school of contemplation

[At SSU today, we started a new experiment that we’re calling the “School of Contemplation.” Here are two quotes that were discussed at our first gathering:]

  • All that we can do with any spiritual discipline is produce within ourselves something of the silence, the humility, the detachment, the purity of heart, and the indifference which are required if the inner self is to make some shy, unpredictable manifestation of his presence.

– Thomas Merton, The Inner Being

  • For a religion is known from the inside. Catholics say this of Catholicism, but it is true of every religion. Religion is a form of nourishment. It is difficult to appreciate just through a look the flavor and dietary value of a food that one has never eaten.

– Simone Weil, Awaiting God

(Thanks to Peter Fitch for including the second quote in a sermon at the St. Croix Vineyard yesterday.)

practical art of the mystics

[This fall at SSU, we are starting a 1 credit hour course that we hope to run continually called the “School of Contemplation,” honouring the wisdom and practices of the contemplative tradition. Here is Evelyn Underhill on mystics]:

One and all, they demand earnest and deliberate action, the insertion of the purified and ardent will into the world of things. The mystics are artists; and the stuff in which they work is most often human life. They want to
heal the disharmony between the actual and the real: and since, in the white-hot radiance of that faith, hope, and charity which burns in them, they discern such a reconciliation to be possible, they are able to work for it with a singleness of purpose and an invincible optimism denied to other[s].

This was the instinct which drove St. Francis of Assisi to the practical experience of that poverty which he recognised as the highest wisdom; St. Catherine of Siena from contemplation to politics; Joan of Arc to the salvation of France; St. Teresa to the formation of an ideal religious family; Fox to the proclaiming of a world religion in which all men should be guided by the Inner Light; Florence Nightingale to battle with officials, vermin, dirt, and disease in the soldiers’ hospitals…

  • Everlyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism A Little Book for Normal People

the truth about myself

By accepting the truth about myself and my actions, I am moving towards a more honest and whole life. Though painful, it is important that I see the impact of my own choices (for example, I must understand that the clothes I just bought at the store are made by workers in developing countries who are often underpaid and working in unsafe factory environments). Once I understand this impact, I can let it hurt me and let it change me. I can let it illuminate my darkness, broaden my understanding, and deepen my love. For honesty’s sake, I need to see my own desire for material gain, and how I sometimes place it above the well-being of the world’s most vulnerable. This is the tension that, should I choose to bear it, will transform me.

rejecting the legal fiction of “discovery”

[Excerpts from a statement (and not guilty plea) from one of those found guilty today and sentenced to a week in jail by the Supreme Court of BC as a result of his stand in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples resisting the Trans Mountain Pipeline]:
We were invited as people of prayer to join those who were lifting their  hearts in ceremony on the frontlines. We were invited to ponder, in that contested space, what our commitments to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action mean — including Call #49 (the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery) and Call #48 (the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ). But we were also invited to act; to stand up in solidarity and support the peaceable struggle against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline through untreatied Tsleil-Waututh lands and waters.

And so I did.

I chose to act because at the center of the Christian faith lies the conviction that the Creator suffers with the oppressed; that God takes sides with the victims over-against the dominant powers; and that the people who see the issues of our day most clearly are those pushed to the sociopolitical margins.

I chose to act because my church has publicly rejected the legal fictions of Discovery and together with communities of faith across these lands, has committed itself to “a new relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples, based on sharing, respect and the recognition of rights and responsibilities.”
– Steve Heinrichs, director of Indigenous-Settler Relations for Mennonite Church Canada. Click here for complete statement including footnotes for the above.

cure for a groaning world?

[Passing on this quotation from the MCC Ottawa Office newsletter]

We need to take more seriously the immense impact of our own empathy, of our own engagement – of our responsibility both to comfort those who suffer and to awaken those who suffer from too much comfort. Just as the oppressed must be made whole, so too must the complacent…The cure that a world groaning from emptiness needs most is a grassroots conspiracy of authenticity, implemented by transactions of selfless beauty,”

– Payam Akhavan, In Search of a Better World: A human rights odyssey, 333-334.