Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

Ascension: My Last Words to the Risen Jesus

May 14, 2012

See Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Easter 7 (year B) May 20, 2012
“do not leave us comfortless”
My Last Words:

Little children, yet a little while I am with you. John 13:33a

Are you going away? Again?

You will seek me. (vs.33b)

I sought you. And I found you!

‘Where I am going you cannot come.‘ (vs.33c)

Why would you come back from the dead only to go away again?
And why can’t I come also?

I go to prepare a place for you…And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:2b,3)

But I don’t know that! I lost you and now you are here and you say you are going away! Don’t leave us, don’t leave me alone again! I love you! Don’t you know I love you?

If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. (vs.28bc)

That’s bitter consolation. And I do not understand.

Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:19)

Riddles! You say you are going away. I have no idea what it means that you “go to the Father.” Sitting limply on a far away celestial rock like Zeus? In the clouds, scanning a panorama of tops of mountain ranges? Maybe even traveling to other planets, enchanted by realms outside earth? Nothing sounds farther away than going “to the Father.”

I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. (John 14:18)

You will go away and come back?

I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. (vs. 16-17) The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, … will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (vs. 26)

I know the Holy Spirit? I dwell in the Father? It is better if you stay where we can see you.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go. I will send him to you. (John 16:7) When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. (vs. 13a)

I have vowed to love what you love.

I will let the Spirit of truth – whatever that is – guide me into truth. You’ve guided me through the dark before. Why should this abandonment seem more severe than the other abandonments? You’ve given me the treasures of darkness (Isaiah 45:3) before. Why should I not expect the treasures of darkness now?

Go, then. And breathe on me, Breath of God.

discussion over “a piece of broiled fish”

April 16, 2012

See “a piece of broiled fish”
Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Easter 3 (year B) April 22,2012

So here we are in the Eighth Day and I’m still learning what it means to awake to a new creation. Because this year I particularly noticed the sensate and material emphasis of the Passion and Resurrection stories (see last post) it is no wonder that Jesus eating the piece of broiled fish obsessed me. I’ve always liked this story and I joke about it – part of one my my schticks – in my retreats.

So I actually put up this question on Facebook: “Why did Jesus eat the piece of broiled fish?” And besides delightful answers like, “Because he didn’t eat red meat!” and “Because, as any child will tell you ghosts don’t eat” and “Resurrecting sure works up a big appetite” and “Eating leftovers is virtuous,” the way the discussion moved along helped me very much. Some pointed out that Luke wants to make sure his hearers understand the resurrection isn’t some Gnostic or ethereal sleight-of-hand, that the resurrection of the body is real – emphasizing the sacredness of the physical world.

This moves me deeply, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, because of my own history of chronic pain and recent healing, having wanted most of my life to be out of my body and using my mind to circumvent both sensation and emotion.

Another Facebook friend writes, “In Luke Jesus loves to eat–from his birth in an animal trough to symposia with all and sundry throughout the gospel–to the extent that people say of him: ‘a glutton and a drunkard.’ If he eats fish in the resurrection, not only will he be recognized but maybe disbelief will be overcome”. So his eating is about recognition, and the utter joy and sanctification of the act of both eating and table fellowship.

Another friend wrote “I cannot imagine heaven without the joy of taking in food, without taste, smell, aromas. I think Jesus was reassuring us that we will not have to let go of these things. In fact, eating here in this way is just a ‘foretaste of the heavenly banquet.’

The whole it it reminded me of the end of the Book of Job, when, after all the disasters are over, (and God has outshouted Job with all that talk about how great the crocodile is in the scheme of creation) and his fortunes renewed, the old man stops being so obsequiously reverent. He names his children un-pious names – Dove, Cinnamon, and Mascara. He’s more content and holier than ever.

I suppose this line of thought on the bodily resurrection is nudging me toward loving sensate, material life more than I do. Awakening to the New Creation requires embracing and thoroughly loving the creation at hand.

