The Inner Struggle

From the Point Of View Of Spirit …

“Crux Fidelis”, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, from the album “Lent at Ephesus”, (2014)

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The Isenheim Altarpiece is an altarpiece sculpted and painted by, respectively, the Germans Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald in 1512–1516

Today I have used images taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, The Isenheim Altarpiece is an altarpiece sculpted and painted by, respectively, the Germans Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald in 1512–1516.

I will not just copy everything they have to say about it but suffice to say go on over and visit it and read the article, it is worth one’s time to understand better the past history which contributed to Western European Civilization’s rise, especially since we are in such a hurry to blow it all away in our modern progressive wasteland.

So after the last blogpost it might appear we have swerved off the road, but in fact all of the items, objections, observations, and situations complained about, and judged, and questioned in that post are firmly rooted in my own biases, attractions, beliefs, and narratives in and about this material world.

In short, my ego, my “self” is intimately enmeshed in all my observations and conclusions, MY plans, MY dreams, MY opinions, MY understanding. I don’t believe that I am uniquely blessed. I believe that we all share these attachments to the material, especially if we strongly believe that this time based material reality is all there is.

Viewed through my human nature, all these things are ultimately important, but viewed through my soul nature they are really seen to be unimportant and irrelevant, mere distractions on the path. And yet … and yet … we insist on refusing to see what is right before us. We dive into the unreal and forsake the real for the sake of our passions, our tastes, our desires, our egos.

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Grunewald – Isenheim Altarpiece – First View

Barabbas is in each one of us. We are scoundrels, experts in selfishness, boasting, lust, violence and greed. We are bandits, taking God’s many gifts and ungratefully neglecting them and squandering them.

We take for granted the most precious realities of life: family, life, nature, health, faith, and the sacraments.  We squander our talents, our money, our time, and the love others offer us.

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Grunewald Isenheim Second View

We are quick to criticize and judge, to steal others’ honor and sully it with our moral and intellectual myopia. What do we, who are so flawed, so weak, so slow to repent, and so reluctant to serve — what do we deserve?

Certainly not God’s love, certainly not his continued forgiveness, certainly not redemption, hope, peace, and heaven. Strictly speaking, we deserve to be cut off from the kingdom against which we have so often rebelled — just like the murderous insurgent Barabbas.

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Grunewald Isenheim Third View

And yet, Jesus overlooks what we deserve. It is Passover, and the angel of justice passes over the sinner to wreak his punishments on the Lamb of God instead. Look at the Lord with the eyes of Barabbas. Is there any heart that loves you more than His Sacred Heart? Is there any heart more trustworthy than the heart that died so that you might have abundant life? John Bartunek, LC, ThD.The Better Part”, pp321

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Grunewald’s Risen Christ

We insist on refusing to see what is right before us — we refuse to see reality through the eyes of our spirit/soul — we clutch at our “self” and our passions, appetites, vices, and sins, because, as Screwtape says (about half way down one of my posts): “you must remember that he (us) takes Time for an ultimate reality”.

As we walk through this “valley of death”, this mortal world full of evil both without and within, we find that the closer we cling to the visible, material, temporal vision, the more we fear.  Because when you really look at everything around us, the happenings, and events, and personal relations, and national relations, the EVERYTHING in TIME, the more we fear.

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Mathis Gothart Grunewald’s “St. John The Baptist” illum oportet crescere me autem minui (Vulgate, John 3:30 ), “He must increase, but I must decrease.

Because, if we actually pull our collective heads out of the “sand” (or wherever) the more we have to acknowledge that there is not one damned thing we can do about any of it and if this is all there is then we may just as well end it all. If this is all there is then what is really the point? 

This morning I visited another WordPress blog which I follow at “Finding Hope”  Often I am encouraged and given hope reading what this person writes. This time I found there a story specifically about this struggle with “What’s The Point”. It brought me to tears and to prayer:

A Prayer of Sorrow

” I have fallen, Lord, once more. I can’t go on. I’ll never succeed. I am ashamed.  I don’t dare look at you. And yet I struggled, Lord, for I knew you were right near me, bending over me, watching.

But temptation blew like a hurricane, and instead of you I turned my head away. I stepped aside, while you stood silent and sorrowful. Lord, don’t look at me like that.

