The Soul of Christ

St. Tim's stained glass window

There is an ancient prayer called the Anima Christi. Which begins Soul of Christ, sanctify me. It’s a beautiful prayer penned by St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.

What is the ‘soul of Christ’ Ignatius addresses.

It is the true inner self. What I experience as the substance of all that remains with us from his going forward. It is what is not seen, what is hoped for and yet lived out in his spirit in our lives. It is what we live and have our being in, our souls joined with his even as it seeks him, ever illusive, yet like his life and his spirit that remains with us, just beyond the horizon and yet touching us, inviting us onward to his love and his life, searching out his message for that treasure and touchstone by which to live our lives.

God’s language is the soul. His medium is the soul: imagination, dreams, fantasies, longings.

Religion is the soul’s voice; it is the soul’s language. Every faith has it. Every faith speaks it. Every faith has realize it and tried to capture it in story, art, poetry and ritual. The rituals through which we might, just might, enter into the soul of sacred that lives in all of us. The routines and rituals in which we touch soul. Where it becomes known and accessible to us. We carry it with us. Convey it in the way in which we live our lives.

Spirit animates; soul is its depth. The deep sounding of our inner lives, where more is going on than we perceive at first glance, or hearing. It is the sounding in silence of that still small voice the scripture speaks of. The place where the sacred is housed, the tabernacle of the heart, mind and soul that is Christ’s and is ours.

 

Advertisements

Fellowship with the Spirit (aka Prayer)

couple on bench watiching sunset

Throughout his letters we hear Paul praying. In Romans 8 he comes to his key thoughts about prayer. A few simple sentences that say so much. To me, that say it all.

Paul has prayers of thanksgiving in his letters. They all begin and end with thanksgiving and a blessing. He prays his converts will be able to meet the challenges to their new faith. He prays that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with them. You might even say that his letters are at their heart and soul, letters about prayer. Prayer as our relationship with God. Prayer as accessing the God-life within us and without. Prayer as giving ourselves over to the Christ we have received. About living the Christ-life prayerfully. With attention to the Christ we have received.

In this modern world, prayer is a difficult subject to broach. Not because praying itself is difficult. But because, as we see in Paul’s letters, it is easy. And like everything else Paul writes, prayer is about having faith. Having faith that we are heard, that we don’t have to ‘do it right’ because there is no ‘right way’ to pray; and that the Spirit of the Christ life we share in faith, is also the Spirit that prays in us. The Spirit that invites us to pray. The Spirit that is always praying within us. Drawing us out and out and out.

Over the ages prayer has been preached, like the faith-life of Jesus Christ, with indomitable hurtles to achieve and cross so that one might feel ‘successful’ in prayer. Here in Paul we cut to the chase. We come to the heart of the matter.

Paul counsels his converts to pray always. For in this praying always they/we put on the mind of Christ. In prayer we tap into, if you will, the Christ whose Spirit continually prays in us.

The Spirit prays in us when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly.

Prayer, like Jesus Christ, saves us. Pray opens us to the ever-available Spirit. It is a great comfort to know that when I cannot pray, and there are times when life so overwhelms that I have no words, I know that I can sit in the silence of my soul and let the Spirit speak for me. Just like in the psalms which I reach for often, this spirit knows every human emotion, feeling, desire and even mean and horrid thought I think. It is a great assurance to know that it is this Spirit of Christ which has the power to resonate with my own. On Good Friday we will hear Jesus cry out from the cross, a lost and forsaken question to the Father he knew was his “Abba Father”.  By Jesus’ unselfconscious crying out to his Father, he became broken open to his Father’s saving grace and action in his life. We follow Jesus Christ in this as well. He shows us we too can say anything to God. We can even doubt God. If we feel abandoned by God, so did he.

When we pray “Abba Father” we are reassured that not only can and does the Spirit pray within us, but that God will not refuse anything he can give. In prayer God turns everything to our good because he cooperates with those who love him. Once again, it is love that is the essential thing. In our faith, in our comings and goings, in our activities, our stance toward one another and to God, and in praying. Have you told God that you love him today?  While I ask and while I knock, I try to make sure that I don’t treat God like a cash cow.

Paul’s words in Romans 8 speak for themselves. They don’t need a lot of words heaped upon them to take meaning. They are sentences that we can take to heart, to memory and carry with us like a prayer as we go through our day.

