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Christ In You.

The text of the Act of Consecration of Man consists of words that are like seed kernels that are waiting to sprout sooner or later. Some of those words and sentences are promises for the future that are expressed in the form of a possibility. Sometimes the verb is even missing so that it does not become clear whether it is a wish, a petition, or reality: “Christ in you.” What does it mean? Is He in us? Or are we asking Him to dwell in us? Or are we called to give Him a dwelling place? Who is able to say of himself: Christ is in me?
“Our life is His creating life.” Has that come to manifestation in our daily life? We usually act as if our life is not His life but our own. Perhaps in a distant future, looking back from the highest standpoint, we will be able to acknowledge: Yes, our life was His creating life.
But that does not mean that we should meekly wait until that time perhaps comes. On the contrary, every day, every moment calls on us: can you make this day, this moment into His creating life? Can you even do that with the mind-numbing daily work that countless people have to perform in our time? Billions of people on earth have to work as insignificant links or as slaves of technology. When you ask them: “What are you doing it for?” the discouraging answer is usually: “I am doing it for the money.”
But also the most thankless, seemingly senseless work can make a contribution to life on earth, when we not only ask: What do you do? but also: How do you do it?
With everything we do Someone sees us—Someone Who wants to connect His creating life with every human life. His deepest longing is: I in you and you in Me. Everything we do we can do in the knowledge: I am doing it for the earth, for my brothers, for my sisters, for Him Who wants to live in us: Christ in us.

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, November 20, 2022

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The Thinking Heart

The Thinking Heart

We are living in a world in which we are used to keeping everything at a distance.  Admittedly, we are daily reminded of the misery of the world, but usually we don’t stop to think of it much.  When we have seen the daily news we go back to the order of the day.  After all, there is not much more we can do if we want to fulfill our daily obligations.  The only way to bridge this distance and still be able to do something at that distance is to take the misery of the world to heart, irrespective of the fact that we can actually do so little.  A master in this art was Etty Hillesum (1914-1943)* who, during the terrors of the Second World War, gave herself the task: “I want to be the thinking heart.  I would wish to be the thinking heart of a whole concentration camp.”  Her broken life is a witness of taking-to-heart, whereas outwardly she could do nothing for others. What do we then have left?  The thinking heart.

There is a moment in the Act of Consecration of Man that asks for taking the world to heart.  But usually at this culminating point of the service we are so busy with ourselves that we forget the rest of the world.  After all, it is the most intimate moment when we, each for herself or himself, receive the peace.  What kind of peace is that?

The Act of Consecration itself gives an answer, but we tend to forget this answer when we receive the peace of Christ.  For early in the Communion, He says: “This peace with the world can be with you also…”  In radical terms: His peace is not earmarked for me, but through me: for the world, with the world.  In the most precious moment of the Act of Consecration of Man, if we take the suffering, battling world to heart in our thinking, this world can briefly come to rest in us and find peace.

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, October 23, 2022.

* Etty Hillesum was a young Jewish woman in Holland who was picked up by the Nazis during World War II, spent time in the Dutch concentration camp and died in Auschwitz. She left a diary in which she recorded profound experiences.

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Let us…

In the first words of the Act of Consecration of Man a task is expressed that can stay with us for the rest of our life.  You can make a beginning with it when before the service you look around: with whom will we fulfill the Act of Consecration of Man?  Who are meant with the little word “us?”  Can I in some way take those present along in this great prayer?  That becomes more difficult when someone is present for whom we feel antipathy, or perhaps even worse than that.  But such a person also forms part of the Act of Consecration of Man.  Even for our enemies and for those who persecute us do we have the task to pray (Matthew 5:44).

In the course of the Act of Consecration the circle of the community with whom we pray opens out.  All Christians and all who have died may participate in the offering.  Whenever we feel together with a soul who has died, who offers with us on the other side of the threshold, we begin to experience that not only this one, but countless deceased souls want to participate in the altar service.  Even when a few people are praying, it may be “full” at the altar.  That is why the text of the Act of Consecration says: “… all who have died.”

In the last part the altar service opens itself once more for the word “us.”  The communion speaks not only about us the living, about Christians, and those who have died, but about the life of the world.  Eight times the word “world” sounds in this part.  The peace of Christ is meant for the life of the entire world.  The Act of Consecration of Man is so great that we can include everyone and everything in this prayer.  Christ does not want to redeem a small select group, but the whole world.  However, He cannot do this alone. Our Christian Community may in the coming century and centuries perhaps remain an insignificant small movement, but the Act of Consecration of Man can also in a community of a few persons grow to infinity.

Christ needs our prayer.  May the word “us” grow forever and encompass all—all who are present, all true Christians, all who have died, until eventually the world has become part of our prayer.  Thus we can help Him to bear and order the life of the world.

