Friday, February 03, 2006

A voice from the past - Mt Calvary 1977

Through the miracle of computers, and my trusty iBook, Chip, in particular, I have the story I wrote in the spring of 1977 after I had spent three weeks as a pilgrim to Mt. Calvary Retreat House, where I am visiting today. What I quote below was the central part of a larger story, which was in turn a way to make sense of and write down an experience of the sacred, of an awareness that God was in love with me, liked me, was desirous of being with me lot less than everywhere and all the time. It was pure gift, a time of clarity after about a year of struggle and confusion. In reality, there was no one monk, but a variety of words and experiences: all boiled down to what I wrote here several months after the three weeks I stayed here. In many ways it is a message I am still coming to understand and live out.

What the Monk Said.

"What I want you to do is nothing. No more trips to Santa Barbara or Isla Vista to check up on the real world. No polysyllabic discourses with the other guests. I don't want to find you reading the Fathers of the Church or trying to sum up the Summa. If you have to read then try something like the Narnia books, nothing heavier, just keep it clean and light. I do want you to start attending the daily office, there is a rhythm there that will do you good. And I'd like to take a walk up the canyon everyday between lunch and tea. Take a towel in case you feel like swimming and find a rock and listen to the water in the creek. Lay back and let life sing its song to you, Let life happen in its own good time.

"I am not too popular with people from the Southland. Once I told a group from a church in Beverly Hills that if all Los Angeles spent three days in prayer the smog would vanish. They said that the area would all but vanish in the sense that nothing could happen. I said I though that was an added benefit. They didn't agree. What I am saying is that sometimes you just have to sit and wait.

"I want you to fill yourself with religion while you are here. A religion of action, I want you to choreograph your day with the daily office and festoon your night with prayer. I want you to allow the possibility that the world is a holy place and I want you to see that religion points to a fact that religion points too a fact, a statement about the universe that is beyond your wildest preconceptions, a reality that reaches out and in and under everything that Is. I want you to allow the possibility of God and I want you to use the way of religion.

"Religion serves man as a reminding sign, a directional signal, a road that points towards, and sometimes people forget that. They get to the point where they are supposed to learn, where they can remind themselves, and they forget to go on. That can and does happen with every bit of religious activity and every myth. It also happens with Kiwanis or Rotary, with business or academia. As soon as you have an image of some facet of truth the tendency seems to be to sit down and talk about it, think about it, write about it, everything but going on. When Dante went to his Paradise he saw some men who looked like mountains, and when he asked them who they were they said they were the ones who always go a little bit farther. Just a little but farther, to the unconstructed image, to the house of God.

"You see to go one, to follow the whisper of a hint, the glimpse of a vision, takes almost a superhuman amount of courage. It would be beyond any man if it were not for two things. First the wave that carries towards this sought for land is one of grace; we are carried by the current. And this graceful action is the most natural thing in the world. We have gotten to the point in this world where we call a young man normal if, after the proper amount of schooling, he spends the rest of his life selling insurance. In the name of all that is holy, don't worry about what is normal! Just have faith. Follow the hopeful moments, become a firm friend of the fact of life.

"I think that is what happens to the holy ones; whether Jesus , Buddha, Merton, Krishnamurti, or those we haven't heard of yet and perhaps never will. They kept going on a little further. They kept their ears open and their eyes clear and they becomes friends with life. They met her and mingled with her and looked at creation and found that it is good beyond belief. So they melded into life. each in their own way. that is all we have to do, go on in our own path, each bearing our unique gift. That isn't so very much to ask, to taste the savor of God. Dame Juliana said there were three things about that world that are important. The first is that God creates it, second, he keeps it, third he loves it.

"Look at where you are. Open your eyes and see! You are light dancing in the eyes of God. For that reason be what you are.

"This is the last time we will meet together, I am leaving for the mother house soon. I am not ordering you out the door, but I do think that it is time you were heading back to Davis. I have one more chance to talk to you and I have one more thing to say. I want you to trust your own conception of God. I want you to allow the wild possibility that God may be exactly as you are at your best, but larger, containing more diversity, unlimited options and combinations. Allow the possibility that God is not only lovable, but that he is likable, and since he is, so are you, St. Paul says that we are hidden in Christ, and the reverse in true as well. Christ is hidden with us; the wedding feast, the last supper, crucifixion, resurrection and pentecost are all hidden in our lives as well. We are the life of God acted out in time and space, the grace of God happening outside eternity, God dancing God's dance of perfect time, the epiphanies of God in process of happening, the eyes of God in the process of seeing.

"Tonight I want you to spend an hour in the Chapel before Compline. Go in and sit, or kneel and pray if you feel like praying, but mainly just wait for the silence. Just be ready."

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