Our day, knowing that it is Christ who pleads for us at the right hand of the Father. The Father who hears us as he heard his son, who refuses us nothing and turns everything to good.

 

Pentecost

Pentecost red ribbons

The manifestations of the Spirit are truly wondrous and as varied as creation itself. The living Spirit grows and even outgrows it earlier expressions. It freely chooses men and women in whom it lives and who proclaim it. This living Spirit is eternally renewed and pursues its goal in manifold and inconceivable ways throughout the history of humankind. Measured against it the names and forms given it mean little enough. They are only the changing leaves that blossom on the stem of the eternal tree.
                                                                                                                                                Carl Jung

 

In The Waters of the Jordan

Reflections Photograph by Cathie Horrell

There is some thought that perhaps Jesus had studied with the monks at Qumran or been a follower of John the Baptist, before that day he appeared on the bank of the Jordan River, awaiting John’s baptism. He may have joined John at some point, perhaps to continue his education, to be schooled by his slightly older cousin. But we do know from the gospel accounts that he even went to John and submitted to John’s baptism. Was it because he felt he needed to repent or could it have been the opposite. That he believed. That he saw John’s baptism as a ritual, an entry point into solidarity with what John was saying. And it seems that that experience changed him. That something happened that day in the waters of Jordan that would set Jesus on his path, knowing his own mission and place in the sacred order of things that sent him out to the wilderness to think about what had just happened to him. It must have been something profound to have sent him off by himself to contemplate what his life was going to be about. To wrestle with the wild beasts and be attended to by angels. Those same creatures that attended at his birth. He had come to John to become part of something. And that experience ‘baptized’ Jesus with a new and radical way of seeing what needed to be changed, renewed in the faithful of Israel. It seems that it was in the waters of the Jordan River that Jesus religious education, upbringing and his awareness of the political/religious climate of his country collided in such a significant way that from this he saw what his mission and destiny was and would be. For certainly, Jesus life until now had led him to this day when another Spirit would come upon him, as the evangelists portray it, and he would become aware that he was to be about his other Father’s business. In the waters of the Jordan Jesus was empowered to shepherd Israel to another return, this time the return to the true meaning of its faith and to the one God, who Jesus now addressed as Abba Father. The intimacy of that day would never leave him. The effect of that day drove him off into the wilderness to a lonely place, there to wrestle with its meaning and to accept his commissioning.

 

The Gift of Light

                                                          menorah

By this nightfall the menorah has five lights burning. When the first lamp was lit in the Temple as the people returned to it for its rededication, there was only enough oil for one night’s light. But that one small amount of oil, sufficient it seemed for just one day, continued to burn, for eight more days.  And Hanukah began. This light was a gift; a gift that continues to burn in the hearts of the faithful. They came with many prayers, hopes and even fears, weary from war, from exile and ready to be home again.

Light the lights of Hanukah and Christmas pray and praying continue to be gifts to us beyond a week or the season, but as the light burning in our hearts, that is the unceasing prayer of the Spirit that prays within us, with ‘sights too deep for words’ as Paul says in Romans (8:26-27). It is the Spirit of the holy days and holidays that light our ways now. The prayer of praise for the light, for the return home, for a light that came into the darkened heart of winter, to a remnant that awaited his coming because they believed the scriptures promised he could come. Come and become the promise himself. The Jerusalem Temple lives on in the hearts and imaginations of all who at one time or another called it holy and their home. Jesus of Nazareth called it his home too, Yahweh’s home (the gypsy-god no longer dwelling with his people in tents; Jesus said it was his Father’s home, a place of prayer. When Jesus left the world, he sent the gift of his Spirit so that he could remain and by his Spirit lead us back, back to the true home and temple of the heart.

Paul’s injunction to pray at all times was to take this Spirit to ourselves and carry it with us like a Light. A Light that was a miracle. A Light that is God-with-us. The gift of the Spirit is this gift of Light. And the gift of prayer.

For prayer, in this Light, is not just something we do. It is a way of being.

Christmas lights

Freedom, a Secular and Sacred Trust

Pentecost red ribbons                                   4th of July

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

These are St. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians. In a few days we will celebrate the 4th of July, Independence Day. This country’s victory to gain freedom and pursue life, liberty and pursue happiness on our own terms. This is the American spirit.  It is also the gift we call free will. It is the ultimate freedom to choose. To choose who we are, how to lives our lives, and how to practice our beliefs. At the core, this is the freedom those who came here fought for and for which many died.

