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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hesychia: quiet and solitude

Hesychia, a Greek word meaning quiet and solitude, goes to the very heart of the spirit of the desert. It is the quiet and solitude that Jesus sought and undergirded his ministry. It is the very spirit of the Desert Fathers. The spirit of quiet and solitude is one which can be developed through discipline, prayerfulness and mindfulness. This desert spirit strengthens us, girds our inner being, and helps us to withstand the difficulties of the world around us and to work that God's Kingdom may come.

Related reading & listening:
Hesychia and Theology: The Context for Man's Healing in the Orthodox Church 


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Social consciousness and contemplative prayer. Part 2

….I have dealt mainly with mysticism, the stress has fallen on silence, darkness, negation, unknowing and the rest. But the point I want to make now is that silence and darkness, negation and unknowing need to be complemented by words and light, affirmation and knowing. If you concentrate on one to the exclusion of the other you become horribly one-sided. Biologists might say that you are using one side of your brain to the exclusion of the other. Let me again put it schematically:

Silence needs works
Darkness needs light
Negation needs affirmation
Unknowing needs knowing
Intuition needs reason
Mysticism needs theology
Timelessness needs time
Non-objective prayer needs objective prayer
Existence needs essence
The feminine needs the masculine
Yin needs Yang

No one can spend his or her whole life in a cloud of forgetting. Human consciousness is, indeed, in constant flux. It floats from silence to words, from darkness to light, from negation to affirmation.

Related reading: 

On Social Justice: St. Basil the Great (Popular Patristics) 

  Great Mystics And Social Justice: Walking On The Two Feet Of Love

Contemplation in Action

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Social consciousness and contemplative prayer. Part I

Mentors, spiritual guides, and spiritual direction come in various guises. Miss Eagle is much indebted to a person she has never met: William Johnston SJ. One of Johnston's books that is a must read for the person interested in prayer is Being in Love: the practice of christian prayer. Below is Part I of two parts of an edited chapter from Being in love.



Modern people are very conscious of the social problems of our day. .

…There are always some good people who shake sad and cynical heads with the comment: “And while the world is in such a mess you sit in wordless silence. Yes, you enter your little cloud of forgetting! You extol being above doing. You glorify imageless prayer and abandon discursive thinking. And you enter your dark night. How can you do such a thing? How can you be indifferent to the plight of millions of your brothers and sisters on this earth – millions of your brothers and sisters who are also God’s children?”

…I have said that silent and imageless meditation leads to a profound conversion like that of the Good Samaritan who picked up the poor traveller lying bleeding by the roadside. It opens our hearts to compassion for every single human being who suffers in the whole world. Through authentic compassion you suffer with (and the word “compassion” means just that); and you are never far from the one who is in agony and pain.

…Again I have said that prayer will liberate you from the discouragement, the sadness, the depression that so often settle on people who undertake great tasks for the world and for God. It will liberate you from the consuming anger that leads to violence and destruction. Prayer will give you joy in difficult enterprises and peace in the midst of failure.

…Criticism of silent prayer is not always without foundation. …wordless, mystical contemplation, however deep, will not put you in touch with the actualities and concrete problems of our day. It needs to be complemented by study, by observation of the world, by attentiveness to the signs of the times, by reading, by what I have called essential prayer. In short, existential prayer does not stand alone. And if we think it does, we shall be in trouble.

This points to something of the greatest importance for those who enter the mystical path. …put schematically..There is –

A way of silence and a way of words
A way of darkness and a way of light
A way of negation and a way of affirmation
A way of unknowing and a way of knowing
A way of mysticism and a way of theology
A way of no object and a way of object
A way of being and a way of doing
A way of existence and a way of essence
A way of timelessness and a way of time
An apophatic way and a kataphatic way.


