Monday, July 29, 2013

Mystery of the Mundane (part 4 )

Example of the Peregrini
The Irish Church of the Fifth Century was full of LIFE. Its founder, Patrick and those that came after him carried the Gospel to all four corners of the “Emerald Isle,” and beyond. As one writer describes them, “There was a passion for foreign missions in the impetuous eagerness of the Irish believers, a zeal not common in their day. Burning with love for Christ (and their neighbor) , fearing no peril, shunning no hardship, they went everywhere with the Gospel” (Edman).

These Celtic missionary wanders became known as the Peregrini.
The Peregrini, (among their number Columba, Columbanus and Aidan) journeyed to the nearby northern islands, the Orkneys and Faroes. Then on to Scotland, England, the forests of Germany, the rugged hills of Gaul, the foothills of the Alps, the valleys of the Rhine and the Danube, and to the cities and remote valleys of Italy. Some went singly, as hermits, others, in small groups, often numbering up to 13, imitating Jesus and the Twelve. Their numbers multiplied so greatly that they became a characteristic feature of Western Europe through most of the period from 500 to 950

One of the things that set these "peregrini" apart from the traditional missions of today was their approach. They went out on their journey open to the daily hardships and the mundane difficulties they would encounter. They were convinced that as they went they would be transformed into the image of the man that went about everywhere doing good and that this transforming work in them would be the catalyst for transformation in others. This caused them to go forward in great humility and joy
graphic: Peregrini: Celtic Saint Icon

living water reprint from 2009

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mystery of the Mundane (part 3)


Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.


Mundane: common place
God is found in the common places. He walked in the cool of the day. He was found in the still small voice. He rides on the wings of the wind. His glory is etched in the drifting clouds above. Present in the fragrance of a flower.

The mundane moments of daily life are ripe with His presence, doing the dishes, driving to work, nursing the baby, waiting on tables, walking in the woods. The Celtic culture nurtured and facilitated a sacramental approach to life. Not only recognizing but expecting Gods presence in the ordinary routine of life.

The Celt's recognized and celebrated the sacred in the common place. They anticipated and invited the presence into everyday activities such as setting the fireplace, milking the cow, churning the butter, ploughing the fields.

"I AM smooring the fireAs the Son of Mary would smoor Blest be the house, blest be the fire, Blest be the people all." (a blessing for preparing the night hearth)

"The guarding of God and the Lord be yours... Traveling meads long and grassy...Be the bright Michael king of the angels Protecting, and keeping, and saving you." ( a portion of a herders prayer) 

When we begin to recognize and acknowledge the presence in our mundane daily activities, we then begin to take off our shoes in the presence of every common bush a fire with God. All activities become sacred and sacramental, all ground holy. Every moment becomes pregnant with possibility and a live with wonder. And the simplest common activities can become "spiritual practices'. 

living water reprint from 2009

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mystery of the Mundane (part 2)

God never promised to answer every question or be an easy access rabbits foot. What he has promised is that He would never leave or forsake us. That he would be present with us at every moment, in all our joy and sorrow.
What if we were to live lives conscious of God's presence at all times in every situation? Think how this could transform everything - every thought, every action, every encounter?
Buddhists refer to this as mindfulness, being present in each moment, each breath. For followers of Christ this is known as practicing the presence God.
A 17th century Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence considered "the practice of the presence of God' to be at the center of authentic Christian spirituality. He learned the discipline of being constantly aware of Gods presence especially in the ordinary and mundane during his forty years of doing dishes and daily tasks for his monastic community.
He wrote, "There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it."

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. [Psalm 139:7-12]
Embracing the ordinary and cultivating the practice of becoming aware of Gods presence in each mundane moment could also be understood as learning to walk in the Spirit.

picture bc

living water reprint from 2009

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

John Cassian (360-435)

How we must Meditate on God
from the "Conferences"
Chapter 15

BUT the contemplation of God is gained in a variety of ways. For we not only discover God by admiring His incomprehensible essence, a thing which still lies hid in the hope of the promise, but we see Him through the greatness of His creation, and the consideration of His justice, and the aid of His daily providence: when with pure minds we contemplate what He has done with His saints in every generation, when with trembling heart we admire His power with which He governs, directs, and rules all things, or the vastness of His knowledge, and that eye of His from which no secrets of the heart can lie hid, when we consider the sand of the sea, and the number of the waves measured by Him and known to Him, when in our wonder we think that the drops of rain, the days and hours of the ages, and all things past and future are present to His knowledge;

