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The Face of God and the Dragon in Our Consciousness

The presence of the soul is no where more powerfully to be found than in the miracle of the human face.

Think of someone, someone important to you, someone you love. When we do this, what is it that appears before our mind’s eye? The answer will always be: the face of our loved one. The face, the countenance, is that physical part of someone that most manifests their soul, their inner being. In their eyes, their mouth, their subtle movements of eyebrow and chin, whole inner worlds of feeling and experience are revealed. No shoulder, elbow or knee cap will ever reveal to us what a smile or a raised eyebrow can. The inner world of the soul is revealed in the landscape of the human face and the inner essence of a being shines out of their eyes. The face is the one part of our visible, physical body that most reveals the invisible, spiritual being.

In searching for the inner essence of the divine, the invisible reality of God’s being, where, on the great body of the world, can we look? Where can we turn out gaze to discover the countenance of the divine? Read more

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Reflections on InPower

The InPower International Youth Conference was held in Spring Valley, NY, this past June. 

The weeks following an event can feel either like I’m soaring, mourning or some combination of the two. I experienced neither after InPower. I have felt in myself and those friends around me, a serenity, calm strength and joy. The conference seems to reverberate in the way the world appears to me now. The possibility of approaching our lives out of hope and confidence has left the trees shining and the future possible. A group of people can take something on in a week spent with one another, and this particular group of 80 fresh and earnest people took responsibility for something much larger than their own lives. The capacities bursting from each room we inhabited promised that we are as brave as the world needs us to be. Feeling supported by those next to us, led by those in front of us, and nudged by those behind us, we found ways to discover something new within ourselves – maybe something scary and needing of attention. An ability to face ourselves clearly and with love enabled the possibility to approach the world’s struggles with an equal clarity and abounding love. We desired an introduction to moral development in order to accomplish transformational work in the world. We honestly tried to do that, and we watched it happen. I believe we created something we could call goodness, within us and around us.

Written by Abigail Dancey, one of the conference organizers.

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Sunday’s Massacre and Bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Life

The caterpillar becomes the butterfly, Jesus becomes the Risen Christ, that which is bound to earth transforms so that it can live in the heavens. And yet, as Jesus must go through suffering to become new, the butterfly must awaken out of the pain of the cocoon. 

Each human heart is also a cocoon meant to become a butterfly in us, meant to become something heavenly in us. For the Christ in us is not something that is simply there, something static. The Christ in us must be awakened again and again out of the painful cocoon of our hearts. 

For pain rules this world. Is this not so? All around us there is more and more hate, anger, egotism; unbelievable acts of violence and deception. We just have to think of Columbine, Universal surveillance, economic hit men or yesterday’s tragic massacre in Gaza, and we can see, evil holds sway in this world.

But there is another world, a heavenly world, to which our hearts belong.

But this other world, which is called The kingdom of heaven, is not an afterlife reward for those who follow the rules; The kingdom of heaven is here, with us, intertwined with this evil, intertwined with the world of power and pain. They live together, because evil is the hard cocoon of His kingdom which we must bring to life if we are to see its wings.

The kingdom of heaven is brought to life when a Palestinian father whose daughters are murdered breaks through the cocoon of his hate and pain and forgives.

The kingdom of heaven is brought to life when an Israeli breaks through the mental cocoon-like prison that killing is justified if it is defensive and is transformed through deep compassion for the oppressed.  

The kingdom of heaven is brought to life when the slave finds a new strength and freedom in and through the cocoon of his oppressive suffering.

The kingdom of heaven is brought to life whenever human souls use their suffering and pain as a cocoon to become more loving, more compassionate, grace-filled. 

For the Christ in you is powerless love born from a wound.

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Christ’s Fragrance Fills Our Cracks

This contemplation was inspired from John 16.

There is, in our time, a fascination with perfection. We long for the problem-less life, the cushy job, the perfect partner. We long for the safe painless world where are children never have to suffer. Even in our spiritual life, we are so easily lured to think that by attaining to our true self we will have no more pain, no weakness. For there is a powerful part in all of us that longs to be the superman, with special powers, with no pain, all our problems transcended, above the muck and mire.

