Tikkun Magazine



Christian reflections on Pentecost

There is much for Jews and people of other faith traditions to admire in Christian spiritual consciousness, once we get past the justifiable pain of how the official versions of Christianity treated us in the past. With Pope Francis embracing the kind of Christianity that is so deeply rooted in the liberation traditions of Judaism, it becomes much easier for Jews to open themselves to listening respectfully and with an open heart to Christian spiritual wisdom. Here are some examples of that spiritual wisdom

The Gift of Holy Surprise: Pilgrimage of Resurrection through Creative Practice (a love note)

Christine | May 24, 2015

This is the eighth in a series of eight reflections over the season of Easter on making a pilgrimage of resurrection.

Word for Today: Spirit

‘What is serious to men is often very trivial in the sight of God. What in God might appear to us as “play” is perhaps what He Himself takes most seriously. At any rate the Lord plays and diverts Himself in the garden of His creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance.’  ~ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

We live in the midst of chaotic times. As crises continue to build, we may find ourselves confused or fearful. We may want to gather in the upper room of our lives with our closest friends and close the door on a troubled world just like the disciples. Yet chaos always calls for creative response, it always beckons us to open to holy surprise.

Sunday is the feast of Pentecost, that glorious final day of the season of resurrection. The Apostles were together experiencing bewilderment over how to move forward when the Holy Spirit flows among them and breathes courage into their hearts. If we have stayed committed to our pilgrimage this far then we may still wonder why we have journeyed so long and still are do full of fear and unknowing.

It says that those who witnessed this event were “amazed and perplexed.” Some were confused, others cynical. Peter reminds the crowds of the words the prophet Joel declared, that all will be called to dreams and visions, all will need to be attentive to signs and wonders.

The story of Pentecost asks us a question: How do I let my expectations and cynicism close my heart to the new voice rising like a fierce wind?
In Benedictine tradition, conversion is a central spiritual practice. Conversion for me essentially means making a commitment to always be surprised by God. Conversion is the recognition that we are all on a journey and always changing. God is always offering us something new within us. Conversion is a commitment to total inner transformation and a free response to the ways God is calling us and to new images of God. Eugene Peterson describes it this way: “What we must never be encouraged to do, although all of us are guilty of it over and over, is to force Scripture to fit our experience. Our experience is too small; it’s like trying to put the ocean into a thimble. What we want is to fit into the world revealed by Scripture, to swim in its vast ocean.”

Several years ago I was going through an intense period of discernment. I had finished graduate school and found that my desires were no longer in alignment with the path I had initially imagined for myself. I spent long periods of time in silence and solitude, engaging all of the essential techniques for discernment I had learned in my studies and previous practice. I was taking this very seriously because this was my life path I was pondering. Then one night I had a dream about koala bears trying to get a map out of my hands so they could play with me. In my reflection time that followed I discovered a playful God who was calling me to take myself and my discernment far less seriously than I had been. I love to laugh but in my longing to discover the next path, I had forgotten what Merton reminds us in the opening quote: how playfulness is woven into the heart of the universe, how sometimes what God takes most seriously is what we easily dismiss.

Pentecost demands that we listen with a willing heart, and that we open ourselves to ongoing radical transformation. We discover that the pilgrimage does not end here, instead we are called to a new one of sharing our gifts with the world. Soul work is always challenging and calls us beyond our comfort zone. Prayer isn’t about baptizing the status quo, but entering into dynamic relationship with the God who always makes things new. Scripture challenges our ingrained patterns of belief, our habitual attitudes and behavior. Conversion is about maintaining what the Buddhists call “Beginner’s Mind.” St. Benedict speaks to this in his Rule with the call to always begin again.

To be fully human and alive is to know the tension of our dustiness, our mortality, to be called to a profoundly healthy humility where we acknowledge that we can know very little of the magnificence of the divine Source of all. The Spirit descends on those gathered together in a small room and breaks the doors wide open. We are reminded that practicing resurrection is not for ourselves alone, but on behalf of a wider community. Not only for those with whom we attend church services, but beyond to the ones who sit at the furthest margins of our awareness. Pentecost is a story of the courage that comes from breaking established boundaries.
We may limit our vision through cynicism, but equally through certainty or cleverness. Sometimes we fear doubt so much that we allow it to make our thoughts rigid, we choose certainties and then never make space for the Spirit to break those open or apart. The things we feel sure that God does not care about may be precisely the source of healing for a broken world.

