2015. október 27., kedd

In the circle of fertility

"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."

"I tell you, Nay: but except ye shall repent, ye shall all likewise parish... 'Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.'" (Luke 12:56; 13:3) (Tuesday after Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, Matins)

Day-to-day exhausting work and its effects on our spiritual well-being and personal relationship are well known to all of us. It is tempting to give up all effort to keep the balance right. Prayer-life, spiritual focusing seem to be a luxury.

Yet, contrary to all expectation, it is through the extra effort to 'pray' which gets the balance right. Investing into our spiritual wellbeing on a daily basis is indeed a hard investment. However, this is the only way. It is 'slowing down our anger', minding our often wounding words which make the human heart alive. When the heart (the centre of consciousness) is focused, then can we enter into our life ('again'). Strength and resource is gained through the daily work of remaining a Christian disciple. For this is discipleship which makes the passive Christian in us active and alive.

Spirituality alive is the state when we are able to 'discern this time' in which we live.

However lifeless or inert we feel ourselves, incapable of producing any 'growth', we must never give up. 'I tell you...except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish' (Luke 13:3) We have been given a powerful encouragement. The 'dresser of the vineyard' intercedes for us: 'Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dug it: and if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.' (Lk 13:9) 'This year' as our last year is given to us. Full of chance. We can read this intercession as the words of our guardian angels. He has 'dug about us'. An angelic presence is writing the circles of fertility around us. (We are always standing in the middle of this circle; paradoxically, in the middle of the Kingdom of God!)


2015. október 26., hétfő

The pendulum of the Spirit

"The simple believeth every word... A wise mean feareth and departeth from evil." (Proverbs 14)
"...for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say."
"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Lk 12)

We need both experiences: the laborious effort to live up to the desired goodness that we express in words; and the joy of being fully transparent when touched by the Father's love. Hard work and full celebration will enable us to appreciate the gift of being a Christian in the here and now. These two experiences purify us.
This purification is vital in order to be able to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and really small) gifts. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German martyr theologian stresses that entering into the real life of grace is the ground of genuine Christian joy. As Bonhoeffer puts it: "The Christian community is not an ideal which we must realise; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we participate." "Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may appear great and glorious to God." (Life Together).
Seeing the numeric decline in our congregations can be extremely painful. Proverbs and Luke's Gospel remind us that the person and the community are always on a pilgrimage. These are not our high ideals and expectations that define reality but always God's generous Providence. Being unfinished can be God's glory, precisely because it shatters the dream that it is we who are the source of life and who can 'create' the otherwise rightly desired growth and rebirth.
Cranmer's masterful composition makes us realise that this is time for moral growth (through effort). This is also a time for full reliance on external life (as little flock). And the middle way of the pendulum between the two is when we will start to speak, judge, and reflect freely. This is when "the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say." For this 'hour of the Holy Spirit' is worth working and waiting.


2015. október 25., vasárnap

A definition of being a Christian in the age to come


"I will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it." (Ezekiel 14)

Ezekiel's words can be read as "spiritual hunger" sent upon our culture. A community, which does not live up to its true potentials, necessarily ends up in "famine". That is, several aspects of its life can end up as futile, even self-harming.

God, even in these circumstances, creates a community, when people wait patiently and make a genuine attempt to re-focus their hearts. "Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters... and they shall comfort you, when ye see their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord." (Ezekiel 14)

Thus, when "word goes through the land" (when violence and endless wars spread worldwide), we are called to contemplate the "writing of God" amongst us. That is, how he has already started planting eternal peace in our yearning hearts.

This dignity of the "holy remnants" (their responsible preparation for the future) is shown in Luke's Gospel. God, who invited the powerful to the wedding feast, and who failed in living up to their potentials, now invites the "blind", the seemingly powerless. This blindness shall prove to be the clearest sight of grace, very soon.


2015. október 24., szombat

Becoming full of light

"The wicked desireth the net of evil men: but the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit. The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips..." (Proverbs 12:12-13)

"No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light." (Lk 11:33)

"But woe unto you, Pharisees!... Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently and to provoke him to speak of many things: laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him." (Lk 11:42.52-53)

One cannot but admire Cranmer's inspired paring of the old- and new-testament readings of the morning and evening prayers in the Book of Common prayer. After the past few months' wrestling 'with the issues of global history' − in the book of Kings and Judges − now there is a shift to the 'personal'. Earlier we focused on the struggles of the people of Israel to keep God's commandments and not let themselves be diverted from the Covenant by political powers. Now Proverbs brings to focus the state of mind of the individual. The underlying conviction seems to be that it is not only history which affects how individuals feel and think. The brave suggestion is that our union with 'Wisdom' is always retroactive. Step by step, through the inner peace which the contemplation of Truth creates, we can regain mastery over our history. And finally, we can alter its course. Proverbs pronounces also a judgment. We must face our personal involvement; our complicity, contribution and accountability.
Jesus in Luke's Gospel addresses the 'collective' and the personal levels at the same time. A whole generation can lose its ability to see and speak "wisely". No wonder that our present history exhibits the most shocking dead ends. Wars, the inability to reconcile and create peace are constant markers of our derailed journey. Contemplating the 'inner Light' is made a central task by Jesus. "The lighted candle has to be put on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light." Our passage insinuates the healing power of contemplating the Light. It is through internalising this 'wisdom' that alone can heal the 'outside world'. (The Saturday Eucharistic Exposition, Adoration and Benediction at St Mary's is a genuine experience of being lead by the "Light of the world". Our global history, through our hearts, can anticipate when the "body, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light".)
However, the Gospel passage ends with a sobering realism. The conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees and layers (the cocksure experts of the world's ways) shows that pointing out our blindness provokes a fierce resistance. Any correction of direction which may alter the inertia of history (personal and collective) is more than a laborious work.

