four ways to the transfiguration

Posted By on Feb 21, 2016

(cyprian) I sometimes think I’m reading too much into this, but I keep coming up with the same line of thought over and over, about how we are supposed to share in whatever Jesus experienced. And then I stumble onto it again; as I was preparing for Mass I noticed that the prayer after communion prays that we should give thanksgiving to God “for allowing us while still on earth to be partakers even now of the things of heaven.” While still on earth! Even now! We also heard a wonderful reading from Pope Saint Leo the Great this morning and he reminds us that the transfiguration, which we celebrate today, wasn’t only to soften the scandal of the cross: the transfiguration also showed that “the members of Christ’s Body   could expect to share in the glory revealed in their head.”[1] So with that in mind I want to start with the second reading today from the Letter to the Philippians (3:17-4:1) in which we hear the promise to ourselves, the significance of Jesus’ transfiguration for us: We are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory. This is a passage of scripture that the Church associates with death. When Eucharistic Prayer III is used in Masses for the Dead, the priest can add a little section that includes these words, and we pray that the one “who was united with your son in a death like his may also be united with him in his Resurrection, when from the earth he will raise up in the flesh those who have died, and transform our lowly body after the pattern of his own glorious body.”[2] So the Church takes this all very literally! I am quite fond of that, but I also like to add two caveats: first, that we have no idea what that will actually look like; and secondly, that this is the promise for all creation too, a kind of transfiguration, for all creation is groaning and in agony while we await the redemption of our bodies. So we know the telos, the end-goal––that he will transfigure our lowly bodies into glorious copies of his own. The rest of the story is how we get there. It’s significant that we hear this story on the second week of Lent, especially if we put ourselves in the shoes of those who are preparing for Baptism at Easter. What does it mean, as the Eucharistic Prayer says, to be “united with Jesus in a death like his”? It means...

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We’re pleased to share this very nice recent write up about the Hermitage, featured in the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Here’s an excerpt: “It’s not the Esalen Institute. It is definitely not a Ritz-Carlton, yet the New Camaldoli Hermitage is heaven on earth for those seeking a retreat lush in silence and contemplation. Perched above Lucia in Big Sur, about an hour north of Cambria, sits the hospitable hermitage — a type of monastery — where Camadolese Benedictine monks live in solitude, prayer and work. You and I are invited to partake. The hermitage offers rooms for those who feel it is time to live and breathe in silence and contemplation.” Read the full article...

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inscendence and deconstruction

Posted By on Feb 10, 2016

(cyprian, for Ash Wednesday) I keep going back to this brilliant essay by Bill Plotkin that I read some years ago about Thomas Berry and Berry’s notion of what he calls inscendence—‘inscendence’ as opposed to ‘transcendence.’ Whereas transcendence is our drive away from the world, away from creation, away from our bodies, inscendence is the movement within, the inward movement that is needed to complement and sometimes correct our transcendence. The idea is that there are times in our life when, as individuals, we have to “descend to our instinctive resources in order to reinvent ourselves.” (The bigger issue the Berry and Plotkin are both addressing of course is that “there are times when our species, collectively, must do so” also, and they think that this is such an era—but that’s another topic.)[1] I think this is a good description of what has to happen every now and then in the spiritual journey––we have to reinvent ourselves by going down; and I think this is a good description of what we are being asked to do during Lent, this forty days in the desert, stripping down to basics. This inscendence is sinking back into the source of everything, like Jesus in the desert, like Jesus in the tomb, those times when we have to learn to “trust our unknowing and during which we no longer belong to the world in our old ways, ‘a stranger’ again,” re-rooted, like trees.[2] There in the presence of the source of everything, we hope to be remade, reinvented. Berry noted the similarity of this movement to the shamanic initiation, when before one becomes a priest there is a certain ritual dismembering that has to happen, one must be somehow ripped apart in order to become the vessel of divinity. In the shamanic initiation a person with the calling turns away from the world and toward the unconscious, in solitude, a period of introversion. The physicality of all this in Berry’s writing is important, and not just a metaphor; it’s a firm belief that encoded in our DNA is the soul’s code, the law written on our hearts, if you will, and the spiritual power that has been the thrust behind our evolution in consciousness and otherwise all along. Our genetic coding, that is, as opposed to our cultural coding: even our cultural coding has to get stripped away too, maybe especially. Here there is no slave or free, no Jew or Greek, no woman or man. So if we are “reinvented,” it is to make us what we have been or have been meant to be all along that perhaps got covered over...

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the leaders we deserve

Posted By on Feb 4, 2016

(cyprian; I neglected to post this last week [Wed. 4th Week in Ordinary Time], but it seems more apropos than ever, perhaps in tandem with Berry’s thoughts on ‘inscendence’ from the Ash Wednesday homily.) As we hear this next installment of the saga of David, that flawed king (2 Sam 24:2, 9-17), and put that next to Jesus being rejected by his own hometown (Mk 6:1-6); and also just coming on the heels of this Abbots and Priors workshop, and with the election cycle in our country hitting full steam on top of that, it all got me thinking about leadership. I was reminded of that famous phrase of the 19th century French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville: “In democracy we get the leaders we deserve!” I’ve been reading a book by Gerald Vann recently called The Heart of Man (which, incidentally is from 1954), and one passage struck me as particularly salient to the discussion, so I am getting most of my thoughts on this from him. He points out that social structures tend to lag behind the movement of life, or the evolution of consciousness, if you will. And the reason structures or institutions lag behind is because often the power to make change rests with those who have grown accustomed to an established order and may be too close to that old way to see that that old way can no longer meet the demands of new life, of a new era, of a new generation. Of course some people resist change because they have some kind of vested interest in the old way, and any kind of change would diminish their power or influence. Others might resist the new––a new voice, a challenge to the status quo––because they are conservative in the best sense of the word, because they feel the need of “safeguarding order and security,” or preserving a tradition. Unfortunately if that gets carried too far, if it becomes an imposition of uniformity and standardization, that can wind up destroying life, squelching creativity and spontaneity, and killing any kind of initiative. In that context then, that’s why Vann says that we “find historically that the innovators, however beneficial and even urgently necessary their reforms, are usually treated with suspicion and faced with endless obstacles.” Of course I am asking you to see Jesus in this light: ‘prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ “There is always, at any given moment of a society’s life, a tension between those who realize the new needs and those who from ignorance or malice oppose them.”...

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