 

-Rv. Bastiaan Baan, October 2022

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“Young man, I say to you, stand up!” (Lk.7:14)

“Young man, I say to you, stand up!” (Lk.7:14)

Standing up is a matter of willpower, which is needed to overcome gravity.  That takes no effort as long as you are healthy and strong, but it is different when you are tired or exhausted.  You have to do it yourself, with your own strength.  No one else can do it for you.  And it becomes even more difficult when you are sick or bedridden.  Gravity and impotence then take their toll.  Two forces are ceaselessly in conflict with each other; of old this has been expressed in the words “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

When then the trial is over and a long, debilitating illness comes to an end, you can be incredibly thankful that you can stand on your two feet again and that you are free to stand and go where you will.  Is that really only your own spirit that overcomes the weak body?

There is also another, more or less hidden force that wants to help us stand on our own two feet.  It speaks to us every time we are about to lose courage or when despair strikes.  That is the voice that called the youth of Nain out of death to life.  That is the still, strong voice that goes with each one of us until death, into death and in life after death—the voice that calls out to us: “Stand up, let us go on.”

 

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, September 25, 2022

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Healing the Deaf and Dumb Man (Mk.7:31-37)

The healings Jesus Christ performed during His life on earth were no incidental acts meant to release individuals from their physical ailments, but signs.  This word is frequently used in the Gospels to make clear that their meaning reaches beyond the healing of an individual.  Through this sign the human being is restored again in his worth and in the image of God.

The sign of the healing of the deaf and dumb man is preached to deaf ears as long as we keep thinking that it is about someone other than ourselves.  Consider how much is standing in the way between Christ and us humans.  It seems as if everything in our noisy world tries to drown out His voice.  And not only are we deaf to the divine world, we have also become unintelligible.  Our words are estranged from their divine origin; they only speak the language of perishable reality.  Christ has been banished from our daily work and our everyday conversations.

The only thing that helps me is that He goes with me away from the crowd, in order to be alone with me—and I with Him.  There, in the silence, where the noise of the outer world does not penetrate, I can learn to listen to His voice, and I can learn to speak with the language of the heart, which He understands.  Then only, when nothing is standing between us anymore but only silence, can He speak the redeeming word: “Ephphatha!” – “Be opened!”

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, August 27, 2022

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Healing the Blind Beggar (Lk. 18:35-43)

Healing the Blind Beggar (Lk.18:35-43)

When you think in terms of numbers, of visible and tangible results, you soon come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ did not accomplish much during His life on earth.  For what do a mere twelve disciples add up to in a population of many thousands?  And what is the importance of healing one blind man compared with the countless blind people who never had any help?  In that way, the Gospel is full of riddles and things that don’t seem to make sense and that we can’t comprehend with our everyday intellect—things even that evoke ridicule and irritation in many of our contemporaries.  Why just this one blind man?  Was it only because he kept calling and praying, even when the bystanders wanted him to be quiet?

As long as we are only looking at outer reality we are facing riddles.  But blindness is not only a disorder of the eyes, but also of the heart.  And that disorder afflicts us all.  The healing of the blind man shows us what we are all lacking, and what we can do to be healed.

Most people are living in the illusion that they can see.  But our judgments, prejudices, our sympathies and antipathies make us blind for the reality in which we live.  We are really confronted with that when we get into a conflict.  Usually we think in such circumstances: I am right—the other is wrong.  And if both parties stick to their positions it becomes an unbridgeable impasse.  And when obdurate standpoints collide and bring about lifelong separations, the drama turns into a mystery drama that takes not years, but several lives before we are healed of our blindness.

The first step in this drama is the realization that we can at most see a little glimpse of reality.  The blind man sitting by the roadside calls out to us: “Become aware of your blindness, become a beggar for the spirit, pray to the Savior as long as it takes for Him to take pity on you and open your eyes to the mysteries of destiny and fate, of guilt and forgiveness.

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, August 21, 2022

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Feeding the Five Thousand (Lk.9:12-17)

Feeding the Five Thousand (Lk.9:12-17)

Three times during His life on earth Christ shares a meal with people around Him—at the feeding of the five thousand of the four thousand, and of the twelve.  All three times He does the same: He takes the bread, He looks up to Heaven, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to the people.   It is the same gesture we recognize when the bread is consecrated at the altar.  In these acts He bestows imperishable life forces on the bread; it becomes “medicine of immortality.”  That is what this meal was called in earliest Christianity, pharmakon athanasias.  A meal that goes with us on the path of life, beyond death, into deathless life.

In the Act of Consecration of Man an expression is used for this which has fallen into disuse: “the bread for the way.”  The German word used here, Wegzehrung, literally means “food for on the way.”

At the feeding of the five thousand, when this blessed bread is distributed, the evangelist adds: “And all ate and were satisfied…”  We can’t say the same of our everyday bread.  We have hardly eaten and are feeling hungry again.

