You Gotta Have Soul

Reflections  Photograph by Cathie Horrell

Another mark of creative spirituality is that it resists being packaged or codified. I think there is a deeper message in the fact that the stone tablets were broken. The life of the spirit lives in the heart. The law is that which is written not on tables of stone, but on the heart, the heart that can be carried with us wherever we go.

Each age discovers itself a new, as if for the first time. Because for us it is the first time. As we journey to self-understanding and self-realization, to our life in Christ, to the Christ-self, we remember and honor what has gone before. We honor it by recreating it, giving it new life, new insights, new dimensions. Our history is never so fixed or stayed that it cannot rekindle within us our own creative fire which lights up what has been given, gone before us on the path.

The artifacts and literature of our ancient and not so ancient worlds live on as our cultural heritage, the rainbow visible in the present as it marches into a future only darkly perceived. And yet, we can test its wisdom against the wisdom of the ages as it makes its path into our souls and hearts and makes its own legacy in art, literature and song.

The Soul then is that unlimited reservoir of revelation, insight, meaning. It is the inner house of the Self. It has depths and dimension, faculties which can reach to the height and depth, length and breadth which it alone can attain as its sacred roots and ground reach deep, even as it gives one the ability to reach higher, to become all that we can be. In its reach back beyond our personal time, it reaches into the bowels of the earth where the layers of history lie encrusted there. It is capable of rising with our spirits into the cosmos and with it we are able to touch the face of God and also experience the sacred embrace in our depths, in our hearts and souls.


Birth of the Word in the Soul Part VI

Carl Jung says Jesus lives our unlived lives. He is speaking of the Christ-Self in each of us that must be awakened if we are to achieve the fullness of our humanity. Both testaments are treaties on how we are able to achieve the fullness of our humanity. In the letter to the Ephesians, * its author includes Paul’s pray that the hidden self grow strong, that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted and built on love, you will have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depths, until knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowing, you will be filled with the utter fullness of God.  It is this hidden self that Jung is referring to; the realization of the God-life within us. Across centuries both men acknowledge that Jesus is the incarnation of the sacred Self, the embodiment of the sacred humanity that is our birthright. From Genesis to Revelations we are shown that we are inherently ordered to the sacred, to that which has within it the possibility at each turn of becoming the sacred reality for which we are meant. Jesus is the becoming thing in us. He is the embodiment of that which becomes itself in God. With each day we attend to his birth within us.

 We are seeded with the Christ-self like the sacred seed planted in Mary. We are invited to give life and meaning to that seed, to attend to its growth, so that who Jesus is we too can become. For we are also heirs to the promise going out from the first pages of Genesis. The promise that we are sacred and meant. As we journey with Jesus, we join with Mary and Elizabeth, as partners of the promise, to awaken and give birth to the Christ-Self. This is our let it be to the God who is ever renewing the world in his image. Just as his spirit came upon the mother of Jesus in his great act of loving us and the world, by the grace of his spirit we also become the waiting manger for the birth of the Word in the soul.

Like the ancient rabbis who lovingly held the Torah in their arms, the Word become flesh is now carried in the arms of his parents to the temple on the day of presentation, in accordance with the Mosaic Law. There Mary and Joseph encounter an old man named Simeon. He takes Jesus in his arms, giving thanks and praise for he knows he is holding the salvation of Israel in his arms. As Simeon blesses the parents of Jesus, he tells Mary that a sword shall pierce your heart. It is a sword that will lay bare the hearts of many, the sword will spill the life blood of her son upon the bitter ground of misunderstanding and his rejection.

Jesus will return to the Temple when he is twelve years old. By then he is a young man who knows his scriptures so well he is able to discourse with the rabbis, forgetting it is time to return home with his parents. In Luke’s account, the last we see of Joseph is when he and Mary spend three days searching for their missing son in the crowds who have come to Jerusalem for Passover. In Matthew’s infancy narrative it is after the visit of the wise men to Bethlehem that we last see Joseph. In this sequence, Joseph, prompted once more by an angel, leads his family to safety in Egypt, to protect his infant son from Herod, who is intent on murdering the already rumored king of the Jews.

