Notes and Thoughts for Online Class

This page will house the notes for our online class.  The most recent notes are at the top, this way we can keep track of the conversations.

Week Four: Holy Week

Now, we find ourselves in Holy Week, this most focused and intense time in our liturgical calendar.  None the more so than now, I think.

Each day this week, we will focus on the prophetic texts and other stories that are highlighted in this week.  How do the psalms come alive to you, now that we have stepped into this more imaginative, contemplative frame of being?  This orientation?  What do you notice in the Gospel readings?

For Session 15, Tuesday:

Fran Hazel recommends this piece by Carrie Newcomer, called “Sanctuary.”  It is wonderful!

For Session 14, Monday:

Here is a thought that my friend Phileena Heuertz sent me:

There’s such a feminine quality to the contemplative dimension of life. For me, there’s something visceral in these days about laboring, stretching, expanding…this is patient and excruciating work. And it seems it will leave no aspect of life untouched, personally and collectively. 
May we be ripened and flexible and spacious.
And drawing on a quote by Francis Weller, from an article with the Science and Non-duality conference (SAND).
“It requires a ripening of our being and stepping more fully into our robust identity rooted in soul. We become immense, not in some grandiose, ‘I’ve got this,’ kind of way, but in a way where we become flexible like a willow, taking into our open arms and offering shelter to all that is frightened and vulnerable.
You can explore more of Weller’s work with SAND and elsewhere by clicking HERE.
Image result for caroline herring verses imageSee the source image
And for Caroline Herring’s incredible music!  You can click HERE to go to the SoundCloud page.

Vikki O’Hara found this incredible poem by Kathleen O’Mara, written in 1869 and reprinted in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.  It is such a wonderful example of how the imaginative and the poetic continue to speak during subsequent generations.

You can find the link by clicking HERE.

Week Three’s Discussion and Notes:

In week three, we will look more intently at PRACTICE, the importance of cultivating a daily practice of contemplative prayer that nurtures the key elements of silence (quieting our grasping mind), solitude (pausing away from the hustle), and stillness (grounding oneself in a posture) that nurtures an awareness of the indwelling presence of the Spirit.

**Here is a link to the remarkable essay by Bro. David Steindl-Rast called “The Mystical Core of Organized Religion.”  We will use this essay this week to explore our shared experience, laying it alongside where we started with Amos Wilder and Raimon Panikkar, and weaving into that the work by Sr. Constance FitzGerald and her exploration of St. John of the Cross and images/experiences of impasse.

You can click here: The Mystical Core of Organized Religion

AAA Mystical Core Graphic

For Session 12:

Maureen Renault sent this phenomenal link to a virtual choir that I want to share:

The piece is a choral setting of Lynn Ungar’s poem “Pandemic”, which is a powerful reflection on our shared experience these days.  You can explore more–and meditate on the poem– with this link:

Also, as I mentioned, Lerita Coleman Brown sent this poem to me this morning, “We’ve all been exposed” by Sarah Bourns.  You can click HERE.

From Session 10 (moving to Arabic numbers now…)

Here is a wonderful reflection on paying attention during these days.  I have taken to looking for stories and images that come at our conversation from the side, or as Emily Dickinson would describe “telling it slant.”  Lisa found this story on NPR about a book “The Sound of Wild Snail Eating.”  You have to listen to this story:

A solitary snail.

From Session Nine: March 30

John and Julia Cromartie sent this note, referencing Psalm 27:4

One thing I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.

Also, as they point out, the collect we used at the end of this morning’s session, from pg. 832 in the Book of Common Prayer, reminds us that “in quietness and confidence shall be our strength,” and that we ask to be taken to God’s presence where we may be still and know that God is God.

This prayer finds its roots in Isaiah 30, where the prophet reminds the people that they are putting their confidence in the own strength and capacity.

“Then Isaiah gets to the heart of the  message that God has laid on his heart and which the Collect you read captures so well: “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel.  In returning and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust shall be your strength. But you refused and said, ‘no! We will flee upon horses…We will ride’…  A thousand shall flee at the threat of one…Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, , therefore he will rise up and show mercy to you…blessed are all those who wait for him.”   Isaiah 30:15-16, 18.”

Week Two’s Discussion and Notes:

Weeks one and two looked intently at what we describe as a “soul grammar,” language and images that help us begin to articulate our spiritual experiences and desire.

Here are three key resources from Sr. Constance FitzGerald that I think we can draw from.

