somewhat valiantly exclaimed “I am a  ‘new’ me!”   The spontaneous wisdom of my guide at the time, was “old self – new self you are all one!

I had become – or – I was becoming a new creation out of the old. I was transformed but still me.  I liked the discovery of knowing I belonged to all of me – my past was an integrated part of the newer changed person I was growing to be.  The process of detachment from my former ways and ideas enabled me to embrace  and trust a new vision of me.

Again I refer to the wisdom of Joan D. Chittister:[1]

“Discernment is based on the awareness that we cannot always have what we want…. It involves independence of judgment, the ability to maintain breadth of vision even in the midst of crisis, the awareness that we are not enslaved to our past.  We can dream again….We can summon up from within ourselves parts of ourselves that have yet to see the light of life.” p.36

Without a prayerful, loving and a trusting support person the process of detachment is exceedingly hard as it is a dying to something within the heart, whilst daring to trust  there will be resurrection in me.    This is the paschal mystery at work in us and a Spiritual Director or companion on the journey holds this truth for us.

Our journey is processing through life.

The question is who leads us and who goes with us.


[1]  “Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope.”

Cambridge. UK: Wm Erdman Publishing, 2005

The gift of struggle

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Thursday after Ash Wednesday.
 Today’s Scriptures:  Deut 30:15-20    Luke 9:20-25

A few years ago I read “Scarred by Struggle: Transformed by Hope”, written by Joan Chittister.  Today I am revisiting some of her powerful words to share them with you.

Her premise is that struggle is a gift, and through it we obtain many personal gifts which ‘grow us’ into a new creation.  From my experience, I have found there is much to be gained from struggle and the scars we carry are signs to us that our growth has come at a price. But indeed we grow out from our struggles in new directions and new life.

The following are a few excerpts from her book:

“To struggle is to begin to see the world differently. It gives a new sense of self. It tests all the faith in the goodness of God that we have ever professed. It requires an audacity we did not know we had.  It demands a commitment to the truth.  It leads to self-knowledge.  It builds forbearance.  It tests our purity of heart.  It brings total metamorphosis of soul.

If we are willing to persevere through the depths of struggle we can emerge with conversion, independence, faith, courage, surrender, self-acceptance, endurance, purity of heart, and a kind of personal growth that takes us beyond pain to understanding.  Enduring struggle is the price to be paid for becoming everything we are meant to be in the world.”[1]

[1] Joan D. Chittister  p.19

“The isolation that marks any serious struggle is a call to recognize that life is full of gifts that come and go, come and go as we ourselves come and go through the many stages of life. Detachment from the  idea that there is only one way for me to go through life joyfully is its key. The pain of loss is a real and a present thing. It manacles my soul and breaks my heart, yes. But holy indifference – detachment – teaches me that there is not room for isolation, abandonment, death of spirit when I lose one thing because I know that there is something else waiting for me in its place.

Designed to enable a person to regard all of life with an open mind and a willing heart, detachment – holy indifference – is the foundation of spiritual discernment.

To discern is to choose between available options on the grounds that both are good but that one is more likely to result in greater growth at this particular time than can be expected from the other under these prevailing conditions, though both are good possibilities. Discernment and detachment are lifelines out of the pit of loss and the island of isolation to which it threatens to dooms us.”[2]

[2] Joan D. Chittister. op.cit. p.35


Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope.

Cambridge. UK: Wm Erdman Publishing, 2005

Joan Chittister is a Benedictine sister (O.S.B), a former prioress and a social psychologist.  She is a well published best selling author with a doctorate in speech communication theory.

Other titles include The Fire in These Ashes and Heart of Flesh.