Archive

Posts Tagged ‘christian’

Singing Your Song

May 6, 2010 1 comment

The drive to school took about 45 minutes in our VW bug. I’d lay in the back seat, singing goofy little songs.

I still make up goofy little songs.

I believe we were made to sing. In fact, I might go so far as to suggest that each of us is a living, breathing song.

We don’t tell our heart to beat in rhythm. It simply beats. As we join the constant pulse of our hearts, we clap, dance, jump, and sing. Step outside and we might discover a tree, a sun, and even a breeze reminding us to sing (and maybe skip).

At times in life, I’ve lost the song. Too busy trying to be grown-up and look grown-up and respected as a genuine, successful grown-up, I’d forget to sing. Sometimes I’d be too serious, too important, too spiritual, too busy or too depressed to sing.

All sorts of odd folks and experiences help me to remember, help me to hear, help me to start singing again. Sometimes the laughter of birds startled it forth. A walk around the neighborhood, a funny little story, a Psalm of David. And of course, my wife has always been able to stir up a song in my heart.

One of the most profound stirrings of song in my heart came when I began baptizing my imagination in the stories and poems of Celtic Christians. With hearts and pens tuned to the rhythms of the psalmist, the Celtic poets sang the praises of God as they meditated upon His Word, as they beheld His good gifts in the trees, birds, books and people around them.

They praised their friends, their leaders and their loved ones. Yet as one 13th century Irish poet proclaimed,

To praise man is to praise
the One who made him,
and man’s earthly possessions
add to God’s mighty praise.

All metre and mystery
Touch on the Lord at last,
The tide thunders ashore
In praise of the High King.

Their words and hearts were tuned to sing of the great High King Jesus. Even as they sang, they invited the world around them to join in the song:

Glorious Lord, I give you greeting!
Let the church and the chancel praise you,
Let the chancel and the church praise you,
Let the plain and the hill-side praise you,
Let the world’s three well-springs praise you.
Two above wind and one above land,
Let the dark and the daylight praise you.
Abraham, founder of the faith, praise you:
Let the life everlasting praise you,
Let the birds and the honeybees praise you,
Let the shorn stems and the shoots praise you.
Both Aaron and Moses praised you:
Let the male and the female praise you,
Let the seven days and the stars praise you,
Let the air and the ether praise you,
Let the books and the letters praise you,
Let the fish in the swift streams praise you,
Let the thoughts and the actions praise you,
Let the sand-grains and the earth-clods praise you,
Let all the good that’s performed praise you.
And I shall praise you, Lord of glory:
Glorious Lord, I give you greeting!

The more I’ve read, the more I discover a people immersed in prayers and songs. They had prayers for waking up, prayers for sweeping the house, prayers for making the bed, prayers for milking the cows and even prayers for talking a walk.

My walk this day with God,
My walk this day with Christ,
My walk this day with Spirit.
Ho! Ho! Ho! The three-fold all-kindly.

A certain playfulness spills over in many Celtic prayers. In this playfulness a dance with the Creator. God is not away on some far off planet. He is present. Ever present. Fully present. I need to be reminded of a Savior who near, not far:

May Christ be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ to my right, Christ to my left, Christ where I lie down, Christ where I sit, Christ where I stand, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me, Christ in every eye which looks on me, Christ in every ear which hears me.

As I listen to the steady cadence of these prayers, these songs, I hear the music in my ever beating heart.

We live in a world with many images but little vision, many sounds but few true words, many jokes but little deep joy. There is suffering all around us and often within us. There are troubles in life we cannot explain. Our dreams and hopes do sometimes whither and fade.

But our heart keeps beating.

We may take a cue from the old pumper and tap a toe, whistle a ditty, make up a song, and then make up another song. We might actually discover music that the good Lord put inside us that we never even realized was there.

As we sing and rejoice in His goodness, we might be surprised how music, like oxygen, rejuvenates, refreshes, and tunes us to the sweet Lord Jesus who ever prays (and sings) over us.

What is a Christian?

