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How to die to see God

Mystical Prayer in the Holy Spirit

St. Bonaventure - Doctor of the Church

This reading on mystical (contemplative) prayer, taken from St. Bonaventure's Journey of the Mind to God (Cap. 7,1 2.4.6: Opera Omnia, 5, 312-313), is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the Feast (liturgical memorial) of St. Bonaventure on July 15.

Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise.

For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love. The fir is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardour of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death. Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me and live.

Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination. Let us pass over with the crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that, when the Father has shown himself to us, we can say with Philip: It is enough. We may hear with Paul: My grace is sufficient for you; and we can rejoice with David, saying: My flesh and my heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my heritage for ever. Blessed be the Lord for ever, and let all the people say: Amen. Amen!

This is an interesting read, because in our times everything points to the opposite way of believers reaching to God's presence. Christians are trying to find God mostly by experiencing Him, and the cavalcades of worldly distractions might suggest that the same intensity of emotional engagement with "spiritual" things (think: cool, relevant Christian church) will overpower the former and bring the soothing presence of God (with His blessings = answers to my prayers). Not so, says St. Bonaventure, and many mystics. Cherishing death is the way.

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quaerere Deum - seeking God

artykul w tym temacie w jez. polskim Very interesting speech of pope Benedict XVI during his visit to France last week. He was addressing the 'World of culture", trying to show the path for the Western civilization to emerge again as a society having answers to the essential and central questions of the purposes for humanity. The whole text is here, and below some excerpts:

Their goal was: quaerere Deum. Amid the confusion of the times, in which nothing seemed permanent, they wanted to do the essential – to make an effort to find what was perennially valid and lasting, life itself. They were searching for God. They wanted to go from the inessential to the essential, to the only truly important and reliable thing there is. It is sometimes said that they were “eschatologically” oriented. But this is not to be understood in a temporal sense, as if they were looking ahead to the end of the world or to their own death, but in an existential sense: they were seeking the definitive behind the provisional.

For prayer that issues from the word of God, speech is not enough: music is required.

“The monks had to find melodies which translate into music the acceptance by redeemed man of the mysteries that he celebrates. The few surviving capitula from Cluny thus show the Christological symbols of the individual modes”

For Benedict, the words of the Psalm: coram angelis psallam Tibi, Domine – in the presence of the angels, I will sing your praise (cf. 138:1) – are the decisive rule governing the prayer and chant of the monks. What this expresses is the awareness that in communal prayer one is singing in the presence of the entire heavenly court, and is thereby measured according to the very highest standards: that one is praying and singing in such a way as to harmonize with the music of the noble spirits who were considered the originators of the harmony of the cosmos, the music of the spheres.

It shows that the culture of singing is also the culture of being, and that the monks have to pray and sing in a manner commensurate with the grandeur of the word handed down to them, with its claim on true beauty. This intrinsic requirement of speaking with God and singing of him with words he himself has given, is what gave rise to the great tradition of Western music. It was not a form of private “creativity”, in which the individual leaves a memorial to himself and makes self-representation his essential criterion. Rather it is about vigilantly recognizing with the “ears of the heart” the inner laws of the music of creation, the archetypes of music that the Creator built into his world and into men, and thus discovering music that is worthy of God, and at the same time truly worthy of man, music whose worthiness resounds in purity.

By becoming a monk, a man set out on a broad and noble path, but he had already found the direction he needed: the word of the Bible, in which he heard God himself speaking. Now he had to try to understand him, so as to be able to approach him. So the monastic journey is indeed a journey into the inner world of the received word, even if an infinite distance is involved. Within the monks’ seeking there is already contained, in some respects, a finding. Therefore, if such seeking is to be possible at all, there has to be an initial spur, which not only arouses the will to seek, but also makes it possible to believe that the way is concealed within this word, or rather: that in this word, God himself has set out towards men, and hence men can come to God through it. To put it another way: there must be proclamation, which speaks to man and so creates conviction, which in turn can become life.