When we gaze in unbounded admiration on that ineffable mercy of His, which with unwearied patience endures countless sins which are every moment being committed under His very eyes, or the call with which from no antecedent merits of ours, but by the free grace of His pity He receives us; or again the numberless opportunities of salvation which He grants to those whom He is going to adopt--that He made us be born in such a way as that from our very cradles His grace and the knowledge of His law might be given to us, that He Himself, overcoming our enemy in us simply for the pleasure of His good will, rewards us with eternal bliss and everlasting rewards, when lastly He undertook the dispensation of His Incarnation for our salvation, and extended the marvels of His sacraments to all nations.

But there are numberless other considerations of this sort, which arise in our minds according to the character of our life and the purity of our heart, by which God is either seen by pure eyes or embraced: which considerations certainly no one will preserve lastingly, if anything of carnal affections still survives in him, because "thou canst not," saith the Lord, "see My face: for no man shall see Me and live to this world and to earthly affections.

also check out john Cassian's living water thumb nail bio

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mystery of the Mundane (part 1)

11And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 12And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 13And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 1Kings 19:11-13

Between keeping ourselves distracted and waiting we miss a lot in life. Waiting for when I grow up. Waiting to get that job. Waiting to find that special person. Waiting to retire . Waiting to that buy new whatever. We live in anticipation of some future fulfillment.

In evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic circles in particular much of life is projected into the future and taken up with just passing time, waiting for something to happen. Waiting for the fire fall. Waiting for the earth quake to shake our lives. Waiting for that revival. Waiting for that miracle. Waiting for the next move of God. We anxiously await the big thing to unfold in our lives, passing time till I die and go to heaven.

Most of the “big moments” in our lives tend to take place in the ordinariness of daily life. God is to be found in the ordinary and mundane. We are often so busy we can’t see the forest for the trees. We miss the miracles unfolding before our eyes. We miss God’s immediate presence in the wonder of the ordinary.

Nick Cave captures this thought so beautifully in these lyrics from his song “Get Ready for Love”
Nothing much really happens
And God rides high in his ordinary sky
Until we find ourselves at our most distracted
And the miracle that was promised
Creeps silently by.

God is present in the now, my life is unfolding now. The miracle is in this present mudane moment.
photo: b culver
living water reprint from 2008

Thursday, July 18, 2013

God Puts on a Frame of Flesh

He became what we are that he might make us what he is.

God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man.
C.S. Lewis

The mystery of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.
Martin Luther

The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.
C.S. Lewis

As far as the Incarnation is concerned, I believe firmly in it. I believe that God did lean down to become Man in order that we could reach up to Him, and that the drama which embodies that Incarnation, the drama described in the Creed, took place.
Malcolm Muggeridge

Nowhere is salvation conceived of as a flight from history as in Greek thought; it is always the coming of God to man in history. Man does not ascend to God; God descends to man.
George Eldon Ladd

The Incarnation was the necessary means to bring about the salvation that we human beings would never have attained by our own power. The Word of God became human in order that we might become God through God’s graceful, divine life. He comes to restore the likeness of God in us.

graphic: The Descent of Peace, 1803-1817, most likely c. 1815  by William Blake

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells also known as the Book of Columba is one of many Gospel manuscripts produced by Celtic monks from the late sixth century to the early ninth century in the monasteries in Scotland, northern England, and Ireland. Written in latin the Book of Kells represents the high point in the production of these artistic manuscripts.

Among other surviving examples of this Biblical style are the Cathach of St. Columba, the Book of Durrow, the Durham Gospels, Lindisfarne Gospels, and the Macregal Gospels.
The name for the Book of Kells come from the Abbey of Kells in Kells, County Meath in Ireland where it was kept between the eleventh and seventeenth centuries. It remained there when the abbey was dissolved in the twelfth century and turned in to a parish church. In 1654, the book was moved to Dublin for safekeeping. Eventually it was presented to Trinity College Dublin where it still rests. The book has been re-bound a number of times and exists today in four volumes after a re-binding in 1953.

