proclus and the prologue: pt 1


Posted By on Dec 31, 2015

(cyprian, 12/31/15) Today (December 31) is the second time we will have heard the Prologue to John’s Gospel (the first time was on Christmas morning). This coming Sunday, since we celebrate Epiphany on the traditional date, January 6, we will hear it again for the 2 Sunday after Christmas. (I’m also preaching that day, hence Pt. 1.) I had two reactions when I realized I had to preach on the Prologue of John: one, I freeze up and don’t know what to say; two, I can’t stop talking. I’d been looking for something to hook onto, and this reading that we had this morning from Saint Proclus of Constantinople gave me something. Proclus wrote, “Christ did not become divine by advancement… Christ was always divine, but became human because of pity. This is our faith.”[1] Now, I have no idea what the, I assume, Greek word for ‘pity’ is in the original of this, but that word ‘pity’ in English has a kind of saccharine feeling to me. Maybe we could change the word to something like compassion, because it really means sympathetic sorrow for someone suffering. Hence Jesus will say later in John’s Gospel, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only son…’ God wants to relieve our suffering; God wants us to be happy. As Thomas Merton wrote once, “Our own joy is heaven’s mirth.” I’ve been reflecting a lot this year on the so-called high Christology of John, the idea of the Divine descending. We might get confused as to what that means if we think of “Christ” simply as Jesus himself descending either as a cute baby or a fully formed Palestinian Jew, who up to this point had been sitting next to his Dad reading books, waiting for his marching orders. What––who––we are talking about here is the Word, the 2nd person of the Trinity. Maybe even the word ‘son’ can be misleading. ‘Son’ here doesn’t mean a male; it means ‘offspring,’ as we say in the Creed homousias–of the same substance as the 1st person, begotten of God. For me some of the confusion clears too when we clarify the idea of what ‘person’ means, as in the 2nd person of the Trinity. We might have a tendency to think that ‘person’ implies a humanoid of some sort (I also think it’s interesting that we always picture aliens from another planet as some form of biological creature as we know them; how limited our scope and imagination are!) What ‘person’ has come to mean to me is intentionality and involvement, in other words, relatedness. The Word, the second person of the...

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behold, i have come to do your will!


Posted By on Dec 21, 2015

(fr Cyprian, 4th Sunday of Advent) The line I am the most attracted to in the readings today (Heb 10:5-10; Lk 1:39-45) is what Elizabeth says to Mary: ‘…blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’ A simpler version of this that sticks in my mind is from a song by Michael Joncas, the refrain of which goes, “Blessed are those who believe that the promise of the Lord would be fulfilled.” And that goes right along with the quote from Psalm 40 that is in the section from the Letter to the Hebrews: Behold! I have come to do your will, O God. It of course begs the questions: What is the promise of the Lord that we are asked to believe will be fulfilled? What is the promise of the Lord that we are asked to hope in?” We’ll get to that in a moment. First… The thing I always find fascinating about this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews is that Psalm 40 is misquoted or changed. Now that could be an accident, a bad memory, the slip of the hand of a scribe or else––and I think this is more likely––it is intentional. Psalm 40 actually says, Sacrifice and offerings you did not desire, but an open ear. But the author to the Letter to the Hebrews says, ‘Sacrifice and offerings you did not desire, but a body you have prepared for me.’ So the ear has become a whole body, or the whole body has become like an open ear. Fr. Deiss called this the “prayer of the incarnation”: ‘Behold I have come to do your will.’ You must imagine a high Christology here, the second person of the Trinity, the Word, speaking to the Father-Creator, the first person of the Trinity. When the Word takes flesh and comes into the world he says, ‘Behold I have come to do your will.’ And this will really be Jesus’ prayer throughout his whole life, even up to the agony in the garden: ‘…if you are willing remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours be done.’[1] This could also be considered a distillation of the Lord’s prayer (at least in Matthew’s version of it): Your will be done, which appears as a parallel to your kingdom come. And of course this is Mary’s prayer, too. Let it be done to me according to your word. And so Luke has Jesus himself say twice ‘My mother and my brothers and sisters are those who hear the word of God and...

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(Several of you asked for a copy of Chris Lorenc’s eulogy from fr. Bruno’s funeral. Here it is, thanks to Chris)         I keep thinking that Bruno has one more thing—or maybe many more things—to say to us. I keep expecting that when you process into the chapel [spoken to the monks] that Bruno only keeps not appearing because he’ll be last—vested and presiding—which means that soon we’ll all be sitting on the edge of our seats leaning forward to try to catch each quiet new word again. I like very much—it’s become very important to me—what our friend Pico Iyer says about reading. That it’s the deep attention of the writer that calls up in us—to experience it—our own deep attention as readers. Or listeners. There is a beautiful capital in the romanesque abbey at Vézelay of two men milling grain. It is an age-old image of wisdom. Not gathering because the gathering has been done. And not yet the appearance of a new body. But rather that long steady and quietly focused inward turning. The capital is sometimes called the “mystic mill.” and it’s important and necessary that there are two figures in it. One man pouring grain into the mill. And the other carefully collecting—or catching—the flour in a pouch. They are often read to be Moses and St. Paul respectively. But they could equally be each of us, I think, because wisdom is a reciprocal relationship, or as Bruno might say, participative. And so I imagine the two figures often trading places. No, it won’t be a book this time. Or even a homily. It will be more like a conversation we tease out of Bruno by questions and answers. Our own thoughts and speculations and anxieties prompting in him new thought and his deeply wry humor and comfort and hope which always had strength and conviction in it. He wrote about the future of wisdom after all. And he always listened as deeply as he spoke. Few of us will end life complete. And maybe that’s the gift of how things are meant to be. Not even Moses knew the whole story. And he only knew the promised land by forecast. In re-reading the epilogue to The Future of Wisdom I’ve been struck by how self-aware Bruno’s been about this necessary incompleteness. He’s speaking specifically about The Future of Wisdom but what he says has wider implications. For instance he speaks of “major limitations…which derive from an isolation which is partly a matter of personality and partly a matter of circumstances.” And then he says that it will be up to us—his readers and...

