God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

This week, as I prepare to renew my consecration to Jesus through Mary for the 22nd year, I am starting the week with meditation on Yirah HaShem, Fear/Awe of the Lord.  This is the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, the fearful and fascinating mystery that we encounter in the presence of the Holy.  It is the beginning of Wisdom.

For me, there is nowhere I experience Yirah than in the God of Light.

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
— 1 John 1:5

Like many others, I have experienced this Light during meditation.  This Taboratic Light is terrifying, and yet like the loving arms of heaven.  When the experience comes, I want to run and stay, laugh and cry, collapse on my face in silent reverence and jump to my feet shouting in joy.  No other experience has fascinated and troubled seekers more than this one.

I have found references to it in any tradition I have examined.  As a Christian, I have learned the most about it from St Gregory Palamas and the hesychasts of the Orthodox Church who have dedicated a lot of ink to this subject.

God is light.  The Religious Society of Friends call the first experience of this light The Visitation, and is the cornerstone of conversion.  It was for me.

The first time I ever had this experience was in the fall of 1992, the first time I recited the Rosary.  It is hard to express the state of darkness that I was in, but a few of you know it all too well.  I was at the end of myself.  I was so ready to die, and yet I said the rosary instead.  For the first time in my life. 

That night, I read the Secret of the Rosary by St Louis de Montfort for the first time, instead of the darker things I had planned.  I didn't even own a Rosary.  My Great Aunt Inez gave me the book, and that night I read it.  I counted the prayers on my fingers.  There in the deepest darkness I have ever fallen into, I recited the Angelic Psalter, and experienced that Light for the first time.

I will never forget the tears I cried.  The Numinous Light burned through me, and I was so scared and alone... but I wasn't alone.  In that terror mixed with awe, I knew for the first time that I wasn't alone.  I am shaking a little now as I type this, just remembering that night.

God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.  This is a truth we can experience for ourselves as so many have over the centuries.  All we have to do is quiet our mind so that we can experience the moment naked and unadorned.  In the world as it is, this light pervades everything.

This is why today, I stand in the Yirah HaShem, the Fear/Awe of the Lord.  Through meditation and prayer, anyone can experience the visitation.  Amen.

Annunciation and Consecration

Me making a Rosary in my Grandparents' living room in 1995

19 years ago, I consecrated myself to the Blessed Mother.  At the time, it was both the hardest and the easiest choice I have ever made.

I was raised Baptist, we never taught about the Saints or the Blessed Mother accept in passing.

I had lost my faith the previous year, and became a secret atheist.  I couldn't believe in a God that hated me, and whose followers were such self righteous hypocrites.  I hated God.  I hated the Church, and more than anything, I hated myself.

One night, in the December of 1994, I decided to kill myself.  It wasn't a rash decision.  I had made pro and con tables and given it a lot of thought, and believed the best thing I could do was end my life.  Through a series of circumstances I cannot fathom to this day, I stumbled on a copy of The Secret of the Rosary by St Louis De Montfort.  In one of the introductory chapters, he wrote:

If you say the Rosary faithfully until death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins “you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory.” Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and save your soul, if - and mark well what I say - if you say the Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins.
— St Louis De Montfort, Secret of the Rosary

All my life I was told that God hated me, and there was nothing I could do about it.  I was curious how this Rosary could do anything.  So, I read through the whole book.  I was moved to my core, but I didn't have a rosary.  I counted the beads on my fingers and recited my first rosary.

Something changed within me.  I felt a love that I never thought could be real.  I cried myself to sleep that night.

I hunted down all of his books, including The Secret of Mary and True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  In these books, St Louis recommends a 33 day preparation and a Total and True Consecration to the Blessed Mother.  I chose the Feast of the Annunciation for my consecration day, and started my preparation.

The Feast of the Annunciation

Through this process, and over the years that followed, I have learned many things about the Annunciation of Our Lord.