The place, or places, where the Book of Kells was created is not known. Traditionally, it is thought the book was begun in the time of St. Columba in the sixth century. Among the theories of its creation ,it was begun in Scotland, possibly at the Monastery of Iona, and then brought to Kells Abbey when the monks of Iona moved to Kells to escape Viking raids at Iona.

The book contains the complete texts of three of the synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The Gospel of John ends with John 17:13. The whereabouts of the missing pages of John a is not known. These may have been lost when the book was stolen in the eleventh century. The text is not marked by chapters. Whether this is because the manuscript was not completed is also not known.

The text of the book written in Insular Script is accompanied by full pages of detailed and ornate celtic artwork, in a varied mix of color. No gold or silver leaf was used. Each page is covered with illustrations, and the opening words of each Gospel are decorated lavishly, often to the extent that the text is almost illegible.

The book was most probably produced for liturgical use and not as an instructional volume.

graphic: page from the Book of Kells

living water frpm an ancient well reprint from 2008

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Book of Armagh

The Book of Armagh also known as the Canon of Patrick is a 9th-century Irish manuscript written mainly in Latin. It is preserved at the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. The document contains early texts relating to St Patrick and some of the oldest surviving specimens of Old Irish. It also contains a near complete copy of the New Testament.

The text is done in Insular script the type developed in Ireland in the 7th century (Latin: insula, "island"). This script later spread to Continental Europe under the influence of Celtic Christianity. It is associated with Insular art, the most famous examples being illuminated manuscripts like the Book of Kells..

The manuscript was once thought to have belonged to St. Patrick and, at least in part, to be a product of his hand. Research has determined, that the earliest part of the manuscript was the work of a scribe named Ferdomnach of Armagh (died 845 or 846). Ferdomnach wrote the first part of the book in 807 or 808, for Patrick's heir (comarba) Torbach. Two other scribes are known to have assisted him.

The first part contains important early texts relating to St. Patrick. These include two Lives of St. Patrick, one by Muirchu Maccu Machteni and one by Tírechán. Both texts were originally written in the 7th century.
The manuscript also includes significant portions of the New Testament, based on the Vulgate Bible. In addition the manuscript has prefaces to Paul's Epistles (most of which are by Pelagius) and the Eusebian Canon Tables ( the system of dividing the four Gospels used between late Antiquity and the Middle Ages). The manuscript also contains St. Jerome's letter to Damasus and closes with the Life of St. Martin of Tours by Sulpicius Severus.

graphic: A page of text from the Book of Armagh.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

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 mysticism.

“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,  repentance and spiritual practice.

photo: bc

reprint from 2009

Monday, July 8, 2013

Gratitude and Love to God

a poem by Madame De La Mothe Guyon

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.

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

grapic: from photo bucket

living water from an ancient well repeat from 2009

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Using the Ceilidh model for gathering

Ceilidhs are a wonderful Celtic tradition, a good time and a great way to connect with folks, your friends, family and neighbors. They're a wonderful way to bring worlds together, blending cultures and building appreciation for the other. We've been hosting them for many years now.

Another thing we  experimented with during our years facilitating the refuge faith community  ( a manageable sized house gathering) was using the ceilidh model for our communities gatherings. 'One brings a word one brings a song one brings a hymn..." In our present culture most people are used to observing not participating. By it's very nature the ceilidh is inclusive and interactive encouraging participation.

Many people generally expect christian gatherings to be pretty  much modeled after 'I come you speak i listen."

When we explore the dynamic of the early church there seems to be strong indication of what could be referred to as body ministry. The ceilidh model helps to facilitate an every body gets to play atmosphere.

Everyone can participate, everyone has space to interact. Everyone is encouraged to bring a word a song a hymn, share a story.. etc. The trick is in the facilitating. This is a great challenge and some times it's a little more work than simply leading a meeting. In the end the fruit can well out weigh the work. Besides it's just a lot of fun relationship building.

a living water from an ancient well repeat from 2008

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Ceilidh

Ceilidh (prounced "kay-lee" is the Gaelic word for "visit", or an "informal gathering" ).
In the Irish and Scottish tradition a ceilidh is social a gathering with traditional music, storytelling or often dancing. It could be as simple as a gathering of people at someones home, or a gathering in a town hall. Everyone brings a little food, some libation and most importantly a couple songs or a story to share if they wish. In Cape Breton and in other parts of Nova Scotia these ceilidhs representing good food, drink, dancing, friends, and family are often referred to as kitchen parties.