Saturday, June 29, 2013


My brother monks and I just spent the week on retreat here; the retreat master was Abbot Gerard D’Sousa of the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York. His conferences were great. I took notes on most of them. I’d like to share my notes and thoughts based loosely on one of them in particular.

My Spiritual life does not belong to me but to a higher life, the realm of Faith, Hope and Charity. I am taken hold of, overcome by Christ who “lives in me” as St. Paul says. My Spiritual life is a living, personal relationship with Jesus. I hope for the full flowering of his life in me, when I will be taken up in Him.

So, it’s clear that His PERSON is central to our Christian existence. His humanity and the Incarnation are not pious additions to something else, but at the heart of our belief.

One of the greatest insights of the Hebrews was their belief that flesh can mediate spirit. God acts in the world through concrete events and real human beings. As as Christian I inherit that belief, and, immersed in my human messiness I stand before Jesus, a human being, and encounter God.

This explains why the gospels spend all that time telling us about the human life of Jesus on earth, because it’s that human existence if His that is the vehicle of our meeting him today in the here and now and human everydayness of our lives.


Hinduism teaches monism: Everything is one. Its God is therefore what Chesterton calls a “monistic giant” in whom one aims to ultimately lose oneself completely. Buddhism is similar. Look at the statuary of Buddhism. All the statues have their eyes tight shut, the figures are in the process of losing themselves completely and being absorbed into the One. 
Now look at Christian statues; the figures are wide-eyed with longing, filled with loving desire for this person, Jesus. For Christians, at our death God keeps each of us a distinct person, he doesn’t melt us down into the one infinite sameness of divinity. It's about persons.

Christians are not devoted to Jesus’ teachings, his doctrine or his wisdom, but rather to Him, His divine person. To trust, to follow, to love Him and others – it is the relationship that matters. Christianity, despite what some people will tell you, is not about avoiding sin, but rather about living out a loving relationship with Jesus that blossoms into love of every other person and of all God's creation. (If this sounds too mushy or too permissive, I apologize on behalf of the authors of the New Testament. I'm not making this stuff up.)

The implications of the Incarnation shape all of Christian doctrine. All of our theology seems to be a commentary on the mystery of the Word’s becoming flesh. Here are a just couple of implications that I find comforting
First, in the incarnation all of material creation was redeemed, elevated and made holy. There is no room in Christianity for a dualism of body-versus-spirit as if the material side of us were somehow bad (including sex, beer, comic books, and rocky road ice cream). Unfortunately lots of Christians (even theologians) over the centuries have missed boat on this one.

Second, since Christ shares in our human nature then he shares in our suffering, our trials, our anguish. A Christian never suffers alone. And our sufferings have been lifted up and nailed to the cross in such a way that they become somehow redemptive, included in the mysterious incomprehensible loving plan of God.     
In the gospels Christ’s greatest concern is the not the propagation of some religious system or the enactment of some grand scheme but the salvation of individual souls, In order to pull this off, He takes on our human weakness and transmutes it with infinite patience.

He took a risk with us; he did not choose the way of power, which he surely could have. In Christ’s passion and death we come face to face with the helplessness of God before man’s hardness of heart.

Something in all of this reminds me of some lines of a poem by the Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and so I’ll leave you with his words.

Fire In the Earth   -- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

It is done.
Once again the Fire has penetrated the earth
Not with the sudden crash of thunderbolt,
riving the mountain tops;
does the Master break down doors to enter his own home?
Without earthquake, or thunderclap:
the flame has lit up the whole world from within.
All things individually and collectively
are penetrated and flooded by it,
from the inmost core of the tiniest atom
to the mighty sweep of the most universal laws of being:
so naturally has it flooded every element, every energy
every connecting link in the unity of our cosmos,
that one might suppose the cosmos to have burst
spontaneously into flame.

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