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(fr Cyprian) in memoriam of Bruno Barnhart, OSB Cam. 1931-2015 monk, priest, prior, wisdom guide There’s a common mistake made by those who preside at funerals; often the presider will give a eulogy at the time of the homily, memorializing the deceased. There’s nothing wrong with a eulogy, mind you, and we did some eulogizing last night and will have another couple of brief eulogies after communion. But the homilist at a funeral isn’t supposed to eulogize the deceased; first and foremost the homilist is supposed to preach the gospel and specifically to proclaim the resurrection; in the same way as this funeral isn’t about Bruno’s death but about his passing into the light and energy of the resurrection. I remember once when Bruno was sick a few years ago Isaiah read one of Bruno’s homilies for Midnight Mass and I’ve taken a similar track. I was re-reading his book Second Simplicity[1] at his bedside as we kept vigil while he lay dying, and I’ve decided to proclaim the “Gospel according to Bruno,” as far as I understand it. (I also thought that in honor of him I might mutter indecipherably into my beard, so that like him I could say things that were nearly impossible to understand in a way that was impossible to comprehend.) Bruno loved the figure of the cross, and saw it as a four-part mandala, a quaternity of energies and the four poles or movements of Christianity that they represent. I’d like to use that quaternity to speak about the Gospel, according to Bruno, and specifically how it ties into death and resurrection. He named those four poles the Silence, the Word, the Music and the Dance. The First Movement is the Silence, in Christianity represented by the Father, the Creator and Source. This is God (or Absolute Reality) as Ground-of-being, as the Source from which all comes forth. This is also the apophatic depth of God, the God beyond all name and form of the mystical tradition. Equally important, when we discover this apophatic dimension of God we simultaneously discover the apophatic dimension of ourselves, though this is a discovery that many people never make.[2] Bruno says, “It is as if we had long been taught to imagine the Absolute Reality, God, outside and above us, completely separate from ourselves, and suddenly we discover this Supreme Reality within––indeed as one with our inner being, as the ultimate center of the human person.”[3] The mystical, contemplative path really begins in earnest here, with this discovery. This is the pathway of interiority and silent meditation, and the source of what is known as the perennial...

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Remembering Father Bruno


Posted By on Dec 2, 2015

Sunday, November 29 (first day of Advent) – We tolled the bells this morning just after the wake up bell at 5:15 a.m. and gathered at Fr. Bruno’s bedside for a vigil. For those who hadn’t heard, Bruno’s health had been declining and he finally needed to enter hospice care at an outside facility for a short period of time. We had brought him home just Friday noon and he died late Saturday evening. He had one of us with him the whole time and his dear friend Lynne had just arrived a few hours before. A momentous way to begin Advent! We will miss our beloved Bruno. Born Arthur Paul Barnhart on April 10, 1931, in Long Island, New York, Fr. Bruno was the only child of Arthur Chamberlain and Julia Barnhart. Fr. Bruno received his B.S. in chemistry from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. He later received his M.A. in chemistry at Dartmouth, New Hampshire. Fr. Bruno spent 2 years in the Navy where he worked in lab tech biochemistry at Bethesda Naval Hospital. During his lab days Bruno lost sight in one of his eyes during an accident in the laboratory. After visiting the Trappists of Spencer, Massachusetts and Genesee, New York, Fr. Bruno contacted Fr. Modotti at New Camaldoli Hermitage. He arrived in Big Sur on April 9, 1959. Fr. Bruno professed vows in 1960 (simple) and 1964 (solemn). During the 1960’s he studied in Italy, receiving a STL degree from Sant’ Anselmo in Rome. Fr. Bruno served as prior of New Camaldoli Hermitage from 1969 to 1987, making trips to Italy every 3 years during that time to serve as a member of the Camaldolese Constitutions Committee. He has published several articles and five books (The Good Wine, Second Simplicity, The Future of Wisdom, The One Light (editor) and Purity of Heart (co-editor). He has given many retreats, conferences and workshops over the years. Since 1994, Fr. Bruno has served as editor of The Golden String, the official publication of the Bede Griffiths Trust. Check out the “Wisdom Christianity” video series by Father...

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