Silence Is Not a Vow

Here is my latest column from Patheos. In it I look at the role of silence in the life of Christian monastics (monks and nuns) and then reflect on what that means for those of us who feel called to the contemplative life even though we do not live in a cloister. Hope you enjoy it...Silence Is Not a Vow. … [Read more...]

Mysticism for those who don’t like “mysticism”

A reader writes:In the first chapter of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism you offer your sense that mysticism offers the serious practitioner the possibility of experience of God that is transforming and which then enhances the world around us. I firmly agree. But does that mean such a transformative relationship is not open to those who can't accept the value of mysticism, or is it that the depth of the relationship is potentially greater through the pursuit of prayer, meditation and … [Read more...]

The Selfless Way of Christ

One way of defining the spiritual life is to see it as a life in which we keep making connections between God's story and our own.— Henri Nouwen, The Selfless Way of Christ:Downward Mobility and the Spiritual LifeIn 1981, Henri Nouwen wrote a series of articles for Sojourners magazine, which were published in book form in 2007 as The Selfless Way of Christ, now newly available in a small paperback edition. Illustrated with a collection of drawings by Vincent Van Gogh, it is an attractive bo … [Read more...]

By Your Words

For my morning lectio divina, today I read Matthew 12:33-37. Although this passage is best known for "the tree is known by its fruit" (v. 33), two other parts of the passage particularly caught my attention this morning, from verses 34 and 37:For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks... for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.Challenging words indeed for me as a writer — but also for anyone who loves to speak or write! What Jesus is s … [Read more...]

Flannery O’Connor on Faith, Doubt, and Electric Blankets

I'm rather envious of my friend Mark; he works for Andalusia Farm, the home of the great Southern Gothic (and devoutly Catholic) author, Flannery O'Connor. Of course, I suppose Mark is envious of me working at the monastery, so that makes us even!Anyway, today on his blog Mark posted a truly wonderful excerpt from one of Flannery's letters, in which she discusses faith, doubt and mystery. Here's a tidbit to whet your appetite:A faith that just accepts is a child's faith and all right for … [Read more...]

Prayer and Prophecy

Contemplation has a context: it does not occur in a vacuum. Today's context is that of the multinational corporations, the arms race, the strong state, the economic crisis, urban decay, the growing racism, and human loneliness. It is within this highly deranged culture that contemplatives explore the waste of their own being. It is in the midst of chaos and crisis that they pursue the vision of God and experience the conflict which is at the core of the contemplative search. They become part of … [Read more...]

Mystery of the Missing Silence

If you have heard me speak any time over the last six months you have probably heard me go on and on about Psalm 65, which is often less-than-ideally translated into modern English versions of the Bible. The most literal (and allusive) translation of this Psalm begins in this way: "To you, silence is praise, O God in Zion..." (emphasis added). Most translations, however, tend to render the Hebrew word dumiyya (which has a meaning both of "silence" but also "expectation") as "awaiting" or … [Read more...]