joining the dance

Posted By on May 27, 2018

The 14th century German mystic Johannes Tauler once wrote that there are many wonderful things that could be said on the subject of the Trinity, even though it is impossible to explain “how the essential and transcendent unity can issue in distinctions.” (I’m glad he said that, because if he can’t figure it out I don’t know how I’m going to!) At any rate, he taught, “it is much better to have experience of the Trinity than to talk about it.” How do we do that, experience the Trinity? We should learn to “find the Trinity in ourselves,” he said; and we should realize how we are in a real way formed according to its image. [And] If we want to experience this we must turn inward, away from the activities of our faculties, both exterior and interior, away from all imaginations and all the notions we have acquired from outside ourselves, and sink and lose ourselves in the depths.” [i] Our Fr. Bruno had this marvelous teaching about the four movements or poles within Christianity. He called these four movements the Silence, the Word, the Music, and the Dance. The first three of them correspond to the first three persons of the Trinity: the 1st Person, who we normally think of exclusively with the inspired metaphor as “Father,” is first of all the Silence; the 2nd person who we know as Jesus is first and foremost, even scripturally, the Word; and the 3rd Person of course is the Spirit, but Bruno calls this pole the Music. One of the reasons I find this very helpful is that people who are not Christian––and some people who are Christian too––have a hard time accessing the images of Father and Son, especially. (I think Spirit is a little easier.) But also Christians may get stuck in the most obvious meanings as well and never understand these Persons at their root, let alone the energies that they represent because they never turn away from all the imaginations and all the notions they have acquired from outside themselves. For example, there are people who have experienced the 1st Person of the Trinity who don’t use the word “Father,” Jesus’ name for his God, the 1st Person of the Trinity. But Bruno says this first Person is equally well represented by the Silence, the fathomless abyss of the godhead. It’s not the aspect we speak about the most in mainstream Christianity, but of course this is the aspect dear to the heart of contemplatives––the silence of God. John of the Cross’ famous saying for instance: “The Father spoke one word, which was his son,...

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Join us at the Library for a wonderful summer afternoon with New Camaldoli hermitage Prior Cyprian Consiglio and acclaimed writer Pico Iyer! DATE AND TIME Sat, June 30, 2018 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM PDT LOCATION Henry Miller Memorial Library 48603 Highway 1 Big Sur, CA 93920 The pair will share songs, stories, and ideas from their respective journeys, one as a longtime monk who writes and composes and records music and travels the world, the other as a lifelong writer and traveler who spends much of his time in Prior Cyprian’s New Camaldoli Hermitage. More information and tickets available...

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the ground we share

Posted By on May 16, 2018

When I read the line from Saint Paul in his farewell speech to the presbyters of the church of Ephesus––‘… keep in mind the words of the Lord … “It is more blessed to give than to receive”’ [i]––I thought, “Hmmm… that’s beautiful.” And then I thought, “Wait a minute. Jesus never said that.” I’d like to think we are getting a peek into ancient history here, from the dawn of Christianity, the time before the gospels were even thought about being written down. We have no evidence that Paul had actually ever heard Jesus preach, even though they were contemporaries. So how did Paul know that Jesus said that? Had Paul been told that this was something that Jesus had said? It’s actually a citation from the Book of Sirach, one of the Deuterocanonical books: Do not let your hand be stretched out to receive and closed when it is time to give.[ii] Most of the Deuterocanonical books are assumed to have been written in Greek, but a fragment of this particular book of Sirach was found in the late 19th century in a synagogue storeroom in Cairo, in Hebrew. As far as folks can figure out, the grandson of Ben Sirach translated it from Hebrew into Greek for the Greek-speaking Jewish diaspora living there around 200 years before Jesus’ birth, and it is that version that made it into the Christian canon as Ecclesiasticus. And Paul has learned that this was a favorite maxim of Jesus who might have heard it from his father or in the synagogue. Do not let your hand be stretched out to receive and closed when it is time to give. Or It is more blessed to give than to receive. I wrote a song some years ago based on the title of a book by David Stiendl-Rast called “The Ground We Share.” I wrote it about my trip to Jerusalem, reflecting on how Jerusalem is a city that’s precious and holy to all three of the Abrahamic faiths. That’s the literal ground, the city of Jerusalem. But that word ‘ground’ has all kinds of other resonances for me. First of all there is the ground of our being human, the ground of our common humanity. Part of the reason I’m aching over this situation in Israel right now is from having been there. I can feel it in my body.  What a powerful spiritual experience it was to lean my head against the Western Wall! So I can sympathize with the Jewish people’s love for Jerusalem. On the other hand, we were also in the occupied territories, and the kids who...

