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Saturday 6 December 2014

Akedah Two

Akedah Two

The binding of the favored, the promised,
did not happen once on now what we call,
the Temple Mount.

There, on that day, in the white heat. a lesser
being stopped the hand of the father, and 
then pointed to the ram.

Repeated, at the edge of a river, in the reeds,
another binding permanently mangled the
sciatic nerve, never now

To be eaten, sacred, set aside because of the
Hand of God. This binding ended in a
blessing, demanded

Given out of mercy and justice, to prove to
the chosen one that, yes, he was chosen,
and to limp until he died.

So the binding continued, year after year,
the hesed tying unruly men to God, who
wrestled with them

Willingly, over and over.  So, too, do
I wrestle, in pain, with the same nerve
reminding me of

The ancestor at the river's edge, daring to
demand of God Himself the covenant. 
I ask myself,

Why do some have to strive, to enter into
the combat, to feel the Hand of the Angel
pierce the nerve?

Why do some walk crooked, with a stick
prodding the sand and ruefully recognizing
weakness, faults, sins?

Jacob's akedah marks Abraham's binding, 
as I am bound by God in this ageless game
of blessing or curse.

Obeying out of trial, knowing the answer lies
in the Holy Book, for if thou hast been strong 
against God, 

How much more shalt thou prevail against men?
I have wrestled and lost, wrestled and won, 
wrestled without

Results.  Akedát Yitzḥák, but who is testing
Who? Do I test God, as He tests me by
wrestling in darkness?

Jacob demanded justice, as he tested the
Angel, God Himself, but not without
Adam's mark.

So, today, I limp away, leaving the cool
reeds at Jaboc's ford, moving away into
the sunrise, beyond

Phanuel, where God was met, face to face
and Jacob survived to tell the tale
as we are impelled

To do, and move on into the sunrise
of a new day.

(note...Akedah One was written at Notre Dame and published in the poetry mag then. I do not have a copy of that poem with me on this computer.)

Perfection Series VIII Part XlV Astonishment

Everything that is in Jacques’ work we have first lived in the form of a vital difficulty, in the form of experience – problems of art and morality, of philosophy, of faith, of prayer, of contemplation.

Today, I was astonished when I read this in Raissa's Journal. When I read this entry the first time, I thought nothing of it. But, today, I am amazed.

This is the story of my adult life-experiencing "in the form of a vital difficulty", in the form of "experience" problems which formed my teaching, my poetry and stories, and this blog. This means being Church, not merely being a member, but experiencing, making rational in one's self what the Bride of Christ does.

Nothing is wasted, not even intense perplexity and suffering.

But, when she wrote this entry, she was younger, much younger, than I am now, and this reality of living the Church in one's own soul and body just came to me a few years ago as a revelation of a pattern.

Problems which need reflection become the stuff of prayer. Problems which involve the intellect become part of who we are.

We decide freely how to deal with problems. Either we wrestle as Jacob did with God, or we let go.

To feel the pains of the Church in one's own self is a type of unity with Christ. That Raissa shared these pains and triumphs with her husband was a gift of union for them both.

Some of us have to face these fights by ourselves. It is a hard call, believe me.

Raissa continued...All this has been given to us first of all to live, each according to his nature and according to God’s grace.

I apologize, but the blog set up seems to change the spacing on my new poem, so I shall try and post it in the next posting.

I have no idea why the spacing looks one way in the text when I type it but is published incorrectly.

to be continued...

Perfection Series VIll Part XIII Relationship

Raissa's entire life consisted of a balance between intense contemplation and activity in the world. She advised her husband and edited his work. She supported his world-wide intellectual ministry. She also entertained a large group of friends. Her interior and exterior lives merged because of relationship.

All her dear friendships came out of her intense love for Christ. She loved intensely, but was called to that objectivity and detachment which marks the saint.

Contemplation, at the level she experienced it, is a combination of pure gift and a generous heart. One's disposition must be that of loving God above all others and all things in order to enter into the deep relationship found in recueillement. 

The intellect and soul demand much energy for this type of prayer, as do the friendships which spring out of this love for God. So, Raissa moved back and forth from her friendship, lover relationship with God and the deep friendships she and Jacques made so easily.

The contemplative in the world is just that, a praying person involved in many things. To move back and forth from the interior to the exterior life is a grace in and of itself. Until one is purified, this movement proves to be difficult and tiring.

Here is a significant quotation from her Journal.

Contemplative prayer is not a question of making God descend from heaven! He is already there, in us, by grace. It is a question of descending into ourselves, to the bottom of our soul, and that, once again, by sweeping away obstacles.

When one is relating to other people, the obstacles can include too much human love.

On Friday, I read this entry: (A boy, age 7, said:) "If God is everywhere and we don’t see him, we are looking through him all the time."

This is key to Raissa's spirituality. She looks at everything in the world through God. This type of viewing of reality happens when one is both humble and truthful.

Today I read this: Contemplation requires the simplification of this natural life, and this simplification is obtained by active and passive mortification.

Simplification cannot be denied. Simplification is key. Active mortification involves those penances done by choice. Passive mortification involves the sufferings God allows one to endure, but one must see the value and endure in peace and eventually, complete freedom.

In another entry, Raissa expresses that it is better to do nothing than to act outside of purified love.
I have written about this many times, noting that the weakness of the Church may be found in the egos of those who act impurely. 

