Via Positiva

Join me On the Road of Awe to Zion

May our eyes behold your return in mercy to Zion" by Ephraim Moshe Lilien - Milwaukee Jewish Artist's Laboratory. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

As we end our season of meditation on Justice, and turn our attention to the harvest of bliss and awe, and reconnection to our God, I invite you, sisters and brothers to join me on the Road to Zion.

Look for beauty.  Open yourself awe at the scope and scale of cosmos stretching out all around you.  The world is full of mysteries.  A mystery is not an hole in our knowledge.  It is embracing the awe, splendor, and glory of the world around us.

A mystery is a well of power and wonder.  Science can tell me why a rose makes the tender petaled follower that is so pleasant to the eye and whose aroma warms the soul.  The mystery is the connection that exists between the rose and me.  This deep bond is the sacramental connection the opens us to the Divine.

Opening ourselves to these deep connections is the first step on the path of Bliss and Awe that will lead us to the promised land of Zion.

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, In the city of our God, His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion in the far north, The city of the great King. God, in her palaces, Has made Himself known as a stronghold.
— Psalm 48:1-3

Zion is not on a map

Anyone who tells you that Zion is on a map has never seen the pureland of God.

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
— John 18:36

Zion is the Kingdom of the Heart, the Kingdom of Heaven.  We enter Zion in the laughter of our friends, in the relief of sorrow and suffering, in the beauty and wonder of nature.  When your heart is at peace, you are in Zion.

Zion is not afar off.  She is not in the future time, or conditioned on calamities and violence.  She is here, now.

Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
— Luke 17:20-21

Open your heart to the glory of this present moment.  In the still, quiet now, we can see that we live every moment in the heart of God.  All you have to do is close your eyes, and breathe.  Steady your breath, and rest in the arm of the Presence of God.  Let go of the thoughts as they enter your mind, gently and without judgement.  Just let go.  Focus on your breath until you feel peace enter into you, then open your eyes and realized you in in Zion.  You are in the Promised Land.

Join me in this walk through the path of Zion.  There is only now.

The Presentation of our Blessed Mother

Today is the feast of the presentation of our Blessed Mother to the Temple in Jerusalem.  Her parents,  Saint Anne and Saint Joachim, took their holy child to be raised in the path of holiness.

In this mystery, we have much to meditate upon.

In the Via Positiva

In the Way of Bliss, we see this mystery from the perspective of Mary.  She was sent to the Temple to increase in holiness.  Not doctrine, not legalism, in the Temple she was meant to find wisdom and holiness.

This reminds us of our work in the Via Positiva, where we, like our Blessed Mother before us, learn to see the world as it really is.  She was surrounded by the power of the  creative Word of God, experienced the kingdom of Zion as a real place, and was constantly reminded that God is in all things and all things are in God.

As we contemplate this mystery, we need to recommit ourselves to walk the path of Bliss, remembering that we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our guide, who leads us to all truth.

In the Via Negativa

In the way of silence, we see this mystery through the eyes of St Joachim and St Anne.

Saints Anne and Joachim had prayed for years for a child.  Now, standing on the steps of the holy Temple, they gave the child back to God.  Imagine the pain of the holy grandparents of the Lord as they gave up their only child.

How often are we asked to do the same?  The child's first day at school, their first day at college, and sometimes the tragic loss of a child into the silence of death.  We share this experience also when we move from a favorite city, lose a beloved job, or realize we have to close down a pet project.

Throughout our lives, there are many beloved people, projects, and things we will have to let go of.  Our heart clings to them even though we know that they are gone.  This is the lesson we learn from the way of silence.  We cannot hold on to everything forever.  Attachment is the cause of suffering.  While it is never easy, we must learn to let go.

In the Via Creativa

In the way of creation, we see this mystery through the eyes of Mary.

While she was in the Temple, Mary found favor with the Lord.  She became the vessel through which Jesus Christ would enter the world.

This is the very same work that we are called to do.  We are called to be co-creators with God.  We must learn to see Christ as our brother and our child.  To do this, we must enter the holy place and set our hearts aside to do the work of God, which is compassion, justice, and loving kindness.

