The Contemplative Companion for Wednesday, December 7, 2016 in the Second Week of Advent

“Jesus said to the crowds:
‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.’” – Matthew 11.28 – 30

Among the many beloved verses in the Gospels, this must be one of the most cherished. Its devotional quality is self-evident. I begin every funeral service with these words, and have often repeated them to myself and others during highly stressful situations and seasons in life.

In this passage, the Advent Remedy is once again revealed. If we apply the invitation inwardly, the “crowd” is within. Our fragmentation. Our multiplicity. Our non-integrated ways of being. This is the crowd that needs to attend to the Center. And we can all use a break from that interior chaos, confusion and disorder. The question is how?

One answer is that first, the personal pronoun “me”, needs to be interpreted. In the narrative context, obviously, this “me” is Jesus. He literally meant “come to me – right now. From where you are standing there, to here.” Such an invitation made sense with him standing right there, inviting the crowd to follow him, versus disperse and go their own ways.

Second, let’s admit that in this moment, today, Jesus is not standing right here. The physical, historical Jesus, truthfully, is literally nowhere to be found. While it is a nice devotional sentiment that Jesus walks with me and he talks with me, I would invite us to be more truthful about our spiritual expressions and experiences. The truth is that very, very, very few people can say that Jesus is right here with them as a historical person and physical presence – even as a resurrected body (yes, three very’s!)

So, in Jesus’ physical absence, how might this passage of scripture be applied more truthfully for each of us as a part of the Advent Remedy?

One suggestion is to replace the pronoun “me” with the  word “center.”  Thus:

Come to the Center…and the Center will give you rest.
Return to the Center…and learn…
for the Center is meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For the Center is easy…light.

The Center is Christ. The circumference, our life.

As Mr. Gurdjieff once said, for Christmas I give you Christ. Center come to circumference. 

Another idea is to replace the pronoun “me” with the word Eucharist. Thus:

Come to the Eucharist…and the Presence will give you rest.
Return to the Eucharist…and learn…
for the Eucharist is meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For the Eucharist is easy…light.

And, there is more. Other ideas to replace the personal pronoun might be: Spirit. Silence. Or Stillness. All of them convey the Presence of Christ beyond the time-bound and ascended Jesus. And doing so helps us more realistically and truthfully experience the Advent Remedy.

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The Contemplative Companion for Tuesday, December 6, 2016 in the Second Week of Advent

“Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…” – Isaiah 40.1

These famous words of the prophet Isaiah resound in churches during Advent. Perhaps made more famous since they feature prominently in Handel’s Messiah,  a perennial favorite this time of year. Apart from their poetic power, the prophet’s words speak to a deep need and wish, something I refer to as the Advent Remedy.

The Advent Remedy can heal the contrasts and eases the friction-points of our life. The Advent Remedy reverses wrongs and inaugurates rights. The Advent Remedy invites to mature beyond the mis-perceptions of duality toward the understanding of union.

The Advent Remedy is that revelation and application of the Christ-Union, wedding human and divine. This ongoing remedy – and our attention to it and participation in it – is what ultimately brings comfort to people: the easing of resentment; the release of guilt and shame; the reconciliation between our longings and reality; the awakening of wisdom. Such are a few of the gifts of the Advent Remedy.

The Advent Remedy isn’t one and done. It’s a lifetime journey. Year by year, we take the four-fold count of the Advent Sundays as a rhythm of grace to live by. Deeper than just remembering the birth of the “baby Jesus” the Advent Remedy reminds us that Jesus invites us to go where he went. Deeper into the Union.

And yet Union is just the start! No need to build a museum at Christmas and enshrine Jesus there forever. The remedy moves deeper. Indeed, there are other remedies beyond Advent – such as Easter, Ascension and Pentecost, which reveal something beyond Union – perhaps something that is Pure Mystery: the realities of Christ. Trinity. Life in the Spirit. And Theosis – the ultimate remedy of all.

And last but not least. Probably, any comfort we receive in life will somewhere, somehow also involve a cross. It’s quantum joy and suffering all the way. Or, in theological terms: cross and resurrection.

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The Contemplative Companion for Monday, December 5, 2016 in the Second Week of Advent

“One day as Jesus was teaching,
Pharisees and teachers of the law,
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem,
were sitting there,
and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed…” – Luke 5.17 – 18

“He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God.” – Luke 5.25

Two aspects of this famous passage arose to my attention today, in a way I had never before seen.

