Value the light

There is a blindness into which we are all led by our own stupidity, selfishness, or by just living out of our false self. I guess that is what most of us call “sin,” which is often an opening to grace and mercy. There is also a blindness through which God leads us for our own enlightenment and deepening. In either case, we have to walk through these obscure periods by simple honesty, apology of some sort, surrender, letting go, forgiveness, and often by some neces sary restitution or healing ritual. (I still hear of Vietnam-, Afghan-, or Iraq-War vets who feel they must go back and help some children in those countries for themselves to be healed.) Eastern religions might call it “karmic restitution.”

Others might call these deeds acts of repentance, making amends, doing penance, or stripping of the ego. By any account, it is often major surgery and surely feels like dying (although it feels like immense liberation too). We need help, companioning, and comfort during these times. We must let ourselves be led by God and also by others. How can we know and value the light if we’ve never walked through some blindness first? To hope, we first have to feel hopeless.

– Richard Rohr

Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi

This evening, followers of St. Francis of Assisi will keep a memorial of his passing on October 3, 1226. I pray that his spirit of reconciliation and love for all creation bless each one of us.

Blessing of St. Francis –
May God bless you and keep you, smiling graciously on you, granting mercy and peace,
granting mercy and peace. May God bless you and keep you, May you see the face of
God, granting mercy and peace, granting mercy and peace. Amen. Amen. Amen

The shadow never knows

The less aware we are of our shadow self, the more damage it will do. Church teachings on repentance, confession, and forgiveness make good sense. At some point we must say to at least one person: “My name is Joe, and I’m an alcoholic” (or a sex addict, or a workaholic, or an unloving man). Bring it out of darkness, and “everything that becomes visible is light” (Ephesians 5:14).

That’s what we mean by making friends with the shadow. The hero in the Holy Grail stories was advised not to kill the Dark Knight but to make friends with him. It took me years to comprehend this, but now I wonder if there is any other way to overcome evil except to make it work for you and get it on your side. That’s what Jesus did on the cross by making his own murder the salvation of the world. He didn’t destroy his killers, but forgave them because “they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The shadow never knows what it is doing.

Richard Rohr

nothing except God

Out here in the woods I can think of nothing except God, and it is not so much that I think of Him either. I am as aware of Him as of the sun and the clouds and the blue sky and the thin cedar trees.

Engulfed in the simple lucid actuality which is the afternoon: I mean God’s afternoon, this sacramental moment of time when the shadows will get longer and longer, and one small bird sings quietly in the cedars, and one car goes by in the remote distance and the oak leaves move in the wind.

High up in the summer sky I watch the silent flight of a vulture, and the day goes by in prayer. This solitude confirms my call to solitude. The more I am in it, the more I love it. One day it will possess me entirely and no man will ever see me again.

Thomas Merton, journal entry, September 15, 1952

prisons within prisons within prisons

The voice of God is heard in Paradise: “What was vile has become precious. What is now precious was never vile. I have always known the vile as precious: for what is vile I know not at all. What was cruel has become merciful. What is now merciful was never cruel. I have always overshadowed Jonas with my mercy and cruelty I know not at all. Have you had sight of Me, Jonas, My child? Mercy within mercy within mercy. I have forgiven the universe without end, because I have never known sin. What was poor has become infinite. What is infinite was never poor. I have always known poverty as infinite: riches I love not at all. Prisons within prisons within prisons. Do not lay up for yourselves ecstasies upon earth, where time and space corrupt, where the minutes break in and steal. No more lay hold on time, Jonas, My son, lest the rivers bear you away. What was fragile has become powerful. I loved what was most frail. I looked upon what was nothing. I touched what was without substance and within what was not I AM.”

Thomas Merton, epilogue to The Sign of Jonas

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From a letter to Theo

From a Letter to Theo*
Vincent Van Gogh, The Hague,
September 3, 1882

Behind those saplings, behind that brownish-red soil,
is a sky very delicate, bluish-gray, warm, hardly blue,

all aglow – and against it all is a hazy border of green
and a network of little stems and yellowish leaves.

A few figures of wood gatherers are wandering around
like dark masses of mysterious shadows.

The white cap of a woman bending to reach a dry branch
stands out suddenly against the deep red-brown of the ground.

A skirt catches the light – a shadow is cast –
a dark silhouette of a man appears above the underbrush.

A white bonnet, a cap, a shoulder, the bust of a woman
molds itself against the sky. Those figures are large

and full of poetry – in the twilight of that deep shadowy tone
they appear as enormous terracottas being modeled in a studio.

     *from – Vincent Van Gogh: A Self Portrait, Letters Revealing
      His Life as a Painter, selected by W.H. Auden

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