But when we receive the meal of bread and wine at the altar something else happens.  In that moment what is expressed as a promise in the Act of Consecration of Man becomes reality: “Christ in you.”  From that moment He is in us, literally and figuratively.  And if we make space for Him in us, He subsequently goes with us on our path of life, as bread for the way for our eternal being.

When we realize what we receive, Whom we receive, with the meal of bread and wine, that which happened at the miraculous feeding of the five thousand is fulfilled again: “And all ate and were satisfied…”

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, August 14, 2022

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Contemplation

The bees are living in a world that cannot be compared with ours.  Their way of life, their forms of community, their feeling for space and time, follow laws and patterns we can hardly imagine.  When we see a garden or field full of flowers we are attracted by the colors and scents.  Unsightly flowers—we hardly look at them.

But bees apparently see very different things than we do.  Flowers we don’t think are worth looking at, or of which we never even notice the scent—the bees visit them in hordes.  And the other way around, the wealth of color and scent we most enjoy—the bees never seem to notice them.  What guides them on this enigmatic search? The beekeeper knows that it is the nectar, which we can hardly notice.  What has no value for us humans is a matter of life and death for the bees.

That is how it is also in the interaction between the divine world and human beings.  We humans often judge each other based on outer things.  If it isn’t on visible appearance, it may be the tone of someone’s voice, their gestures and movements.  All of it together then forms itself into a judgment of the other, often only half consciously, or unconsciously.

The divine world looks at us differently.  Christ does not let outer appearance guide Him.  He sees us as we are in all reality.  Also, when in the eyes of the world a person is insignificant or even inferior, for Christ every human being is of value, because we are life of His life.  And the other way around, prestige in the eyes of others—power, status, possessions—has no meaning for Him, for it estranges us from His proximity.

Nothing of what we have or think we have counts for Him.  Only what we are has value for Him.  And only if I offer Him my own being can I unite myself with Him, and He with me.  That is the meaning of the words that sound during the communion in the Act of Consecration of Man: “Take me as You have given Yourself to me.”  It is the most precious gift I can make to Him: myself, nectar for the divine world.

Rev. Bastiaan Baan
August 6, 2022

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The Peace of Christ

In our world peace is hard to find.  Even if we live in a country with relatively uneventful circumstances, the discord of the world pushes its way into us from all sides.  We only have to open the door or open the newspaper—the chaos of the world comes into us from all sides.  Peace feels like a fata morgana that looms up on the horizon from time to time, and then disappears again without a trace in the desert of every day.  How can you live in such a world and at the same time be at peace with the world?

And yet, the Act of Consecration of Man says of Christ: “I stand at peace with the world.”  For many people of our time this sounds like an unattainable vision that every moment is dashed to pieces again by hard reality.

Christ is at peace with the world.  We would actually have to say it differently, but our language fails us when we try to find the right words.  In the original language of the Act of Consecration it sounds different: Friedvoll stehe Ich zur Welt.  He does not have peace with the world—on the contrary, He places His peace face to face with it.  If He were at peace with the world as it is, He would leave everything as it is without undertaking anything.  That is our traditional, authority-oriented picture of peace, where everything comes to a standstill: Rest in Peace.  But that is not even true for the deceased, for they have to ceaselessly work on their purification.

The peace of Christ is not of this world.  It is wrested free from death and the underworld.  He wants to share this most precious gift of the Resurrection with us, so that we may bear His peace, which passes all understanding, with us in a restless world.

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, Summer 2022

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The Logic of the Heart

At this time of the year the waterlily, the queen of the water plants, is blooming in many places in our country [Holland]—in ponds, in ditches, even in the drab canals in our big cities.

Waterlilies have a long way to go before out of the mud and water something so beautiful as its snow-white flower is born.  Nymphea alba it is called, the white nymph.  For just like the water beings, just like the nymphs, the flowers strive to come to the surface somewhere and play with water, air, and light.  Rarely is there such a world of difference in the realm of plants between darkness and light, between root and flower.

Looking at the plant you may recognize–what the waterlily does by nature shows us something of the long road that still lies ahead of us.

In every human being inconceivable forces are slumbering that are waiting to be awakened and come to blossom.  In antiquity these were called lotus flowers: invisible flowers that can be awakened to life.  Every human being is all too familiar with the dark bottom in which these forces are rooted—buried under murky thoughts, passions, and desires.  The first step on the path from this murkiness to light is: saying yes to yourself—also to the characteristic that most strongly resists change from temptation to strength.  In every human being lives a hidden longing for light, even when we are trapped in darkness and temptation.

We would not seek the way to the altar if we were not led by the longing for light that guides us upward, step by step.  One day to be reborn from above.  One day to awake and to blossom in a world of light.

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, Summer 2022