August 28, 2009 Leave a comment
they smile with their love (uploaded by t3xtures)

they smile with their love (uploaded by t3xtures)

“The Christian religion consists in becoming inebriated with love.”
Richard Wurmbrand

Modern Sickness, Disintegration and Nostalgia

June 17, 2008 Leave a comment

While searching for articles and books on Giambattista Vico yesterday, I ran across a great 1997 interview with Lois Dupre from Christian Century on “Seeking Christian Interiority.” Dupre laments the loss of a metanarrative in this late modern world: “We experience culture as fragmented; we live on bits of meaning and lack the overall vision that holds them together in a whole.”

This “absence of a defining unity” cause us to feel “lost in a disconnected universe.” While some “postmodern” writers rejoice in the loss of an overall narrative, most of us struggle with the need for some meaning that brings coherence to our lives. Christendom offered such a coherence, but that integrated world died with the middle ages and the modern world has moved farther and farther from looking to Christianity as a source of integration.

Dupre suggests that as the awareness of what the modern project has realized, people struggle with a yearning for something from yesterday.

“They feel the fragments present to us must somehow be united in a manner that modern culture fails to accomplish. Hence they turn to models from the past. Some join ultraconservative religious or political movements, or they lose themselves in mystics of earlier times as if no cultural distance separated us from the past. Such complete reversals that attempt to abolish modern life are, I think, inauthentic ways for trying to achieve the integration our time needs.”

While we may have some nostalgia for the Christian past, Dupre warns against trying to “reinvent a Christian ‘tradition’ (mostly intended for the masses) for social or political purposes.” So how do we respond to the crying need for an integrated vision of the world?

In this world between worlds, Dupre finds inspiration from another time between times: the age of Augustine. The Classical world was ending and the Medieval world was beginning. Augustine finds personal integration through faith in Christ rooted in the Christian Community. This integration works outward and finds ways to synthesize the pieces of his fragmented world such as Roman civic morality and Neoplatonic philosophy.

Dupre sees this integration as working outward from personal to local to cultural. This is a slow process and in one sense comes to define the new world. I think we see a similar attempt in integration in the shift between the Medieval world and the Modern world in the Reformation and Renaissance.

As we find ourselves in a world between worlds again, Dupre offers humbled approach to transformation. Instead of triumphalist declarations of restoring Christendom, he suggests our best steps forward in for true personal integration based on faith rooted in the Christian community. We must begin with a deep and profound personal integration. This is simply an individualistic interpretation of Christian faith, but a an experiential Christian faith that springs from the Scripture and community of believers. It is deeply relational.

Working outward, we must learn and cultivate an inner integration of the pieces of the modern world. Instead of reaching backward, we trust the Providence of God and work from our current estate forward. Only then, can we begin to think about community and cultural transformation. More on that later.

Christian Action springs from a communion of love

October 8, 2007 1 comment

“Let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

Von Balthasar lays out a vision of Christian action based upon the revelation of Jesus and fully revealed in his self-emptying devotion on the cross. This action is rooted in a completely free communion of love between the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

Christian action outside this revelation of love becomes pure ethics and is drained of the relational content of love’s revelation. Without this relation, action can become subject to necessity because it is not free in love. Think of Jesus action in the cross. It proceeds from the love of the Father and returns to the love of the Father. His action is an incarnation of Lover and Beloved. Just as the Son lives in this pure relation of lover and beloved with the Father, He reveals this love to a world at enmity with God.

His incarnation reveals God’s intention to relate to His people as Lover and Beloved. Von Balthasar references the Song of Solomon to emphasize that Lover and Beloved are complete within their mutual reciprocation of love. This love is not dependent upon producing children but is free of necessity and complete in itself.

The love between the Father, the Son and the Spirit is a complete love that needs nothing outside the relation to bring completion. Creation does not make God’s love more real. God’s love does not necessitate creating. The love between the Father, the Son and the Spirit is complete (completely fulfilling and fulfilled).

There is no unmet longing within God. While human happiness necessitates a longing beyond ourselves, the love of God is free of necessity. This is difficult for us to grasp because we do not live in this reality. As result, without something new outside the circle of reciprocal love, we might tend to think this love, this relation will growing tiresome, boring. That reveals our own incapacity for complete love that is free of necessity.