First, notice that the “power of the Lord” was with Jesus. And the healing is attributed in essence to this power working through Jesus. Such instances are indications of the anointedness of Jesus. In the Jewish context, the power of the Lord was conveyed  by the anointing of oil upon the head of a prophet, priest or king – empowering them for a specific task or ministry. In this case, we see that the anointing of Jesus went beyond oil – and was consummated by the anointing of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit symbolized by the dove at his baptism.

The anointing that brings the power of the Lord is spiritually important because it is the fact that Jesus is anointed that makes him the Christ. Keep in mind that the Greek word christos (christ) was used to translate the Hebrew word מָשִׁ֫יחַ (messiah), which literally means, “anointed one.” Jesus was anointed with power to heal by the Spirit of God – a power that continues to be available for us.

Second, the paralyzed man not ony stands up and is healed, but picks up his past and goes home glorifying God. The “picking up what he had been lying on” is a small but significant detail of the story. Perhaps it shows that it takes time to release the past – as if he can’t believe that he has been healed. Or, that perhaps he fears the paralyzation will return and he will need the cot he was laying on again.Or, even more striking, perhaps the cot represents that which he is most ashamed of. He takes it with him so that no one will see it and remember who he was. I can imagine him throwing the cot and linens away – even burning them. Releasing them when he finally realizes that he is no longer bound by his previous way of being that has so captivated him for so many years.

In this sense, I find deep resonance with our human patterns of behavior that do not serve our flourishing – that keep us paralyzed to further potential and possibility. Addictions. Patterns of reacting. Negaitve thoughts. Violence. Negative feelings, and so on.

Such are a few aspects of the Remedy of Advent: the healing power of the Spirit of God anointing not ony Jesus, but Mary, the early church and continuing on toward our lives today and beyond. And the invitation to receive the healing and be freed but also instructed by our past, especially the past we may be most ashamed of.

The power of our healing includes an integrating grace that brings a degree of peace and acceptance of who and what we have been. We take it with us not to hide it or deny it in shame, but to integrate it for our ongoing journey into wholeness and Realness. And as we do, it’s amazing how our healing may help others heal.

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The Contemplative Companion for Saturday, December 3, 2016 in the First Week of Advent

“The light of the moon will be like that of the sun
and the light of the sun will be seven times greater
like the light of seven days.
On the day the LORD binds up the wounds of his people,
he will heal the bruises left by his blows.” – Isaiah 30.26

When it comes to the biblical prophets, such as Isaiah, and when it comes to the prophetic genre overall, we often get glimpses of the significant role cosmology plays in spirituality. If you doubt this, just read the book of Revelation.

In this passage from the Prophet Isaiah above, we see a hint that the universe, and especially our line of planets stemming off our sun – is developmental. Thus, time is involved. As time seems to unfold, possible development might also occur. But time and development are not guaranteed. Much time can pass with little development. Likewise much development can occur in a short amount of time.

The image of the moon developing into a sun and the sun developing into a super-sun isn’t that far-fetched. I have read elsewhere that some even think the earth will become a sun to the moon on the moon’s developmental journey into becoming a living planet. No doubt there is much to ponder as we look up into the heavens. The heavens are declaring and revealing much about our possibilities as a species on this planet. Perhaps it is wise just to say this: Christianity can’t be unwoven from cosmology. They need to be paired, and any Christianity without a cosmology is incomplete.

On a more personal, practical and present level, the Advent Remedy can be seen here in the binding of the wounds. In the grace of an Advent journey, something can happen to us inwardly that helps us move into a deeper wholeness, healing our inner fragmentation and transforming us into a more complete, developed Being. Suffering seems to be a part of this transformation process of development. In Christian terms, crucifixion leads to resurrection and resurrection leads to ascension – until we reach the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4.13).

Note also that the prophets of Israel spoke their wisdom and words in the midst of great national and personal suffering, loss and discontinuity. It’s no wonder that wave after wave of these prophetic texts announces a future deliverance, healing and restoration – whether through the idealized office of a King in the of David, or through the direct intervention of Israel’s God.

Nevertheless, Israel’s hope (and now ours) was (and is) directed toward the unfolding future. This presents some challenges on the spiritual level if the hope gets uprooted from simply being present in the Presence.

