hierarchy and diminishment


Posted By on Oct 27, 2015

(fr Cyprian) There are some people, especially in this day and age, who don’t like the notion of hierarchy, any kind of hierarchy. They think that it is too masculine, for one thing, or else too authoritarian, not inclusive or egalitarian enough. The problem of course is that if we leave out hierarchy completely we lose any sense of evolution and any sense of progress. Carter Phipps in his marvelous book Evolutionaries put it this way: in fact hierarchy is “an evolutionary imperative, a developmental challenge for the species itself.” One compromise to this has been to think of a “holarchy” instead, meaning that at each stage of evolution the next species to develop not only transcends, but also includes all that went before. So, in evolutionary theory you might say that the human being is still mineral, plant and animal. We human beings carry all that within us and add something on to it. We are not simply a disjointed member set on top of the evolutionary pile lording over it. The other problem is if we discount any sense of evolution we also exempt ourselves from the moral responsibility that goes along with being the leading edge in the evolutionary trajectory (the leading edge so far, that is; that’s not to say another species couldn’t come along and be master over us!). Our place on the evolutionary scale comes with a tremendous moral responsibility. If we do not recognize and own this hierarchy and our tremendous place in it, we will not own the fact that at this point in the history of the universe our very choices are affecting and have already affected the very course of evolution. We heard from our retreat leader this year, the Franciscan Dan Horan, about the different understandings to our relationship to nature in Christianity. The Holy Father in Laudtao Si has taught that the idea of us having dominion over nature is a mistaken understanding of Scripture for Christians, and he stresses much more our being stewards, having stewardship over nature. But there is a further growth in thought in spirituality, more in keeping with Francis of Assisi, toward which Christianity is slowly catching up, to emphasize even more that we are a part of nature, in kinship with nature. And what part? John Paul II would say, we are the priests of creation, and that too is one of the meanings of hieros––the prophet, the priest, the holy one. And all of that is operative in the section from Romans 8 that we heard today, Paul’s great mystical vision of the unity of all things: all creation is...

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water and fire


Posted By on Oct 22, 2015

(fr Cyprian) We’re wading through Saint Paul’s complicated argument and his shifting anthropology these days in the lectionary. One of my professors used to call the Letter to the Romans “Paul’s Gospel.” And I remember having a very profound experience when I felt like I cracked the code on it in Romans 7. I misread the lectionary and I thought for a few days that I was actually preaching on that chapter today, and was disappointed to realize I was actually stuck with Romans 6––not Romans 5, which I quote all the time, or the explosive Romans 8 with its mystical teaching on prayer and the unity of the cosmos (…all creation is groaning and in agony while we await the redemption of our bodies…), nor the first part of Romans 12 about offering our bodies as a spiritual sacrifice through the renewal of our minds––but boring old Romans 6! But then I found some solace in the responsorial psalm today, taken from Psalm 1. What got brought up before and set this whole thing up in chapter 5 is this one little phrase, The love of God has been poured into our hearts but the Spirit living in us. This is one of those phrases that turns the gospel inside out and shows us that God is not just an interventionist, coming to us from the outside. That’s also the Scripture quotation that is used as the official entrance antiphon for the feast of Pentecost, the summation of the Easter season­­—not the tongues of flame falling on the heads of disciples but the love of God that is poured into us. What is this all about? What is the Paschal mystery all about? What was the purpose of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection? The whole purpose of these things was o that the love of God would be poured into our hearts by the Spirit living in us (alleluia!). That’s why in Romans Paul can give us that great mystical teaching on prayer, that even if we do not know how to pray as we ought… that very Spirit intercedes in sighs too deep for words (Rm 8:26), groaning inwardly, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts. So there is an anthropology at work here, a view of who the human person is, and a poetic key too it is in the responsorial psalm, from Psalm 1, the opening of the whole Psalter: those who delight is in the law of the Lord… are like trees planted by streams of water. But where is this law of the Lord? The answer to that is...

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New Private Hermitages Arriving!


