Imaginary

thumbs-down1I’m not rejecting your imaginary god, ” has been voiced by none of my friends. I do mean friends and nothing less! Across my years, many of those who were also peers, kept themselves at more than a distance from the Church. In their eyes, they were not rejecting God, but rather, our personal and corporate amalgam of conflictual self-righteousness. From decades past right to this moment, I have yet to hear an atheist or agnostic friend suggest there was something about me or the rest of us hinting at what they needed.

rejection-handA few, of my friends, had donned the garb of today’s Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins years before either were well known. None, of those friends, ever accomplished getting those “religious” people to peer past their certainty it was Jesus being presenting. My atheist friends have kept at the same mistake ‘we’ tend to make. They keep to the argument rather than pointing past it and so at us, saying, “I see nothing in you making me want your fraud!”

 

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the Jesus Prayer

Over the past week, a couple of friends have begun asking me about the Jesus Prayer. One, sincerely, interested in learning the basics, desires to see more than just another fashion of prayer. The other has been going about a necessary sorting out of his own far Eastern fascinations from what is voiced by Eastern Orthodox writers.

M Basil Pennington

M Basil Pennington

Their questions brought forward what I am certain will prove a modifier of my own prayer life. Especially, by writing about my own struggles, stumbles and feeble steps I may be better able to sort things out.  And then, possibly a few who are interested in reframing their prayer lives’ may find some assistance in their own spiritual endeavors.

Across the past twenty plus years I spent finding my way through my life in prayer, early on, I discovered Contemplative Prayer. My interest grew out reading works by M. Basil Pennington. By picking up on, “Finding Grace at the Center: the beginning of center prayer” I was confronted with the beginning of a redefinition.

Bp. Anthony A. Vogel

Bp. Anthony A. Vogel

Somewhere around beginning of this hunt of refashioned prayer, I picked up on a work that is hard to find anywhere. Try searching for Anthony A. Vogel’s work, “Body Theology: God presence in man’s world” with worldcat.org. You’ll discover that it probably isn’t in your local library.

Bishop Vogel’s effort to draw my attention away from intellectual prowess and into the immediate was a little  destabilizing. His words, “The presence of God is the source of all meaningfulness.” contradicted many parts of who I thought I was. Most of my supposed life in Christ was spent either intellectually or emotionally active. I probably still live with a wide gap between the two.

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

My earliest introduction to Contemplative Prayer was espoused by Thomas Merton in his work, “Seeds of Contemplation”. His work offered another scaffolding across which I anxiously crept. I had discovered Merton, perhaps a year before coming into contact with Fr. David Morgan at St. John’s Cathedral. He and several others had taken up residence in two old houses near the cathedral. It was Fr. David who helped me to begin tackling what Merton, Pennington and Vogel had put before me.

I don’t know whether it was the following quote or not, but something like this in Merton’s works throttled me. “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.” Don’t take my tossing those words’ out as a suggestion that I am truly at peace with God. I am not and yet I feel something rooting in but still unable to spot a thing on the surface of myself.

It was from this point on that something deep within began to totter. Perhaps my stumbling was caused by what was rooting deep within and crumbling my fabricated foundation. I still have a several postings to toss out at you before I can adequately begin laying before you my experience within the Jesus Prayer. My laying these experiences out I pray will be mutually beneficial.

Mystical Theology

Vladimir Lossky

Vladimir Lossky

“If we are often led to minimize the importance of the dogmatic question which determine all the subsequent development of the two traditions, this is by reason of a certain insensitivity towards dogma–which is considered as something external and abstract. It is said that it is spirituality which matters. The dogmatic difference is of no consequence. Yet spirituality and dogma, mysticism and theology, are inseparably linked in the life of the church. As regards the Eastern Church, we have already remarked that she makes no sharp distinction between theology and mysticism, between the realm of the common faith and that a personal experience. Thus, if we would speak of mystical theology in the Eastern tradition we cannot do otherwise than consider it within the dogmatic setting of the Orthodox Church.”  ~ Vladimir Lossky

Saint Gregory Palamas

“Contemplation, then, is not simply abstraction and negation; it is a union and a divinisation which occurs mystically and ineffably by the grace of God, after the stripping away of everything from here below which imprints itself on the mind, or rather after the cessation of all intellectual activity; it is something which goes beyond abstraction (which is only the outward mark of the cessation).”  – Gregory Palamas, “The Triads”