And yet, within each human being, there is something imperfect, unwell, brokenhearted. We know this part of ourselves intimately because of how traumatic life is. And our brokenness is not illusion. The cracks are real. This is so because the cracks are how the light is to shine in…

During The Act of Consecration, smoke rises up from the altar. And even though the smoke begins at the altar, it eventually fills the whole chapel, envelopes our broken-hearts, permeates the cracks with its fragrance…

The secret of Ascension, which we celebrate this week, is that the Christ’s being too rises up, like the smoke at the altar, but He doesn’t abandon us, He fills the whole earth with His being, permeating our imperfect humanity, enveloping our broken world.

Dear friends, Ascension shows us that Christian perfection is not this world’s idea of perfection. Christ did not come to make us into superheros. He came to envelop our cracks, to bear us with our pain.

For Christ’s touch gives us…
the strength to walk with our broken-hearts,
the faith that there is meaning in this imperfect world; the compassion to love what is sick.

May His fragrance fill us!

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Turning Suffering Into a Pearl

The oyster is an amazing being! For they hold within themselves a secret – the secret of how suffering can be useful – of how the pearl comes into being. First, sand gets caught between the shell and the membrane of the oyster, irritating it. The oyster responds to the irritant by giving it something. And little by little, this substance, called mother of pearl, that the oyster gives to the irritant, becomes the pearl.

From time to time, for each and every one of us, certain irritants also get caught in our shells. Read more

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Reflections from the Youth Winter Conference

I adored my first Youth Conference. The effect that it had on the participants was described as a “Golden Bomb” in their year, and after experiencing one, I couldn’t agree more. The memories of that weekend will live with me forever. I still feel the confidence in our group as we sang, care free, parading down the street. I still see the sun and the smiles as we reflected on a labyrinth and conversed under an old oak tree. There was a power in reading I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King as the sun rose in the same spot where he read it. We made true connections with complete strangers during profound conversations with other teenagers. The sheer verve created by the youth conference instilled me with hope.  All these joyous moments helped me grow and heal. Finally, I can testify that these youth conferences  really do create a “Golden Bomb” in one’s year.

Leap, Laugh, Love.

By Rachel Soliday, 17, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

Video of 2014 DC Youth Conference

 

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Finding Your Star in the Darkness

Image courtesy of Mary Sinead Cards

It is Epiphany, the time we celebrate the kings, the star and the journey. But first we can ask, as we prepare ourselves for finding our star, how did the kings prepare themselves? What did they have to do first to become aware of their star of destiny? They had to look into the night – into the darkness. For it is only in darkness that we can see the stars. They sank into the emptiness of the unknown and asked for guidance. The darkness of the night sky became their altar. Read more

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Bringing the Stars (in)to Life

 

 

To see the stars it needs to be dark. In the long dark winter nights we have many opportunities to lift our gaze and stand in wonder at the abundance of sparkling stars. Fixed stars we call them. They are always there and can be found reliably in that higher order, and they never stop shining. The experience is: stars stand above us. Even if they rise and set, we “look up” to them.

In contrast, the sun always rises up from below. Strong and powerful its rising light lets the stars recede as if they were no longer there. We don’t usually look up to the sun: we look into the world, work in the world, live our destiny in the bright sunlight. Ideals shine above our head like stars. There are moments, when we see them clearly, when they motivate and inspire the course we take in life. Then there can be long periods when we seem to lose sight of them, even doubt they are real. When in the soul, the darkness of confusion, loss of orientation and motivation spreads itself, it requires a decision to turn the inner gaze upward and trust that the star of one’s ideal is still shining. Read more

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Darkness and the Nativity: a Contemplation

Many of the inner pictures connected with the birth of Christ, with the Nativity that we carry in our imaginations, place the light filled holy family into a protective sheath of surrounding darkness. We can think of Rembrandt’s Nativity, or of Ninetta Sombart’s Birth of Christ and sense the sheltering quality that the darkness lends to the holy event of his birth. The Christ Child is received into the blanket of night and, in equal measure the darkness of night has a role to play in the events surrounding Christ’s birth.

We can thus begin to distinguish between different qualities of darkness. Read more

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The Two Marys

In the Gospels we have two descriptions of the Mother of God. The feeling-tone of each is different. In Luke, she is the one to whom the angelic messenger announces the coming of God’s son through the inseminating power of the Holy Spirit. She is humble and open, experiencing an other-worldly event.

The Mother in Matthew’s Gospel receives royal gifts. She must flee to Egypt to save her little Son from Herod’s persecution. In John’s Gospel she stands under the cross. Mother’s innocence has become bitter experience, but she also partakes in her Son’s subsequent rise from death.

Read more