Life isn’t about knowing with more and more certainty. This is the invitation of our creative practice as well, to move more deeply into the mystery of things. I find that the older I get, the less sure I am about anything and the richer my life becomes as I make space for unknowing, expansiveness, and possibilities far beyond my capacity for imagining. If when Pentecost arrives you do not find yourself perplexed or amazed, consider releasing the tight grip of your certain thoughts and make space for holy surprise.

At Abbey of the Arts, we are inviting the community to make a commitment to practice creativity daily in celebration of my new book being released in May 2015 The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within (Ave Maria Press). Please join us (details available at this post).

With great and growing love,
Christine
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD
If I did not know that I am a genuine Dane, I could almost be tempted to explain my self-contradictions by supposing that I am an Irishman. For the Irish do not have the heart to immerse their children totally when they have them baptized; they want to keep a little paganism in reserve; generally the child is totally immersed under water but with the right arm free, so that he will be able to wield a sword with it, embrace the girls. –Soren Kierkegaard

 

CELTIC CHRISTIANITY
Nature is healed/transformed, not annihilated/opposed, by Grace.
A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story
Author: Diana Butler Bass
 
An Excerpt from Chapter Five—Devotion: Paradise Restored, p. 98-101
Sacred Journey
 
A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY: The Other  Side of the Story
Author-Diana Butler Bass

My first course in medieval religious history was taught by Professor Eleanor McLaughlin, a noted scholar of both spirituality and women’s history.  One morning, with the day’s topic posted as “Celtic Christianity,” Professor McLaughlin walked into the classroom, paying scant attention to her students, and pretended to light a fire. As she knelt on the floor, she explained, “Celtic households began the day by blessing the fire.”  Her hands moved gracefully around the imaginary embers as she recited an ancient Irish prayer, “Celtic spirituality melded Irish folk ways and Christianity,” she said.  “It enfolded nature and grace, a kind of nature mysticism, in a pagan and Christian synthesis.”
          She recited the legend of Patrick coming to Ireland, the birth place of Celtic Christianity.  As it happened, Patrick landed on Easter eve, and he lit a Pascal fire that lighted up an entire hillside. The wizards who counseled the High King warned that if Patrick’s fire were not put out by dawn, “it will not be quenched till doomsday” and that the one who kindled it “will vanquish the kings and lords of Ireland.” Wizards tried to extinguish Patrick’s flame, but their powers failed and many converted to Christianity.  From this mythical beginning a Celtic version of Christianity—one distinct from the traditions of the Roman Church—dominated Ireland.  “Their learning, art, and song were placed in wholehearted service of God and the Church,” one historian noted. “Nothing was done by halves.” Professor McLaughlin said it was a fire that could not be quenched.
          This “wall of holy fire” swept across Europe.  The Celts, inveterate wanderers, could not sit still.  Years before Gregory the Great conceived of missions as politically advantageous, Celtic Christians set out on journeys as a practice of faith.  They did not invent the practice of pilgrimage.  Rather, the Celts defined the whole of the Christian life as a sacred journey.  “God counseled Abraham,” wrote Columba (ca. 521-597), “to leave his own country and go on pilgrimage to the land which God has shown him. . . . Now the good counsel which God enjoined here on the father of the faithful is incumbent on all the faithful; that is to leave their country and their land, their wealth and their worldly delight for the sake of the Lord of the Elements, and go in perfect pilgrimage in imitation of him.”
          The Voyage of Brendan records the legend of a navigator, Brendan (484-577 or 583), who sets out to find “the island which is called the Promised Land of the Saints.”  The Voyage recounts how Brendan and his companions sailed for seven years, encountering all manner of angels and demons in nature’s beauty and fearful storms, in miraculous adventures that tested the pilgrims’ faithfulness.  It took so long, as Brendan learns at the end of the journey, because “God wished to show you his many wonders in the great ocean.”  When they arrived, they discovered “open land stretching out before them covered with trees laden with autumnal fruit,” where night never fell and a wide river flowed through the center of the island.  An angel greeted Brendan and his crew, instructing them to load their boats with fruits and gems before sending them home to their waiting friends.  The Voyage was widely popular in written, oral, and pictorial forms through the Middle Ages, and it was translated into many European languages.  It served as both an exciting tale and an extended metaphor for the Christian life.
          Unlike early Christians, who made pilgrimage to specific locations associated with Christ or the saints, Celts tended toward no particular destination—except the “island of Paradise.”  On this quest they wandered across the seas; they wandered on land. Occasionally they stopped to set up a cross, some huts, and a small monastic community.  But then they started to wander again.  Theirs was a vagrant life for Christ, a self-imposed exile from their beloved homeland to find a new way of being in God.  As a chronicler from 891 wrote of three Irish strangers who arrived in Cornwall, “They wanted to go into exile for the love of God, they cared not whether.”
          Celts took the story of Jesus with them to places like Scotland, the north of England, France, Switzerland, Denmark, and Germany. They wandered not for the sake of their own souls but for the sake of others as well, converting many pagan tribes to Christianity.  As the missionary Columbanus (d. 615) wrote to a friend, “You know I love the salvation of many and seclusion for myself, the one for the progress of the Lord, that is, of His Church, the other for my own desire.”  Celtic sacred journey strengthened both the inner spiritual life and the outer life of the church by forming Christian communities.  As such, Celtic pilgrimage embodied Jesus’s own mission to be a faith community in the world.”
          Eventually Celtic pilgrims encountered Roman monks and their genius for organization, a meeting that did not augur well for the less precise Celts.  The Celtic church and the Roman one disagreed—among other things—over the date of Easter, the authority of the pope, and styles for monastic haircuts.  Although the Celts lost on all these issues in a church council in 664, their spiritual fervor quietly strengthened the new Roman church in England.  In this crucible of pilgrimage and institution, Western Christianity was born.  Or, as Professor McLaughlin said, Celtic spirituality became “the life-giver of the structure, the fire in the hearth of faith.”  And throughout the Middle Ages, whenever the power of the institution threatened to overwhelm the heat of faith, pilgrimage continued to be a life-giving path for Christians who heeded the call to spiritual exile.