2015. október 23., péntek

God in the Mirror/Moment


"Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live....Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:5-6.8-9)


"Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret places is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell" (Proverbs 9)


"Though hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:10.15-17)


Cranmer, in the lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer assembles these passages together with a genius of stroke. They sum up, with a striking resemblance, the logo-therapy of Viktor E. Frankl. (He is known as the founder of the 'third' psychoanalytical school after Freud and Jung.) Our readings reflect the two dimensions within the human being to which Frankl draws attention. These are the 'instinctual' and the 'spiritual' aspects of the self. The real tension however, he highlights, lies not between the two. The conflict is within our spiritual part. It is this spiritual dimension, according to Frankl, which determines the human person. It is the ability of becoming responsible for others that makes us humans.

Frankl divides the spiritual aspect of the self into two. These are the 'conscious' and the 'spiritual unconscious'. The latter means that our responsibility and our purpose in life can be hidden from us. In this case, we have to find this lost Meaning. He adds, our life becomes ours only in as much we become responsible for it. Frankl's logo-therapy states that if we lose the meaning of existence, the person becomes ill.

Our readings invite us to contemplate this 'logo-therapeutic journey' (when our 'Meaning', individually fine tuned to us, recovers who we really are). 'Stolen waters are sweet...but we do not know that the dead are there'. As persons, and as a culture, we might not even know that there is a lost dimension in us: what and Whom we have lost as part of our self.

Proverbs 9 and 2 Timothy tell us something even more. This is just as radically novel than Frankl's discovery of the 'existential unconscious'. Namely, the Bible as God's Word constitutes us as humans! This Divine Presence-Wisdom-Meaning, as a permanent dialogue partner, is literally part of our self. All aspects of our life belongs to him. Or, putting it in other words, we belong to our truer self through this personal dialogue with Him.

This dialogue of Love connects conscious and unconscious in us. This dialogue integrates our instinctual life (with all possible manifestations) into a life, which confirms our deepest call. The latter is that spiritual celebration which stems from the encounter with the very ground of our self, God and his grace. This celebration and encounter is described in St Paul's words. The focus, which we should not miss, is on the moment when 'the man of God becomes perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works'.



2015. október 22., csütörtök

The other side of the human face

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, o sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man." (Proverbs 6:6-11) "Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids" (Proverbs 6:4)

It is said that the strongest instinct in us humans is not sexual but "social". This is the desire to be in the presence of others, to work and co-operate together. Proverbs draws this line further. The most intense desire in us, however deeply buried it might be, is to "work for God". This is a yearning and determination to comply with 'grace'. As Gerard Manely Hopkins the Jesuit poet puts it: "I say more: the just man justices; / Keeps grace; that keeps all his goings graces;/ Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is − Christ./ For Christ plays in thousand places,/ Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his/ to the Father through the features of men's faces" (As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Dragonflies Draw Flame, undated poem, c. March-April 1877).

A person, it is said, necessarily has his social persona. This is the role we play in society; in the workplace. Wearing this "mask" is part of our adult life. In reality, it can never be fully removed. However, to this, as a balance, our graced "persona" needs to be added. Fulfilling our desire to "work for God" is an important day-to-day event of healing. Indeed, healing is the proper word. For it is inevitable that wearing our social persona (mask) distorts the living person. Proverbs show the hindrances, the obvious signs, that our "social face" has become dangerously heavy. "Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth... These six things doth the Lord hate: ...A proud look, a lying tongue , and hands that shed innocent blood, An hart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren." (Proverbs 6:2.16-19)

Without fulfilling our desire to work for God's community (which extends from Church to the wellbeing of mankind) we become ill. Through this service, God's Face restores us. Being active in his Kingdom is an exchange: his desire towards me to lets me truly be myself.


2015. október 21., szerda

Incarnation on Wednesday (On God’s daily touches)

“So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding…than shall thou understand the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 2). “For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead” (Proverbs 2)

"Wisdom" is the main objective of the person who lives in faith. When we 'lift up our voice for understanding', we are caught up in an existential dynamic. "Wisdom", for which we strive, is existentially vital. "Wisdom" is the life underneath the surface of our words. "Wisdom" is life in us; it is life in a hidden, unnoticed (definitely unmarked!) corner of history. Where our life merges with God's vision on history. "Wisdom" is a connection between us and the One who has a broader understanding of ourselves. "Wisdom" is the experience of being embraced by Meaning; by a meaning which lasts, which does not disappear under the pressure of the fast changing appearances of the world.

Biblical wisdom, its experience, is about establishing a connection with our 'outer body', History. "Wisdom" is the precious moment when we are active parts of history. When we are not buried under its heavy weight.

Thus, "wisdom" in us is the ability to speak. "Wisdom" is our ability to hope. Biblical wisdom is our ability to speak of God's continuous incarnation into his history; into our present. Actually, "wisdom" is the ability to name our wounds and losses in hope. "Wisdom", and this is the wisdom of the Cross, is the ability to celebrate our joys − always in view of the One, who sanctified the path leading to our celebration.

Living this "wisdom" thus makes us realise that God's Incarnation is continuous. It has been taking place up until now. Till this second of pain, till this second of joy. "Wisdom" is just a window on this our being inhabited by God. Whatever happens in our life, joy or challenge, Jesus' incarnation, wisely or unwisely from God's part, continues. It challenges us with its full weight: his Incarnation was never intended to be a one time event.