After the incident in the Temple there is no record of Jesus’ life until he goes to meet John at the Jordan River. Yet there are clues to the early influence his family had on Jesus. His parents surely shaped the man he would become. At times he must have seemed as enigmatic to them as he often appears to us today. From the recorded accounts of his life, it is evident Jesus was well-versed in the sacred writings of Israel. From his parents Jesus learned to be attentive and faithful to Torah, exhibiting a respect and reverence for the faith of his people, the law and the Temple. When he teaches the people in parables, his words ring with authority, demonstrating his command of the Hebrew Scriptures. From Joseph Jesus learned carpentry, but it is a trade he would abandoned at some point, like John before him. Perhaps it was there, working at Joseph’s side or at his mother’s knee learning his scriptures, that he realized a new trade, that a new task had been set before him, and he went to it most likely knowing from his mother early on that he was destined for something singularly special.

At his side Jesus learned from Joseph, the man entrusted by God with his care and upbringing, how to care for those with whom he would be entrusted. Just as Mary’s attention and fidelity shaped Jesus, certainly he was shaped by the father we know little of. After Jesus’ childhood, Joseph is never mentioned again. The assumption is that he is no longer living. If indeed Joseph died before Jesus’ public ministry that might explain why Jesus’ public life had to wait until he was almost thirty years of age, long past the age a Jewish man would have taken up a profession. Perhaps Joseph entrusted the safekeeping and livelihood of his family, Jesus’ mother and siblings, to his first-born before he passed on, just as Jesus would entrust his mother to the care of the disciple standing at the foot of the cross with her. Could it be that in John’s gospel, when Jesus says he has not lost one of these you have given me, he is also thinking of the family Joseph entrusted to him? And one has to wonder if the father whom Jesus addresses as Abba, Daddy, isn’t at times Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth, who guided the boy’s hands over the wood as he fostered and protected Jesus, who he knew would eventually be about another Father’s business.

©2014 Cathie Horrell.  All Rights Reserved.

*The Letter to the Ephesians is not attributed to Paul, but to one of his companions.


Birth of the Word in the Soul Part 1

During this Christmas week I want to post an article I have previously written. It is a commentary on the Infancy Narrative in Luke’s Gospel. You will find in the following series of postings of this article many of the themes that appear in this blog, connected as they are to St. Paul’s invocation of the hidden-self, the Christ-self. I hope you enjoy it. Happy Holidays.

© 2014 Cathie Horrell. All Rights Reserved.

     night sky I will speak to you in poetry,

to unfold the mysteries of the past.

what we have heard and know,

what our ancestors have told us.

We shall not conceal

from their descendants, but

will tell to a generation still to come.

                                                                                                                                      Psalm 78: 2-4

And this will be a sign for you; You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.                                                                                                                    Luke 2:12

At the heart of Luke’s infancy narrative, surrounded by songs of praise and joy, the hope of Israel is found lying in a manger. When the infant Jesus comes into the world he is set in the only place his mother has to lay him in their stable sanctuary, a wood-hewn trough. This trough, where animals have feed, becomes a manger, a sign for the shepherds who go in search of him. It is to this sign of the manger that we too, more shepherd than scholar, might look as we search for him as well.

Luke’s infancy narrative is a wonderful mix of people and emotions. There is belief and disbelief, surprise and bewilderment, questioning and assent, blindness and recognition, silence and song. Through the chorus and cacophony, two children come, one a prophet, wild and free, who will splash in the waters of the Jordan River, turning the hearts and sights of the people to the other. There the other will come, confident, striding across the rocky landscape of Judea, intent on his destination, carrying with him the hopes of his people, bound at birth to free them in his one great act of dedication, living his life.