Our primary resource will be this excerpt from the book Living with Apocalypse: Spiritual Resources for Social Compassion (ed. Tilden Edwards). FitzGerald’s chapter is called Impasse and the Dark Night

Two additional resources are as follows:

From Impasse to Prophetic Hope: Crisis of Memory

John of the Cross and Prayer

Session Eight: March 27:

John Cromartie sent these notes, weaving in Walter Brueggemann’s work with The Prophetic Imagination, which is a beautiful connection:

“The Chapter 3 “Prophetic Criticizing and the embrace of Pathos”.  He emphasizes the poets use of poetry and lyric and that “imagination must come before implementation”.  “The task of prophetic imagination is to cut through the numbness, to penetrate the self-deception, so that the God of endings is confessed as Lord…to offer symbols that are adequate to the horror and massiveness of the experience which evokes numbness and requires denial”

Session Seven: March 26

So, I have to put this in here, because it offers us a fantastic image to reflect on–connections that, while not explicit, do resonate with us and prompt us to delve deeper. Cynthia Park noted that, in Hebrew, the phrase Koch-vim sounds so similar to Covid.  Koch-vim is the Hebrew word or “stars”, like the sky is filled with stars, which we cannot see in our lives because the ambient light around us blocks the vision of the stars from our eyes.  But, they are there–like we said today in class, our limited perception does not define God’s presence.

And, this particular phrase from Constance FitzGerald’s essay Impasse and the Dark Night is where I think we can leave her essay for now:

As Americans we are not educated for impasse, for the experience of human limitation and darkness that will not yield to hard work, studies, statistics, rational analysis, and well-planned programs. We stand helpless, confused, and guilty before the insurmountable problems of our world. We dare not let the full import of the impasse even come to complete consciousness. It is just too painful and too destructive of national self-esteem. We cannot bear to let ourselves be totally challenged by the poor, the elderly, the unemployed, refugees, the oppressed; by the unjust, unequal situation of women in a patriarchal, sexist culture; by those tortured and imprisoned and murdered in the name of national security; by the possibility of the destruction of humanity.
We see only signs of death. Because we do not know how to read these kinds of signs in our own inner lives and interpersonal relationships, we do not understand them in our societal or national life, either. Is it possible these insoluble crises are signs of passage or transition in our national development and in the evolution of humanity? Is it possible we are going through a fundamental evolutionary change and transcendence, and crisis is the birthplace and learning process for a new consciousness and harmony?

Session Six: March 25: The Feast of the Annunciation

We can look even more deeply at Howard Thurman’s writings, especially his image of the “growing edge” that we are experiencing.  Here is a link to a reflection on the OnBeing website that you may find meaningful.

Also, this morning’s poem from John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us, “For Light,” should you want to explore.  Here is a link I found to it: click HERE.

Session Five: March 24, 2020

From Mike Short:

Thought – if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got. If you always think like you always thought, you’ll always do what you’ve always done. Therefore, if you want something you’ve never got, you must think like you’ve never thought. Opening our way to a new way of thinking may be the only way.

From Cynthia Park, building on the theme of a “soul grammar:”

What we are exploring together is Virtual Grounding: grounding one’s soul through prayer practices and contemplation in a context in which our circumstances have yet to touch the bottom. 

John Cromartie sent this link to an incredible re-imagining of the hymn “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” or “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” building on the theme of how we are called to our own practice of re-imagination and deeper exploration.  The singer, Audrey Assad, is the child of Syrian refugees. (I included the version with the text for your meditation).

From Bishop Marianne Budde (Washington, DC) and her recent sermon:

Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3).

Session Four: March 23, 2020

Cynthia Pease recommends this Walt Whitman poem The Noiseless Patient Spider.

Charles Helmer recommends this quote by St. Augustine

“Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.”

Week One’s Discussion and Notes:

From Session Three, March 20, 2020

From Jason Shreeram (amazing soul): “My teacher in the early years of my path was Krishnamurti. He wrote ” To be free of all authority, of your own and that of another, is to die to everything of yesterday, so that your mind is always fresh, always young, innocent, full of vigor and passion. It is only in that state that one learns and observes. And for this, a great deal of awareness is required, actual awareness of what is going on inside yourself, without correcting it or telling it what it should or should not be, because the moment you correct it you have established another authority, a censor.” This is our human quest, to free our hearts of the trappings of the mind, its conditioning and allow us freedom to travel this new reality uninhibited.”

