Sunday, June 28, 2009

Irenaeus (120- 202 )

"Therefore, as I have already said, He caused man (human nature) to cleave to and to become, one with God. For unless man had overcome the enemy of man, the enemy would not have been legitimately vanquished. And again: unless it had been God who had freely given salvation, we could never have possessed it securely. And unless man had been joined to God, he could never have become a partaker of incorruptibility.

For it was incumbent upon the Mediator between God and men, by His relationship to both, to bring both to friendship and concord, and present man to God, while He revealed God to man. For, in what way could we be partaken of the adoption of sons, unless we had received from Him through the Son that fellowship which refers to Himself, unless His Word, having been made flesh, had entered into communion with us?
Wherefore also He passed through every stage of life, restoring to all communion with God. Those, therefore, who assert that He appeared putatively, and was neither born in the flesh nor truly made man, are as yet under the old condemnation, holding out patronage to sin; for, by their showing, death has not been vanquished, which “reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” But the law coming, which was given by Moses, and testifying of sin that it is a sinner, did truly take away his (death’s) kingdom, showing that he was no king, but a robber; and it revealed him as a murderer. It laid, however, a weighty burden upon man, who had sin in himself, showing that he was liable to death.
For as the law was spiritual, it merely made sin to stand out in relief, but did not destroy it. For sin had no dominion over the spirit, but over man. For it behoved Him who was to destroy sin, and redeem man under the power of death, that He should Himself be made that very same thing which he was, that is, man; who had been drawn by sin into bondage, but was held by death, so that sin should be destroyed by man, and man should go forth from death.
For as by the disobedience of the one man who was originally moulded from virgin soil, the many were made sinners, and forfeited life; so was it necessary that, by the obedience of one man, who was originally born from a virgin, many should be justified and receive salvation. Thus, then, was the Word of God made man, as also Moses says: “God, true are His works.” But if, not having been made flesh, He did appear as if flesh, His work was not a true one. But what He did appear, that He also was: God recapitulated in Himself the ancient formation of man, that He might kill sin, deprive death of its power, and vivify man; and therefore His works are true."
In this passage from Against Heresies (3.18.7) we get a clear peek into the mind, heart and theology of Irenaeus of Lyons, Bishop of Gaul

Friday, June 19, 2009

Christian Mysticism

God is beyond the mind, but can be known only by the heart. Many times words fail. But the heart can see and experience God in simple reality. This is mysticsim.

“It is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian can and should develop his spiritual union with God. “- Thomas Merton

“He has placed within my heart a thirst for the infinite, and such a great need to love, that He alone can satisfy it. I go to Him, like a little child to its mother, so He may possess everything, and may take me and carry me away in His arms."
Elizabeth of the Trinity

Mysticism is the pursuit of communion with and awareness of God, and the realities that exist beyond empirical senses. Christian mysticism is about pursuing these things from a Christ-centered perspective. A mystic believes that the ultimate truths of God, life, the universe and reality cannot be discovered simply by means of study or intellectual investigation alone, but are discovered by means of spiritual disciplines, meditation, contemplation, and experience.

A Christian mystic therefore believes that a relationship with God is not achieved simply by the study of Scripture but through prayer, meditation, obedience, through repentance and spiritual practice.

complied from several sources
photo: bc

Monday, June 15, 2009

Evelyn Underhill ( 1875 - june 15 1941)

Evelyn Underhill was born at Wolverhampton England on December 6, 1875. The only child of (Sir) Arthur Underhill, barrister and his wife, Alice. She was educated at home, except for three years at a private school in Folkestone. Later she attended King's College for Women, where she excelled in history and botany. She also became a first-class bookbinder.

In 1906 She married Hubert Stuart Moore, a barrister, whom she had known since childhood. That same year she became a convert to Christianity, initally via the Catholic church, eventually joined the Anglican Communion (1921) and in her later years settled in the Greek Orthodox Church (1936).
Her first important book, Mysticism (1911), brought her in to aquantance with Baron Friedrich von Hugel she formally put herself under his spiritual direction and she remained his pupil until his in 1925.
From the moment she became a Christian Underhill's life consisted of various forms of christian service. She often quoted St. Teresa's "to give Our Lord a perfect service Martha and Mary must combine." Her mornings were given to writing and her afternoons to visiting the poor and to spiritual direction. As she grew older spirtitual direction became her chief interest.
In 1924 she began to conduct retreats, and a number of her books consist of the notes from these. She also penned three novels, two books of verse, a number of works on philosophy and religion, and various editions of, and critical essays on, the mystics.
During the first World War Underhill worked for the defence department. On the advent of the second world war in 1939 she found herself a Christian pacifist. She joined the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship and wrote an uncompromising pamphlet, The Church and War (1940).
In 1913 Evelyn Underhill became an honorary fellow of King's College of Women and in 1927 fellow of King's College. She had a zest for life and a sharp sense of humor. In her relationships particularly with her pupils, she had a vey light touch, having a great disdain for "pushing souls about." Her love of people combined with her desire to help them to grow at God's pace, not at their's or hers, won her the love and trust of all who went to her for help.
Evelyn Underhill died at Hampstead on June 15th, 1941.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gratitude and Love to God

All are indebted much to thee,
But I far more than all,
From many a deadly snare set free,
And raised from many a fall.
Overwhelm me, from above,
Daily, with thy boundless love.

What bonds of gratitude I feel
No language can declare;
Beneath the oppressive weight I reel,
'Tis more than I can bear:
When shall I that blessing prove,
To return thee love for love?

Spirit of charity, dispense
Thy grace to every heart;
Expel all other spirits thence,
Drive self from every part;
Charity divine, draw nigh,
Break the chains in which we lie!

