This week, I couldn't help
but type out a very long quote
(or short excerpt, however you want to look at it)
and share it for this week.
Fridays are about place
and this season is about change.
I very much consider the heart a place and
a place very much about change.
If you're the kind of person
who gets a little overwhelmed with
multiple paragraphs and no pictures,
or if you are on the quick, automatic conveyor belt
moving you through the day,
hop off for a second,
make some tea,
set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes
and relax, stay put, and do yourself an enriching favor:
Let your heart breathe even if this isn't your "cup of tea."
I read this before I slept last night
and was deeply moved.
P.S. Two thoughts on language before reading the excerpt:
1. You'll come across the term "predestined" -- if you cringe,
I understand. I can too because the word has been so overused
and abused by zealous people
who may not know what they're
So for now,
just think of it as you hear so often on the street--
"It's meant to be,"
"There's a reason it happened,"
"The Universe chose it."
2. "Eternity" -- This word can be nebulous.
But it is used in association with becoming children again--
not from our birthright or family--
but from our choice of moving from darkness to illumination.
This process is about becoming children of Light:
becoming children of God. A brief note about this word "eternity" (!):
Princeton professor and author Ellen T. Charry shares this reality: Jesus claims to be the light of the world (the Gospel of John chapter 8 verse 12 and chapter 9 verse 5) and following him rids the darkness of evil (John 3:18-21). Below she talks about what it means to be "in Christ" linking it to the writer's claim that Jesus is the "food" for eternal life (perhaps similar to the phrase "food for thought" except this is food that will constantly give life to the heart):
If you are still with me (fingers crossed) and
with this backdrop in mind,
here is the quote
I read last night--
it is about the possibility of contemplation,
and to use Charry's phrase,
on the "spiritual bonding" that
occurs as a result of saying
to a truth greater than our personal one.
Perhaps right now that may be "The Universe" for you,
or perhaps a brown-skinned man that you know by name.
Without further ado--and I promise pictures in next week's posts--
THE POSSIBILITY OF CONTEMPLATION
“SINCE GOD HIMSELF has created us in such a way that we must hear the word of God if we are to be ourselves, he has also endowed us with the ability to hear it. Otherwise he would have contradicted himself and would not be Truth. This ability to hear the word goes as deep in us as being itself; the Father created us as spiritual creatures, and so we are 'hearers of the word'. All our petty excuses—we simply can’t do that kind of listening; we have no interest in it; we are not suited to it on account of our particular character, talents, occupation, or the multiplicity of our activities; our religious interests tend in a different direction; repeated attempts have failed to produce any result—all these little objections, however correct they may be in their limited way, do not affect the great fundamental fact that God, in giving us faith, has also given us the ability to hear.
To believe and to hear the word of God are one and the same thing. Faith is the ability to go beyond our own human, intramundane and personal 'truth' and apprehend the absolute truth of the God who unveils and offers himself to us, acknowledging it to be the greater truth, allowing it to be the decisive factor in our lives. The person who has faith and describes himself as a believer is actually saying that he has the ability to hear God’s word. If he wants to believe without being involved in internal contradiction, i.e., if he wants inwardly to affirm and hold true what he believes, then he also loves and hopes. Clearly, without love, faith is ‘dead’; it is robbed of inner vitality, robbed by its very self. How can a person seriously believe that God is love and has given himself up for us on the cross, because he has loved and chosen us from all eternity and has predestined us for an eternity of bliss in his presence—how can anyone seriously believe this 'to be true' and at the same time refuse to love God in return or despair of God’s love? How can he assert that this message, this word from God, is true, while with equal seriousness, i.e., through his actions, he shows that the message is false (at least for him, at least for the present, as long as he wants to go on sinning?) Certainly, he has this inconceivable and ‘impossible’ possibility; but it also involves the possibility of contradicting what he himself has asserted. Thus, he is self-contradictory, he eliminates and explodes his own self. Anyone who has said Yes to faith, in whatever way—even merely by acknowledging that, fundamentally, the truth of God (or of some absolute, divine, all-encompassing reality) has a greater importance than his personal truth—is saying Yes to this truth; he loves it and hopes for it. Such a person, manifestly or covertly, is a hearer of the word.
This peak of his being can be shrouded by many mists. Perhaps he has lived for so long enveloped in mists that he has almost forgotten that there is a peak at all. Perhaps he is so submerged in life’s distractions and bustle, in secret desperation, that nothing he does is right, nothing is of any importance; he is incapable of doing the one thing that is essential. His entire spiritual life can be clouded by despair, it can poison his prayer, giving him a negative and unfruitful air of mourning and resignation, the vanquished victim of his own self. But none of this stops faith from being and living within him, unfailingly offering him both the demand and the possibility of fulfilling it. Faith’s table is always laid, whether the invited guest sits down or stays away with a thousand excuses and pretexts. The entire, objective world of God’s word, i.e. the world of God’s love which comes near to man, revealing itself so that he can understand and grasp it, is always there. This world in itself is never remote or dimly perceived, even when man, in the very midst of it, shuts his eyes and pretends not to be there. There are legitimate experiences of absence within this ever-present world of God’s grace, but they are forms and modes of love. Such were the experiences of the prophets of the Old Covenant, of the Son of God on the cross and in the darkness of his descent into hell; such are the experiences of all those who, in their several vocations, follow the Son. These are the redemptive paths of love as it traces the footsteps of sinners in order to catch up with them and bring them home. But it would be blasphemous to equate these experiences with sin’s refusals and to ascribe any positive value, within the world of faith and its truth, to one’s own sloth and distaste for listening to the word.
All we need, to be convinced that we are able to hear the word of God, is to catch a single glimpse of faith. Faith is two things at once: an act and its content and object. It is a holding-as-true and what is held-as-true. The two are inseparable, for our holding-as-true, our readiness to let God’s word and his love prevail, is the way (and the only way) in which we can participate in the content itself. In more concrete terms, it is the grace which comes to us in God’s self-giving and enables us to give ourselves to him in return. God takes the risk of creating the world, of giving Adam his kingly freedom; he takes the risk of surrendering his only Son into the hands of sinners; he takes the risk of establishing the hierarchical Church as the sign and the locus of his kingdom among the nations. He entrusts himself to us in all these ways, nor does he manifest any distrust at all, but is faithful forever (Ps 88), imparting to his truth (veritas) the quality of a daring, faithful love (fidelitas, emeth, pistis). And into the innermost heart of the man he has chosen, addressed and wooed, this God pours his own Spirit of daring Covenant-faithfulness: faith (pistis, fides). All God’s ‘objective’ deeds and signs throughout history, which man’s faith is to ‘hold as true’, are nothing other than deeds and signs manifesting, recounting, representing God’s daring faithfulness and making it credible. Just as God does not show an abstract, theoretical, lifeless and ‘dead’ faithfulness toward man, concealing his divine truth in mere ‘propositions’ and ‘laws’, but causes his truth to become real, pulsating life and flesh in terms of living history, so he cannot be satisfied with a ‘dead’ faith as man’s response. He is the living God, ‘bodily’ present with and for man, and so he calls for an ‘embodied’ response: man, in the entirety of his existence as a hearer and answerer of the word."
-- From Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar, pages 33-36