A phrase often coupled in Ecclesiastes with "vapor" is "chasing after wind." While the author says throughout that human activity is futile, Carey Walsh makes the observation that "chasing after wind" indicates some initiative and desire. She says, "The reason for this is not that life is pointless or nihilistic or absurd but because God 'has put the timeless into their hearts' (3:11). Yearning is in our spiritual DNA." She goes on to remind us that the Hebrew word for "wind" also means "spirit." Ecclesiastes accepts the inexpressible quality of the Divine and yet is wholly given over to yearning for the Divine.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Carey Walsh points out that the Hebrew word "hebel" which appears 38 times in the Book of Ecclesiastes has the sense "that everything is vaporous, fleeting, and ephemeral." She suggests, however, that the superlative "vapor or vapors" used at the beginning and end of the book points to the Divine. Instead of the whirlwind God of Job, "Ecclesiastes sees only atmosphere, saturated obliquely by something more, something suggestively, possibly, holy....It is not futile to search for this something more. It is, rather, the very basis of mysticism."
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
The Divine is quiet not absent. Today when we recognize God's presence at all, it's often a gentle, passing Presence. Carey Walsh, in Chasing Mystery, says that that almost unnoticeable Presence is what the Book of Ecclesiastes is talking about when it refers to "Vapor of Vapors" (which she says is a better translation of the Hebrew than "Vanity of Vanities."
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
A few years ago, because of cutting, Indian Paintbrush almost disappeared from our neighborhood roadside. It's persistence has paid off with some beautiful spreads this year.
In Luke 11:1-13, Jesus encourages us to hang in there with our praying. Torturing ourselves trying to figure out why Jesus is not answering our prayers distracts us from the sustained work of petition. I often ask God specifically for what I want. At the same time I pray, "I want to want what You want."
Monday, July 18, 2016
Abraham's prayer for the citizens of Sodom (Genesis 18:20-32) is an amusing and encouraging example of persistence in prayer. Jesus also encourages persistence in his story of a man who pesters his friend in the middle of the night for some bread (Luke 11:5-8.) "Persistence," says Jesus, "will make him get up and give his friend all he wants."
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Sunsets and sunrises are my most frequent experiences of Beauty whom I sometimes call God. "Surrounding, gentle, suffusing presence" are words Carey Walsh uses to describe this kind of direct, all encompassing experience of God. I'm going back through her valuable book Chasing Mystery. She observes, "for the believer, an atheist is a pure curiosity, something like a fish who doesn't believe in water."
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Another slow boat ride. Click on picture to see the pretty sail boats in front of the "Yacht Club."
St. Paul (Colossians 1:24-28) says that "the mystery hidden from ages" is "Christ in you." Paul and his fellow missionaries preach this Gospel so that they "may present everyone perfect in Christ."Because we are in the Cosmic Christ, he must be in us.
Monday, July 11, 2016
Ten years ago when I told people I was retiring, many were concerned that my only plan for retirement was to do nothing. I felt misunderstood and down. I went for a walk in the garden of the monastery where I was making a retreat. I was walking toward someone who I thought was the gardener. When I got closer, I saw that it was one of the monks. He asked me why I looked so glum. I told him. He replied, "Many people don't realize that being is more important than doing."
Friday, July 8, 2016
The ancient world at times saw the universe as out of balance. The second part of the hymn (1:19-20) in Colossians praises Christ for his role in reconciling, not just human beings, but all things to God.
By God's good pleasure
the full measure of power,
reconciling creation with its source
and making peace by the blood of the cross.
(1994 ICEL translation)
Thursday, July 7, 2016
I thought maybe we were reading too much modern thinking into St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians, but, after reading several commentaries and meditating on the hymn (1:15-20,) I don't think it's too much at all. The first part of the hymn praises Christ's role in creating:
Through Christ the universe was made....
Everything was created
through Christ and for Christ.
Before anything came to be, Christ was
and the universe is held together by Christ.
(1994 ICEL translation)
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
One of the last trees to go down.
"Who is my neighbor?" the lawyer asked Jesus. He wants to limit his love. After telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus transforms the question, "How does one prove oneself a true neighbor to others?" Jesus wants us to be a neighbor to all without distinction, showing mercy even to enemies.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Saturday morning's fiery welcome.
As I turned the light out in my bedroom Sunday night I noticed a tiny light blinking on an outside windowsill. I thought it was a reflection of some electronic device, but in a few moments a firefly flew away.
Saturday, July 2, 2016
The freedom that we celebrate this weekend is not for self-indulgence, but for the common good. A nation's strength depends on the willingness of its citizens to sacrifice individual concerns for the good of all. St. Paul says, "The particular manifestation of the Spirit granted to each individual is to be used for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7.)