Saturday, September 22, 2012
"The natural world is the material source of our being….(it) is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human." So wrote Thomas Berry. Edward Abbey has written, "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit." I do not understand a great deal of what Albert Einstein has written,but the following I like: "Look! loo! deep into nature and you will understand everything". Forty nines years ago, I know these quotes would not appear on my radar. Today they speak to me. They speak and a part of me can see,understand, and give assent to the truth they so wonder-fully express. So, then, one could rightly say there have been serious changes in the way I viewed, and now view, the world of nature. There has been an ongoing evolution over these many years. It all began when I had to give up golf. Golf was great, but there was something missing from the experience. Yes, one was out in nature, but you were not deeply connected. I was, as if it was by accident, you were surprised by the beauty of your surroundings. It happened now and then. I would be caught up with a ‘wow, that is neat” statement, and then go back to see what had to be done to par the hole. The one golf hole that really caused me to slow down and enjoy the experience of walking the fairway, was the fourth hole, on the south course, in Torrey Pines, San Diego. Even though I have not played golf for many years, I still have fond memories of walking that fairway, which in reality is a bluff overlooking the sea. It was great to have the warm sun in my face, cool sea breeze gently blowing, and a good cigar in my mouth, all was right with the world. It was good to be alive. The cares were all concentrated on hitting a shot that would enable me to get on that tough green up ahead. It is one of the better 400 yard holes I have ever played. Looking back, it was not what I shot on the hole, but the experience of the walk, that has stayed with me over these many years. " Every blessing is curse, and every curse is a blessing." (You see that a lot here. !!! ) When I was no longer able to play golf, like i used to, I was lost. Golf was a great part of my life. It was something that, sad to say, helped to define me. (Even to this day, some people will ask me, "how is your golf game?" ) I started to walk. Had to, my cardiologist demanded it. I was not in good shape, so he asked for an hour a day. Well that “heart challenge" opened a whole new way of living for me. That new way of acting opened me up to a whole new way of thinking. I no longer had golfing holidays. I now had stories from hiking holidays to share. I now belong to the hiking community. This community numbers 60,000,000 here in Americans alone. That is a very large community indeed, and so very diverse. When you begin a hike there is no one looking to see if you are of the right race, the right income bracket, sexual orientation, religion, political party, etc.etc. On the trail, we are all one. Each one is on our own hike, each hiking according to our own unique, God given abilities. On the trail there are no judgements, but there is a lot of concern. On the trail individuality and community have an encounter. That encounter celebrates a certain Presence, in the awe inspiring, wonder-full cathedral, of the great outdoors. There, we become aware of a Presence, that eludes us in so many other places. In the silence of this cathedral something happens that touches, renews, and refreshes us. That is why we can call all of nature a great sacrament. The place where we meet God. There is the danger, however, this can and is, taken a little too far. I saw a bumper sticker this week that stated, "Nature is God". No nature is not God, but because He/She is the creating force, God is IN nature. Nature is a great healer. It is another way God reaches out to each one, as an individual, drawing us all in one great holy, sacred community. I have found out that Joe, like everybody else, does not have to do anything. This is a very big blow to Joe's ego. Just place one foot in front of the other, for as long as you can or want, and don't be a busybody, wanting to know what is happening. There will, in time but not in our time (darn it) come a new of understanding, leading to a new way of acting. We will see changes in our relationships. We will begin to treat ourselves differently, and as a consequence we will have a change in our relationships with others. You gain confidence in your abilities, as well as becoming aware of your limitations. On the trail ,if you are smart ,healthy, you will ask for help and directions. As it is on the trail, so it is with life, all life, wherever we may live and experience it . Our religious celebrations will be affected with this new spiritual awareness. The prayers, readings (especially The Psalms) will speak to us in a new and more vibrant, and life giving way. This will demand more of priests, ministers, and leaders of community prayer. There has to be a better job done of connecting the indoor celebration of the sacred, with the outdoor encounter, with that same Reality. Liturgy is "the work of the people", we will make their work so much easier when we connect their encounter with the sacred in their everydayness. As we demonstrate our reverence for sacredness, their reality, hopefully they will become more open to Sacred's Presence in the reality of word, sacrifice, and sacrament.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