Relationship with God will lead to purification, unless one breaks this relationship "off". Mortification must be endured. If one runs away from suffering, one leaves the road to perfection.

Many of us do not have to go looking for mortification. It comes to us in intense suffering. Raissa helps us to understand how to suffer.

Suffer and do it well.  Suffer in and with God. Suffer in relationship with the Crucified One.

When suffering overwhelms you, suffer thoroughly, suffer to the depths, but suffer before God, Raissa tells us.

To be continued....

Perfection vs. Advent Chaos

I should label this post, "Perfection vs. Christmas Prep" as it is clear to my by my numbers that most readers are not interested in the latest perfection series. I have asked myself why and can only come up with three answers. One, everyone is out shopping. Two, readers are tired of the series, plural. Three, Raissa does not appeal to some readers.

But, I think the reason for a lack of interest in spirituality is deeper and more dangerous. Too many people are caught up with the politics of the Church and not their own journey to holiness.

St. John of the Cross underwent his Dark Night and came into Illumination when his own order put him into prison for nine months. Now, one can suffer in "virtual" prisons as well, such as poverty or marginalization, or loneliness.

Most people do not want to face the suffering of the Dark Night. Some readers who email me share that they are now in the DN and appreciate knowing why they have been put into such suffering.

But, too many readers want to continue to put the outside machinations of Rome at the top of their reading list, rather than their own long and hard journey to perfection.

Like those who chase after the experiences of false prophets and false seers, thinking, reading and following these people as a sign of personal holiness on their part, so too, many of those who are wannabee Vatican watchers think that holiness comes from being on top of what is happening in Rome.

This has, of course, never been the case, unless one is a St. Catherine of Siena, or St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Advent should not be a time of either over-busyness, or following the machinations of authors on the Vatican, but a time for pursuing holiness.

What a grace is given to us for four weeks to prepare for more grace and growth.

Do not waste the time.

Love for A Small Island

Having visited Malta four times in my life, I am loving this small country more and more. I have many good friends here which make this place like a second home. One gets use to living in a first-world country with third-world attitudes. And, God's scenery provides some of the most beautiful vistas on the planet.

Like all European countries, Malta faces serious challenges. Unlike most, because of conservative economic policies and very careful banks, Malta is always in the "black".  Many people are prospering here, but the average income for most households in only 28,000 Euros. Since 2011, I have watched inflation hit this lovely country, but it is still one of the most reasonable places to come for a long stay. Americans can come for three months, the normal time Americans are allowed in any European country. Today, I was a bit mopey because my visit is two-thirds over exactly. But, in this last month, I shall, gratefully, make the most of my stay here.

One thing I like about some of the Maltese I have met, is that they are "awake", unlike so many Catholics in America who do not seem to see their rights eroding quickly.

Many Maltese are highly concerned with the EU, with the real problems of terrorism, with unbridled immigration. The Maltese are getting worried.

One told me the other day that when the Maltese are pushed to the wall, they react. I hope that day will not be too late. For centuries, this small island bravely and successfully stood up against the enemies of Christ and His Church. I pray that the hearts of the Maltese still beat for Catholicism.

I love this small island and the Maltese people. Pray for them and for the leaders of the Church here to be wise and orthodox.

Yet another post for St. Nicholas' Day

Did you ever wonder why pawnbrokers have three golden balls as their symbol? It is because St. Nicholas is their patron saint, and the three golden balls remind all people of the three poor girls, who could not get married as they had no dowries.

This story is also why we give chocolate coins covered in gold foil to each other on this day.

Here is the story.  A man, who was a widower, had three daughters of marrying age. But, in those days, a young woman could not get married without a dowry. In fact, the father was worried the girls would have to be sold into slavery in order to eat and live. St. Nicholas heard of the plight of this man and his girls, so one night, he threw a bag of gold through the window of the small house for the oldest girl. The next morning, they found the bag of gold coins. Immediately, the oldest girl danced about the room, singing praises to God. After she hugged her sisters and father, the father went to the intended man with the dowry and plans were made for the wedding.

That night, St. Nicholas threw another bag of gold through the window for the second daughter's dowry. When the household awoke, the second girl picked up the bag and sank to her knees. Now, she could marry the young man of her choice, a man who had been secretly praying for a dowry for her. Remember, fathers would not consent to their sons getting married without the dowries.

Can you imagine the anxiety of the third girl, who was wondering whether she would get a bag of gold for her dowry? This child wanted to know from where the money came, so at midnight, when St. Nicholas threw the third bag of gold through the open window, the youngest daughter got up quietly and looked out the door. She saw St. Nicholas rushing through the small alleyway which led away from their house. Now, she knew. She woke up her father and sisters, showed them the money, and they all knelt down and thanked God for St. Nicholas' goodness and generosity.

Needless to say, the father went to St. Nicholas to thank him, but St. Nicholas kept his eyes on the floor and said nothing.

However, I like to think that the girls had a triple wedding, which the town talked about for years and years.

Such is yet one more story for this happy feast day of St. Nicholas. I use to read this story to my son before he could read it himself. God bless all homeschooling mums today, and God bless all women who are overlooked for marriage because they are poor. Yes, this happens. May St. Nicholas provide for all of you today.

More thoughts on the day may be found here...

FYI from Malta News

Young Men Who Read This Blog

Please consider being priests....if God is calling you, answer.

Saint Matthew 9:35-38.10:1.6-8

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.

Pay Attention

Pray for the Philippines and the People

Interesting for St. Nicholas Day