Did it happen?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!  I get so tired of people who do not understand spirituality asking questions about metaphysical truth in history.  Historical truth is a beautiful thing, but life is affected  by stories not events.

If we ask, "Exactly what happened to Mary on that day 2000 years ago?" We have fallen off the path.  Did she see an angel?  just hear a voice?  How exactly did she conceive the child?  All of these questions are distractions.  They draw our eyes away from the story which tells us a poor young Jewish girl, surrounded by oppression and poverty conceived a Child not from this world.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”.
— John 3:5

A biological child is born into a world where survival of the fittest is the only law.  Her Child is the Son of the Most High, who seeks compassion over survival and power.  No one who lives only by the flesh can enter the kingdom of God, which is compassion, light, and justice.  Mary's Son would be different:

And Mary said : “My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave ; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM. He has done mighty deeds with His arm ; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS ; And sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.”
— Luke 1:46-55

The Angel's Annunciation is for you

My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you-
— Galatians 4:19

The call to give birth to the Son of God still goes out to this day.  The difference is, no longer does an angel deliver the message, but Christ himself:  "Behold, I stand at the door and knock ; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20)."

Open the door, and let Jesus into your heart.  Awaken to the interconnectedness of all things.  Lift up the low.  Raise up those who need your help to stand.  Have the courage to live in the Light.  Walk in Compassion and Justice.

Sisters and Brothers, turn your heart toward the One who holds all things together and walk the path of Spirit until Christ Jesus is born through you into the world.  You are not alone.  In the Matrix of the Blessed Mother who molded the Christ, we will be formed into the perfect and true Image of God.

How do we do this, we follow the example of our Blessed Mother:

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.
— Luke 1:38
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
— Jesus, John 15:10-17

Some time with the Compassion Beads

During Advent, I bought some Compassion Beads from the San Antonio Peace Center.  The idea of a mnemonic method for remembering the elements of compassion appealed to me, and I thought they would make a valuable focus for both prayer and meditation, and it is.

Ten of the bead represent the alphabetical mnemonic:

  • Compassion
  • Dignity
  • Equanimity
  • Forgiveness
  • Gratitude
  • Humility
  • Integrity
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Love

The 11th, golden bead reminds us of the Golden Rule- "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

For Meditation

While I have only just begun to explore their uses for meditation, I have found them useful as a method for contemplating what I call, "The Stations of Compassion."

Similar to the Stations of the Cross, I use each bead as an opportunity to visualize an event, either from the Holy Tradition, or events I have witnessed recently, that embodies that principle.  I like the practice to be spontaneous so I can also gauge my own mental state and attitude through the meditation and make the corrections needed at the time.

For Prayer

I have used these beads to facilitate many kinds of prayer: from the simple repetition of the principles to the more elaborate and extemporaneous prayer.

When I first saw these beads, I was reminded of St Francis, Canticle of the Sun, in which he prayed to personified creatures and principles to better understand our relationship to them and to the world.

The formula is simple, "Be Praised, My Lord, through Sister/Brother (Element), through which/whom (blessing is received)."

I don't allow myself to become rigid about the gender of the principles, and instead take a moment to meditate on why I said, "Brother Compassion" or "Sister Compassion."  Don't over analyze the choice, but let it be whatever it is at the moment.  It can be instructive.

If you are interested in donating to the San Antonio Peace Center and getting your own set of Compassion Beads, they are available on Etsy (here).

May you be filled with compassion and the causes of compassion, and free from apathy and the causes of apathy.

Holy Mother Mary, teach me to love your Son as you did. #Prayer


Blessed Mother Mary, Ark of the Covenant, Queen of our hearts, teach me to more perfectly follow the path of Jesus Christ, listening always for the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.

Throughout your life, Holy Mother, you pondered all things in your Immaculate Heart.  You were mindful through all the mysteries of your Son's Holy Life.  You faithfully watched and learned all the things from Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Help me, most gracious mother, to see the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in my life.