Posted By on Oct 21, 2015

We are very excited to announce that the first of the 3 new private hermitages we are installing has arrived today. The other 2 are scheduled to arrive later this week.  All must be “craned” into their respective spots, and then the work of connecting them to our grid and infrastructure begins.  Then comes furnishing the interior and, finally, passing inspection by the County. We are still planning on these hermitages being made available for guests by the end of November. Of course that depends on weather, trenching success, and luck.  Please pray for the construction workers!  ...

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greed in all its forms


Posted By on Oct 19, 2015

(fr. Cyprian) Two lines go together in this gospel reading (Lk 12:13-21). ‘Be on your guard against all kinds of greed…’ goes with ‘So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.’ All kinds of greed! And what does it mean to be “rich toward God”? I ran into this passage the other day from the Chandogya Upanishad, that seemed to speak to the same thing: As here on earth all the wealth that one earns is but transitory, so likewise transitory are the heavenly enjoyments acquired by the performance of sacrifice. Therefore those who die without having realized the Self and its right desires find no permanent happiness in any world to which they go; while those who have realized the Self and its right desires find permanent happiness everywhere. That word “Self” is a translation of the Sanskrit word “atman,” which to me has a double meaning, both the absolute reality of God as well as our own real self which, as Saint Paul says, is hidden with Christ in God. And so the phrase, “the Self and its right desires” speaks to me of being rich in God. Of course there is the most obvious meaning of this gospel text: don’t waste your time storing up so-called earthly treasures, don’t spend all your energy pursuing wealth and material goods, career advances and prestige, all things that will eventually fade and not bring lasting happiness, especially when those things are pursued at the expense of other important elements like relationships, family, health, justice. But it’s interesting that the Chandogya Upanishad says that so likewise transitory are the heavenly enjoyments, at least the ones that are acquired by the performance of sacrifice, in other words those things that we think to gain by our own works. Perhaps this is what John of the Cross refers to when he urges us also to let go of spiritual consolations––nada, nada, nada. I think that often our spirituality begins with an eye toward what we can acquire––special powers and gifts, even peace of mind or some kind of enlightenment. But it makes me wonder, could we also have a kind of spiritual gluttony? A spiritual greed? Where our spirituality is all about acquiring “things” for me, and building up an image of ourselves that we want to project to the world and have the world admire? Thomas Merton wrote in Seeds of Contemplation that until we have been stripped poor and naked within our own soul we will always unconsciously do the works we have to do for our own sakes rather than...

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unity in diversity


Posted By on Oct 4, 2015

(fr. Cyprian, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B) If there is any scripture text in this day and age that makes a preacher feel like a fool going where angels fear to tread, it is this one we hear today, Jesus’ teaching on divorce (Mk 10:2-16), which is contained in all three synoptic Gospels! But it’s also particularly poignant right now, with the culture wars going on in our own country, and with the Holy Father making such efforts for us to find a new vocabulary and new ways of dealing with the family in our present day and age, not to mention that the Synod of Bishops on the Family that reconvenes today. It is only the Roman Catholic Church that has such tough strictures around reception of Communion for people who are divorced and remarried without annulments. I say that without saying that we are wrong in our tough strictures; I think that––not unlike our teachings around sexuality in general, which can seem so antiquated to people outside the Church, so with the protections that we build around marriage––the point is to preserve and protect something that we hold sacred. Those tough strictures are not there because the Church wants to punish sinners, nor because there is anything intrinsically wrong with sexuality and certainly not with conjugal love. We’re just trying to preserve and protect something that we hold sacred. At the same time, the Holy Father is rightly urging us to lead with mercy. First of all he has made it clear that we Catholics acknowledge that, sadly, there are times when there really has been no valid sacrament due to the lack of freedom on the part of one or the other participant. But also… my Mom worked for years in the marriage tribunal in the Diocese of Phoenix, and I heard first hand from her what a painful process annulments are, costly and sometimes arbitrarily dragged out. And so the effort to streamline that process is nothing but an act of mercy too. So we both uphold the teachings of the Church and we lead with mercy––who are we to judge indeed? But that is only the first level of the meaning of this text, maybe the first two levels––the historical and the moral meaning behind it. To dig a little deeper into the symbolic and mystical meaning of this teaching, and into the symbolic and mystical meaning of marriage in general, we need to look at the reading from Genesis, and play around with the language a little bit. Even if I didn’t believe in inclusive language (which I do), I am...

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