With poetry, puzzlement and wonder, Luke crafts his narrative to give us the story of Jesus’ coming. It is a story that turns on prophecy and praise, promise and fulfillment. It is the story of Yahweh. Yahweh, the gypsy-god who journeyed with the Israelites, pitching his tent among them as he led them through the wilderness. It is the story of the transformation of a nation. It is the story of the transformation of their God. Their God is the Lord God of Israel as both author and protagonist, who reveals himself through his Spirit in the births of John the Baptizer and Yeshua of Nazareth to bring new life to Israel, calling the people back to him. In the events surrounding Jesus’ coming, the tent-dwelling Yahweh breaks through the laws of nature in order to take his future forward once more.

We are the Manger

winter_scene  Out of the infinite blue vastness we call God, the Word was breathed forth into the reality we call time. The stuff of God came to be, a small brown seed planted in the universe of matter and humankind.  I   am the stuff of God, God is the stuff of me. And it would seem that Paul, once so intent on destroying that seed, would experience the fullness of it possibility that came to us in a manger in Bethlehem, on a road as out of the way, dirty and dusty, as the stable in which Jesus was born.

The infancy narratives of Jesus are stories fraught with the symbols and the message of faith, in order to bring others to the belief in the Word become flesh. The image of Jesus as an infant is the image of what all babies are: infinite possibilities. Each child comes fresh from its mother, bringing with it all that it might be and become in the world. This Christ child represents for us the Christ-self that is present as all possibility planted in us at conception and coming to be in the world at our births.

It is this hidden self that is the Christ-self within each of us that Paul prays will be strong – come to its full potential and realization within us. Our lives and our very being, ourselves, are the manger in which Christ comes. Surrounded by angel songs and the lowest of shepherds and most notable kings, come the stories of the improbable advent of life, the hope of Israel, lying in a manger.  A manger – a feeding trough for animals. The infinite possibility of the God-life is housed incarnate in a plain, wood-hewn manger, a sign for celestial beings, the simple and the greatly adorned. Into the ordinariness of life he came.

As I watched the television last evening, I wanted to turn it off at one point. Numb finally to what seems like the ultimate rejection and devaluing of human life. I kept saying over and over: No. Why? Please? We are in the hard ground of winter. These days are truly dark. Herod is about for destruction. At some point I just had to let it all go. I had to become an empty manger. Even as I watched the gospels making a path through the world, I had to wait. Helpless, dependent, just as the Christ-self chose to come into the world and remained…this is hard. This is another kind of fear and trembling.

Yet. We are the manger into which this new life, the Christ-life, has come and will come. I need to believe that. I need to be carved out, a place from which love can come to feed the world. A child will lead us. The Christ-self, the part of me that is open, receptive, will love and lead.

Rilke’s words from his Letter to a Young Poet once again come to mind: Celebrate Christmas…in this devout feeling, that perhaps He needs this very fear of life from you in order to begin; these very days of your transition are perhaps the time when everything in you is working in him…be patient and without resentment and think that the least we can do is make his becoming not more difficult for him than the earth makes it for the spring when it wants to come.

And so, we are manger and we are ground as well; softened so that the small brown seed might push its way through to a new Spring. The poets words give me hope: We can begin him. We can await his becoming in us and in the world. Our hearts can be the waiting mangers set upon the softened  ground of the self even in this seemingly intractable heart of winter.

The Coming of the Christ-self

  Autumn berries    Advent approaches. We await the coming of the Christ child. We celebrate religiously the advent of something, someone, new in the world. Even materially, commercially, it is what the season is about. Light. Gifting. An energized season where for a time we are more hospitable, generous, more open in spirit and friendship. Paul too is writing about something, Someone new coming into the world.  The coming of the reality of Christ, who he was and what faith in him meant. So this is another opportunity to spend forty days (more or less) with St. Paul. To continue the Christ-self discourses begun here. To look at the Christ life, not as a concept or doctrine, but as a lived, personal reality with its potential to transform, challenge and accompany our lives. A Real Presence. Born in a stable two thousand years ago, it is this same Jesus born in Bethlehem who is the Christ that Paul and the season celebrate.

