The Crystal Fortress

2 Dec

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for 01 Advent 02 Dec 2012

The Crystal Fortress

Advent Season.  Advent means “expecting the arrival of something important or awaited.” 

Hello.

Hello?

Etymology of the word “hello:”

“Hello: 1883, alt. of hallo (1840), itself an alt. of holla, hollo, a shout to attract attention, first recorded 1588. Perhaps from holla! “stop, cease.” Popularity as a greeting coincides with use of the telephone, where it won out over Alexander Graham Bell’s suggestion, ahoy. Central telephone exchange operators were known as hello-girls (1889).

“Hello, formerly an Americanism, is now nearly as common as hullo in Britain (Say who you are; do not just say ‘hello’ is the warning given in our telephone directories) and the Englishman cannot be expected to give up the right to say hello if he likes it better than his native hullo. [H.W. Fowler, “A Dictionary of Modern English Usage,” 1926] [1]

God is saying Who He Is, and not just saying “hello” as a warning. (cf Luke 21:26)  For 02 Advent 2010 I wrote a Reflection entitled, “Hello?”  God’s “hello” seems to be rather clear and this fresh Ahoy has been around for several years now, but the Church’s response in what she was expecting has fallen off its own cliff and grown cold in the Awakening.  Thomas Merton puts light on the subject when he wrote Thoughts in Solitude in 1958, and it is clear that things haven’t changed much, because we need God:

“In our age everything has to be a “problem.”  Ours is a time of anxiety because we have willed it to be so.  Our anxiety is not imposed on us by force from the outside.  We impose it on our world and upon one another from within ourselves.

Sanctity in such an age means, no doubt, travelling from the area of anxiety to the area in which there is no anxiety or perhaps it may mean learning, from God, to be without anxiety in the midst of anxiety.

Fundamentally, as Max Picard points out, it probably comes to this: living in silence which so reconciles the contradictions within us that, although they remain within us, they cease to be a problem (cf World of Silence, pp. 66-67).

Contradictions have always existed in the soul of man.  But it is only when we prefer analysis to silence that they become a constant and insoluble problem.  We are not meant to resolve all contradictions but to live with them and rise above them and see them in light of exterior and objective values which make them trivial by comparison.

Silence, then, belongs to the substance of sanctity.  In silence and hope are formed the strength of the Saints. (Isaias 30:15.)

When solitude was a problem, I had no solitude.  When it ceased to be a problem I found I already possessed it, and could have possessed it all along.  Yet still it was a problem because I knew after all that a merely subjective and inward solitude, the fruit of an effort at interiorisation, would never be enough.  Solitude has to be objective and concrete.  It has to be a communion in something greater than the world, as great as Being itself, in order that in its deep peace we may find God.

We put words between ourselves and things.  Even God has become another conceptual unreality in a no-man’s land of language that no longer serves as a means of communion with reality.

The solitary life, being silent, clears away the smoke-screen of words that man has laid down between his mind and things.  In solitude we remain face to face with the naked being of things.  And yet we find that the nakedness of reality which we have feared, is neither a matter of terror nor for shame.  It is clothed in the friendly communion of silence, and this silence is related to love.  The world our words have attempted to classify, to control and even to despise (because they could not contain it) comes close to us, for silence teaches us to know reality by respecting it where words have defiled it.

When we have lived long enough alone with the reality around us, our veneration will learn how to bring forth a few good words about it from the silence which is the mother of Truth.

Words stand between silence and silence: between the silence of things and the silence of our own being.  Between the silence of the world and the silence of God.  When we have really met and known the world in silence, words do not separate us from the world nor from other men, nor from God, nor from ourselves because we no longer trust entirely in language to contain reality.

Truth rises from the silence of being to the quiet tremendous presence of the Word.  Then, sinking again into silence, the truth of words bears us down into the silence of God.