Open my eyes, O Seat of Wisdom, to see Christ in every one that I meet.  Help me to live a life where others will see Christ in me.  Open my senses, O Mystical Rose, to know the promptings of the Holy Spirit, so I might walk in the way of God.

Pray with me always, Most Holy Mother, that I might daily grow in the unity of the Spirit, living in the Uncreated Light of Tabor, until the day when our Lord Jesus's prayer is answered, and we are all one with God.  Amen.

St Anthony the Abbot and the Dark Night

Throughout my life, I have always had a special devotion to St Anthony the Abbot. I often suffer from terrible nightmares and fierce doubts. I am a living testament to the fact that the dark night of the soul is not always a once in a lifetime experience.

When I have these dark moments, it has always helped me to remember the example of St Anthony in the desert. He found faith in the darkness and his life has inspired me to do the same.

Holy St Anthony, help us in our times doubt, trial, and temptation to weather the storms that assail our spirits. Help us to endure, and cleanse ourselves so we might find God through prayer as you did. Teach us to pray. Amen.

St Elizabeth Ann Seton (2008)

 Blessed Mother Seton is very close to my heart. When I lived in Maryland, I would visit her Shrine at least once a week. I am also the custodian of a First Class Relic of this most holy saint. Reading her Journals and other writings touches me in a very special way.

As an adult convert to Catholicism, her insights are in some ways deeper than those who grew up within the religion. He compassion and tender heart is a model to us all, and her intercession and loving protection of those who have called upon her as our spiritual mother. She is the first native born American Saint, and her family was involve in the establishment of this republic.

Holy Mother Seton look over this land and pray to the Father for us that we will live God to the world and learn to be humble and meek. Pray for us that we might become the peacemakers that Christ has called up all to be. Amen.

Jesus, Son of God

 Domine Iesu Christe, Filii Dei, miserere mei, peccatoris.

Lately, I have noticed that the Jesus Prayer has been spontaneously popping out of my mouth. I don't even notice that it is happening until it is happening.

It has become so common to refer to Jesus as the Son of God that I think most of us have never stopped to consider what it means.

McLaren suggests that the phrase "Son of God" is the same as saying "Embodying God (80)," or "Embodying the Essence of God (80)." But it is almost as important to ask what the word God means before we can discover the meaning of "Son of God."

Rabbi David A. Cooper found the most brilliant way I have ever seen to discuss God:

"The closest we can come to thinking about God is as a process rather than a being. We can think of it as 'be-ing,' as verb rather than noun. Perhaps we would understand this concept better if we renamed God. We might call It God-ing... [Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi] suggests that God-ing is a mutually interactive verb, one which entails an interdependency between two subjects, each the object of the other (God is a Verb, 69).

When we begin to think about God in this way, then what does that mean about Jesus as Son of God. If "Son of God" means "Embodying God," then Jesus is the embodiment of this mutually interactive being. or as McLaren puts it:

God is "a unified, eternal, mysterious, relational community/family/society/entity of saving Love (85)."

If we look at Jesus, his life and his teachings, it is plain and easy to see that he is the embodiment of this God. Nothing can ever be more clear.

Mary, Mother of God (2008)

Every year, I grow a little closer to our Lady. Through sadness and joy, our Blessed Mother is with us, guiding her children ever closer to our Lord and God.

Today, we remember our Lady as the Mother of God, the Theotokos, the ark of the new covenant who through her fiat bore God into the world.

It is important for each of us to remember that it is not Mary alone who brings God into the world, but each and every believer carries Christ in their hearts. It is for us to Live God into the world, as St Paul reminds us:

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you (Gal 4:19),

Like our Blessed Mother, we also bring Christ into the world.

Blessed Mother, help us to follow your example. Pray that we will ponder all things in our hearts and continue to persevere in faith until we bare Christ into the world. Amen.