Monday, April 29, 2013

Don't Know Whether to Laugh or Cry

A friend, who happens to be ordained, and had an emergency visit to the dentist during Holy Week, sent the following:

I spent Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday feverish, miserable, and mad about not being listened to. I kept thinking I would get up and dressed and go to church, but it didn't happen. About 3 or 4 on Easter morning, I gave up the idea of trying, and instead read St John Chrysostom's Easter sermon, and then listened to a couple different versions of the Exultet on YouTube.  
It turned out to be just what I needed. Moreover, I was spared the indignities of the service at church, where the interim decided to make Easter "fun" by changing the service into a stand up comedy routine starring himself. Part of the sermon was a decription of how Mary Magdalen must have reacted to reacted to seeing a walking breathing Jesus when she'd gone to anoint his corpse:  by saying "JESUS CHRIST!"  He said this not as Rabboni, but as an obscenity. 
Then, when it came time to celebrate the Eucharist, he pulled put a bottle of champagne and uncorked it with a flourish (hitting a choir member in the head, which necessitated another joke), because "it's a party, folks."  Have you ever heard of such insanity?  Such ego, to have to make himself the center of the Eucharist. Such arrogance, to have to curse like a teenager when he could have illuminated the first encounter with the risen Lord!  
When I heard about his shenanigans,  I was so grateful for my YouTube Easter, and for the understanding of the contemplative Eucharist ... But it makes me fear for the future.... Interim priests [have become] a cottage industry that has gotten way out of control here.  Parishes end up spending two or three years in "the process" of all these artificial tasks of self study, and visiting and interviewing. And most of the time, the person they call ends up being an unintentional interim anyhow. 
It's a crock.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good morning Maggie - there is a wealth to ponder from this blog and comments. I sense a deepening call for all God-seekers to focus on those things in life which enable beholding and to let go those which do not. Letting go a church culture of ego, control and power - embracing the hidden life of prayer & silence, staying with the cry of the world and the mercy of God and fleeing that which seeks to be relevant and entertaining. It is a desert place which has its own surprises - of discovering again what it is to worship in woodland and hillside, to pray whilst spinning and painting. And there are others relatively local, who when the invitation is made, gather in companionable silence ... Whilst I lament the chronic absence of silence in local church liturgy,and the power games of the wider church, letting go and letting go and letting go seems to be the path I am called to follow - attending in the silence - to quote Al - 'listening to the abyss of unknowing' - to the One who is within and beyond and is beauty beyond beauty. Peace be with you. Tessa

9:03 am, April 29, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Amen. Thank you. Staying with the cray of the world and the mercy of God and fleeing that which seeks to be relevant and entertaining. . .



11:21 am, April 29, 2013  
Anonymous AM said...

Contemplation in action: this man got sick, spermless at some point not because there was problem with his prostate, but simply because he saw too many deaths in Rwanda, thousands in a day. You can watch him at TED. Enjoy the silence that punctuates the logos of photography and human words.

3:54 am, May 02, 2013  
Anonymous MS said...


Thanks for the link. It's always impressive when people are able to take a -seemingly - insurmountable problem and break it down into manageable steps.

10:54 am, May 02, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link - had seen the photo's but hearing Salgado speak his story is inspiring - yes, this is contemplation in action.
Peace be with you. Tessa

4:05 pm, May 02, 2013  
Anonymous MS said...


Seems that through contemplation we can free ourselves from our own prisons. Peace be with you.

4:49 pm, May 03, 2013  
Anonymous AM said...

In as much as i try to avoid using this over-used word "con-templation," my current reading on the creation accounts in Genesis however brings me back to its roots which is the beholding in the Temple, being "enclosed" by the vision that is liturgically enacted in the Temple, where "priesthood" takes the glory of the Creator seriously instead of being self-referential. Scholarship on creation acounts it seems are good in pointing out the profundity, the "Other-centeredness" of the Temple connection to the Genesis accounts. But Maggie's singleminded vision of "beholding" makes "con-templation" a very practical embodiment of the Temple vision. "Without vision, the people perish."

10:11 pm, May 03, 2013  
Anonymous AM said...

So, i guess Salgado's habit of photo-taking has as much "beholding" than people can imagine - "beholding" the beauty of creation, as well as its destruction, painful as it is to behold. "Beholding" comes first. I'm finding out why dialectical systematic theologies like liberation theology or radical feminism should not be given primacy in streets or seminaries or eccclesiastical debates - redemption is not the Creator's first act - it is self-outpouring, and beholding is the only holistic (call it spiritual, moral, intellectual) response. It's election time in my country and violence escalates at the same time. Liberation theology can moralize about the violence in its structural set-up. But the question that keeps bugging me is: what if politicians are "taught" to behold first? But my next questions are: by whom and where?

10:34 pm, May 03, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does it ever stop being painful to behold?

2:37 pm, May 04, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

If there is awareness of pain or joy or anything else, then there is not yet beholding, but only the entryway.

The best response and possibly the only one to the question, perhaps, is: persevere and see for yourself.

2:41 pm, May 04, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,
I liked AM's statement that "redemption is not the Creator's first act - it is self-outpouring." It is similar to something David Benner says in his book Spirituality and the Awakening Self. Benner references Ken Wilber's description of unfolding as "Spirit's creative play in the fields of its own manifestation." Benner then goes on to say that "In this creative play, Spirit throws itself outward in self-emptying kenosis, to create a manifest universe."
My response to this self-outpouring has been, at times, a deep sense of wonder. Maggie, do you think that beholding and wonder are the same thing?

11:10 pm, May 05, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Wonder certainly leads to beholding; whether or not they are identical seems to depend on the author. Isaac of Nineveh says that wonder is the highest form of prayer, but his meaning of 'wonder' is very specialized; a lot of philosophers have said that philosophy begins with wonder; so have theologians about theology.

Off the top of my head, wonder in English has nuances of being one-way; beholding is reciprocal.

12:11 am, May 06, 2013  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Al Mozol writes:

I like to agree. "Wonder" has been associated with emotion which is linked to the project of self-fulfillment rather than transfiguration. So are the proliferation of dolphin shows and parks being paid for at the expense of the dolphins' and other animals' cruel conditioning and mechanical submission just to produce wonder on the part of the viewers. This of course has philosophical, theological as well as psychological back-ups from Socrates ("wonder is the feeling of the philosopher") to Schleiermacher ("religion as the sense and taste of the infinite") to Otto ("feeling of awe before mystery as the justification of religion) to William James ( "reality “means simply relation to our emotional and active life…whatever excites and stimulates our interest is real”").

5:14 am, May 06, 2013  

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