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The fulfilment of all desire

I have met Ralph Martin when he came to Poland with John Wimber. They were the main speakers at the conference in Warsaw, where about 3, 000 believers (Catholics and Protestants) gathered to hear about Jesus' love and power operating in our times. 15 years later, I've just finished Martin's book "The fulfilment of all desire".

by Ralph Martin

YOU MUST READ IT

This is not a book only for those who think that they are called to a "life of prayer" (by the way, how else we can communicate and fellowship with God Himself?). It is not only for those who recognize an intercessory role as their primary function within the body of Christ. It's not only for those who identify themselves as evangelicals or charismatics or mystics or emergent church.

It's for those who:

  • desire to acknowledge that there is a depth to the knowledge of God, which we, in our "instant society" are lacking profoundly
  • those who are experiencing hunger for God
  • those who love challenges
  • those who believe that inspiration of the past generations can be valuable
  • those who want to go deeper in understanding the ways to reach their Creator
  • those who need biblical proof that all of these mystics are right
  • don't understand why things are happening, when they laid down their whole lives to Jesus
  • those who struggle with prayer life
  • those who are tired of seven-points-to-successful-prayer
  • those who are searching for the ancient truths spoken in a modern language
  • those who love God Himself above everything else, who burned the bridges, who know that there is nothing else to come back to, but are apprehensive of stepping into the unknown
  • those who want to become saints ( and I am quite serious about that one)

If you were struggling while reading "Fire within" by T. Dubay, this is "easier to read" version for the same subject - prayer.

WARNING

You will be messed up for some time, possibly for life...

You will discover (if you don't know yet) that the whole body of Christ should be greatful to the Catholics for their wisdom...

You will wonder why no one told you these things before, and how come all of it is in the Bible...

You will discover something about yourself that someone else already knew hundreds years ago...

You will feel that you are a part of something bigger...

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800 years old sound of heaven

click on the photo to go to their website

Would you like to write a song that would be sang for few centuries and still be fascinating, never boring, heart opening for generations to come? Would you like to give up the copy rights for it? No fame for your name...

That happens right now in Europe. People, particularly young, are buying Winehouse, Radiohead, U2 and lately "Chant-Music for Paradise". The last one debuted in UK as 9th in the song charts, totally unexpected, and now bunches of sociologists, psychologists and other "-gists" are trying to figure out what's going on.

Are we overwhelmed with the speed of life, and need some calming, simplified singing to stop our havoc? Are we bored with the noisy postmodern version of music and looking for refreshing sounds for our iPods? Are we trying frantically to invent something new, but we can't be creative and quick enough, evolving from one sound to the next, so we reach for the ancient old?

800 years old house of prayer

This story starts with one of the monks who sent the link to their music to the Universal Music. Universal was searching for something new, and they were picked.

13 Cistercian monks were picked to record the album. The chants were written few hundred years ago by anonymous monks. The ones on the album include Veni Creator Spiritus ( I sang it sooo many times before, it's beautiful) and few funeral chants, as two of their brothers recently died and they did not feel like singing "upbeat chants". They recorded the album in a church, praying/singing the chants. That's what they do for living in the Stift Heiligenkreuz Abbey in Austria, founded in 1133, as a house of prayer to thank and praise God and to intercede for the sake of the whole world. It was open continually, till today. They pray 5 times a day together, chanting prayers, and working.

The phenomenal singers are asked to tour around, but they refuse, because they are called to Ora et Labora, following the order of St. Benedict.

800 years old songs

What are the characteristics of this form of sung prayer, which is "daily bread" in convents and monasteries?

Father Wallner: Gregorian chant is very ancient. It was born in the first millennium, appearing already in the 4th century, and in many aspects is addressed to the Most High.

First of all the texts are, for the most part, verses from the Bible: hence it is the word of God, which from the mouths of men returns to God in the form of singing.