We learn to see God in all things and all things in God.  Now, we must learn to speak the Word of God, and arrange our lives as ambassadors from Zion.

In the Via Transformativa

The presentation of our Blessed Mother led to Mary's glorious Fiat.  It was her time in the Temple, her time in Zion, her time with God, that not only caused her to find favor with the Lord, but made her ready and willing to say yes to being the mother of God.

So many people in the church today jump straight to the way of transformation, and seek to change the world without first doing the hard work of preparing and changing themselves so they are the proper vessel for the change they want to see.  It is easier to yell at others than to do the real hard work of changing ourselves.

Sisters and brothers, I invite you to look at the example of our Blessed Mother.  she sought out the face of God so she might reflect God to the world.  We must humble ourselves and do the same.

Let us pray

Blessed mother Mary, as we contemplate your presentation in the Temple, we ask that you will give us your Immaculate Heart.  Conform us to the person of your son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Welcome us into the kingdom of Zion, holy Queen, and pray that we may be safe in our sojourn through Babylon.

Holy mother, teach us the ways of God.  Remember us always, as we forever hold your example in our mind.  Lead us to your son, our Lord Christ Jesus, that he may be born through us into the world.  Amen

The Nature of God

We have been talking a lot about the nature of God and the most fundamental beliefs of the the faith of the prophets and mystics. Of the hundreds if not thousands of ways we could take the discussion of the nature of the Deity, I have decided to continue my posts inspired by Brian McLaren's a Generous Orthodoxy.

In the book, McLaren describes the God he sees in creation in a simple yet profound way.

God is a:

a unified, eternal, mysterious, relational community/family/society/entity of saving Love (a Generous Orthodoxy, 85).


This is a phrase for meditation and quiet contemplation in the night. We have already talked about Rabbi David A Cooper's image of God as a Verb (see this post). This notion of God is very close to the glimpses of Providence we get in our everyday life, but McLaren has found a way to describe our encounter with the Divine.

Unified


The testimony of the Prophets reveals to us a God that is One. On the night before he was crucified, our Lord prayed:

That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:21).


It is our mission to reconcile all to God and to spread the word that we are one in Christ, and one in God. We are one human family, in fact, we are one terrestrial family. This is where our impulse for peacemaking and conservation arise.

Many people confuse the unity of God is one of the most misunderstood ideas in the history in monotheism. There is but one God, called by many names. There are no other Gods. Once we realize this, our tribalism melts away and we realize the commonality of all faiths.

Eternal


As Joseph Campbell said:

Eternity isn't some later time. Eternity isn't a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out. This is it. And if you don't get it here, you won't get it anywhere. And the experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life. There's a wonderful formula that the Buddhists have for the Bodhisattva, the one whose being (sattva) is illumination (bodhi), who realizes his identity with eternity and at the same time his participation in time. And the attitude is not to withdraw from the world when you realize how horrible it is, but to realize that this horror is simply the foreground of a wonder and to come back and participate in it. 'All life is sorrowful' is the first Buddhist saying, and it is. It wouldn't be life if there were not temporality involved which is sorrow. Loss, loss, loss.

Moyers: That's a pessimistic note.

Campbell: Well, you have to say yes to it, you have to say it's great this way. It's the way God intended it (Power of Myth).


Eternity is a present reality that we tend to ignore. Through prayer and meditation we learn to reside in this eternal now, and through mindfulness we learn to live with in it. In so doing, we are learning to practice the presence of God.

Relational Community/Family/Society/Entity


God is most clearly seen in the relations of things to one another. We see God in the heart of all living. We find God as Father/Protector, Mother/Nurturer, Sibling/Believer, and Child/Actions.

The God we see through providence is the Unknowable Father, the one whose name has never been soiled by human language.

In nature and times of trouble, we rest in the nurturing Spirit as our Divine Mother.

In every believer, we see Christ in them as our Brother and Sister in the Lord.

Through our actions and the actions of the faithful, we see God as Child, the one who is conceived in us upon conversion, and who through our lives we bring into the world.

Corporately, we as the church are the body of Christ. We see God in the hearts of all people.