Having said that, I am also painfully aware of the history of this county which continues to spill into the present, where liberties were denied, freedoms are withheld.

          The interesting thing about spirit is that unlike the body its very nature is its ability to be at liberty. The inherently sacred nature of our humanity is bestowed with this spirit of freedom. Freedom is a sacred trust. Stories of faith are fraught with journey narratives where the protagonist’s/hero’s goal is freedom. The story of Israel which began with Abram/Abraham is such a story. A people seeking to be free of Pharaoh, free from Exile, of her oppressors. When Jesus came upon the scene, she wanted to be free of Roman rule. But the Galilean carpenter had another idea of what freedom meant. It was a freedom within, whose only rule was the reign of God. He told us stories so we too might make our own journey with more insight and understanding, and perhaps the awareness of the presence and experience of the Spirit carrying us to the new land of our truest and most free selves.

          Long before Jesus came on the scene, a Hebrew shepherd boy, who lost his home, his family and his country, and became a slave in Egypt, had something also to tell us about captivity and freedom. For Joseph, the son of Jacob/Israel, came to realize that in the most foreign circumstances nothing is foreign to the Spirit of the Lord God. Even in the prison of our lives a light can begin to dawn. In the darkest, deepest prison we can be most free because we carry our freedom within as a rescuing presence, a redeeming love. A love that redeems not just us but the circumstances of our lives as well. This is Genesis’ final revelation. Our humanity is shaped by a sacred design, endowed with a sacred spirit ever available to us.

          Life’s purpose is often hidden within the unlikely path, the unintended journey, the fall from the garden or from grace, the fall into the abyss as it appears to harbor the absence of God. We are a sacred design created for good, for well-being, that no prison can prevail against. In the midst of suffering and loss, in betrayal, alienation, captivity, in our most unfreedom, we are most free in the Spirit that journeys with us, the Spirit that is often seen by others rather than ourselves as we struggle with the daily round that challenges the awareness of Spirit dogging us to the awareness of the sacred in our lives. The Spirit of the Lord of Life is the way in which we are free, successful, whole. For it is God that is the definition of what it means to be whole. The deepest human bondage is no barrier for the sacred available to us, not instead of but along with all we carry with us into bondage and captivity. We have built altars to the processes that would care and cure the captivity and bring us release through self-understanding and insight; to the crumbling altars of our displaced hopes where we worship the false gods of processes that only further imprison us. The life of Joseph and Jesus, along with the letters of St. Paul, remind us that even death or being forgotten can stay the presence of the Spirit of Christ Jesus who is for us wholeness, his Spirit the freedom that is ours, which grows brighter as we turn into the image and likeness we reflect.

Enjoy and be thankful for Independence Day.

 

Imagine the Possibilities

Pentecost red ribbons  Pentecost redeems the Tower of Babel. Many languages were being spoken out there on the streets beneath the upper room on that Pentecost day where a great wind caught twelve plus anxious men and women in the grips of something that changed not only their lives but the way we view the world and mark history.

We are in the season of the Holy Spirit. And in all truth, since the day of that first Pentecost, when the world was lit by the fire and language of the Spirit, Pentecost is the ever-present reality of our lives each and every day, no matter what church or natural season in which we find ourselves.

This Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. St. Paul tells us that it is this Spirit that has come to make its home in us. In his letter to the Romans Paul characterizes the essence of the spirit as freedom.  He interchanges Spirit of Christ and Spirit of God in this letter. But they are one and the same Spirit. The נשימה that breathed over the waters at the creation, the ruach which in the Hebrew Scriptures can be variously translated wind or spirit or breath.

One of the Hebrew names for God is Ruach Elohim. The first impression of those assembled in the upper room was of a wind. A wind that overtook their sensibilities. A wind that brought the fire of the spirit. In that moment we became lit with the Spirit of Christ moving in our lives. In that upper room a window opened to eternity. To divinity. To the sacred possibility within us. Opens us to the Spirit of One made whole, human and sacred showing himself fully alive, alive to the Ruach Elohim and now fully alive in us.

When Jesus showed himself risen he carried the Ruach Elohim to us. In him Spirit and Body became one indivisible reality of the human person. He crushed the head of dualism. And in him the Ruach Elohim came to its fullest expression in the human person. The Word breathed over the waters at Creation became flesh. And when the Word became flesh, as St. Paul would say, we became a new creation.