 ******************************************
Word for Today: Spirit

‘What is serious to men is often very trivial in the sight of God. What in God might appear to us as “play” is perhaps what He Himself takes most seriously. At any rate the Lord plays and diverts Himself in the garden of His creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance.’  ~ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

We live in the midst of chaotic times. As crises continue to build, we may find ourselves confused or fearful. We may want to gather in the upper room of our lives with our closest friends and close the door on a troubled world just like the disciples. Yet chaos always calls for creative response, it always beckons us to open to holy surprise.

Sunday is the feast of Pentecost, that glorious final day of the season of resurrection. The Apostles were together experiencing bewilderment over how to move forward when the Holy Spirit flows among them and breathes courage into their hearts. If we have stayed committed to our pilgrimage this far then we may still wonder why we have journeyed so long and still are do full of fear and unknowing.

It says that those who witnessed this event were “amazed and perplexed.” Some were confused, others cynical. Peter reminds the crowds of the words the prophet Joel declared, that all will be called to dreams and visions, all will need to be attentive to signs and wonders.

The story of Pentecost asks us a question: How do I let my expectations and cynicism close my heart to the new voice rising like a fierce wind?
In Benedictine tradition, conversion is a central spiritual practice. Conversion for me essentially means making a commitment to always be surprised by God. Conversion is the recognition that we are all on a journey and always changing. God is always offering us something new within us. Conversion is a commitment to total inner transformation and a free response to the ways God is calling us and to new images of God. Eugene Peterson describes it this way: “What we must never be encouraged to do, although all of us are guilty of it over and over, is to force Scripture to fit our experience. Our experience is too small; it’s like trying to put the ocean into a thimble. What we want is to fit into the world revealed by Scripture, to swim in its vast ocean.”

