Pic & Passage of the Week: November 13, 2016

Fall in the Neighborhood
Fall in the Neighborhood

(Click on picture for larger image)

• • •

Hence contemplation is a sudden gift of awareness, an awakening to the Real within all that is real. A vivid awareness of infinite Being at the roots of our own limited being. An awareness of our contingent reality as received, as a present from God, as a free gift of love.

• Thomas Merton
New Seeds of Contemplation

30 thoughts on “Pic & Passage of the Week: November 13, 2016

  1. You know, I talked to a friend last weekend who said he was staying off Facebook for the foreseeable future because in the past couple days he’d literally been flooded with “TRUMP IS HITLER!” postings and links and had had it with the hassle. Said he’s going to go back online “When all the Crazy has died down.”


  2. Bravo for you! If we all claimed the Muslim faith, then Trump would have a problem on his hands. Like that Danish king who, when the Nazis ordered all Danish Jews to wear ‘the star’, the king came out on the balcony wearing one also . . . . the next day, the WHOLE country was wearing the Star of David ……

    we have to stand beside people who are targets now, and be with them, or what are we?


  3. Christiane & Charley,

    “Contemplation” does exist in Orthodoxy. In English, the word comes from the Latin roots for “survey” or “observe”, and in English, as in Latin, it presupposes a space between the observer and the observed. In Orthodoxy, it would be very strange to posit that any kind of “space” or distance exists between us and God as we are contemplating him.

    The word in Greek is theoria. Although it also means “viewing”, in Orthodox thought it is done in communion with/participation in God – viewing from the inside, so to speak; so even though linguistically it’s comparable, there’s a different angle on the definition. (That’s the case with many Greek terms Orthodox use – they have to be nuanced in English quite a bit because of the elastic nature of both languages.)

    This ties into the different definition of “salvation” in EO; on God’s side it’s a cluster of events relating to the advent of Christ, but on the human side it’s a process. Theoria is one of the 3 things that are happening in the process.

    “Salvation is a process which encompasses not only the whole earthly life of the Christian, but also the eternal life of the age to come. It is often described in terms of three stages—catharsis (purification), theoria (illumination) and theosis (divinization). Salvation is thus not only becoming sinless (purification), but it is also a progress in being filled with the divine light. Additionally, it is becoming so filled with God in union with Him that the Christian shines forth with the likeness of God, sometimes even literally becoming a bearer of the uncreated light. Though these terms of three stages are sometimes used, there is much overlap between them, and the whole process is often termed theosis.” – orthodoxwiki article, “Introduction to Orthodox Christianity”

    “By the Holy Spirit given by God through Christ, men can share the life, the love, the truth, the freedom, the goodness, the holiness, the wisdom, the knowledge of God Himself. It is this conviction and experience which has caused the development in the Orthodox Church of the affirmation of the fact that the essence of Christianity is “the acquisition of the Holy Spirit” and the “deification” of man by the grace of God, the so-called theosis.” – OCA web site, “The Orthodox Faith – the Holy Trinity in Christian Life”

    So contemplation in Orthodoxy is not so much a mental state or even a “spiritual activity” on our part – except as everything is “spiritual” – but more an awareness of who the Persons of the Holy Trinity are, which we apprehend as the Holy Spirit works in us, which work is how we understand grace. That apprehension – always in communion with God, is given to us in order to to engender more love for God and a desire for deeper participation in his life.

    Hope that helps.



  4. I intend to act-up, I intend to speak-up, and I intend to find creative ways to come alongside people who are being targeted by bigoted bullies. I’m getting together with my pastor next week, who is a progressive, and we’re going to discuss ways we can support targeted communities.


  5. Keep the faith, Christiane. We can find ways to identify with the targets of bullying and bigotry, and share their burden and plight. For the foreseeable future, if anyone asks my religion, my answer will be that I’m Muslim.


  6. We do value the Incarnation very highly, but it hard to call a comparison between it and Atonement. – we see Incarnation itself as a salvific act, years before the Cross/Resurrection, just as we see the Ascension as also a functional and important part of salvation.


  7. It may be what HUG said—anything that resembles Romish Popery. It may be unconscious, more to be avoided than feared.

    There’s not of a lot of quiet in my church these days, though prayer certainly begins and ends the service. Not really any time for contemplation except while daydreaming during the sermon.


  8. The bullying thing may have an ironic twist. I’m watching Trump on 60 Minutes right now, and when Melania was asked what she might become known for as first lady, she said that stopping bullying was a priority for her.


  9. Christiane, the basic misunderstanding, as I understand it, is to think that our ego is who we are. Contemplative meditation carried out far enough discloses and confirms that our God Self is in fact separate from and higher than the particular personality of our ego. The ego sees this as a threat to its supposed sovereignty, which is so, and even as life threatening, which is not so, and so the ego responds kicking and screaming in fear and anger against anything which might dethrone it.