We Irish are, or at least were, introduced to the existence of another world at a very early, early age. I cannot remember exactly when I was first became aware of the existence of a world beyond the world I lived in. I was told stories about the "little people”, "the pooka', leprechauns, the fairies, the banshee, "sacred circles" (seen in fields), haunting ghost stories, stories of haunted places houses and castles, wells, bushes in the middle of fields that will not be cut down. (There was a haunted room in the national seminary, Maynooth.) I was reading about the great legendary, mythological figures of Ireland and their great adventures in the world, beyond. I was enthralled, captured, fascinated with their many, many journeys into the world that is normally unseen. I found myself lost in the world of mist and mystery. I was fascinated with the struggles that took place in those lands that existed before time began. As it was, so it is today. I am have become more and more aware of what I was taught a long, long time ago that "the boy becomes the father of the man”. The knowledge garnered in youth, finds its validity in the living of life. "Myth never was, but always is”. How I have wrestled with that !!!!!!!. Throughout Ireland there are places called "thin places”. These are the places where that which divides the seen world and the world of mystery seem to disappear. There is a great blurring that takes place. These are sacred places and spaces. In those “thin places” one becomes aware there is more here than meets the eye. Here many, not all, become aware of a presence that cannot be explained, only experienced. You can say the world of mystery, is a world that is readily inhabited by the Irish, and that is ever before we have something to drink. Ad poteen (Irish home brew), and you really have a recipe for a real great adventure into the unknown. With that background I was well prepared for the change in sacramental theology that took place. When I was in the seminary there were the seven Sacraments. There were seven and no more. These are the guaranteed presence of our God. Then I heard the word sacrament applied to married couples. After some seeking and searching I became aware of the fact that there were still seven Sacraments, that is Sacrament with a big "S". There were millions of sacraments spelled with a small "s". Each and every person, place, event is a sacrament. Sacrament with a small "s" allows for the POSSIBILITY of the presence of God. There is no guarantee. As you read this you, as a sacrament, are doing sacramental work. All reality is sacramental. All that is real finds it's source of being in Being Itself. St.Francis said,"everything that is, is to be adored". Chardin, “There is nothing profane for him/her who knows how to see." We are always meeting the challenge of dealing with the reality that is unseen. We come to realize there is a world beyond what we see, hear, taste, and touch. I am faced with the whole world that exists in mystery. You and I live a life of mystery, as does the whole of creation. All of creation is seeking, searching, and aching for some sense of certitude. A certitude that will make this journey, as spiritual seeking having this human experience, a meaning-full experience. We have to look beyond what we have come to know to The One who exists in the world of mystery. This is The One, who is not confined to the human, to the finite. He is The Infinite One. We profess, in every mass, our belief in the One Who is "The creator of all things visible and invisible”. He is The One, The Creator who maintains all things in existence (this includes you and I) so "that not even the tensions and tragedies of sin, cannot frustrate His loving plans." We need to keep those hope-full words ever before us. Why? Because we, in our human experience, are constantly being bombarded with the limitations of our humanity. We need, and are provided with an antidote to this sometime toxic existence. That is why we need to be continuously “dipped and dyed” in the celebration of the great mystery that is the source of our strengthening and renewal. This great mystery is The Paschal Mystery. This is the mystery we have been baptized into, live every day, and celebrate in the mystery that is every Mass. In this celebration earth is united with heaven. We are in a “thin place”. In this sacred place where there is a union between who we are, as spiritual beings, and The Source of all that is seen and unseen. In this "union-ing", that, because of the nature of the reality, can only be achieved through the workings of The Spirit, we are nourished, refreshed, and renewed. The process of transfiguration, and transformation continues though, unseen. So then, deep within our lands of mist and mystery there is a living Reality. A Reality that exists, but is never completely known, or understood. This is The Presence that makes the place where you stand a sacred, a holy place. A place where another can encounter the One Who keeps both of you in existence. May you, as the hero/heroine, of your story come to an ever deepening appreciation of the dignity and the sacredness of the mystery you are, and the unseen world of mystery that surrounds you.