Several years ago I was going through an intense period of discernment. I had finished graduate school and found that my desires were no longer in alignment with the path I had initially imagined for myself. I spent long periods of time in silence and solitude, engaging all of the essential techniques for discernment I had learned in my studies and previous practice. I was taking this very seriously because this was my life path I was pondering. Then one night I had a dream about koala bears trying to get a map out of my hands so they could play with me. In my reflection time that followed I discovered a playful God who was calling me to take myself and my discernment far less seriously than I had been. I love to laugh but in my longing to discover the next path, I had forgotten what Merton reminds us in the opening quote: how playfulness is woven into the heart of the universe, how sometimes what God takes most seriously is what we easily dismiss.

Pentecost demands that we listen with a willing heart, and that we open ourselves to ongoing radical transformation. We discover that the pilgrimage does not end here, instead we are called to a new one of sharing our gifts with the world. Soul work is always challenging and calls us beyond our comfort zone. Prayer isn’t about baptizing the status quo, but entering into dynamic relationship with the God who always makes things new. Scripture challenges our ingrained patterns of belief, our habitual attitudes and behavior. Conversion is about maintaining what the Buddhists call “Beginner’s Mind.” St. Benedict speaks to this in his Rule with the call to always begin again.

To be fully human and alive is to know the tension of our dustiness, our mortality, to be called to a profoundly healthy humility where we acknowledge that we can know very little of the magnificence of the divine Source of all. The Spirit descends on those gathered together in a small room and breaks the doors wide open. We are reminded that practicing resurrection is not for ourselves alone, but on behalf of a wider community. Not only for those with whom we attend church services, but beyond to the ones who sit at the furthest margins of our awareness. Pentecost is a story of the courage that comes from breaking established boundaries.
We may limit our vision through cynicism, but equally through certainty or cleverness. Sometimes we fear doubt so much that we allow it to make our thoughts rigid, we choose certainties and then never make space for the Spirit to break those open or apart. The things we feel sure that God does not care about may be precisely the source of healing for a broken world.

Life isn’t about knowing with more and more certainty. This is the invitation of our creative practice as well, to move more deeply into the mystery of things. I find that the older I get, the less sure I am about anything and the richer my life becomes as I make space for unknowing, expansiveness, and possibilities far beyond my capacity for imagining. If when Pentecost arrives you do not find yourself perplexed or amazed, consider releasing the tight grip of your certain thoughts and make space for holy surprise.

At Abbey of the Arts, we are inviting the community to make a commitment to practice creativity daily in celebration of my new book being released in May 2015 The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within (Ave Maria Press). Please join us (details available at this post).

With great and growing love,
Christine
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD
If I did not know that I am a genuine Dane, I could almost be tempted to explain my self-contradictions by supposing that I am an Irishman. For the Irish do not have the heart to immerse their children totally when they have them baptized; they want to keep a little paganism in reserve; generally the child is totally immersed under water but with the right arm free, so that he will be able to wield a sword with it, embrace the girls. –Soren Kierkegaard

 

CELTIC CHRISTIANITY
Nature is healed/transformed, not annihilated/opposed, by Grace.
A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story
Author: Diana Butler Bass
 
An Excerpt from Chapter Five—Devotion: Paradise Restored, p. 98-101
Sacred Journey
 
A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY: The Other  Side of the Story
Author-Diana Butler Bass

