Nothing so much approximates the language of God as does silence. Meister Eckhart said that. Among other things, he is affirming that there is some deep inner work that can only be done in silence, alone, in private. He’s right of course, but there’s another side to this.
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In a recent issue of Comment Magazine, Timothy Keller, theologian and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, wrote an insightful essay entitled, The Fading of Forgiveness, within which he highlights how, more and more, forgiveness is being seen as a weakness and a naivete.
One of the effects of the current pandemic has been the calling into question of a general silence on the “ultimate questions.” The nihilistic vision of life, which was made famous by Nietzsche’s philosophy and has frequently returned in updated versions, considers such questions definitively outdated and meaningless. According to this philosophical approach, the truth cannot be attained, because there are no stable values.
Reading the Letters of Dorothy Day recently, I ran into this line, “doubtless we need a Savonarola as well as a St. Francis.” She was speaking about what spirituality needs in order to be healthy and balanced. That triggered something inside me, something I have never been able to sort out. I have always been comfortable, perhaps too much so, in both circles of piety and circles of iconoclasm.
The Olympic Games are a celebration of health. Whatever else might surround or lie underneath these games (commercialism, ambition, illegal drugs, whatever) our first reaction to them may only be one of blessing: “Wow! Beautiful! This says something wonderful about life and about God.”
I wrote my doctoral thesis on the value of various philosophical arguments that try to prove the existence of God. Can there be such a proof? Brilliant philosophers, from Anselm, through Aquinas, through Descartes, through contemporary intellectuals like Charles Hartshorne, submit that the existence of God can be proven through rational argument. Except, except, a lot depends upon what exactly we mean by the word “prove”. How do we prove something?
The term reconciliation offers a splendid insight into our relational character as humans. Reconciliation always presupposes a preceding relational rupture. It is well known that contemporary philosophical reflection, thanks above all to personalism, has widely re-evaluated the notion of relationship, putting it in connection with that of identity...
Perhaps few experienced the restless 19th century as intensely as Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (1821-81). His was a very strong experience of an era, his life full of personal misfortune. The artistic expression of what he lived through affected others as deeply as himself.
Some things need to be said and said and said again until they don’t need to be said anymore. Margaret Atwood wrote that. I quote it here because each year I write a column on suicide and mostly say the same thing each time because certain things need to be said repeatedly about suicide until we have a better understanding of it.
Several weeks ago after giving a lecture at a religious conference, the first question from the audience was this one: How can you continue to stay in a church that played such a pivotal part in setting up and maintaining residential schools for the indigenous people of Canada? How can you stay in a church that did that?
O God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. We pray these words with sincerity. Do we ever really mean them? Can we honestly say that the heartaches that drive us to our knees are a longing to see God? When we’re obsessed with an ache that won’t let us sleep, can we honestly say we’re thirsting for God? At first glance, no.
There is only one true sadness, not being a saint! French novelist, philosopher, essayist, Leon Bloy ends his novel The Woman Who Was Poor with that much-quoted line. Here is a less known quote from Leon Bloy which helps us understand why there is such a sadness in not being saint. Joy is a sure sign of the life of God in the soul.
Several years ago, a colleague of mine suffered a crushing disappointment. Her instinctual temptation was towards anger, towards shutting a series of doors and withdrawing. Instead, wounded in spirit, she asked herself the question, what is love asking of me now?
As a seminarian, I was privileged one summer to take a course from the renowned liturgist, Godfrey Diekmann. This was back in those heady days shortly after Vatican II when it was very much in fashion to frown on prescribed ritual prayers and write your own. This was particularly true for the Eucharist Prayer, the “Canon” of the mass, which a number of priests began writing for themselves.
Home is more than a house or a place on a map. It’s a place in the heart, the place where you most want to be at the end of the day. The metaphorical idea of home can help us sort out many things, not least how sex connects to love. Sex can never be simply casual, purely recreational, something which does not touch the soul.
Often when listening to someone singing live or on television, I close my eyes to try to hear the song so as not to let the singer’s performance get in the way of the song. A song can be lost in its performance; indeed, the performance can take over so that the song is replaced by the singer.
Early on in my seminary studies, taking a course on the sociology of poverty, I was struggling to accept our professor’s explanation as to why poverty isn’t always the consequence of personal failure, but is often the product of unchosen circumstances, accidents, and misfortune.
It is not enough today to be merely a saint; we must have a saintliness demanded by the present moment. Simone Weil wrote that, and she is right. We need saints demanded by the present moment and I would like to propose someone whom, I believe, fits that description, Henri Nouwen, the priest and popular spiritual writer who died in 1996.