Like Mary seeded by the Ruach Elohim at Jesus’ conception, we are now in Christ, seeded with the limitless possibilities of his Spirit. Each day is a little pentecost. We are his first-fruits. The bounty of his becoming in us. In his Spirit, in the emerging pentecost of each new day, we rise to a new harvest, a new way of being, which holds the limitless possibilities of our humanity, now in him, made whole. Human. Sacred. Meant.

With One Heart

 Pentecost red ribbons  They weren’t drunk. Although to most it sounded as if they were. They seemed to have been under the influence of some kind of spirits. And they were.

Jesus has appeared to the women, to Peter and the other disciples who came on shore to have breakfast with Peter and Jesus. Along with all the others he has been a presence to all those he loved in the world. Even Thomas who was not with the others, was given a chance to touch him in his wounded place. For like us, it is often in our wounded places that we touch and are touched by the presence of Christ.

It’s this presence that comes breaking through the walled barriers of the upper room on Pentecost. It is one of Jesus’ final manifestations after he came back from death. But it is not his physical presence but his Spirit that comes as fire upon the disciples. No closed doors, no walls, and not even their fears and doubts could keep the promised Spirit of Christ away from them. And it is Peter who realizes what is going on. Peter, who has gone through so much, been tested in his own fire, and the call to care for those he has been given, that is able to see that what has come upon them is the intoxication of the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ. In that same Spirit, the disciple who once ran away, now stands up. Peter has finally got it. He will keep the Lord in his sights for the remainder of his days. He knows now the way of life. Their fear and sorrow has turned to joy in the presence of the living Christ.

Jesus has stood on the hill just outside Bethany, blessing them and then appears to have arisen into the heavens, departing them this one last time.

Everyone in Jerusalem is overtaken by the sending of the Spirit, and they began to hear what the disciples were saying in their native tongues. It is the first convening of the United Nations. No translation or translator was needed. The disciples of Jesus would leave the upper room and the day of Pentecost and go out to live together with one heart. The heart of Christ.

With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the language of the soul was given voice. St. Paul talks about being in Christ. Being in Christ for him is about living in his Spirit. And when we live in the Spirit of Christ, who can come like fire, or like a gentle wind, or tug at your heart, as Paul says in Romans, the Spirit of Christ, has made a home in us. And abides with us in the absolute freedom of the Spirit which knows no barriers, no obstacles, no walls or door, not even death. Paul tells us we no longer live under the shadow of death. We now live in the unending time of Easter and of Pentecost. In the fire of the Spirit, in the heart of Christ.

Jesus’ Last Words

 IMG_0318 Today is Good Friday. That it is called ‘good’ has puzzles many people. Perhaps we could call it God Friday. For me today is not the day to enter into a theology of Jesus’s death and dying. Today is for me a day to follow him up the Appian Way, stand at the foot of the cross and watch the sky turn dark and just be in the emptiness that ensures. The emptiness of a world without Jesus.

In Luke’s gospel the last words of Jesus are ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ These last words are words of trust. These last words are words that acknowledge Jesus giving himself over to his Father. Another translation reads ‘Into the hands of thee, I commit the spirit of me.’ It is poetry. In these words Jesus’ spirit is put directly into God’s hands. Spirit to hands. Jesus to the Father. One sacred human reality committed to the ultimate reality of all life. From a cradle manger to the cradle of God’s hands. Catching him as he falls from life. His last breath returning to the breath of God. In another forty days or so the spirit of Christ will come back into the world to be spread by his followers across the world. To enable a life in Christ that can be given to all who want it. In the last moments of his death Jesus is telling us the term of his life. He is telling us about the term of our lives as well.

Today, with his last breath breathed out, the spirit of Jesus is firmly, squarely placed into the hands of the God of the Life, his Father, Creator of the world, who in the beginning formed the earth and the human person from clay by the work of his hands. Today God’s hands have been rendered immobile, nailed down by fear and misunderstanding. Nailed down by those who feared he was going to upset their smooth running apple cart, the bed they had made with the Romans. God’s spirit was breathed into Adam to give him/us life. Today it is this same spirit breathed out across the universe creating the world anew in Jesus’s last breath. He gives up his spirit and is gone. He gives up his spirit and gives us at last to truly be a part of him. He gives us new life, more life, a life made whole in him. More Jesus.

 

 

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.