My first course in medieval religious history was taught by Professor Eleanor McLaughlin, a noted scholar of both spirituality and women’s history.  One morning, with the day’s topic posted as “Celtic Christianity,” Professor McLaughlin walked into the classroom, paying scant attention to her students, and pretended to light a fire. As she knelt on the floor, she explained, “Celtic households began the day by blessing the fire.”  Her hands moved gracefully around the imaginary embers as she recited an ancient Irish prayer, “Celtic spirituality melded Irish folk ways and Christianity,” she said.  “It enfolded nature and grace, a kind of nature mysticism, in a pagan and Christian synthesis.”
          She recited the legend of Patrick coming to Ireland, the birth place of Celtic Christianity.  As it happened, Patrick landed on Easter eve, and he lit a Pascal fire that lighted up an entire hillside. The wizards who counseled the High King warned that if Patrick’s fire were not put out by dawn, “it will not be quenched till doomsday” and that the one who kindled it “will vanquish the kings and lords of Ireland.” Wizards tried to extinguish Patrick’s flame, but their powers failed and many converted to Christianity.  From this mythical beginning a Celtic version of Christianity—one distinct from the traditions of the Roman Church—dominated Ireland.  “Their learning, art, and song were placed in wholehearted service of God and the Church,” one historian noted. “Nothing was done by halves.” Professor McLaughlin said it was a fire that could not be quenched.
          This “wall of holy fire” swept across Europe.  The Celts, inveterate wanderers, could not sit still.  Years before Gregory the Great conceived of missions as politically advantageous, Celtic Christians set out on journeys as a practice of faith.  They did not invent the practice of pilgrimage.  Rather, the Celts defined the whole of the Christian life as a sacred journey.  “God counseled Abraham,” wrote Columba (ca. 521-597), “to leave his own country and go on pilgrimage to the land which God has shown him. . . . Now the good counsel which God enjoined here on the father of the faithful is incumbent on all the faithful; that is to leave their country and their land, their wealth and their worldly delight for the sake of the Lord of the Elements, and go in perfect pilgrimage in imitation of him.”
          The Voyage of Brendan records the legend of a navigator, Brendan (484-577 or 583), who sets out to find “the island which is called the Promised Land of the Saints.”  The Voyage recounts how Brendan and his companions sailed for seven years, encountering all manner of angels and demons in nature’s beauty and fearful storms, in miraculous adventures that tested the pilgrims’ faithfulness.  It took so long, as Brendan learns at the end of the journey, because “God wished to show you his many wonders in the great ocean.”  When they arrived, they discovered “open land stretching out before them covered with trees laden with autumnal fruit,” where night never fell and a wide river flowed through the center of the island.  An angel greeted Brendan and his crew, instructing them to load their boats with fruits and gems before sending them home to their waiting friends.  The Voyage was widely popular in written, oral, and pictorial forms through the Middle Ages, and it was translated into many European languages.  It served as both an exciting tale and an extended metaphor for the Christian life.
          Unlike early Christians, who made pilgrimage to specific locations associated with Christ or the saints, Celts tended toward no particular destination—except the “island of Paradise.”  On this quest they wandered across the seas; they wandered on land. Occasionally they stopped to set up a cross, some huts, and a small monastic community.  But then they started to wander again.  Theirs was a vagrant life for Christ, a self-imposed exile from their beloved homeland to find a new way of being in God.  As a chronicler from 891 wrote of three Irish strangers who arrived in Cornwall, “They wanted to go into exile for the love of God, they cared not whether.”
          Celts took the story of Jesus with them to places like Scotland, the north of England, France, Switzerland, Denmark, and Germany. They wandered not for the sake of their own souls but for the sake of others as well, converting many pagan tribes to Christianity.  As the missionary Columbanus (d. 615) wrote to a friend, “You know I love the salvation of many and seclusion for myself, the one for the progress of the Lord, that is, of His Church, the other for my own desire.”  Celtic sacred journey strengthened both the inner spiritual life and the outer life of the church by forming Christian communities.  As such, Celtic pilgrimage embodied Jesus’s own mission to be a faith community in the world.”
          Eventually Celtic pilgrims encountered Roman monks and their genius for organization, a meeting that did not augur well for the less precise Celts.  The Celtic church and the Roman one disagreed—among other things—over the date of Easter, the authority of the pope, and styles for monastic haircuts.  Although the Celts lost on all these issues in a church council in 664, their spiritual fervor quietly strengthened the new Roman church in England.  In this crucible of pilgrimage and institution, Western Christianity was born.  Or, as Professor McLaughlin said, Celtic spirituality became “the life-giver of the structure, the fire in the hearth of faith.”  And throughout the Middle Ages, whenever the power of the institution threatened to overwhelm the heat of faith, pilgrimage continued to be a life-giving path for Christians who heeded the call to spiritual exile.
 
tags: Christianity   
http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/christian-reflections-on-pentecost