    As long as we identify with our ego, this means we will be kicking and screaming in fear and anger, doing whatever it takes to avoid the first step toward spiritual awakening, the recognition that we are not our ego. Most people go to their grave tightly hanging on to what Paul liked to call the old man, the old person we might say today, or the ego with all its thoughts and emotions, as opposed to the Mind of Messiah given and intended to lovingly replace it on the throne. Human nature at work. Much as we are enamored with it, we are not our ego. Not a popular realization.


  10. With a theology that sees works-righteousness as the antithesis of reformed Christianity, it’s seems odd that idle hands and idle minds are to be avoided at all costs. We must not allow any quieting of our minds and resting of our hands lest they become a playground for mischief.

    So we stay in a perpetual state of on-going activity. But, mind you, this activity must not resemble anything of “works” – no, no, never, never. That would be so sinful.

    And at best, in our more rare moments, we are willing to cloak our introspection under the guise of “self reflection.” As long as it doesn’t violate any reformed code of conduct.

    But isn’t it interesting how we choose the phrase “…self…reflection….” as an acceptable exercise? It would seem this is the malady that Narcissus suffered from.


  11. Happy to help. I’m so bummed, I really needed to laugh . . . . . having a hard time hearing about the KKK having ‘victory’ parades to celebrate Trump’s win. . . . . . and I hearing about things kids are saying and doing in schools that show me they think bullying minorities is ‘okay’ now that Trump won.

    This is not good. I fear greatly for our NATO alliances and for what T will do with our military and the nuke thing keeps me up at night. You’re right, this is tough.

    And justice for women? I don’t even want to go there in my head.


  12. But TED,
    why? I’m not sure what the thinking is, but I bet it’s based on misunderstandings big time. I mean you can’t even get past Psalm 1 without encountering a mention of meditating …… synonyms for ‘contemplating’ are all through sacred Scripture, both testaments.


  13. >> – both could be true.

    Both can be acted on as if true, each with opposing consequences, not only affecting the individual, not only the whole world, but out to the fringes of the cosmos. Free will choice.


  14. Christiane, I’ve started reading Mysticism in Religion by William Ralph Inge, an Anglican of the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries. I think he would agree with Merton’s quote above.

    He disagreed with those who dismissed mysticism as “Catholic piety” (or “Romish Popery”—thanks, HUG) and related it to prayer, and reminded us that “Prayer is the mystical act, and prayer is not he privilege of the few. The tragedy is that so few use it.”

    On the remark by another that “The mystic’s experience of God is a delusion,” he tied this with “the admitted fact that mysticism values the Incarnation more than the Atonement.” I think Eastern Orthodoxy does too, if that helps with your comment above.

    Anyway, whether I finish the book or not, I bought a used copy because Inge’s thought is the inspiration of the protagonist in the novel Glamorous Powers, the second in Susan Howatch’s six-volume series about the Anglican Church. She begins each chapter with a quote by Inge.

    This fits well with Thomas Merton, and with Julian of Norwich, who I keep going back to.


  15. > life well-spent as quest ….. also be considered as the buzzing of a really annoying gadfly.

    Humans being what they are – both could be true.


  16. –> “I do know that contemplation is not approved of by some branches of the Christian family. Do they fear it? Or see it as non-biblical (?). Not sure why this is.”

    Possibly because they see it as this:
    Contemplation = Mediation = Eastern Religion aka Buddha/Hindu = of the Devil, like Yoga.
    (bad interpretation)

    I asked this warm-up question at my church’s men’s fellowship yesterday morning: “What have you learned about yourself in the past 5 years or so?” Mind you, most of these men are over 55, an age (maybe) when “I’m set in my ways” might supersede any sort of self-epiphany.

    What did I discover? Never think an old dog can’t learn a new trick. Some of these guys had A-ha moments about themselves in the past 5 years, and I’d say nearly all of the “self-learning” involved some sort of self-reflection. I was very encouraged at the number of guys in this group that realize they can’t just stay who they are and who realize there’s always room for improving “self” – no matter your age.

    Contemplation = Self-Reflection
    (good interpretation)


  17. >> Love the concept of Christian contemplation.

    My polling results based on a sample of ten from Internet Monk, a cutting-edge congregation of diverse and sophisticated seekers after truth:

    Love the concept of Christian contemplation: 3
    Love the practice of Christian contemplation. 1/2
    Can’t find Christian contemplation in the Bible: 6
    Fear Christian contemplation: 1/2

    My impression is that Christian contemplation is not only a part of the Eastern Orthodox faith tradition, but its bedrock. Also my impression that it is pretty much left up to the monks and the “Fathers”. I imagine that when Thomas Merton was finally granted permission to go live by himself in a little shack out in the woods, that there was a great sigh of relief all around the monastery. Our quote from him today could be considered the summation of a life well-spent as quest for the ever-present Presence of God. It could also be considered as the buzzing of a really annoying gadfly. Someone needs to rake their lawn, or better yet mulch those leaves.


  18. Love the concept of Christian contemplation. But I am Catholic and it is a part of our faith tradition, as I belief it is also a part of the Eastern Orthodox faith tradition, as contemplation was a part of the Eastern Church long before the time of the schism. I do know that contemplation is not approved of by some branches of the Christian family. Do they fear it? Or see it as non-biblical (?). Not sure why this is.


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