For I am ashamed and sorrowful. I am down, shattered, with no strength left. I dare make no more promises. I can only stand bowed before you.

 Come, Child, look up. Isn’t it mainly your vanity that is wounded? If you loved me you would grieve but you would trust. Do you think that there is a limit to God’s love? Do you think that for a moment I stopped loving you? But you still rely on yourself.

 You must rely on me. Ask my pardon and get up quickly. You see, it’s not falling that is worse, but staying on the ground.”

Wow …

If we are not careful we find ourselves angry with God because “He is doing this to me!” and we can’t bring ourselves to recognize our own failings and faults, and that God is not really “doing this to us” but just watching us sorrowfully from His eternal NOW as we do these spiteful things to “punish” Him.

And then consider how much of what we do daily is out of spite and passive aggression.  Spite at family members, spite at neighbours, spite at friends, spite at groups of people we “have a bone to pick” with, spite at other drivers, spite at other folks in public places or in the news, spite at professional groups, anyway, you get my drift.

Matushka Juliana Schmemann, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Matushka Juliana Schmemann, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Our spiritual point of view completely obscured by passion , resentment and pride, so we do and say things we later regret or find are mistaken in their target and intent. “Every evil screams out only one message: “I am good”! And not only does it scream, but it also demands that the people cry out tirelessly in response: ‘You  are good, you are freedom, you are happiness’ “(Father Alexander Schmemann)

All of these passions painting layer upon layer of darkness on the vision of our soul/spirit, completely obscuring reality. These “little sins” of spite, of holding grudges and passive aggression until vengeance be meted out are really great big sins of pride, of our ego, of needing to be seen and heard and esteemed, even by God, if we still remember Him.

My mother (God rest her soul) went to her grave, “died unshriven”  as they say, or bás a fháil gan sagart” as our Irish ancestors would say, that is “not having confessed sins to a priest and been given absolution”  after 32 years of rejecting God and the church and the sacraments. Because she just couldn’t accept that God’s plan for her life did not align with her plan for her life. After my father died, at 57,  my mother (always a very stubborn woman) rejected the church, priests, God, religion, holding out for her plan, until vengeance be meted out.

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Fyodor Dostoyevsky

In her early life, although we were poor, she did her best to raise us children so that we never wanted for anything essential, even including making our clothes.  She looked out for us with devotion and worshiped my father as her eternal love.  She died a unhappy woman at 92 still holding out for the material reality of her plan and rejecting the soul/spirit view of eternity.

God gave her 32 more years after he took Dad, to come to an understanding of reality and we discussed it and argued about it countless times for 32 years. I must have been a real pain in the ass when all she really wanted was to be left alone in her bitterness.

In some ways she reminded me, in the last 30 years of her life, of “The Old Woman and The Onion” fable which appears in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel “The Brothers Karamazov“.  My mother refused to give up her narrative and her plan regardless of the cost.

And all that misery and bitterness because she took TIME for reality and could never bring herself to accept that this world didn’t matter, that she had to give up HER plan for life and accept God’s plan:

15Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God, abideth for ever. (1 John 2, Douay-Rheims Bible)

We would be better to write poems of Love to God:

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Ah, Love, let us be true to one another!
For the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.”

(Mathew Arnold, English Poet, 1822 — 1888)

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“An Taiseirl (The Resurection)”, Noirin Ni Riain and The Monks Of Glenstal Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube”, (1996)

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Inuit Snow Goggles

It seems obvious at this point what reality is and what the choice is that must be made, between a short syllable of time or all eternity, to devote our short lives to chasing happiness and success in this world or take off our goggles and pursue eternity.

But in order to detach from the important material things which fill up our lives and leave us bitter and afraid we have to abandon our “self”–ishness and trust God. Selfishness is rooted in “FEAR” of loosing something good for ourselves or missing out on something which might make us happy, or whatever … we often do not even know what it is we are afraid of loosing or missing out on, but we are sure someone else is getting it and we are not.

The main obstacle or hurdle to overcome when approaching the spirit/soul point of view is self love. It is immensely difficult to develop detachment from this world while fully immersed in the pool of self love where this time based world is everything.

By immersing oneself in the world of spirit, outside time and space, where everything material is unimportant we are able to appreciate and understand just what an infinitesimal part of reality is the part with time, which we choose to believe constitutes all of reality.