My notes: Looking more intently at what we understand as the poetic (can we understand this, really, as the mystical element in our practice of faith, the capacity for imagination?) I find this particular quote by Amos Wilder (Theopoetic) very meaningful:

Not only for theology today but for all assessment of cultural realities and norms, due recognition must be given to the new intuitive and mystical sensibility, to new somatic and affectional perceptions, to the new religiosity and inwardness, to the new mythical consciousness.  Rather than seeing these impulses as a loss of nerve or a repudiation of our best Western humanism we may rather find them signaling a return to the proper plenitude and diversity of human nature as common to many epochs and climes. (15-16)

And to Mike Short’s earlier question as to what Wilder means when he says “old words do not cross new gulfs,” we find this:

What concerns me, however, is that all such explorations should be carried out in dialogue with the insights and accumulated wisdom of our own older religious traditions.  The understandable iconoclasm which dominates so many of the new curiosities and disciplines should not lead to neglect o this body of experience and reflection. (16)

And perhaps to the point raised about how do we know, or how do we understand the poetic (especially in these circumstances?), we can recognize the wisdom at the heart of the Christian contemplative tradition in knowing through unknowing, or a sense of awareness that is detached from our tendency to grasp and control (or at least it recognizes it).  Here is a poem from St. John of the Cross that speaks to this:

This knowing-ignorance

is of such great power

that scholars are never able

to vanquish it by arguments;

because their knowing does not know

how to understand without understanding,

transcending every knowledge. (found in Raimon Panikkar’s work The Experience of God: Icons of the Mystery, pg. 47)

From Session Two, March 19, 2020

Notes from John Cromartie on poetic language and the power of images:

I am pondering-  Where does Intercessory prayer sit in this dialogue/ what new language, fresh insights emerge in this time.  I love the idea of soul language and will be listening for how these times deepen our understanding of and practice of intercessory prayer.

Poetry like this is not best analyzed, explained, neatly divided into compartments but listened to, becoming “awashed in”.   Like so many of the prayers in BOCP-  they are renewed in fresh and eager hearing of them as we await and listen to them anew.

With a nod to Mary Oliver and her poem “Prayer,” which you can read HERE.

As well, you may want to dig into Wendell Berry’s work as well!

From Session One, March 18, 2020

These thoughts are from Mike Short–one incredible human being! I’ll post them here: Thought 1 and Thought 2

Thought 1: I was taught that there are three great questions all great philosophers ask and answer.

  • What can I know? This question takes us to the very limits of human knowledge and the answer becomes the basis for our epistemology and our metaphysics (unless the ultimate units of knowing and the ultimate units of being are not the same we can no nothing.) The language appropriate for this realm of thought is “logic”, for its always about moving from one point of view to another point of view. The metaphor then becomes “space”. (Think ladders, wells, stairs, levels, etc.)
  • What must I do? The second question informs our ethic and our politic, our private and individual acts and our public social acts. The goal is to have the inner man and the outer man be one and the same. (Integrity?) The language most useful and most used in this domain is “rhetoric”. This issue may take one to questions about the relationship between private, personal prayer (prayer, meditation, contemplation) and public, communal prayer (liturgy, practices and rites). I think that the dominant metaphor here is “time” (before, during, after). Think “once upon a time…”)
  • What may I hope? The third question is really a question about aesthetics, the realm of beauty, balance, harmony, and completeness. This necessarily seems to be about imagining (seeing, visioning, envisioning) and the language appropriate is “poetry”. This realm goes well beyond the realm of the senses, the light of natural reason, active imagination, insight, and enlightenment. Needless to say, the dominant metaphor in this realm is “light” and “darkness”. It’s here that we enter into the supernatural, the divine world and all normal and natural language breaks down (i.e., languages based on logics and languages based on persuasion). The goal is to experience awe, astonishment, wonder, surprise to such an extent we become “insignificant” in the big picture. So much for a literal or moralistic interpretation of religion.

Thought 2: New words? New meanings? Old words? Old meanings? New or old to us? New or old to our tradition? Upon which road will the contemplative reformer travel? Old words to us with new meaning given by us? Old meanings to the tradition and new words given by us? Does a change in  vocabulary and grammar include/require new practices, liturgies, and rites, or better reinterpretations of current practices, liturgies, and rites? Of course, and this really scares me, does “new” mean a return to “original”?

And, Betsy Jennings Powell sent this resource, which you might find very meaningful.

Here is a link to a sermon given by Professor Stephanie Paulsell, “Things Unseen”

Click HERE


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