This is the Living God who is with his people and frees them from fear and torment through his marvelous grace.

Saving Love


The power of God is intimate love and peace we find as we rest in the arms of the Godhead in liturgy and meditation. This Saving Love is the power of Christ to deliver us from Satan's power.

In all things, we worship the Living God.

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain`also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent:

Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance unto all men, in that he has raised him from the dead (Acts 17:28-31)

Epiphany and Mystery of God

 We have followed the star to the new born Christ, and behold the one in whom God is made manifest to the world. We stand by the river Jordan and watch the skies open as the dove descends upon our Lord. We drink the wine at the wedding at Cana and marvel at the one who produced it. We celebrate the revelation of the Lord.

This is the day when we remember the revelation of God to humankind, but how can we celebrate the revelation the one who:

Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne (PS 97:2).


This is the God of whom Solomon says:

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter (Pr 25:2).


While I do not believe that anyone can every describe or define God in any great detail, I believe that God can be found be those who seek him out. All religion is an attempt for us to put these experiences in words. God is hidden from us by the minutia of our lives. Anyone can find God by relaxing, and coming to the present moment fully aware. This is the glory of mindfulness.

Creation Spirituality talks about the four paths to encountering God. As Matthew Fox answers the question, "Where can God be found?"

 In the Via Positiva. In awe, wonder, and mystery of nature and all beings, each of whom is a ‘word of God,’ a ‘mirror of God that glistens and glitters,’ as Hildegard of Bingen put it. This is Path One (Creation Spirituality 18)


This is the path most people find to God. Sitting in the awe of nature, we feel our interconnectedness with all things. This interbeing is the purest connection we have with the Divine.

We can find God in music, art, or anything that instills within us a deep sense of Awe.

Where else can God be found?

“In the Via Negativa. In darkness and nothingness, in the silence and emptying, in the letting go and letting be, and in the pain and suffering that constitute an equally real part of our spiritual journey. This is Path Two (Creation Spirituality 18).”


This is the path of the Buddha- the path of silence meditation. Most of us what to reject this aspect of life, but it is an equal part of existence, and the most universal.

The Buddha himself reminds us of the only things we can ever know for sure, that we exist and that we are interconnected with all things. There is not an atom in our body that did not come from another creature, plant, or long lost star. It is in this lack of separate self that we find the Ground of All Being.

Where else can God be found?

“In the Via Creativa. In our generativity we co-create with God; in our imaginative output, we trust our images enough to birth them and ride them into existence. This is Path Three (Creation Spirituality 18).”


This is the path of Rumi- the path of art and co-creation. The Via Creativa is the very beating heart of the sacrament of Art as Meditation. In trusting our own creativity, we come closer to God. We learn how to be bearers of Christ into the world like those who came before us.

"My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you (Gal 4:19)," as the apostle said, we find God through trusting our generatively.

Where else can God be found?

“In the Via Transformativa. In the relief of suffering, in the combating of injustice, in the struggle for homeostasis, for balance in society and history, and in the celebration that happens when persons struggling for justice and trying to live in mutuality come together to praise and give thanks for the gift of being and being together. This is Path Four (Creation Spirituality 18).”


This is the path of Gandhi and Dr King, the path of satyagraha. In community and common cause, when find God. As David prayed, “Yours, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all (1Chr 29:11).” Wherever we see greatness, we see God. Wherever we see glory, power, victory, or majesty, we see God. When ever we see love, charity, grace, mercy or any of the Divine attributes, we see God.

These are the paths to God we have learned, the paths that we walk every day. They are as natural as breathing. There is nothing more simple than our experiences of God and learning to trust them.

The Word God Reimagined

 In Christ Jesus, the world met someone who radically challenged their views of God. The God of Jesus is something the world had never seen before.

He is our Daddy, or Abba as Jesus called him. This God is so close and dear to us that we can call him Daddy. This is very different from the aloof, distant gods the were discussed previously.

This God cares about how we treat one another, and not in a legalistic or moralistic way that previous visions of God had described. The God of Jesus judges us by how we treat the unfortunate, the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned, and the homeless.

In Jesus himself, this caring God is met in a very real and powerful way.