Thursday, June 26, 2014
I took this peaceful scene along Route 48, the new highway in West Virginia, which I drove a friend to see this past Monday. (clicking on picture enlarges it)
I used some Scripture readings about silence and receptive prayer for today's Bible meditation. 1 Kings 19:11-13 has been a favorite for many years. The prophet Elijah is running away from Queen Jezebel who intends to kill him. He takes shelter in a cave on Mount Horeb, another name for Mount Sinai where Moses met God. God tells Elijah that God is about to pass by. The Lord is not in spectacular events like a powerful wind, an earthquake, a fire, God comes in "a sound of sheer silence."
In Luke 10:38-41 Jesus visits Martha and Mary. Mary is receptive, sitting and listening to Jesus. When Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is not helping her with chores, Jesus says, "Mary has chosen the good part which will not be taken away from her." Most English translations have "better part," but Luke's Greek does not have Jesus saying that Martha has chosen the good part and Mary the better. There is no comparison. Jesus is simply saying Mary made the right choice.
These passages encourage us to wait in silence for God to help us feel God's presence within us. If we are to cultivate a rich interior life, it is essential that we make time for receptive prayer like Mary's.
Monday, June 23, 2014
This picture is looking up from my patio toward traditional blue roofed church and white, white homes clinging to the hillside. The picture on the last post was taken from the same place looking down and out to the sea. The blue roofs intentionally reflect the blue of the sea. Such a view is considered so typical of Greece that something like it is on the travel book that I used.
So I thought it would be a good picture to finish my reflections on my trip through Greece, at least for the time being. I had wittled the number of places down to four: Athens, Delphi, Meteora, and Santorini. Delphi turned out to be clearly my favorite. It was situated in gorgeous mountains with spectacular views and had an aura of holiness about it. Travel between these places was relaxing with beautiful scenery.
My love of ancient history was well satisfied with so many lovely ruins. My search for holy places did not go unrewarded. Beauty will save the world.
Friday, June 20, 2014
Santorini was a volcano that erupted in 1630 B.C.. This is the view from my room of the caldera now filled with the sea and of the 1000 foot high cliffs. The white on top is not snow. It's the whitewashed houses.
I planned this island as my last stop in Greece, thinking it would be a great place to relax. The room I rented, though, was about two thirds of the way down the cliff side in Oia. Coming down the path was treacherous. Going up was a challenge. But being there was a joy. If I had been content not to eat or explore, my room and patio would have been fine. As it was, I was exhausted when I left the island.
Looking out onto this beautiful sea, however, was an experience of God.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
I chose this picture because I think it captures how huge these rocks are as you see them towering over the houses. There are many more like these. I think I was more impressed with the rocks themselves than with the monasteries on top of them.
Monks began building monasteries on the rocks in the 14th century. There were once 24. Now there are four monasteries and two nunneries. They seem to take turns being available for tour groups. The afternoon group I went with was allowed in one of the nunneries. The morning group the same day was allowed in one of the monasteries. The chapel we saw was ancient with some beautiful icons.
The Greek word "meteora" means "rock in the air" and is where we get our word "meteor." I spent some time walking right up to the base of some of these monsters and felt their power. The guide knew that some prehistoric people settled in the area, but he didn't know why. I would guess that the rocks seemed to them to make it a kind of spiritual area.
Maybe the monks escaped onto the inaccessible rocks without noticing that the Spirit was in the very air of the place.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Holy Trinity Monastery perched on one of the many enormous rocks in Meteora, Greece.
This past year I have been thinking of the Most Holy Trinity in a way that has helped me with my daily centering prayer. This is by no means intended to be an explanation of the Trinity, but it hints at what It might be like and has helped me to grow closer to God.
In the First Letter of John the author says simply, "God is Love." God loves us and we love God. That Love is God's very self living within us.
Love coming towards us is like a father or mother, giving us life, nourishing us, caring for us. Love moving us towards God is like a son reconciling us to a father. Love remaining in the deepest part of who we are is like a spirit comforting us, inspiring us, and making us holy.
This is not just happening to us human beings. It helps me get a glimmer of understanding God's relationship with the universe. Love moves toward the cosmos in creating. Love reconciles the world to God. Love remains in the universe making everything good and beautiful.
To be truly Christian our prayer must be Trinitarian. We pray in the Father and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit, so it is crucial that we get some sense of what that means for us.
Saturday, June 7, 2014
From these ruins I climbed the mountain behind me to the ruins of Apollo's Temple and further up to the ruins of a theater and a stadium, the best preserved in Greece. I had to stop several times to rest as I hiked another 700 feet up the steep path. I wondered at the stamina of the runners who climbed this path and then ran races in the stadium.
While I was here I prayed especially for someone on the verge of a new career and also for a young man who hopes one day to run in the Olympics. The games held here were called the Pythian Games and were second in importance only to the Olympics.
Friday, June 6, 2014
This is the glorious view from my balcony in Delphi, a 1,800 foot drop to the Gulf of Corinth. I was not surprised to find this area a holy place. The ancient Greeks must have felt how close it was to the Divine or they would never have gone to all the trouble to make it a place of pilgrimage. Travelling by bus from Athens we came through some spectacular mountains that would have proved hard going for someone on foot or mule. (Clicking on the picture enlarges it.)
I grew up in mountains and have always loved being in them. Mountains are often in the Scriptures the place where humans meet God.
As early as 1400 BC archeologists think there may have been a shrine here to Gaia, the Earth Mother Goddess. The place was considered the navel, the center, of the world. I felt very close to God here.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
This exciting bronze from about 140 BC was one of many treats in the excellent National Archeological Museum in Athens. (Clicking on the picture enlarges it. You might be able to see the troubled look on the jockey's face. Was the horse going too fast?)
I have other pictures of many strikingly beautiful statues but they don't have any clothes on. I was intrigued that only those from the earliest stage of Greek sculpture were smiling. I was also impressed that as early as 7,000 BC those who made pots and skillets took time to add some lovely decorations to them. Presumably these were people who were barely getting by, yet they took time to make things beautiful.
This museum was the highlight of my time in Athens. Beauty will save the world.
Monday, June 2, 2014
It was a picture of the Parthenon on February's calendar that prompted me to go to Greece. Seeing it was not the thrill that I expected. It was impossible to find an angle from which to view it that was not marred by all the construction equipment. They have been working for over 20 years to restore the temple -- as a ruin!
I did spend about two hours walking around the Parthenon thinking about the Golden Age of Greece during which it was built. So much beauty in architecture and sculpture and philosophy and theater from that time has enriched our world down to the present. It was one of the highlights of my ancient history course and of my philosophy years.
We think of the value of this temple to western civilization, but there were many Asians there to appreciate it as well.
Fortunately there was more of Greece that did thrill me.