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Air Force One

So we have to give up our self and trust God, a difficult target when we have so much trouble trusting our family or our friends, or the folks at work or at the corner store.

Trust; trust God, who knows us so much better than we even know ourselves since he conceived us and created us and he loves us more than we love ourselves and he wants nothing more than our absolute happiness and well being. He knows what we need.

So in conclusion (for now)  “LET IT GO!” We have to move from “My will be done” to “Thy will be done”. Our future depends on it. Salvation does not arrive on Air Force One. Or any other means of conveyance.

Cheers

Joe

 

100-canadian-landscapeWe fight the long defeat because results are not as important as our Father’s delight. We fight the long defeat because we are not the authorities over “success.” We fight the long defeat because the final victory is coming.

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Life in a small town

Some levity for a Change … it’s all part of the plan …

A good friend sent this to me by email. He doesn’t email much so I figure this is his way of telling me to “lighten up!”

I am sharing because I got a spontaneous laugh and a reminder to not take things too seriously.

Credit to whoever thought this one up in the wide electronic universe …

The Lark Ascending

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And God Looked Down…

Most seniors never get enough exercise. In His wisdom God decreed that seniors become forgetful so they would have to search for their glasses, keys and other things thus doing more walking.
And God looked down and saw that it was good.

Then God saw there was another need.  In His wisdom He made seniors lose coordination so they would drop things requiring them to bend, reach & stretch.
And God looked down and saw that it was good.

Then God considered the function of bladders and decided seniors would have additional calls of nature requiring more trips to the bathroom, thus providing more exercise.
God looked down and saw that it was good.

So if you find as you age, you are getting up and down more, remember its God’s will.  It is all in your best interest even though you mutter under your breath.

 

Nine Important Facts To Remember As We Grow Older

#9  Death is the number 1 killer in the world.

#8  Life is a sexually transmitted disease.

#7  Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

#6  Men have 2 motivations: hunger and hanky-panky, and they can’t tell them apart.
     If you see a gleam in his eyes, make him a sandwich.

#5  Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. 
Teach a person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks, months, maybe years.

#4  Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospital, dying of nothing.

#3  All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

#2  In the 60’s, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird, and people take Prozac to make it normal.

#1  Life is like a jar of jalapeno peppers.  What you do today might burn your arse tomorrow!

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So much to think about, so little time, remember to forgive.

Cheers

knight_templar_battle_wearyDisclaimer for the nit pickers: we take pride in being incomplete, incorrect, inconsistent, and unfair. We do all of them deliberately.

Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.


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The Inner Struggle

Workups …

… This is all just one big non-stop training exercise so that we have half a chance of learning what we need to know for real life – that is eternity.

So, WORKUPS. After a period of rest and refit, we enter into an intensive predeployment workup. The personnel have received new training, the ships get repaired, maintained and re-equiped (refitted) hopefully with newer better tools and equipment – or maybe not, if the goal of the civilian ministers and directors, the previously mentioned 5th column,  is to atrit and deplete to free up funding for their favorite pig farm.

Where the right hand is blathering about commitments and duty and Ready Aye Ready, but the left hand is strangely refusing to supply enough fuel for deployment or enough personnel to crew the ships, or … well you get the drift …

Old ditty:

We the willing, lead by the unknowing, doing the impossible, for the ungrateful,
Have done so much, with so little, for so long,
We are now expected to do everything, with nothing, forever …

Workups …, such fun, a team of highly trained saboteurs and sadists descend upon the newly minted unit with the express goal of exposing all their sins and weaknesses. And through a continuous, 24 hour a day, series of drills and simulated missions and disasters and mixed mayhem and abuse they drive the new unit, men and equipment to the outer limit of their ability to perform.

All the while timing and taking notes and punishing as they see fit until the point is reached where the unit has matured and bonded and coped with everything to meet or exceed the standards expected. This can go on for weeks, over and over and over, in the case of particularly obtuse crews. Until that magical day when you are declared fit to deploy with some expectation that you will not embarrass your masters. I remember “Hard Training, Easy Missions” from somewhere, probably imprinted at a cellular level by some screaming CPO.

And that is exactly what “Life” is. Workups and exercises until you learn the right way to conduct yourself. And the problems and challenges will keep being thrown at us until the light comes on and we learn what we are supposed to learn. Over and over, until we get it. Some get it fast, some get it slow. Some do not appear to get it at all … but we cannot observe exactly what transpires about the time of death.

