Sunday, December 13, 2020

Advent 2020

 Happy Advent to all the readers of this blog. I'm sorry I haven't posted much this year, but events have been so significant—I almost wrote 'monstrous', thinking of various governments—that it has been almost impossible to find an impartial view or know what to say. This silence has been exacerbated by the two books on silence that I published; one might say I have written myself into silence.

Nonetheless, in the interest of keeping this blog alive for a time when words may make their reappearance, I will try to say something useful.

I'm afraid that I am not one of those people who think that, with the Biden presidency to be confirmed tomorrow by the electoral college, all the troubles of the last four years are over. Quite the contrary. Of course I am hugely relieved not only that he won and also that he has survived all the challenges, but I fear Trump has done and is still doing so much damage that this is only the beginning, not to mention his inhuman and shocking last-minute killing spree of prisoners, while pardoning those who are his cronies. And the corona virus gets worse by the day; he is responsible for many of these deaths as well because of his lies and sloth.

Add to that the problems here in the UK, facing a no-deal Brexit on top of the coronavirus epidemic—it's going to be an almost unimaginable maelstrom.

But in spite of all the doom and gloom the light does shine in the darkness and the mystery of the Incarnation is not only with us at this season but in every season; we encounter it most directly in the Eucharist. Recently I was asked to write 10,000 words on the subject of 'My Theology'. Even that request has left me baffled in silence. The only phrase that has come to mind is 'eucharistic entanglement' in its widest sense. Even with ten times the words requested, I don't think I could tease out the theology contained in this phrase, and I'm not sure if it is at the core of 'My Theology'. Besides, what theology can be said to be 'mine' anyway? 'We stand on the shoulders of giants', is the medieval phrase that cathedral builders (theology in stone) and theologians once used. We forget it at our peril.

But maybe 'Peace on earth, good will among peoples' is part of what could be if we recognised that life is eucharistic and everything in creation is entangled with everything else in the love of God, both materially and spiritually—although I wish there were a way to say this that isn't a dichotomy .

Please have a blessed and safe Christmas, and pray for the New Year.


Anonymous Al said...

I stumbled on this Simone Weil's quote from Anthony O'Hear's Transcendence, Creation, Incarnation:

"The proper method of philosophy consists in clearly conceiving the insoluble problems in all their insolubility, and then in simply contemplating them, fixedly and tirelessly, year after year, without any hope, patiently waiting… There is no entry into the transcendent until the human faculties -intelligence, will, human love – have come up against a limit… Genius is the supernatural virtue of humility in the domain of thought."

A joyful Advent.

10:45 pm, December 14, 2020  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am new to discovering Maggie and want to get a message to you just to say, so much,
thank you. Catholic Secular Priest in parish, just loving your tracking of IMPLICATIONS for what is so lightly said about prayer and it is not known how much is not known about the actual living of it. Beholding has lifted me up.
Gratitude and more gratitude and an avalanche of flowers to you in gratitude.
Tony Slingo

12:55 pm, February 02, 2021  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Thank you, Tony.I am so grateful.
Along this line there is a book coming out on the mysteries of the rosary with icons painted in the lovely Norwegian colours (the artist is Norwegian) of tole decoration. The book is by Addison Hart and will be published by Wipf and Stock later this year. I have rarely read anything on the rosary that was so sane and that moved me so much. Enjoy.

1:57 pm, February 02, 2021  
Blogger Addison said...

I am profoundly gratified that you found the book to your liking. As I'm sure you may have noted in it, your books have been very important for me. Thank you for your gracious words.

Addison Hart

5:11 pm, March 23, 2021  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

The honour is all mine. That someone like you would find my writing useful especially in creating a book of the quality you have written is the most profound reward an author could have. BTW I showed your book to an icon painter friend of mine in Juneau, Alaska, Charles Rorhbacher, and he was very impressed indeed. Blessings.

5:49 pm, March 23, 2021  
Blogger Addison said...

Again, thank you.

10:14 am, March 24, 2021  
Anonymous Schtitt said...

Dear Maggie,

first I want to join my voice with the others who have found this blog and your writings in general to be profoundly impactful.

I do have a question which has become one of my main stumbling blocks in seeking interior silence, which has to do with the relationship between "beholding" and "being completely absorbed in an activity". Sometimes, when doing certain things, I can become very absorbed, but still after the fact wonder whether I 'should' have been doing that thing, instead of just sitting and being and 'beholding'.

