January 2013


Long%20Shadows[1]

 

Now that I know
How passion warms little
Of flesh in the mould,
And treasure is brittle,–

I’ll lie here and learn
How, over their ground
Trees make a long shadow
And a light sound.

 

Louise Bogan, Knowledge

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 Transcendence[1]

God’s difference from us constitutes his transcendence. Transcendence does not – and never did in classical thought – mean spatial separation or ‘out-thereness’. Transcendence means, and always has meant, difference. God’s transcen- ( dence opposes pantheism, not intimacy. God is always here.

 

The truth of God’s transcendence still stands. God is near, but God is different. God is here, but man is dependent. God’s otherness is the otherness of Creator to creature, of Saviour to sinner; and it is for the creature still to worship the Creator and for the sinner still to ask for the Saviour’s grace. Without this the new Christianity of the secular city will lose its identity as Christianity and will deceive itself and mislead its citizens. And, on the other hand, those who cherish God’s transcendence will know that it is within the secular city that it has to be vindicated and that the transcendent and the numinous are to be seen not in a separated realm of religious practice but in human lives marked by an awe-inspiring self-forgetfulness, compassion, humility and courage. Such lives bear witness that we have here no continuing city, for we are looking for a city which is to come.

 

Institutions can become a fetish unless it is seen that their glory is not their own but the glory of Christ reflected in their self-effacement. The imagery in which Christians think about God can become a fetish if it circumscribes thought about God within the circle of religious interests and ceases to convey the God who cares about everything which happens in the world. Preoccupation about God’s laws can become a fetish if it allows devotion to the commands and the pro­hibitions to replace devotion to God whose commands and prohibitions they are. The Sacraments can become the focus of veneration instead of being windows into the sacrifice of Calvary and the actions of the living Christ. Equally the moods and phrases of evangelical piety can substitute a kind of self-contemplation for the self-forgetful contemplation of God and obedience to him. It is by a constant self-criticism of our own idolatries that we Christians can learn again and present to our contemporaries the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Michael Ramsey

I think that by now many of my FB friends and followers of this blog may well know that I spent a week in Palm Beach this January. I was very glad to get to know the work of the Norton Museum of Art and to deliver a lecture there as part of an exhibition exploring some of the aspects of the Second World War.

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As part of their wonderful hospitality I was invited  to the launch of an exhibition of photographs by Annie Leibovitz. It was a wonderful privilege to meet with her and to reflect a little on her extraordinary to talent.

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This exhibition features 39 iconic photographs the Museum acquired from the internationally-renowned photographer, and focuses on work that is direct, straightforward, and relies on an essential element of all great portraits–a vital connection between artist and subject. Exhibition curator Charles Stainback has long admired Leibovitz’s work, but believes too much emphasis has been put on a select few images from the artist’s overall oeuvre —Whoopee Goldberg, Steve Martin, “John and Yoko”—that have become as famous as the people they portray.

While the images in this exhibition are also of celebrities, they are quieter, more subtle, and in some ways, more provocative and interesting than the images that made Leibovitz a household name. 

Annie_269

Beautiful_Sky[1]

 

This is love: to fly towards a secret sky
to open the curtains, again and again
to let go of life.
How do you find it? Easy.
Take just one step (but don’t move your feet)
see the world as unseeable
and forget the seeming self.

I said to my heart, what a gift it is
to whirl like Francesca in the circle of lovers
to see beyond seeing
to touch and feel with the heart.

 

Rumi

 Some fragments ofreflection on the divisions of the Church during the week of Paryer for Christian Unity.

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Our experiences of moral failure, group meltdowns, per­sonal pettiness, and partisan harshness in congregations and communities make us wonder if our efforts in building community are worth the trou­ble. We often invest great hope in our Christian communities, and when there are serious ruptures, it feels as if part of the kingdom has been tram­pled. How is it that people who want closer relationships and deeper expe­riences of shared life sometimes find themselves in terribly difficult situa­tions — sorting out betrayals, broken commitments, and creeping cynicism?

 

Growing into the likeness of Christ and into the church as it is  supposed to be cannot be separated from the messiness and disappointments that are part of human relationships. We can protect ourselves from such difficul­ties only by cutting ourselves off from our relationships, and that is rarely a satisfactory option. Nevertheless, we can build and maintain congrega­tions — just like we do with marriages, families, monastic communities, and businesses — in better and worse ways. Good communities and life- giving congregations emerge at the intersection of divine grace and steady human effort.

penny-legate-baby-namaste[1]

When our lives are shaped by gratitude, we’re more likely to notice the goodness and beauty in everyday things.

We are content; we feel blessed and are eager to confer blessing. We are able to delight in the very existence of another human being. In a grateful community, individuals and their contributions are acknowledged and honored, and there is regular testi­mony to God’s faithfulness, through which the community experiences the joys of its members.

Expressions of gratitude help make the commu­nity alive to the Word, the Spirit, and God’s work.

 

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True religion helps us to grow, but pseudo-religion hinders growth, for it creates and maintains obstacles and barriers.

Thus it is that much religion merely censors experience and does not liberate it, stifles human potential and does not allow it to blossom. Much religion is superficial and does not help the journey inwards which is so necessary to spiritual health.

There has to be a movement towards the still centre, the depths of our being, where, according to the mystics, we find the presence of God.

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