This can be a difficult time for many when the darkness and deprivation, stresses and losses, loneliness and lacking, come in stark relief against all the holiday hustle and bustle. But it is here too in the telling of the infancy narratives we see the true meaning of the holiday, apart from the glitter and glitz, of a Savior come in the cold, darkness of winter, to poor and humble beginnings, who would remain marginal and excluded, but was seen to bring hope to the poor, the oppressed, those much in need of his saving presence and love in their lives. And at heart this too is where we live. Perhaps not materially impoverished, but certainly we all have within us some darkness, something needy and some part that is impoverished, alone, limping along through life, needing to reach out to touch even the hem of someone who can heal and save us. Someone who cares and loves us no matter in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

All theology is anthropology. To speak of the divine is  to speak of the human person. If you look at the human person in his/her depth you will find the sacred center that is at the heart of all life. Whether we realize the sacredness of humanity, within each of us, as a religious phenomenon or not, it is there−a sacred Self within each us whose advent begins to impinge on our lives as we grow in our ability to apprehend and embrace this as our most essential Self. St. Paul calls this our ‘hidden self’, the Christ-self. The Christ who lives in our heart by faith. (Eph. 3:14-19).

This religious/sacred venture is not something that occurs outside our selves. The Christ-self is our lived experience of the sacred, of God, by whatever name we call our God. We can talk about our very beings as the kingdom of the Self.  The birth of the Word in the Soul then is told as the birth of the infant, Jesus of Nazareth, the Word become flesh. This is how the Christ-self within us begins. Coming as a child, small, vulnerable, dependent, apart from the traps and trappings of the world. And yet, the symbols of the nativity are powerful stars charting our way to what the coming of Christ within us signifies. It is a gift to us, it requires shepherding, it brings what is lowest and highest together in the paradox we call living.

The Christ-self is the becoming thing in us.  In Jesus the Christ we are ever in the nativity of the nearness of God. And all the shining symbols of the season say this to us.

The Christ-self

  brillant leaves    Autumn is a season of striking transformation. Unlike Spring which comes slowly, softly, tiny shoots rising up out of the earth, small green buds gradually come to bloom on the trees, autumn blazes across the landscape. Right now the Midwest is ablaze with change. The trees that rumble across the landscape in shades of green one day are a warm palette of reds, orange, yellows, rusts, purple, crimson the next. We drive across the countryside searching for the passion and blaze of this season, before all falls away into winter.

Whether landscape or mindscape, change is at the very heart of the natural world and of human life. The worlds turning tells us this with each new day, with each season, in each plant, species and amoeba. Down to the very last cell of DNA we possess within us the ability to grow, to change, and to become. In fact, it is human nature to be in an on-going state of becoming.

We have often heard the word transformation used in the word conversion. John the Baptist would use the word repent, by which he meant return. It was a return to the one true faith and God of Israel. Yahweh. The living God. His was the outspoken cry from the wilderness, beside the Jordan, where a sign of being transformed was emersion in the waters of the Jordan. For whatever reason it was John’s activities that caused Jesus to come from Nazareth to the river that day, where his life too would, by the gospel accounts, change as well.

Paul’s very first letter to the Thessalonians was a call to change, to be converted, transformed so that they might follow and serve the true and living God. It is in Ephesians that we find the heart, soul and core of his message to the infant church that he is guiding into being. Paul’s call to put on Christ, to live your lives in Christ, is summed up in the hidden self that he prays will grow strong within us. This hidden self is Christ. The Christ-self.

This Christ-self is the Christ that may live in our hearts through faith, and it is in our hearts that we will know the love of Christ, which Paul adds is beyond all knowledge, so that we become filled with the utter fullness of God. It is this Christ-self, the Christ-life within is Paul’s raison d’etre.

