gnosis and the narrow gate

Posted By on Jun 27, 2017

The sayings of Jesus that we hear in the gospel today[i] are so oddly sewn together! I suppose the Sermon on the Mount, from which we are still hearing, is one of those places in the gospels where the evangelist has recorded separate sayings of Jesus and lumped them all together that weren’t necessarily said at the same time. In this particular pericope we’re even skipping a whole section (vss. 7-11) that deal with prayer. It’s hard to figure out what was in the mind of the compiler of the lectionary, let alone the final redactor of the Gospel of Matthew. Be that as it may… Let’s say there’s a bit of a chiasm presented in this pericope today. On the one end––Do not give what is holy to dogs, do not throw your pearls before swine. On the other end––Enter through the narrow gate. And in the middle lies the real point, the real pearl of Wisdom: the Golden Rule––‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ It all seemed to tie into something else that has come up for me recently, the meaning of real “gnosis” (as opposed to the much-maligned Gnosticism, so popular in our day and age). There is a legitimate gnosis that we are longing for. The word gnosis seems to come to the Greek from the Sanskrit jnana, meaning wisdom or understanding. (There is indeed according to Yoga the jnana marga or path of wisdom.) Jnana/gnosis becomes our word “knowledge,” but it stands for something more than just mere factoids and data. There is some knowledge, there are some things, that some people simply can’t hear, simply can’t take in, like the seed that falls on rocky soil, or pearls before swine. There is a kind of morality, for example, such as the kind that Jesus is espousing, that is beyond morality as it has been known and as it is usually known, but not everyone has the ears to hear it! Our human system of justice, our way of being in the world, for example, is based on equity, on restitution and on punishment: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, you have heard it said… We are trained to grab power, to look out for Number One, and we feel totally justified, even just, in doing so. That’s the “wide gate,” that Jesus speaks of. And then there is the “narrow gate,” the Way of Life, the Truth, this new attitude that Jesus is proposing: ‘The greatest is the one who serves’; ‘Love your enemy’; ‘It is love that I desire not sacrifice’; ‘Be merciful...

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immaculate heart

Posted By on Jun 24, 2017

(cyprian) Today is our titular feast. Even though our official name is New Camaldoli Hermitage, we were consecrated under the Immaculate Heart of Mary. So this is a solemnity for us. Liturgically it bumps even the Birth of John the Baptist. The Scriptures that we have for this feast give us an image that is obviously very appropriate for us, one that resonates especially with our relationship to the Word of God, our lectio divina, and makes of Mary the image of the monk, how she treasures all these things in her heart. I think it’s notable that Mary’s heart is referred to twice in the Gospel of Luke, and both times it’s in the infancy narratives. (Three times if you count Simeon telling her that her soul would be pierced.) There is the gospel reading that we heard today: after Mary and Joseph have found the child Jesus in the Temple and returned to Nazareth, his mother kept all these things in her heart. The other time this image occurs is earlier in the infancy narrative, right after the shepherds come and make known all that they had been told about this child… and Mary kept all these things reflecting on them in her heart.[1] (Liturgical nerd moment: That, by the way, is the scripture verse that the Church offers as the communion antiphon today. I went back and looked it up in the old Liber Usualis, because I thought that it would be a beautiful antiphon to sing, but there actually is no setting for this verse in the old chant books. Before the reform of the liturgy there was a different verse used, from the gospel of John about Jesus entrusting Mary to John as his mother­––Ecce filius tuus… In little things like that you can see how the Church sometimes shifts ever so slightly to put a different emphasis on certain feasts, wanting us to accent now more Mary’s contemplative stance, reflecting on these things in her heart.) This is where prayer comes in and one of the strongest images spoken of in the Eastern Christian tradition. Here we are again at the specifically monastic-contemplative theme for this feast. I go back again to that image of Theophane the Recluse, that prayer is “standing before God with the mind in the heart.” And so the Church offers us this second reading from Galatians,[2] chosen perhaps because it makes a brief mention of Jesus being born of a woman, but even more to the point, because it mentions that as proof that we are children [of God], God sent the Spirit of his Son into our...

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