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recognize, preserve, promote

Posted By on May 7, 2018

This story from the Acts of the Apostles today[i], about Peter realizing that the Spirit had descended upon the Gentiles and wondering aloud how baptism could be withheld from them, reminded me of two other stories. One we heard recently, also from the Acts of the Apostles, about Philip baptizing the eunuch.[ii] But it also called to mind to me the story in the Book of Numbers, when Moses appoints 70 elders to become prophets. Two men were outside the camp––Eldad and Medad––but the spirit rested on them, too, and they also started prophesying in the camp. When Joshua complained to Moses about it, Moses said, ‘Would that all of the Lord’s people were prophets!’[iii] As Jesus says in the Gospel of John, ‘The wind blows where it chooses … So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’[iv] It also reminded me of an experience I had some years ago. I was in Alaska in 2005. I have a friend who lives there and has worked as a catechist among the native Yup’ik people for decades now. He had brought me there to do some workshops on liturgical music. I was going from town to town, village to village sometimes on snow machine and sometimes by bush plane. At one of the stops I was taken to the village community center in the evening. It was mobbed with people there to watch and participate in Eskimo dancing––called yurak. This involved men playing frame drums called cauyaq (“jow-yuk”) and singing, chanting really, telling stories. At the same time there were women and younger guys doing a series of synchronized arm and head movements, movements that also told old stories. I loved the music; it was very hypnotic and mantric. And I wondered why this music hadn’t been used for their liturgical music. When I asked about this, I was told that the missionaries decided that their music was too pagan and that it had to be routed out. So the native music got replaced with European hymns translated into Yup’ic and then, later, some of the same stuff we were using in the lower 48, not all of it of very high quality (our fault, not theirs). This was quite a first hand lesson in how sometimes missionary activity wedded itself to what I came to think of as de-culturation as opposed to inculturation. We often wiped out native ways under the guise of evangelization, not recognizing until too late sometimes, as some of the documents of Vatican II articulated it, the “native genius.” The local bishop in Alaska had officially apologized for this some years before, but the...

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Doug Begins Journey as a Postulant

Posted By on May 3, 2018

Our friend Doug Herbek became a postulant yesterday evening in a short but sweet ceremony in our church. This is Doug’s formal entry into candidacy to become a Camaldolese Monk here at New Camaldoli.  We are pleased to welcome him into this phase of his formation!  Please pray for Doug as he begins this solemn journey. [Show as...

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The feast of St. Joseph the Worker is an odd one. It’s only listed as an optional memorial, but not only does it have its own opening prayer, it has proper prayers for all three presidential prayers, proper readings and even its own preface. My hunch is that there are some places in the world, particularly Communist countries, where this commemoration is raised to a higher level, because it wasn’t only to foster deeper devotion to St. Joseph among Catholics that Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker in 1955: it was also in response to the May Day celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists. This year it has particular poignancy since this Saturday is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. There are three different Vatican documents that get mentioned often in relation to this feast. The first of course is Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, literally entitled “On the New Things,” subtitled “On the Rights and Duties of Workers,” from 1893. The industrial revolution and political change was sweeping Europe and the world at that time. Incidentally, and not unimportantly, Rerum Novarum was written 42 years after Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, and addressed very much the same problem––the exploitation of workers, the relations between workers and their employers, and unbridled capitalism––though with very different solutions. Then 60 years later another document comes along, Gaudium et Spes from the 2nd Vatican Council, a selection of which is read for the Office of Readings for this day. Gaudium et Spes insists that human activity, both individual and collective––our “great struggle in which human beings in the course of the ages have sought to improve the conditions of human living––is in keeping with God’s purpose.” This is the sentence that really struck me: “The Christian message does not deflect people from building up of the world, or encourage them to neglect the good of the human race, but rather places on them a stricter obligation to work for these objectives.” In other words, our mission in life is not simply to make sure we get to heaven individually; as Christians we also have the obligation and responsibility as individuals and communities to improve life on earth for each other and for all people. And then finally, the other document mentioned often in relation to this feast is Laborens Exercens of Pope St. John Paul II, which was written to coincide with the 90th anniversary of Rerum Novarum.[i] In the back of John Paul II’s mind of course is his own country’s struggle against Communism and his close tie to Lech Walesa and the Solidarity Movement. In...

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