To grow, if you will, to become more and more aware of the Christ-self within. It is in Christ, in the Christ-self that we participate and become part of the life of God. In Christ’s love for us is the utter, absolute, complete life of the living God. We could also speak about the sacred self.

All theology is anthropology. Of necessity then, to speak a word about God, is to speak about the human person as well. It is to speak of the sacred in the human heart – by this Paul meant in the depths of our being. Paul’s call to live in Christ is shaped by the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. For Paul death, death with Christ, becomes the corridor to the fullness of being. A death that because we live in Christ, also means that we come to new life, transformed in him as well.

Autumn will give way to the sometimes dark and dreary days of winter. But in that winter, after the fall of the leaves, the dying out of the colors that so brilliantly blaze across the landscape today, will come, as the year itself dies away, a celebration of something that may be just a myth, but within that recurring myth, is the truth of the Christ coming upon the landscape of our waiting hearts.

Enamored in autumn’s brilliance is a promise. The promise of He who is ever new. The Christ-self as our abiding and permanent openness to God.

Written on the Heart

  last rose of summer  It’s taken some time to look at the ways of transformation Paul saw in those who would live in Christ. Who would put on the garment of the Christ-life, as followers of his risen Lord? It was an all-encompassing change that he believed possible to experience. He begins at the beginning, with Adam. Christ is now the first fruit of creation, a renewal of one’s entire life, for all who belong to him. As that belonging becomes longing we come alive, from merely being flesh driven people to being alive to the freedom of the Spirit of Christ. The old code is a by-gone cryptogram written on stone but one that was to be held in the hearts of the people. The sacred Torah, the Law, become the law of love.

Paul speaks in different ways about the Law/law throughout his letters. He uses it as a reference point, always to his own advantage, to the particular point and to a particular people at any given moment. There is no single understanding of what Paul means when he says law. It is always nuanced. But one thing is evident. The law, whether that of the prescriptions of how to live a just life, or whether he means the Torah, whether he uses it as a symbol for the Israel that he now sees as past, or the new Israel that he is advancing, in Christ the law is transformed into a Person, into Love.

The transformation from law to love, from letter to spirit, is the centrality of Paul’s message. How to live one’s life is not something written in stone, but a person, the life of a Person who is now the standard, the guide, the norm and the entire content of how life is to be lived.

Libraries have been written about the Law and Love in Judaism, Paul’s letters and in the gospels. I’m sure I have nothing new to add to the discourse. (Other than the fact that I am an ordinary lay person, like Jesus, Paul and the evangelists, many of whom had day jobs.)

Love too is an over-used and misunderstood word. Here too Paul is fearless. In the end, for all the sorting we must do to regather his message, it all comes down to Paul on his knees. To a prayer. A prayer for us. It all comes to being filled with the utter fullness of God. (Ephesians 4:14-19) The fullness which for us is Jesus Christ.

Making our approach to the Christ-self, the ways in which we are changed into the Christ-self, like water into wine, become the life-blood of how we come to be in Christ. We step from shadow into light. Evil is transmuted into the higher good that embraces well-being and healing. All that was weak within us, like Paul, is put to another use, a higher purpose, a strength that is the power of God at work in us through the Spirit of Christ.

Going from Law to Love does not mean we give up the message of Deuteronomy. But now in Christ the law written on our hearts, becomes the Word that takes flesh in our lives. A new way not only of being but of seeing. Through that dark glass of the ancient code we see a clearer vision on the horizon of being that is a person who is the way, the way to himself.

There Was No Horse

Reflections  Photograph by Cathie Horrell

At this point one might ask, what relevance do St. Paul’s letters and these reflections have for us today?  For myself, I began reading his letters as a way to keep Christ in my sights for the forty days of Lent. But something happened.  I could have said, fini! Lent’s over, done with that. Which is usually what happens with our Lenten practices. But something happened.