Or rather God rises up out of the sea like a treasure in the waves, and when language recedes His brightness remains on the shores of our own being.”[2]

In my own thoughts in solitude, I reflected on recent news stories: How the news media is keeping the fear levels high by reminding us of the Mayan Calendar’s “World End” date approaching in three weeks, on 21 December 2012[3] (but compare Rev 14:6); how the seas were literally turning blood red[4] making things seem so very biblical (Rev 16:3); how the multitudes are seeking refuge by numbing out [5] (Rev 9:6), and how the North Koreans and Chinese are being laughed at by us because they took our sarcasm as truth.[6] (Rev 16:15)  What if the World’s End is actually a change in attitude?  Please notice that the topic of “God’s judgment” does not come at the end of the Book of Revelation.  The hour of His judgment is like that of a loving parent.  From a human perspective, we see the word “judgment,” and we fixate on what our connotation of what judgment is.  The angel in Rev 14:6, however, proclaims the eternal gospel and tells us to worship God.  God does not judge us the way we judge ourselves (and each other.)  He holds up a mirror instead.  And no one cares. (Jer 12:11)

Are the seas turning blood red a reminder that our blood is our collective common bond and is also reflected in the earth?  In the news article on mind-numbing arts, it turns out that a music video from South Korea, ‘Gangnam Style,’ is the most watched online video of all time. Bill O’Reilly interviewed Dr. Keith Ablow, who explained the popularity behind the viral video, which has aroused almost a billion [yes, billion with a “b”] viewers.  The doctor said that today’s mind-numbing music is like a drug.  Lack of insight is being reflected in the arts.  He said global viewers don’t want to be reminded of quality or getting tapped on their heart strings.  In the news piece on sarcasm taking center stage on the international platform, the headline read: “China Thinks The Onion’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ is a Real Thing and that Kim Jong-Un Won It.”[7]  And again from CNN: “Onion: We just fooled the Chinese government!”[8]  Now if we were mindful, and not mind-numbed, we would have the compassion necessary to put ourselves in the Orient’s shoes as a people who esteem honor and “saving face.”  But we did not help them “save face.”  Who would blame the Orient if they took action to defend their honor? 

Jeremiah 1:13 The word of the Lord came to me again: “What do you see?”

“I see a pot that is boiling,” I answered. “It is tilting toward us from the north.”

I pray that God will breathe a Spirit of hospitality, kindness, peace, and mercy into this thoughtless mix.  The signs of God’s Advent of the Holy Spirit’s arrival, of the heart’s revival out of perpetual deadness, is truly ‘something important and awaited’ and is now upon us.  Life here requires mindfulness and not careless judgments with no space left in our hearts and minds. 

Mindfulness.  How very different Mindfulness is than “Judgment” and “No Space” which are bed partners.  We all make judgments all day long as to what influences we allow to come into our being and consciousness.  If we evaluate those influences later and reflectively process how they affect us, then this becomes the healthy part of discernment.  This act of gentle filtering in selecting (a.k.a. one type of soft “judging”) frees up heart-mind space.  So on one end of the spectrum through mindfulness, discerning judgment opens free Space to become a playground for the soul to dance with God.  On the other hand when the soul becomes rigid, it develops a spiritual form of arteriosclerosis.  This happens on the opposite side of Judging. This form of judging is fearful, perpetually on defensive/offensive guard, self-centered, and self-serving because it has to look out for itself.  It is strictly ego-driven.  Societies (and churches) can be ego-driven every bit as much as individuals.  This ego-beast fills up the heart-space making itself larger than life and pushes out the good with the bad making No Space.  There is no room in the heart-mind to renegotiate.  This beast of No Space becomes a dictator of the heart that won’t allow anything to infiltrate its parameters and worldview.  

The phrase “No Space,” then, also refers to receptivity and valuing.  These qualities must be present going into the engagement of two parties.  An artist whose work is received by the art community is valued.  Value makes space.  Time influences Space.  When the people are numbed out and fill up empty time with noise, then noise fills the space.  Judgments feed the noise.  The irritated “bear” gets angry.  No Time influences No Space.  There is a principle at work: The more busy the people are, the more they judge that they have no time.  If one does not make/take time to reflect, then the heart does not have a chance to create Open Space to receive more blessing.  No Space assumes only judgment and is not receptive to mercy.  This is not limited to nations and our calloused society.  The Church has kept herself so busy and so very much on her over-protective guard (and citing Luke 21:34-36 to justify it!–

Luke 21:34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly,

21:35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.