With this idea of a completely fulfilled love within the relation of the Godhead, Von Balthasar continues to lay out a picture of love that has no motive, no unfulfilled eros, no longing beyond the mutual reciprocity of love. For images of this among humans, Von Balthasar turns to Mary when she pours out the costly vial on Jesus’s feet. Her act is pure response to love, thus it appears as useless to outside eyes. (This useless outpouring of love makes me think of Chuang Tzu’s useless tree.)

Christian action springs from the freedom of a loving communion between Lover and Beloved. Enveloped in the ongoing communion of lover and beloved, the Christian moves from love and toward love. Only now can Von Balthasar begin to discuss dogmatic theology and offer his definition that “Dogmatic theology is the articulation of the conditions of possibility of Christian action in light of revelation.”

Thus all Christian action is a secondary reaction to the primary action of God as Lover and Beloved. Taken up into this communion by the Holy Spirit, the Christian simply responds and acts in this self-emptying love as most fully revealed in the cross. In the cross, God reconciles his enemies. When the enemy is not even on speaking terms, God acts to bring reconciliation.

In Christ, He enters into the gulf of sin and suffering that ripples across our world. Entering into the very gulf of death created by such violations of love, God both both judges and offers complete rectitude by taking the division, the suffering, the separation into Himself. The cross is both historical (occurring at a fixed point in space and time) and ahistorical (anticipating the revelation of love’s ultimate triumph when all creation is reconciled to God).

Thus the Christian acts (incompletely and partially) in love at a fixed point in time and space while still anticipating the triumph of love in that action (complete and absolute). Von Balthasar calls this action parousial. The act of love that anticipates the sudden revealing of complete love in all creation.

The Christian also acts in faith. While not ignoring the faults of others in the world around him, the Christian is to look with eyes of faith at Jesus’ action in the cross. By the grace of the Spirit, the Christian is taken up into the communion of suffering found within the cross. Only in the place of the cross, does the Christian begin to behold the knowledge of the love of God. Thus loving action cannot be separated from a loving communion that is rooted in self-emptying love.

Von Balthasar offers many points for consideration and reflection: a love without necessity, loving action that is both universal and particular/historical and ahistorical, action rooted in the communion of self-emptying love, and a knowledge rooted in loving communion as revealed in the cross.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thomas Merton on the nature of personhood

May 21, 2007 Leave a comment

Here’s a great quote on the human person from Thomas Merton:

“The person is defined in terms of freedom, hence in terms of responsibility also: responsibility to other persons, responsibility for other persons. To put it in concrete terms, the Christian is not only one who seeks the expansion and development of his own individuality and the satisfaction of his most legitimate natural needs but one who recognizes himself responsible for the good of others, for their own temporal fulfillment, and ultimately for their eternal salvation. Hence, the Christian person reaches maturity with the realization that each one of us is indeed his “brother’s keeper,” and that if men are suffering and dying in Asia or Africa, other men in Europe and America are summoned to self-judgment before the bar of conscience to see whether, in fact, some choice or neglect on their own part has had a part in this suffering and this dying, which otherwise may seem so strange and remote. For today the whole world is bound tightly together by economic, cultural and sociological ties which make us all, to some extent, responsible for what happens to others on the far side of the earth. Man is now not only a social being; his social nature transcends national and regional limits, and whether we like it or not, we must think in terms of one human family, one world.”

Thomas Merton. Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979: 152-153 

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , ,

Eastern Orthodox MySpace

May 11, 2007 2 comments

I heard an ad on Ancient Faith Radio for an Orthodox MySpace. Interesting. If you’re Orthodox and want to enter into an online community of Eastern Orthodox Christian visit the Orthodox Circle.

Celtic Christianity

April 19, 2007 2 comments

For the last several years, I’ve been leading retreats on Celtic Christianity, focusing primarily on the written texts that survive from the fifth to eighth centuries as well as a little later stuff. We cannot fully see inside their world, and we’re always in danger of substituting our own perceptions for reality (of course that is a danger with all history), there is still value in exploring these ancients poems, prayers, liturgies and more.

In 2005, I started working on a book exploring St. Patrick’s Breastplate. I wrote drafts of the first two chapters, but then my health took a turn for the worse, and I stopped writing. Recently, I decided to pick up the book and start writing again. In order to help jump start myself, I’ve decided to post chapters on scribd. So if anyone is interested, here are links to Chapter One and Chapter Two.

%d bloggers like this: