From Isaac of Stella

"So, brother, make for yourself a hidden place within yourself, in which you can flee away from yourself and pray in secret to the Father." Isaac of Stella

Passing From Self to God: A Cistercian Retreat, Robert Thomas, OCSO Cistercian Press, 2006, p. 4

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Divine Logos

One of the paths I followed in the dark forest of skepticism led me through the porch of the Stoics and the pantheists of hellenistic theology.  I became aware of the concept of the Logos, that organizing principle that underlies all that is, which is conscious and aware, benevolent but distant, and of which all of us, both men and gods,  are particular manifestations.  From the Oneness of the Logos comes the plurality of phenomenal existence, and from our particularity we return to the generative fires of the Logos.  Seneca meditated on the final consumption of the cosmos in the destructive fires and saw all the gods subsumed into Zeus who sits meditating on himself.  Out of his meditations a new Cosmos is born from the now generative fires and a new cycle of existence is born.  All of this is the Logos and its works.  All is the Logos and all exist through it and for it.  A sublime image, now completed in its beauty by Christ.  Christ is the Logos born in the flesh, both behind and in the Cosmos, both transcendent and immanent.  Schopenhauer helped to show me how the Logos (the Will) could be logically sustained and so placed out of the realm of fantasy and conjecture and now in the realm of reality.  But Schopenhauer could not see that the Logos is more than an impersonal striving, that it is a person, and after the annunciation, a man.
Yesterday was the feast of the Annunciation in which we remember that momentous event.  Joseph Conti wrote of the immensity of  the suffering involved in this diminishment and limitation of the Logos to the form of a man in his marvelous book Holistic Christianity.  Even the great Lent was paused and a feast proclaimed on a Friday of all days.  This is good and just and right!
The mystery of the Logos, of Christ is deep and fertile for a lifetime of contemplation.  The very public 3 years of Jesus' life of ministry tends to draw our attention.  But he is the divine Logos which lies behind all that is and is the source of all.  At the heart of Christianity is the Oneness of the Logos from which we come and with which we are intended to unite in the beatific vision.  In that unity, with the giving up of our egoism, our individual will subsumed into the divine will yet becoming more ourselves than we ever were before.  It is in heaven we become our true selves, not in the hell of endless egotistic individual isolation.

Praise be to the Divine Logos
Who is and was and ever will be!
Praise be to the beneficent plan behind all existence!
Praise the place in which nature has placed us, and the opportunities for virtue we have been given!
Praise the sweetness of the incarnation and the beauty of the Christ!
All Praise His glory and His majesty!
May we see Him face to face and know the blessedness for ever and ever!

Friday, March 18, 2011

You, not Me

Many years ago God revealed to me the mystery of his love.  I was a college student and had converted to Christianity and Catholicism as a freshman.  Shortly after this I was greatly oppressed by a feeling that something wasn't right, that there was something important I needed to do.  I did not know what this thing was.  As a young unmarried Catholic man I naturally thought it might represent a call to the priesthood or religious life.  I was very attracted to a contemplative life, to spending my time on earth in the rhythms of prayer and in the gaining of intimacy with God.  But praying the liturgy of the hours and other pious exercises did not remove the feeling, at least not for long.  Finally in my junior year I decided I must figure this out before continuing along with my secular education.  I left university and travelled to Rome and began studies at the Angelicum.  There, with the help of a wonderful Dominican Friar I learned to quiet myself and wait on God to speak.  And He did.  All at once, while meditating in the presence of Christ in the tabernacle God showed me in a flash the totality of his love for me.  He showed me that I had been willing to give him my time, my money, my career, as long as He would agree to leave ME alone.  This He would not do- He would have all, and the resulting conflict was the source of my unhappiness.
I wish this story had a quick, happy ending, but immediately after this sudden infusion of knowledge the feeling that had been goading me left and has never returned, and I quickly returned to my secular pursuits and have wandered far and wide, sampling the sins and pleasures that the world can so "richly" provide.  Indeed Dante's dark forest has seen my furtive figure more than once.  As Solon said, "I call no man happy until he is dead."
As I read "Passing From Self to God" I am given new insight into the meaning of this experience of God's love, now 25 years in the past.  Unless I give up myself and look to God, I will not know the peace and union He intends for me.  Surely He has given this hunger in my heart for Him for a reason.

Oh God, do not abandon me but overlook my coldness and my egoistic sins
You are the fount of all good, all beauty, and all that is real and lasting
Pitiful are those who remain apart from you
But glorious and fulfilled are those who forget themselves in you
May your ineffable majesty always occupy all my thoughts and desires,
And may I dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of taxes....

It turns out that taxes will be especially brutal this year even though my income has decreased.  As a self employed individual I send in my estimated taxes quarterly, but there is always an element of voodoo involved in the estimation.  Despite the best efforts of my accountant we will have to make some significant adjustments to the budget to make up the shortfall this year and prevent it from reocuring next year, barring further government changes to the tax code.  However I had already determined to live a more "Franciscan" life style and so the government mandates merely give urgency to what was going to be a free will change.  So all things will resound to His glory!

Blessed be the Lord, the God of all the world!
He holds in his hands the fate of all of us.
In our comings and our goings He is there in the midst with us
Carrying the cross of all our sufferings.

Blessed be the Lord, who is and always will be
The divine Logos that underpins all that is
The mysterious and wonderful Thing in itself
That which we know through beauty, and self abnegation.

Blessed be the Lord, whose love sustains us all
May his name be ever praised
And all his world rejoice in him!
Today listen and hear His voice of Love!

Blessed be the Lord!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die...

I am currently reading through "Passing From Self To God: A Cistercian Retreat" as part of my lenten regime.  There is an amazing congruence with the philosophy of Schopenhauer and the bits of Meister Eckhart I have read.  This congruence reinforces for me that I am on the right path, and that the divine union which I desire is something real and capable of being achieved.  I have also resumed the practice of saying the morning and evening prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours.  I used to love this practice, but during my years of skepticism it became distasteful to me.  I had whole-heartedly embraced the critique of the emperor Julian and Celsus, and so the psalms and readings sounded hollow and false to my ear.  Now that I have found a way back, with the help of Schopenhauer and no doubt the prayers of many who love me, I can once again enjoy the prayers.  Enjoyment is not the primary goal of life, but enjoying God, loving and appreciating Him and the things he brings is only right and proper.  He is indeed gracious and loving, and all good things come from him.  Like the Stoics teach, all that leads to virtue is "good".  Like Schopenhauer teaches, all that decreases the focus on the individual egoism of the self and increases the cognizance of the unity of the Will in all is "good".  Like Jesus, unless a man dies to himself and rises up in Christ he cannot know God, who is the fount of all good.

Lord God, Divine Logos
It is right always and everywhere to give you thanks and praise
We live in the realms of space and time, but you, like the "thing in itself" exist in eternity and without dimensions.  You are a spirit, and have not a body like men.  That is, until Jesus, and so you have now taken the scales of divine justice and weighted them down with the infinity and eternity of yourself.  What is the suffering of the old man in comparison with that?
May you be ever praised!
May you be ever adored!
May your goodness, your beauty be always before my eyes
May I return to you, pitiful though it is, such love as I have.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Who is the man that desireth life: who loveth to see good days?

"Midway upon the journey of our life
  I found myself within a forest dark,
  For the straightforward pathway had been lost."

Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Canto I

I have recently returned from a 4 year detour via skepticism from the straight path of the Catholic faith.  That story is not so very interesting and this blog will more be for thinking through the life of union with God, for we are all called to be saints and to know the death of the self, of egoism, and instead know the delight of the oneness of God.  I owe much to the Greeks- to the Stoics and Peripatetics and NeoPlatonists, to Spinoza and Schopenhauer, to the Carmelites, Cistercians, and especially John of the Cross for showing me the way of wisdom, renunciation, and finally unity with the Logos, with Christ, with God.