21:36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”)

–that she keeps this bulldog Guard Mentality unilaterally across the board regardless of denomination or status or calling.  She guards so well, resisting all traps, and being hyper-alert at all times that she has become like the guards watching over Jesus’ tomb.  It is so pervasive that not one, not a single person, has asked about the Church’s and my journey together.  Evidently there’s no heart space left to ask questions.  That is telling in itself.  Not asking speaks volumes. The implication influences the process of repentance.  In the Church itself, it is the priest who asks the sinner what s/he wants to confess.  Where does the Church go when she is the one who has sinned and doesn’t want to talk about “it” because it makes her look and feel bad?

And hospitality?  Where does that leave Hospitality?  Could it be that God’s Advent in this silent void is His invitation for us to relearn the grace of hospitality?  God is a Gentleman, and it is His courtly way to send a messenger ahead with an invitation vouching for the person desiring audience.  This is the civilized thing to do.  Even today we poke fun at wedding crashers.  The Church is supposed to be the Bride of Christ.  But the Church-as-Bride has encased herself in a crystal fortress.  This crystal is solid, not dainty, fine, and fragile like Swarovski® vases.  This crystal is forged by fire and force in the bowels of the earth under extreme pressure.  This crystal is a solid block.  Impenetrable.  It is magnificent and cold.  It is a monument to Time and Space and Nature and Power.  It cannot be cut or broken.  It is far from the delicate finesse of blown glass.

Lord, it is no coincidence that the Lectionary Barons chose this Gospel passage from Luke 21 today.  And in it You said,

Luke 21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

In Revelation 21:9 You say, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’  The Holy City comes down out of heaven from God. (v 10)  It is not created by man.  The Church-as-Institution was created by man.  And he did a fine job of it.  The Church-as-Bride has the glory of God and the radiance is rare.

Rev 21:11 It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal.

Huh?  Have you seen jasper?  It is thick and earthy.  Anything but clear.  However it is crystal clear that we have made a Fine Mess of things, and that it is God’s glory alone that will rescue us.  Lord, the present-day Church-as-Institution in her fossilized, crystalline, cold, fortress right now must get a Whole Lot of help from You!  From my position standing inside of it, or rather being held prisoner in an isolated tower of this Crystal Castle, all I can see from every angle is immovable monoliths.  They’re pretty and ancient, but terribly cold.  I can hear the Church around me singing Luther’s hymn (with a twist): “A Mighty Fortress Is Our [g]od.”  Oops.  Is the Fortress our god, or are You, Lord?  There’s no asylum for me because the assumption in giving someone asylum, sanctuary, or freedom, is that one must validate or agree with what the other is saying and standing for.  But the Crystal Fortress cannot provide me that kind of sanctuary based on those conditions.  For her it would seem like her own “death.”  So what’s a girl to do?  Rapunzel’s waiting.  But for what?

The Lord said: “Watch.”

Suddenly the glory of the Lord shone from INSIDE the crystal fortress!  The Light was so intense and so bright that it shattered the crystal monolith-like fortress called “Church” from the inside out!  In the process of shattering, the Light reflected off the shards making millions of dancing rainbows!  With a Word spoken by God alone, His own glory shone over all the earth.  There was no doomsday destruction; no class systems to navigate, no hierarchies to climb, no war to defend one’s honor or turf, no monopoly games to “earn” salvation by following the rules of the Establishment.  It was all God’s Love and Mercy and Grace!  It was all about God opening His own arms in Hospitality and Welcome!

Oooooh, Lord, it’s soooo pretty!  It’s indescribably beautiful!  Please do it!  Please do it now!

 

1 Advent (Year C Rotation)                02 Dec 2012                           Gospel: Luke 21:25-36

Jeremiah 33:14-16
33:14 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

33:15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

33:16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”

Psalm 25:1-10
25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

25:2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.

25:3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

25:4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.

25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

25:6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.

25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!

25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

25:10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
3:9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?

3:10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

3:11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.

3:12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.

3:13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Luke 21:25-36
21:25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

21:26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

21:27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.

21:28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

21:29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees;

21:30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.

21:31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

21:32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.

21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

21:34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly,

21:35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.

21:36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”


[1] Online etymology: hello. Dictionary.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hello (accessed: November 28, 2012).

 

[2] Lawrence S. Cunningham, ed.; Thomas Merton: Spiritual Master, The Essential Writings; NY: Paulist Press, 1992; p 241, 243-245

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