On the other hand, without hope, and without the unfolding future emerging in cooperation with our participation, our spiritual life often coils and caves into a distorted narcissism of the moment – and flat-lines the dynamic movement of the Spirit that is Life itself birthing newness from a hidden love toward an unknown love that wishes to us as its partner, in this life and beyond.

I guess the best way to apply such mysteries, is this:

Don’t give up.

Whatever is happening in and to your life, use it as fuel for transformation.  Keep moving toward the emergent love of God coming toward you. Somewhere, somehow It meets us and heals us from one degree of glory to the next – until we are all “suns” of God in the Wholeness of the Resurrected Christ. 


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The Contemplative Companion for Friday, December 2, 2016 in the First Week of Advent

“Thus says the Lord GOD:
But a very little while,
and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard,
and the orchard be regarded as a forest!
On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book;
And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.” – Isaiah 29.17 – 18

The remedy of Advent is transformative. Life-contrasts and tensions resolve like a minor chord in the turning process of our attention, one week at a time – deeper toward the Christ mass –  which is a density of grace and an intensity of love that can’t be understood, but can be attended to, indeed, even nurtured.

The receptivity of the divine density and intensity is what prompts the transformation. And notice also that the transformation is developmental; that is to say, grace doesn’t often happen all it once. It unfolds. Emerges. Evolves:

From a barren land, to an orchard ,to a forest.

From unhearing, to hearing, to the book.

From gloom, to darkness, to seeing.

What are you giving your attention to? The barrenness? The unhearing ignorance and cacophony of cultural noise and conflict? The gloom and darkness of life on this planet under the influences of heavy unconscious forces? Or, perhaps to the forest? The book? The seeing process of contemplation?

Merry December. Happy Advent. Blessed transformation(s).



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The Contemplative Companion for Thursday, December 1, 2016 in the First Week of Advent

“The LORD is God, and he has given us light.” – Psalm 118.27a

The word “December” comes from the latin dece, meaning ten. For generations prior to 700 CE, the Roman calendar only had ten months, culminating with December – the tenth month.

In both hemispheres of our planet, December is the month that marks the extent of light. In the Northern, the Winter Solstice on December 21st, marks the longest night of the year, and in the Southern, the opposite happens: it’s the Summer Solstice on December 21st, marking the shortest night of the year.

Advent is a season of preparing for the coming of the Light. Not just the earthly experience of sunlight, marked by the calendar and the procession of the earth around the sun, but also the comming of the Light of the World – the presence of Christ: in history, in our present moment, in the future, and especially in the Eucharist.

I enjoy and perceive the fading light of these December days. It helps me remember the gift of life made possible by light, and also to direct my attention inwardly to wisdom, symbolized as light. I find that the quality of December light – its slanting rays more diffused lower on the horizon, and framed by bare trees – helps me feel subtle impressions upon my emotional center. The cold of December also draws me inward, toward my heart – and all of this combined, supports our communal experience of waiting, watching and wondering for the Light.

Merry December!


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The Contemplative Companion for Wednesday, November 30, 2016 in the First Week of Advent

“The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul…” Psalm 19.8

So begins a Psalm to remember, and often call to mind in the heart. It is a teaching-Psalm that indicates the remedies available to us as we ponder the written Word of God in Scripture.

Notice the remedies provided through this important influence of scripture:

Gives wisdom.

Brings joy to the emotional center (i.e., heart).

Brings enlightenment to one’s perception or reality.

Brings the capacity to do (poesseing wealth).

Brings deep satisfaction (sweeter than honey).

Rumi’s poem, The Waterwheel, helps me remember how the written word of God flows and infuses a community to hear and share the Living Word of God together. In this poem, I take the waterwheel to be the  written”book”, and the water to be the wisdom of Scripture flowing through the written words:

Stay together, friends, Don’t scatter and sleep. Our friendship is made of being awake. The waterwheel accepts water and turns and gives it away, weeping…Stay here, quivering with each moment like a drop of mercury.*

The remedy of Advent comes to us in many ways. Beauty. Lights. Carols. Family. And especially through the waterwheel of the scriptures flowing to us, weaving us day by day, sunday by sunday into a community of wisdom and love together.



*From The Essential Rumi Translated by Coleman Barks (New York: Harper Collins San Fransisco, 1995) 247.

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