I have it on good authority that God is smarter than I and He operates outside our conscious reality.  At this stage of life I am not inclined to doubt that and I put down things I don’t understand to “not having all the information” or perhaps to simply not being able to operate at that level – I am fairly certain that if I think I understand things then I really don’t. Every challenge, every nasty situation, every abusive word or difficulty, every challenge, yes, every vampire and zombie, even them, every goal and ambition, every need and want, every opportunity and failure, every joy and hurt, are all exercises in learning to sacrifice and love … selflessly.

Satan. . . the pain itself made Puddleglum’s head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. . . ‘One word, Ma’am,’ he said, coming back from the fire; limping,. . . ‘One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have [have is in italics in the novel] only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is [is is in italics in the novel] the only world. Well, it strikes as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”
C.S. Lewis

Cheers

Joe

CSRdisclaimer for the nit pickers: we take pride in being incomplete, incorrect, inconsistent, and unfair. We do all of them deliberately

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The Inner Struggle

Dieing to Self …

… And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. …

He that loveth his life shall lose it“, or, “He that loveth his life loses it“—i.e., that the loss of life is not in the future only, but that in the present, in every moment when a man loves and seeks to save his own life, that is, seeks to preserve and advance his temporal life, power, and glory, he is then, and by that very seeking, actually losing it.  The words of this verse are familiar to us from the earlier Gospels. The disciples had heard them laid down as the law of their own life and work. They now hear the mysterious words again, and they are asserted as the law to which even His life is submitted.

There is, even in His human nature, a physical and emotional life which would shrink from sacrifice and death. Jesus IS fully human. But in self-sacrifice and death is His own glory and the life of the world. There is in ALL human nature a principle which would seek as the highest good the life of the body and of the soul, as in pleasure, comfort, wealth, power, glory, sensual delight, and so on. This is the temporal domain, this life, as distinct from the higher life of the spirit, and human nature would shrink from sacrifice and death. But the true principle of life is of the spirit, not the body, and only in the sacrifice of the desires of the lower physical and emotional life, the death of “Self” is that spiritual life realized.

And we don’t REALLY believe this fundamental, foundational, concept – that we MUST put away the self in order to do good in the world. Everything we do and think revolves around the core of “How does this do good for me?” What’s in it for me? How does this make me look to others? How does this give me more power, or make me look smarter or … well we all know what I mean here.

When I rant about the corruption of bureaucrats and the self interested venality of our leaders, am I really justified? Or, am I just upset because someone else figured out how to get away with putting a really big scam over the other voters who simply MUST be stupid to let these wieners get away with this. Regardless of the truth of the observations why do I think I am justified in getting torqued about someone else’s peccadilloes? Should I not be spending some of that valuable time and energy sorting out my own planks instead of whining about the politicians splinters?  How is my complaining helping this “death of self” that is needed to produce “much fruit”?

Verily, verily, the unexamined life is not worth living.

Cheers

Joe

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Disclaimer for nitpickers: We take pride in being incomplete, incorrect, inconsistent, and unfair. We do all of them deliberately

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Life in a small town

My Atheist friend…

Had a nice visit today with a gentleman I have known for a number of years now. We get together to drink good single malt and exchange views on life and and politics and our society and the world and what we would do different.

Just a couple of fat bald old guys who have seen a lot of water go under the bridge. I remember an Irish Band from 40 years ago who were evenly split between Catholicism and Communism.  I am an orthodox Catholic and he is a self professed Atheist, and our political views are split along similar lines as the Irish band.

Makes for interesting and occasionally heated discussions, especially if it goes on long enough to get past half a bottle or so. Although we seem to disagree about almost everything except single malt and certain hobbies we enjoy each other’s company. My friend is dieing of cancer. I pray for him even though he doesn’t believe in the efficacy of prayer, or even in prayer for that matter – a lot of wishful thinking and nonsense.

I will miss him and continue to pray for his soul. Unless of course I pre-decease him … ya never know, do ya? In the end we are all brothers under the skin, whatever our views. It is only when we decide to force our views on others that we depart from the garden.

Cheers

Joe

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Disclaimer for nitpickers: We take pride in being incomplete, incorrect, inconsistent, and unfair. We do all of them deliberately.

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