As I was reading, reflecting and blogging about these letters I began to get a clearer understanding of St. Paul than that coming over the air ways. It has also strengthened my commitment as a lay woman in a church that does not always value the voice of lay women to continue the work I have been given to do.

This: When I was in grad school, I was in a small group discussion with religious who were going back to parishes to preach. It was a class in Methodology and we were discussing Paul’s letters and his experience. This one young religious kept talking about Paul falling from his horse on the Damascus Road. At one point I couldn’t contain myself any further, and piped up there was no horse. This may seem like an insignificant distinction and without much matter in the preaching. BUT, what it clearly showed me, is that this young man had not actually read the scriptural account of Paul experience on the Damascus Road. Can you really preach the gospel if you haven’t actually read it? Well, of course. It’s been happening for two thousand years.

I read it because I want to really know what it means to follow Jesus. What it means to be a Christian. And the only way to do this is to actually read the bible as it was written and in context. Paul’s been misunderstood in snippets. Pieces parsed out, misunderstood out of context and in the light of his entire body of work, and made into doctrine. Paul’s writing is about a way of life and living. Ways of being. Ways of being Christ. What faith in Christ makes of us.

Reading the letters in chronological order puts the letters in a different light. We can see Paul’s own development. Themes begin to emerge. His notion of the self. As you sift through his letters his sense of what I call the Christ-self emerges and it is this Christ-self that is ours to experience within ourselves today and I think that is significant in our bringing our faith-life into this century.

If we want to know what it means to live our lives accord to the Christ we have received he is a good place to start. Coupled with the gospels, we have a more well-rounded insight into the Christ-life.  In a way, although written before the gospels, Paul’s letters are a commentary on the gospels.

It is not just meaning we seek, but the experience of God in Christ.

For Paul Christ is our abiding openness to God.

It is about our own self-understanding. What it means to be created in image and likeness, human and sacred. And that changes everything.

Paul’s theology (which is not a systematic theology at all) of the ‘hidden self’ is rooted in his message of self-understanding and knowledge of Christ’s life and love for us, which we especially need to get closer to today. It’s about the Life of the Spirit working in our lives. It’s about the journey, the journey that is about transformation, a journey as relevant for us today as the days in which Paul wrote, with or without a horse.

Captivated by Christ – Part I

cropped-pond-at-the-farm-21.jpg        In Romans Paul touches on our next topic for transformation. In Christ, he tells, we are transformed from slavery (slavery to the old ways, to the old Law) to the freedom that is now ours in Christ. Beyond freedom we becomes heirs of the kingdom. (Romans 6:15-23). In the next chapter of Romans he talks about being freed of the written code to a new life in the Spirit. But it is in Romans 8:1 that he sums this up. ..the law of the Spirit of Christ has set you free from the law of sin and death. The Spirit flows like a symphony through Paul’s letters, the repeated refrain of our lives transformed in the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit that remains with us yet today. At Pentecost the resurrected Christ endowed his followers with himself.
Jesus came back to life. He came back to us. He made his return, transformed. And when he had done what he had meant to do, he commissioned his followers to do what he had done in his name. And so before he made his ascent to the Father, another remove from the visible world, he caused his presence to go on. He sent his Spirit, to dwell, strength and guide us.
It is his Spirit that speaks to us today in the mosaics of his life we find in the gospels. This is where we find him. This is where his presence begins to make itself known. And then too, in the community of his followers who gather together in his name. To continue a living relationship by prayer and presence, doing as he did, singing the Psalms and recalling the history of Israel, a history that was his own.
His Spirit remains also with us in the symbols that speak his name, convey his presence and provide for us a means, a way into the reality that is the Christ-life, available to us at each turn of every waking and sleeping (through our dreams and in the peaceful rest that allows the Spirit to take hold of us, to make his unhampered claim upon our lives). To make its imprint upon our souls, so that waking we sense that indeed something, someone has changed our lives.
Like Yahweh of old, his is not found in wood or stone so that he might be found in our hearts.
His Spirit is not all invisible field/meadow/pastureland.