[Thank you, Facebook contributors! And what I actually ended up writing is found in “About This Week’s Prompts for Meditation” on this week’s website]

April 9, 2012

See Easter 2 (Year B)

This year I particularly noticed sensate images in Holy Week. Here are a few:

The donkey’s breath, the foal’s weaving around her mother. The scent of palms trodden under foot.
The crash of tables and glissando of coins scattering on the pavement, the wind-sound of the whip of cords.
The unique footfall of each sister on the path: Martha’s sure and sturdy presence as she confronts Jesus, Mary’s lighter step as she runs. Jesus’ tears. His inexpertly stifled moan. The bandages covering Lazarus. And later, the scent of pure nard filling the house.
Outer garment laid aside. Towel. Water. The distinctive feet of each friend: calluses, sores, corns, scars, dirt, fungus, deformed and discolored toenails.
Bread broken. Wine poured. Judas going out into the night.
Bloody sweat of abject anguish.
Thirty pieces of silver.
A fire in the courtyard in the cold air. A cock crowing.
A bowl in which Pilate washes his hands.
Crown of thorns, purple robe, spittle. Blood. Mutilated flesh quivering like jelly on Jesus’ back. Weakness, falling. The cloth wiping sweat and blood from his face. Nails. Cross. Dice. Tunic without seam. Sponge. Vinegar. Spear. Water and blood. One hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, fresh linen. Corpse. Tomb hewn out of the rock.

The Passion narrative emphasizes the very materiality of this particularly incarnational religion. And paradoxically, perhaps it is this materiality which makes it hard to recognize the Resurrected flesh of the Incarnate One, at least initially, although I don’t understand why. Why, near the tomb in the garden, on the road to Emmaus, in the Upper Room, on the beach in Galilee, was it difficult to recognize Jesus? What obscures normal sight and senses? Or does perceiving his presence demand a heightening of senses?

For Thomas, the privilege of doubt is a deeper embrace. Invited to place his hand in the divine wound, Thomas touches the interior flesh of the Beloved.
I’m beginning to realize this faith of mine isn’t just inside my head. I place my hand in Thomas’ hand.


April 2, 2012

see Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Sunday of Resurrection (1,2,3) posts

Empty Tomb

Peter and John
See the open tomb.
The grave cloths lie crumpled,
the headbands rolled up in a separate heap.
An unformed thought nudges at John.
But there’s nothing to be done.
So the men leave.

Mary is left alone.

The grave stone cast aside carelessly,
as if it were not heavy,
The ransacked sepulcher screaming violation,
The empty grave cloths shouting nakedness,
Silence, as loud as storm waves crashing upon a sea wall,
Emptiness, as pressing as crowds rioting in a market square,
Sheer nothingness
Bellows through the chasm of loss.

Mary stays to confront
the thunderous absence of Jesus.



from Dark Love: Meeting the Beloved at the Empty Tomb (retreat)

Crowning the Bride

May 30, 2011

see Easter 7(A)

And another meditation for Ascensiontide –
from The Spiritual Canticle by John of the Cross

Bride searches for Beloved, Hesdin of Amiens, c.1450-55

Where have You hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
After wounding me;
I went out calling You, and You were gone.

Why, since You wounded
This heart, don’t You heal it?
And why, since You stole it from me,
Do You leave it so,
And fail to carry off what You have stolen?

Bride finds Beloved, Hesdin of Amiens, c.1450-55

The small white dove
Has returned to the ark with an olive branch;
And now the turtledove
Has found its longed-for mate
By the green river banks.

She lived in solitude,
And now in solitude has built her nest;
And in solitude He guides her,
He alone, Who also bears
In solitude the wound of love.
vs 34-35

Crowning the Bride

I will set my throne within you

May 23, 2011
Easter 6 (year A)

The Ascension, Monaco Lorenzo, anitphonary c.1410

I will not leave you orphaned;
    I am coming to you.
I will send the Advocate,
    the Spirit of Truth.
You know him,
    because he abides with you,
       and he will be in you.

In a way, Jesus’ abandonment of the disciples upon the Mount of Olives is more profound than their abandonment on Calvary. After all, the disciples themselves predicted he would die. “Let us go and die with him” says a resigned Thomas when Jesus chooses to risk going to Judea to console his friends in Bethany.  As grevious as it was, the crucifixion was no surprise. 

