Sunday, June 17, 2018

From a letter to a hermit.

DEPTHS OF OUR POVERTY

April 1997 Vol. 3 No. 3

Marabou

Sounding Solitude

There are many people who do great things for God and are very successful at what they do. We hear about their stories on the news and read about them. They advance the kingdom of God on earth. What is our vocation as hermits compared to them? What do we have to show for all our efforts and sufferings? Ours is the most foolish of all vocations. We specialize in failure, that is our mark in the world. But we may have the most important job of all. There are always those who will be willing to move mountains for God but very few who are willing to explore the depths of their own poverty. This poverty is shared by all humanity.
We enter this life full of hope of finding the One Great Love. As time passes all we find is our own poverty and through God's mercy we will be ever plunged deeper into this poverty. It is enough for us just to stay alive. Our lives are made up of the most mundane preoccupations and even in these we need God's mercy and constant help to carry them out.

In time all pretenses of prayer slips away and we are left alone with our thoughts which snap at the heels of our consciousness like little dogs. At one point we find that we are just empty tin-cans. This is the starting point. In this state we find that God loves this little empty space that we used to call "me" with an infinite love.
It is as if, in creating us, God took a part of emptiness and gave it the parameters which we call a human being. God looks on this little nothing and loves it dearly. At the center we are empty, nothing and this is the unknowable image of God planted in us. It is only through utter poverty/humility that we come to this blessed place of rest. Here nothing can disturb us for nothing can enter. We rest in this emptiness with the God of love, the God who is our Love.
Even in this state we do not see what is going on. The only thing we have is an unshakeable conviction that God is Love. This Love that purifies. We become a living temple of Love and we do not know it, we cannot know it; it is not for us to know. I cannot speak of what happens next or how God uses us for I do not know.

From a letter to a hermit.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Gnosticism Today



Gnosticism Today


There is much discussion today concerning the presence of a new Gnosticism within the Catholic Church.  Some of what has been written is helpful, but much of what has been described as a revival of this heresy has little to do with its ancient antecedent.  Moreover, attributions of this ancient heresy to various factions within contemporary Catholicism are generally misdirected.  To bring some clarity to this discussion of neo-Gnosticism first demands a clear understanding of the old form.

Ancient Gnosticism came in various forms and expressions, often quite convoluted, but some essential principles are discernible:

♦ First, Gnosticism holds a radical dualism: “matter” is the source of all evil, and “spirit” is the divine origin of all that is good.

♦ Second, human beings are composed of both matter (the body) and spirit (which provides access to the divine).

♦ Third, “salvation” consists in obtaining true knowledge (gnosis), an enlightenment that allows progress from the material world of evil to the spiritual realm, and ultimately communion with the immaterial supreme deity.

♦ Fourth,  diverse “Gnostic Redeemers” were proposed, each claiming to possess such knowledge, and to provide access to this “salvific” enlightenment.

In light of the above, human beings fall into three categories: 1) the sarkic or fleshly people, are so imprisoned in the material or bodily world of evil that they are incapable of receiving “salvific knowledge”;  2) the psychic or soulish, are partially confined to the fleshly realm and partially initiated into the spiritual domain. (Within “Christian Gnosticism,” these are the ones who live by mere “faith,” for they do not possess the fullness of divine knowledge.  They are not fully enlightened and so must rely on what they “believe.”); 3) finally, there are people capable of full enlightenment, the Gnostics, for they possess the fullness of divine knowledge.  By means of their saving knowledge, they can completely extricate themselves from the evil material world and ascend to the divine.

They live and are saved not by “faith” but by “knowledge.”

Compared to ancient Gnosticism, what is now being proposed as neo-Gnosticism within contemporary Catholicism appears confused and ambiguous, as well as misdirected. Some Catholics are accused of neo-Gnosticism because they allegedly believe that they are saved because they adhere to inflexible and lifeless “doctrines” and strictly observe a rigid and merciless “moral code.”  They claim to “know” the truth and, thus, demand that it must be held and, most importantly, obeyed.  These “neo-Gnostic Catholics” are supposedly not open to the fresh movement of the Spirit within the contemporary Church.  The latter is often referred to as “the new paradigm.”

Admittedly, we all know Catholics who act superior to others, who flaunt their fuller understanding of dogmatic or moral theology to accuse others of laxity.  There is nothing new about such righteous judgmentalism.  This sinful superiority, however, falls squarely under the category of pride and is not in itself a form of Gnosticism.

It would be right to call this neo-Gnosticism only if those so accused were proposing a “new salvific knowledge,” a new enlightenment that differs from Scripture as traditionally understood, and from what is authentically taught by the living magisterial tradition.

Such a claim cannot be made against “doctrines” that, far from being lifeless and abstract truths, are the marvelous expressions of the central realities of Catholic faith – the Trinity, Incarnation, the Holy Spirit, the real substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Jesus’ law of love for God and neighbor reflected in the Ten Commandments, etc.  These “doctrines” define what the Church was, is, and always will be.  They are the doctrines that make her one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

Moreover, these doctrines and commandments are not some esoteric way of life that enslaves one to irrational and merciless laws, imposed from without by a tyrannical authority.  Rather, these very “commandments” were given by God, in his merciful love, to humankind in order to ensure a holy god-like life.