(To be continued)

All the writing, quotes, artwork and photography are the work of the author unless otherwise stated. Scripture readings are from the Jerusalem Bible.

This work, including its contents, may not be used, reproduced, duplicated, displayed or distributed without the express written permission of the author.

We are dissipative structures

Ever since God created the world, his power and deity, however invisible, has been there for the mind to see in things he has made. Romans 1:20

footprints       When St. Paul talks about the hidden self in Ephesian, he is talking about transformation. It is the transformation of our inner selves into an awareness of the Christ-self that is alive within us. It is the possibility that we might become who we are meant to be.  It is a becoming that is grounded in what Jesus and what Jesus as the Christ stand for in life. In that knowledge comes the ultimate transformation of the person into what Paul calls the fullness of God. It is this fullness of God which is our ultimate destination on our journey of transformation.

Paul knew something that science  has just caught up to. A theory in science that has long been mirrored in the human person. Something that has to do with the transformation process that is at the heart of his writing and at the very heart of the dynamic of our physical, psychic and spiritual lives.

 In 1977 Ilya Prigogine received the Nobel Prize for his theory of dissipative structures. When I first heard about this phenomenon it struck me that we humans are dissipative structures. My simplistic understanding of this theory is that in living systems there is continual growth (energy) going on. And inherent in this growth is the idea that as growth and change take place we slough off (dissipate) what has died, or we no longer need, what is dead and decayed, in order to make room for and give rise to the new. At the center of this dynamic, for Prigogine, is chaos.

 At the outset of his letter to the Romans Paul talks about the way in which God created the world. Ever since God created the world, his power and deity, however invisible….has been there for the mind to see in the things he made. (Romans 1:20)

 In the created world we can see the (invisible) workings of the Creator. If we look closely enough and understand well enough the world of nature all about us, we will come to know something about God and about ourselves as well.  We have only to look around, look into ourselves, to see that change is inherent in all living systems. How we work. What we are made of. How our lives are reflected in the seasons and cycles of the universe from the smallest seed to the largest globe.

 And it would seem that this is one of the realities that we are to see in both our outer and inner lives.

 I believe that Prigogine’s theory of dissipative structures applies to human spiritual development as well. Even in the realm of spirituality we can see that in the inner workings of our human nature we are dissipative in nature. We are continually in the state of flux. And we know that it is also out of chaos, the difficult times that we often make the most progress in self-awareness and spiritual transformation.

 It was Carl Jung who said something to the effect that as science advances making new discoveries it will find that spirituality has already made it over the hill, ahead of it. What took science almost 1500 years to articulate, St. Paul saw this dynamic working in the transformation of a radically changed human person. Perhaps science and faith might be more congruent than we first thought.

 Throughout Paul’s letters he keeps coming back to this idea of transformation, how our lives are changed as we begin to live our new lives in Christ. (Romans 5:6-11). He writes that the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of transformation, transforming us. (2 Cor. 3:18) There is no growth without this dissipating, the sloughing old of the old skin for the new.

 My geraniums have been blooming wonderfully. But today I went out and the blooms are off the stems. I will have to pinch them back. I always dislike doing this because for a few days there will not be as much beauty. However, I know, that in a few days, they will be blooming even more bountifully. We are not only dissipative structures we are knowing beings as well. The experience of living in the world of nature speaks to us about the nature of our souls.

Eventually all will fall away as we fall into the lasting embrace of the sacred. But before we do, we make our way, clumsily and with effort, straining and sometimes sprinting ahead, but always, always, sloughing off the old, that which we of necessity must let go because it no longer serves, that which we cannot take with us into the light of that new day. We mirror the universe, our lives and our art, imitating nature, dying and rising with each spring, the God who created the world seeding it to seek and find, grow and transform, out of the dark void, up from chaos, until we have achieved to the fullness of that sacred seed.