But no one could have imagined the Resurrection and the extraordinary forty days during which Jesus dwelled again with his friends. Forty days with the resurrected Jesus – appearing in the upper room, along the way to Emmaus, upon the beach at Galilee!  Imagine their despair when this, the Jesus present to them in such an astonishing way, enters the Cloud on the Mount of Olives. He had said,“If I do not go, the Comforter will not come.” Again, imagination fails. 

The Church gives us ten days to practice dwelling in the ambiguous time between the Resurrected-Christ-vanished, and the Holy Spirit not-yet-come.  In the mystical life, Ascensiontide is the Dark Night of the Soul, the anguished sense of abandonment after a solid period of union.  The soul can not cling even to this union.  The last threads of attachment must be broken in the darkness of unknowing before the completion of the Christian transformation – being “sent” into the world as bearers of Love.

The mystics of the church testify to a stunning paradox.  The abandonment IS the union.  It is in the Dark Night of the Soul that Lover meets Beloved and transforming union takes place. A hidden union so intimate perception fails for a time. “He will be IN you.”

The with church we sing one of many clues. “ Come, mine elect one: and I will set my throne. within you.*”


*Antiphon at Lauds, Saints Days

and you know the way …

May 16, 2011

see Easter 5 (year A)
“many mansions”

Arches in San Vitale

Christ prepares a place but just as I get there he disappears, just as he did at Emmaus. For he is going to prepare the next place for me. For in the house of the Holy One there are many mansions/ dwelling places/ resting places/ rooms. Teresa of Avila said, “Let us now imagine that this castle, as I have said, contains many mansions, some above, others below, others at each side; and in the center and midst of them all is the chiefest mansion where the most secret things pass between God and the soul.”* Each sphere of consciousness draws me forward toward the next sphere. When I shed my body will this pattern continue from glory to glory, from intimacy to intimacy, toward the Throne, the Source, the Uncreated Light, Pure Love? I don’t know, but I’m guessing so.

Teresa continues, “We ourselves are the castle; and it would be absurd to tell someone to enter a room when he was in it already! But you must understand that there are many ways of “being” in a place.” And she says, “As far as I can understand, the door of entry into this castle is prayer and meditation.” And, “You must not imagine these mansions as arranged in a row, one behind another, but fix your attention on the center, the room or palace occupied by the King.  Think of a palmetto, which has many outer rinds surrounding the savoury part within, all of which must be taken away before the center can be eaten.  Just so around this central room are many more, as there also are above it. In speaking of the soul we must always think of it as spacious, ample and lofty; and this can be done without the least exaggeration, for the soul’s capacity is much greater than we can realize, and this Sun, which IS in the palace, reaches every part of it.”

Each of these mansions encompasses a way of God-consciousness.  When a person masters the way of a particular “mansion,” the stability and comfort of that mode of being-with-God disappears and the soul agonizes through a night of faith. Eventually the soul begins to appropriate a new and truer consciousness of God.  This painful process unfolds again and again throughout life.

“I go before you to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also.”
“But you keep disappearing! I never catch up.”
“You have a long way to go, my love.”

* all quotes from Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) The Interior Castle (translated and edited by E. Allison Peers)

If I had to choose one story…

May 9, 2011

See Easter 4(A)

Tell me, you whom my heart loves, where you pasture your flock?
– Song of Songs 1:7

If you were given an opportunity to tell only one Christian story, what would it be?

Christ as the Good Shepherd, Mosaic from the Entrance Wall of the Mausoleum of Gall Placidia

As a Christian Educator I found myself in this position from time to time; plopped into a parish for a single Sunday guest appearance in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants church school program. (Actually, some fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants programs can be better than slick, expensive, fancy, well-organized ones… but I’m getting off topic.)

My “one story” is the parable of the lost sheep.

   Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  So he told them this parable:
   “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?  When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them. ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’
   “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” – Luke 15:1-7

Everyone will be lost at one time or another. Or many times. Some of us chronically wander into narrow canyons where paths stop so abruptly you can’t even turn around and go back out. Only a shepherd’s crook from an overhanging ledge above can haul you up to safety.

The story of the Lost Sheep can also help cut through some of the density of the Johannine material for Good Shepherd Sunday. This Lukan story needs no explanation – the story works on levels simple and complex, personal and corporate, literal and allegorical, metaphorical and anagogical.