In the second place, the composers of the melodies were pious anonymous men consecrated to God, mostly monks, who created the music not out of a desire for fame, but men who desired, once the work was complete, to return to total anonymity. Hence, men who in their longing for holiness created something holy.

In the third place, chant is very fascinating, inasmuch as it is situated outside our normal experience of music. There are no tones of C major or D minor, there are no tempi, there is no established rhythm; it is a song for only one voice. Hence, it is a different sound from all other sounds that we today call music. And at the same time, it is at the root of all that which subsequently developed as music.

Fourth point: chant is above all a sung prayer. We sing it always before the altar; therefore, it is not for the people, but for God. That is why we can never go on tour with our chant, because it is always a question of prayer. The recordings for the CD "Chant -- Music for Paradise" were also taken from prayer. (from Catholic Online)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLFN-RVpLtk&hl=en]

Gregorian chant is a form of sung prayer which has been tried and tested through the centuries. It has pre-Christian roots in the ancient Jewish Temple Liturgy. The early Christians adopted many of the ancient chants and developed them further. The Roman Church had the core of what we now know as Gregorian chant by the 7th and 8th centuries. The name “Gregorian chant” comes from Pope St. Gregory the Great (died 604) who founded a “schola cantorum,” a chant school, which collected all the existing chants.

These texts are generally taken from the Bible, the word of God. Thus the monks sing back to God the words which He has Himself given us…joining Heaven and earth. Most of the texts are taken from the Old Testament Psalms. The music is always at the service of the text—unfolding its meaning, and disposing the soul to enter into its spirit ( from their web site).

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The conquest of the Bride

"The conquest of the Bride" is the title of 12th chapter from "Heart from Heart of the World" by Hans Urs von Balthasar. H. U. von Balthasar, a Swiss theologian, was called "perhaps the most cultured man of our century" by pope Benedict 16 and one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. His writings, over 1,000 books and articles, were based upon theological studies of the Scriptures and the works of the church fathers. I am enjoying reading some of his books during the last year or so, and found this excerpt on CERC. Read the whole chapter here or download it from my "I share" files (in the sidebar). Here are few fragments, an oracle of God to His church-Bride. It's dogmatic and transcendental substance coexists with the lyrical, but meaningful finesse of revelation, reaching to the depths of God's heart and revealing His anguish and desires.

 by januaryman

You will be a sign of contradiction among the peoples, and no one will even as much as whisper your name, O my Church, without shuddering.

Over you men will have to part their ways, for many will love you and squander everything for you, but very many will hate you, and these will swear an oath not to rest until they have exterminated you from the land of men. And you will be despised like no man or thing, except myself, has ever been despised on earth. They will stand in line for the privilege of spitting in your face, of wiping off on your garments the mud from their shoes.

Your administrators stingily dole out through well-run pipe-systems and institutions the precious liquid of my grace. The bark of the tree which once blossomed in the wild has now turned to cork. You have become such an established household that even the catastrophic storms of the times, and persecution rattling at your gates and windows, can hardly awaken you from sleep, and a slap in your face can elicit from you but an embarrassed smile. Disgrace covers the length of you, all the more poignantly as you try to deny it, pretending nothing is amiss.

It is with you, my Body, that I am forever fighting the great, apocalyptic battle.

The inglorious weakness with which, in this century of collapse, you stand before the world unable to transform it: this weakness is already a part of the mystery of my own inglorious weakness, for when was I ever strong enough to renew the face of this exterior world?

Bind yourself to me so irrevocably that I will be able to descend to hell with you; and then I will bind you to myself so irrevocably that, with me, you will be able to ascend to very heaven.

And so, in spite of everything, you will be my sign among the nations. To them you will remain a very implausible thing, so much so that they will daily prophesy your death. And you will indeed die after a fashion. But see: we live, you and I, for I have died once, and whoever eats of my death will live eternally and I will awaken him on the Last Day — - and each day is the last.

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