Let us take playing computer games as an example, both because it's relevant to me but also an example of something that is very absorbing so that I forget myself. Yet, in spite of this, playing computer games is certainly *also* an escape - a retreat into a world where I am more or less in control. And while playing computer games, I get very invested in the illusory world presented to me, again, without being very self-conscious about it. It's as if playing computer games allows self-forgetfulness, but it at the same time there is no sense of God, of beholding, of partaking in the Communion of our shared being, anything like that. I'm just very into the computer game, and coming out of it, it doesn't seem to me like I have grown more into the world of silence.

I feel like there are many activities that share the same dual nature - listening to music (self-forgetful ecstasy but also avoiding the 'horror vacui'), reading (becoming very absorbed in the story, but can still be said to be escapism (unless one reads in the context of silence itself, perhaps)), and even daily work can feel to me to be not 'beholding' per se, but rather just forgetting myself, and not relating this in any way to silence or God etc.

Of course, an obvious answer to these thoughts would be to let them, as well, subsume into silence, which I have, but I still would like to ask if you could share your thoughts about the difference or similarities between 'beholding' and losing oneself in some kind of activity. To me, they seem different although my articulation of this difference is clumsy.

3:16 pm, April 14, 2021  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Thank you for your kind words.

You ask a very important question. I think in general tasks—for example, transplanting seedlings—can be helpful in learning to prepare for self-forgetfulness, I wouldn't put computer games in this category. First, the content matters, for everything you are exposed to goes into the mix in the unconscious. The second is control. When you are transplanting seedlings, the 'control' is more or less absent except for going through the necessary motions, which are almost automatic, or perhaps I should say, autonomic. If one has times of self-forgetfulness, they are a gift. You cannot force them, and doing something to try to make them happen will most certainly be counter-productive. See the book 'The Paradox of Intention'.

Computer games, on the other hand, call for heavy demands on the left brain, linear-mind, which is antithetical to contemplation, as is the violence that is the content of most computer games. So I can't recommend them as learning a way of self-forgetfulness, which is about entirely relinquishing control. But there is something else here: beholding is not something one 'does'. It too is a gift of which self-forgetfulness is the outer courtyard, as it were. One can prepare to receive it, but that's as far as it goes. It is, if you like, a passive activity of opening and receptivity. Ultimately, of course, as one goes further down the road of contemplation, one discovers that beholding is the centre of the soul and is always there. What is given is a retrospective realisation of some 'trace' that for a time one has had a more direct engagement with it out of our own sight. This is true of both self-forgetfulness and beholding, which obviously elide one into the other so as to be indistinguishable. It's better not to analyse but just give thanks and go forward. Otherwise you risk turning it into an 'experience', which is a way of control.

Hope this helps.

3:40 pm, April 14, 2021  
Anonymous Schtitt said...

Dear Maggie,

I would have more kind words indeed were I to ever have the privilege of meeting you, but for now this is what I can do.

And your answer definitely did help and was instructive - and it was also instructive that as I waited for your reply, something similar to what you said about 'control' did dawn on me.

It also makes me wonder about the nature of highly 'left-brained' work, i.e. physical sciences, as I have the privilege and misfortune to be involved in, and whether much of that type of work (perhaps with the exception of theoretical physics and math, as you have touched upon at various points) is simply incompatible with the contemplative life - it is certainly a question that weighs on me these days.

Thank you so much, again!

4:36 pm, April 14, 2021  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Actually, it doesn't really matter that you are in practical sciences. There is a certain amount of contemplation in every discipline, and a number of scientific discoveries have been made through 'Eureka' moments. It's the content that matters. Your unconscious works in concert with your contemplation. That's why you can meditate to become a better killer. It's necessary to be careful about the content put into our minds, consciously and unconsciously. That's why violent video games and pornography are inevitably going to put roadblocks in the way of contemplation that is fruitful in a positive way.

5:21 pm, April 14, 2021  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you Maggie, for your words here and your books. They have been transformative and releasing as I am only fours year in with finding silence and contemplation, after drifting away from my evangelical upbringing. I have encounter so many mentors through so many great books. Yours, Richard Rohr, Merton, John O'D and Bonnie Thurston to name a few. So grateful. Yours, Dawn

3:00 pm, May 16, 2021  

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