Anagogically and simply yours,

While looking for quotes this week I found this hymn by Elizabeth Clephane (1830-1869). (She also wrote the hymn Beneath the Cross of Jesus.) 

There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold;
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare;
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me.
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.”

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry;
’Twas sick and helpless and ready to die.

“Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way,
That mark out the mountain’s track?”
“They were shed for one who had gone astray
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.”
“Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?”
“They’re pierced tonight by many a thorn.”

And all through the mountains, thunder-riv’n,
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of heav’n,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!”

Elizabeth Clephane  1830-1869  
The Ninety Nine

“were not our hearts burning…?”

May 2, 2011

Post for Easter 3 (Year A)
“were not our hearts burning…”

The demon Screwtape explains to his nephew Wormwood what happens when the “patient” (the man entrusted to Wormwood to lure toward hell) dies and meets the angels.

He had no faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted their existence. But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realized what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not “Who ARE you?” but “So it was YOU all the time.” All that they were and said at this meeting woke memories. The dim consciousness of friends about him which had haunted his solitudes from infancy was now at last explained; that central music in every pure experience which had always just evaded memory was now at last recovered… He saw not only Them; he saw Him. -C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

I don’t even remember reading The Screwtape Letters for the first time. I must have been in high school or college. But I remember this passage striking me then, because of the familiar feeling it evoked. ‘So it was YOU all along.’ All that they were and said at this meeting woke memories. The dim consciousness of friends about him which had haunted his solitudes from infancy was now at last explained…”

Why did it take me until now to link this passage to the Emmaus encounter? I’m grateful, though, that it popped into my head now. Or maybe Mystery, “that which is told with closed lips,” whispered the idea into my subconscious (see meditation three on the EofE website).

Years ago I watched Bill Moyer’s wonderful interviews with Joseph Campbell, and again I felt a sense of familiar shock when Campbell said that when you are living into the work you are supposed to do “a thousand unseen hands will help you.” At the time I was far from living into my vocation, (I think I’m only beginning to do that now) but in the times of my life when I’ve come close to what I feel called to do, I DO experience those “unseen helping hands.”

A friend of mine possesses a genius for ordinary life – kitchen, garden, family, relationships, life itself seems to transfigure in her presence. She gently tells me to “ask for help.” She knows unseen hands guide her. When I remember, I ask for help. When I relax into recollection, I sense the loving presences “haunting my solitudes,” bearing me up, guiding, watching, guarding.

Do you remember praying for angels to watch and pray for you through the night when you were a child?  I did, even though I didn’t believe in angels then.  And now, as an adult Christian I sing with the church across the globe the antiphon on the Nunc dimittis at night: Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace. I suppose devout people convey these rituals from generation to generation to prepare the soul for that moment in time when a kind of second sight, that sensibility of Resurrection, heightens the senses.

 “Oh, it’s YOU ! I might have known… were not our hearts burning …?”


Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.  -BCP

open wound

April 25, 2011

detail, The Incredulity of Thomas, Caravaggio, 1601-2

Easter 2 (year A)
“awe of understanding”]

The mother can lay her child tenderly to her breast, but our tender Mother Jesus can lead us easily into his blessed breast through his sweet open side, and show us there a part of the godhead and of the joys of heaven, with inner certainty of endless bliss. -Julian of Norwich

One day Krishna’s mother saw her little son eating dirt. Alarmed, she ran to him and ordered him to open his mouth so that she could scoop out the mouthful of dirt. When Krishna opened his mouth she saw the whole universe inside.

That’s the story I think of when the resurrected Jesus commands Thomas to place his fingers into the wound: the wound as portal to the healing of the universe. Julian of Norwich writes about seeing the wound in Jesus’ side, “and there he revealed a fair and delectable place, large enough for all mankind…”

Why should I despair over my own woundedness? Don’t my wounds draw me closer toward the wounds of Christ? And surely my own brokenness transfigures into empathy for the wounds of my fellow human beings.

Take my brokenness, then, and draw me through that wound You revealed for Thomas, toward Yourself. Transfigure me with Your own compassion, that I may love others with Your own love.