Related Reading:
The Mysticism of the Cloud of Unknowing 
The Mysticism of the Cloud of Unknowing 

Mystical Journey: An Autobiography 
Mystical Journey: An Autobiography 

Mystical Theology: The Science of Love 
Mystical Theology: The Science of Love 

The Still Point: Reflections on Zen and Christian Mysticism 
The Still Point: Reflections on Zen and Christian Mysticism 

The Cloud of Unknowing: and The Book of Privy Counseling (Image Book Original) 
The Cloud of Unknowing: and The Book of Privy Counseling (Image Book Original) 

Arise, My Love: Mysticism for a New Era 
Arise, My Love: Mysticism for a New Era 

Being in Love: A Practical Guide to Christian Prayer 
Being in Love: A Practical Guide to Christian Prayer 

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Desert, desert everywhere!

Deserts, deserts and more deserts.
Deserts on seven continents including Antarctica.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Africa: an ancient tradition

One of the most useful sites on the net is Wikipedia. Here is a link to its entry on Christian Mysticism in Ancient Africa. One of the joys of Wikipedia is its extensive links and - as you will see, dear Reader - there are extensive links here. Happy research and reading!

Related reading:
  Christian Mysticism: List of Christian mystics, Christian meditation, Christian mysticism in ancient Africa, Esoteric Christianity,Mysticism, Christian ... Prayer in Christianity, Mystical theology

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Carlo Carretto and the Sahara

On Adoration...Silence....

Carlo Carretto (1910-1988)

Carlo Carretto was a leader in Italian "Catholic Action" and served as National President of Catholic Youth from 1946 to 1952. At the age of forty-four he heard the call of God to go into the desert. There he joined the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld.


The great joy of the Saharan novitiate is the solitude, and the joy of solitude - silence, true silence, which penetrates everywhere and invades one's whole being, speaking to the soul with wonderful new strength unknown to men to whom this silence means thing.

Here, living in perpetual silence, one learns to distinguish its different shades: silence of the church, silence in one's cell, silence of work, interior silence, silence of the soul, God's silence.

To learn to live these silences, the novice-master lets us go away for a few days' "desert."

A hamper of bread, a few dates, some water, the Bible. A day's march: a cave.

A priest celebrates Mass: then goes away, leaving in the cave on an altar of stones, the Eucharist. Thus, for a week one remains alone with the Eucharist exposed day and night. Silence in the desert, silence in the cave, silence in the Eucharist. No prayer is so difficult as the adoration of the Eucharist. One's whole natural strength rebels against it.

One would prefer to carry stones in the sun. The senses, memory, imagination, all are repressed. Faith alone triumphs, and faith is hard, dark, stark.

To place oneself before what seems to be bread and to say, "Christ is there living and true," is pure faith.

But nothing is more nourishing than pure faith, and prayer in faith is real prayer.

"There's no pleasure in adoring the Eucharist," one novice used to say to me. But it is precisely this renunciation of all desire to satisfy the senses that makes prayer strong and real. One meets God beyond the senses, beyond the imagination, beyond nature.

This is crucial: as long as we pray only when and how we want to, our life of prayer is bound to be unreal. It will run in fits and starts. The slightest upset - even a toothache - will be enough to destroy the whole edifice of our prayer life.

"You must strip your prayers," the novice master told me. You must simplify, de-intellectualize. Put yourself in front of Jesus as a poor man: not with any big ideas, but with living faith. Remain motionless in an act of love before the Father. Don't try to reach God with your understanding; that is impossible. Reach him in love; that is possible.

The struggle is not easy, because nature will try to get back her own, get her dose of enjoyment; but union with Christ Crucified is something quite different.

After some hours - or some days - of this exercise, the body relaxes. The will refuses to let it have its own way it gives up the struggle. It becomes passive. The senses go to sleep. Or rather, as St. John of the Cross says, the night of senses is beginning. Then prayer becomes something serious, even if it is painful and dry. So serious that one can no longer do without it. The soul begins to share the redemptive work of Jesus.

 Related reading: