Harmony – perhaps the greatest communal work of this century

As I write, I am headed to Melbourne where I will address various communities throughout Victoria this May. A highlight will be speaking at the Harmony Festival in Warburton with folk like Andrew Harvey and David Tacey among others. Harmony – I see – as the great requisite communal work of this century. And we are just beginning to learn what “harmony” will require. As part of the festival I will be naming how I see the work and inviting various audiences to join me in its exploration. The dates 16-18 May.

On the eve of the Festival, I will take part what we hope is a dialogue that might move toward healing between Christians and Pagans.We realize this is treacherous ground as millions have been killed over the centuries by misunderstanding and fear of the other.

On Friday, I will present a long workshop on “The Dark Mother” – helping us explore the movements of Quadratos through the myth of Inanna. On Saturday morning, I move into my signature work – presenting the Four Mystical Paths of The Christ. Finally Sunday afternoon finds me in a panel discussion.

Join me and many others in this festival of exploration: www.warburtonharmonyfestival.com

Caught Between Two – Desiring to See Beyond

This coming Sunday marks the fifth Sunday of our Great 100 Day Retreat and Festival on our way to a new Pentecost. And the text is familiar to many – a father with two sons and the younger one asking for and squandering his inheritance. Then he returns to his parent who extends more than mercy while his older brother is seemingly resentful of his father’s generosity and compassion.

Two pieces change our reflection from the usual. Through the Quadratos lens – we understand that this parable is one about our maturing in service. Second – since it is placed deep within our communal retreat – we also know it is intended to serve a reflection and examination of “us” – and our willingness to be servants to each other and all.

Think of the text as an “opera” where each character speaks to a part of us – individually and together. Who in you and amongst us acts the wise, compassionate and generous parent? Who acts like a total free and impulsive spirit? Who acts rule bound and burdened by responsibility? What is the tenor of your “discussion” between free spirit and rule bound?

This parable deepens us in the Transfiguration text that opened our Great 100 Days. Here we have the younger and older on either side of the Christ. We might consider how we each and collectively need to keep our eyes and heart on the Christ’s compassion and generosity. Otherwise we fall into a trap that moves us away from Love – impulsive living only for today – or becoming rule bound expecting an overburdened sense of responsibility to be rewarded.

How has this opera played in your heart, your marriage, your family and of course your spiritual community?

Thoughts, sharings, reflections – yes, no and maybe are welcome here.

Line from our communal prayer for this week: “…and to thirst for Truth beyond what we believe.”

For those in sermon/homily prep – recall that each of these Sunday texts refer to the Sunday text in Cycle A. This Sunday in Cycle A is about inner blindness and the Legal Ones (Pharisee) who do not thirst to see beyond their own belief system.

Return to Reflections

It has been a long sojourn since the last Quadratos reflection. There are three reasons – a need for our Quadratos bloggers to put energy into other areas, Alexander’s varied internet challenges as he lives in New Zealand and Australia, and then his 60 day pilgrimage walking the ancient Camino. He covered some 1100 km or about 700 miles beginning at St. Jean Pied de Port in France, crossing Spain to Santiago de Compestella, and ending at the sacred stones of Muxia on Spain’s Atlantic coast.

Today Alexander is again between New Zealand (Auckland) and Australia (Melbourne) – where if visa issues resolve – he may live and work over the next few years. Also he is posting about every other day on the Quadratos Facebook page. His posts are a series of short reflections on these days Christians call Lent. However, he is reflecting on these days through Quadratos not through the Jesus Story we have known it. Another way of saying this – he is reflecting on theosis rather than atonement perspectives. Theosis is the belief that we are made in the image and likeness of God and each of us is in a gradual process of being made ever more into that likeness. We would you to “Like” the Quadratos Facebook page and join the conversation.

And if you have are in the neighborhood, have frequent flyer miles or are just ready to take the next step in Christian prayer-join us for a Quadratos expression of Easter. Last week of March near Auckland and repeated the first week of May in Melbourne. See Calendar page for details.

Living Holy Us

Based on John 3:1-17 for Holy Trinity

Perhaps we could say that religion is like the house or the temple or the building dedicated to the Living Holy Other of that which we call God. But surely even using the word “God” already conjures up a variety of images and doctrines that either offer us some limited comfort of a tradition and/or a healthy congregation, or conversely, torment us with wounds and stridency from our encounters with “people of faith”, or with how we have been warped by bits of pieces of philosophy and theology we’ve breathed in from the world around us, from our parents, or peers.

Who or what is “God”? It turns out that our problem with “God” may be just that: “God”, the quotes suggesting in an ironic way that our “God” is a construct of what we have learned, heard, experienced often in the context of a particular religious tradition, or the lack of a tradition, in which case our sense of “God” is an amalgam of bits and pieces of our place in cultural history.  We struggle to find words to adequately express the nature and qualities of an encounter with the divine.  Religion becomes a distillate of experience, enshrined in normative dogm and practice.

Thus Christ, in John 3 is, like a good teacher, engaging Nicodemus in an adventure of a different sort of faith, an adventure of letting go of old constructs and opening up to the possibility of the Living Holy Other lurking within Nicodemus’ religion: GOD. GOD is beyond all definitions and beyond the strictures of religion. GOD as Living Holy Other can never be grasped or manipulated in the ways we attempt to do that with each other.

But this same Living Holy Other, as the very presence of the Christ, is the white light of yearning for depth relationship with creation, with creatureliness, with us. Indeed, in the Christ, we glimpse, as did Nicodemus, that which brought him to the Christ in the dead of night:  the possibility of a Holy Living Us!

This, then, is how I understand the complex and incomprehensible concept of the Trinity. As Rublev’s icon of the Holy Trinity portrays, it is about profoundly relational love. It is about “God” beyond all our abstractions. It is about “God” becoming for us GOD, the Holy Living Other become the Holy Living Us.  The Spirit invites us, the Christ takes up residence among us, and the Creator molds us all into a Holy Living Us, an abiding wholeness and life, born from above and beyond mere religion.

Pruning Enlightenment (John 15:1-8, 5th Sunday of Easter)

My yard calls me outside every weekend with its tangle of lush, wild growth. It’s spring, just as it’s spring in the joy of the fifty-day Festival of Easter. Does that mean it’s time to spring into action? Not yet. It’s time to BE – to be embedded in the great miracle and mystery of the oneness we share in the living vine of Christ and to allow God to do the necessary tending of the body we are together. The I AM is expressed in the well-pruned we are of the one body.

Contrary to how ‘enlightenment’ is  often seen in modern American culture – an achievement signaling arrival at the pinnacle – this  new dawning of light simply signals another season of growth. Awakening to our essential unity and gifting for the work of God in the world does not mean we are ready to enact it. The old ways of seeing and being still lie close at hand, something like the phantom limbs in the body  memory of an amputee.  It takes times for the new reality to penetrate our life together. Without that time, we run the risk of pouring the new energy and perception into old forms that serve the small self.

Rather than being purified into enlightenment, our enlightenment needs purification. In the same way a living grapevine needs pruning over and over again throughout its productive life, so does our common life. That’s the wisdom of the great, repeating cycle of Quadratos. The annual practice of praying Lent as our communal story opens into Easter, awakening and reawakening us to the essential unity we already are. In the words of Thomas Merton, “We are already one.  But we imagine that we are not.  And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we already are.” (The Asian Journal).

The practices of the journey plant us in the soil of ongoing life in which we touch and retouch that deep truth. To bear fruit out of this truth, we need a master gardener who knows well the art of pruning. Growth is to be disciplined (the same root as the word disciple) rather than being left to its own natural state. Not all shoots are equal; the question is which ones will bear the most fruit and the fruit of highest quality in a particular environment. Why? The new life given is not merely for our own building up but is fuel for eventual service in a hungry world. First, our enlightenment needs pruning.

Rather like steps 6 and 7 step of the 12 step process, the work of pruning is God’s work, not ours. It is the nature of our personal and communal life that we are unable to assess what has ultimate value. The annoying shoot we would lop off may be what is most needed for the eventual health and productivity of the Body in a changing world. Following honest self examination and confession of how it is with us (something like the work of the annual Lenten retreat), the 6th step says simply “Were entirely ready to have God remove our defects of character.” This is followed by step 7, “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.” Our part is to allow ourselves to be acted upon by BEING ready and then asking God for the necessary pruning.

Our primary work in this season of Easter joy is to abide, a word that appears eight times in four verses. Throughout the Festival season, we are to dwell in the Gift we have received, trusting the pruning of the Spirit to reveal what in us is gift and what needs to be let go or refined. Trust is key; there is no need for hyper-vigilance. The pruning is not a radical rooting out as much as attentiveness to creative purpose: “You have already been cleansed [pruned] by the word [Logos] that I have spoken to you.” The Logos is a living word that creates afresh with us for good beyond what we can now see. What we can ‘do’ in the meantime is to abide in our essential and newly reclaimed unity. Definitions of the word abide (μένω or menō in Greek) all resonate with the need to remain, to tarry, to continue to be. Most especially in this season we are to remain as one, not to become another or different oneness.” (Strong’s G3306)

What a charge! In this season, brothers and sisters in the One Body, let us stay, tarry, remain, BE who we already are, trusting the loving hand of the Gardener to shape us together toward a greater fruitfulness than we can now imagine.