Jesus, the Father’s incarnate Son, has further revealed to us the manner of life we are to live in expectation of his kingdom. When God tells us what we must never do, he is protecting us from evil, the evil that can destroy our human lives – lives he created in his image and likeness.

Jesus saved us from the devastation of sin through his passion, death, and resurrection, and he poured out his Holy Spirit precisely to empower us to live genuinely human lives.  To promote this way of life is not to propose a new salvific knowledge.  In ancient Gnosticism, people of faith – bishops, priests, theologians, and laity – would be called psychics. Gnostics would look down upon them precisely because they cannot claim any unique or esoteric “knowledge.” They are forced to live by faith in God’s revelation as understood and faithfully transmitted by the Church.

Those who mistakenly accuse others of neo-Gnosticism propose – when confronted with the nitty-gritty of real-life doctrinal and moral issues – the need to seek out what God would have them do, personally. People are encouraged to discern, on their own, the best course of action, given the moral dilemma they face in their own existential context – what they are capable of doing at this moment in time.  In this way, the individual’s own conscience, his or her personal communion with the divine, determines what the moral requirements are in the individual’s personal circumstances.  What Scripture teaches, what Jesus stated, what the Church conveys through her living magisterial tradition are superseded by a higher “knowledge,” an advanced “illumination.”

If there is any new Gnostic paradigm in the Church today, it would seem to be found here.  To propose this new paradigm is to claim to be truly “in-the-know,” to have special access to what God is saying to us as individuals here and now even if it goes beyond and may even contradict what He has revealed to everyone else in Scripture and tradition.

At the very least, no one claiming this knowledge should ridicule as neo-Gnostics those who live merely by “faith” in God’s revelation as brought forward by the Church’s tradition.

I hope that all this brings some clarity to the present ecclesial discussion over contemporary “Catholic” Gnosticism by placing it within the proper historical context. Gnosticism cannot be used as an epithet against those “unenlightened” faithful who merely seek to act, with the help of God’s grace, as the Church’s divinely inspired teaching calls them to act.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Thursday, February 8, 2018

On hermits and priesthood.





Monks who are bound by the obligation of choir in the Carthusian Order, almost from its beginning, have been priests, or religious who are preparing themselves to receive sacred orders. There are those today who are of the opinion that this is not fitting that cenobites or hermits, who are never going to exercise the sacred ministry, should be raised to the priesthood. As we have already said elsewhere (Cfr. AAS 58 (1966) p.1181) this opinion certainly lacks a firm foundation. For many Saints and very many religious have combined the profession of the monastic or indeed the eremitcal life with the priesthood because they have had a sound perspective of the fitting relationship between both consecrations, that proper to the priest, and that proper to the monk. Indeed, solitude, the absolute loss of the goods of this world, the abnegation of one's own will: things that are undertaken by those who enclose themselves within the bounds of the monastery, most singularly prepare the soul of the priest to be devoutly and ardently offered up for the eucharistic sacrifice which is "the source and summit of the whole Christian life". Furthermore, when that full self-giving, to which the religious devotes himself, is added to the priesthood, he is configured in a special way to Christ who is at the same time priest and victim.
When the second Vatican Council treated in a special document about priests and their duties, it rightly laid down that those duties include the care of the people of God. However, this care is carried out by yourselves in celebrating the eucharistic sacrifice as you are accustomed to do every day. This celebration most often takes place in your eremitcal oratories, that is to say, in a devout recess, where the soul of the monk, fixed on the things of above, drinks in more richly the Spirit of love and light. Therefore the vocation of the Carthusian, when it is faithfully adhered to, brings it about that the universal intention, which is present in the eucharistic sacrifice, becomes the intention of each monk who is carrying out the sacred rites. The Vatican Council itself declared this fullness of eucharistic charity in these significant words: "In the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which priests fulfil their office most especially, the work of our redemption is continually carried out, and therefore its daily offering is warmly commended. Even if the presence of the faithful is not possible, this offering is an act of Christ and the Church." (Presbyterorum Ordinis 13)
*Pope Paul VI in 1971 to Fr Andrew Poisson, the Minister General of the Carthusians. The text (in Latin) can be found in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis 1971, volume 63 pages 447-450.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Solzhenitsyn Speech.

If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance be reduced to the question how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.
It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times. Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?
If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge: We shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.
This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but -- upward.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

CONTEMPLATIVE THOUGHT


If you,
outside of a perceived action,
supply the meaning of what is seen,
then include that in your pontifications,
that is controlling judgement
outside of real relationship.

But if you can enter into a relationship,
where the action can be found,
to give the Charity, given to you by God
irrespective of your judgement, 
you have become a conduit of 
God's Grace.