All selfish souls, whate'er they feign,
Have still a slavish lot;
They boast of liberty in vain,
Of love, and feel it not.
He whose bosom glows with thee,
He, and he alone, is free.

Oh blessedness, all bliss above,
When thy pure fires prevail!
Love only teaches what is love:
All other lessons fail:
We learn its name, but not its powers,
Experience only makes it ours.

               a poem by Madame  Guyon

taken from Thirty-seven poems by Guyon translated by William Cowper (1779) from a French collection published in 1722, Poesies et cantiques 

Visit the Living Water bio for Madame Guyon 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Prayer of Columba (521-597)

Let me bless almighty God,

whose power extends over sea and land,

whose angels watch over all.

Let me study sacred books to calm my soul:

I pray for peace,

kneeling at heaven's gates.

Let me do my daily work,

gathering seaweed, catching fish,

giving food to the poor.

Let me say my daily prayers,

sometimes chanting, sometimes quiet,

always thanking God.

Delightful it is to live on a peaceful isle,

in a quiet cell,

serving the King of kings.

Madame Guyon (1648-1717)

Guyon's parents brought her up in pious religious training which took place in the home, school and convent. She was deeply influenced by her own reading of Francis de Sales and Madame de Chantal, as well as her interactions with the nuns and teachers. At a young age, she wanted to become a nun but was dissuaded by her sister.

After turning down many proposals, she married a wealthy man twenty-two years her senior. She was 16. Her life was plagued with suffering and constant abuse from her mother in law, husband and maids. The lack of love in the marriage drove her deeper in to pursuit of God. Her pursuit of god's presence and her willingness to embrace suffering formed the pillars of her spirituality.

After twelve years of in the loveless marriage, she was left as a widow of three children after losing her two children and husband in succession.

Guyon believed that in imbracing suffering she would be drawn closer to God's heart. At age 28 after twelve years of marriage, she was left widowed, by this time she had also lost 2 of her four two children.

After her husband's death, Madame Guyon felt herself drawn to Geneva. She left her children in the care of a family member and sought out Father LaCombe. who was to become her spiritual director. Together they began to proclaim entire sanctification through faith in Christ, becoming major voices in the Quietism* movement.

Louis XIV was pivotal in the condemnation of Quietism in Rome. He would not allow similar mysticism in his own capital. Father LaCombe was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. Guyon was herself arrested and subjected to fierce interrogation.

In October 1688, when Guyon was released from prison, she met Father Francis Fénelon who became Her most famous and influential disciple, who latter became the Bishop of Chartres. Through Fénelon the influence of Madame Guyon increased, as her influence increased so did persecution.

Guyon taught that we should learn to pray without ceasing. Whatever one was doing, learn to cultivate the practice of being constantly aware of God's presence. "Prayer is the key of perfection and of sovereign happiness; it is the efficacious means of getting rid of all vices and of acquiring all virtues; for the way to become perfect is to live in the presence of God. Prayer alone can bring you into His presence, and keep you there continually."

In one of her peoms she wrote: "There was a period when I chose, A time and place for prayer ... But now I seek that constant prayer, In inward stillness known ..."
Guyon defended the belief that salvation wholly is the result of grace, not works. She taught that a person's deliverance can only come from God as an outside source, never from within the person himself or herself.

In 1693 she was arrested for her ideas and again imprisioned in the Bastille. Guyon was finally released in 1703 after more than 7 years captivated and banished from Paris. She went to live with her son in Blois where she lived for fifteen years in silence and isolation until she died in 1717 at the age of 68. She left behind a volume of poetry and number of books, two of the most important being "A Short and Easy Method of Prayer" and her AutoBiography.

* Quietists embraced the ideology of dying to self and living in Christ , reaching a“state of pure contemplation where God flows in and becomes the inward reality initiating His perfect and holy will.” Passivity is understood in the context of actively surrendering to Divinity where pure love, pure faith and pure prayer unite the believer in union and intimacy with God.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gaelic Wedding Blessing

June traditionally is the beginning of the wedding "season". So hear is an old Scottish Wedding Blessing.

In the Gaelic: Mi\le fa\ilte dhuit le d'bhre/id,Fad do re/ gun robh thu sla\n.Mo/ran la\ithean dhuit is si\th,Le d'mhaitheas is le d'ni\ bhi fa\s.

Translated as: "A thousand welcomes to you with your marriage kerchief, may you be healthy all your days. May you be blessed with long life and peace, may you grow old with goodness, and with riches."

attributed to the Rev. Donald MacLeod, minister of Duirinish, Skye, Scotland c. 1760.

Graphic: David Allan's painting, 'A Highland Wedding at Blair Atholl', painted in the 1780

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Nicene Creed (A.D. 381)

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Nicene Creed authored by 150 Fathers is ussually associated with the Council of Constantinople it is an expansion and revision of the earlier Creed of Nicaea with which it is often confused. The council met to refute Apollinarianism. Apollinarius taught that Jesus was a combination of the divine Logos spirit, a sensitive human soul and a human body. He taught that Jesus did not have a human spirit. His views were based on the platonic tripartite view of human nature. The council condemned this view in order to show that Christ, as truly human, could redeem the whole person.

This creed emphasizes the Trinitarian faith and is very suitable for liturgical use and was used as an early baptismal and eucharistic creed. It goes beyond the Creed of Nicaea in its affirmation of the full deity of the Spirit though it uses biblical rather than philosophical terms to do so. The filioque clause found in the Western version of this creed is one of the major disagreements between the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity. This clause was not accepted even by the Western Church until the turn of the first millennium.