April 7, 2019

John 12:1-8 Mary’s anointing of Jesus’s feet with oil is slightly embarrassing. The sheer emotion of the scene is overpowering. There’s the oil, the hair, the feet, and the raw vulnerability. Jesus is eating dinner in Bethany, close to Jerusalem, at his dear friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’s house. It should not be lost on biblical readers that Lazarus is there having a glass of wine reclining at table. Lazarus, just a chapter ago in John’s gospel, was dead in... Read more

April 1, 2019

Note: this is primarily written for Game of Thrones fans and contains spoilers. Game of Thrones is not exactly first-rate source material for contemplatives. Its visceral brutality surely turns off the most earnest seekers of love’s path. Yet, I’ve always been one to look for spiritual depth in unlikely cultural places, and like many, I’m rewatching the show in anticipation of April’s season eight. One of the moral arcs of Game of Thrones can be summed up by which battle... Read more

March 24, 2019

The soul is a castle, according to 16th century Spanish mystic Teresa of Avila, in which God Herself dwells. At the center of this castle God gleams like a diamond. In Teresa’s classic work The Interior Castle, the soul’s castle holds seven different dwelling places on the way to love’s radiant center, seven deeper stages of prayer that finally lead to the place where God and the soul meet in undivided intimacy. But castles are cavernous, and searching for treasure... Read more

March 22, 2019

Mystics talk about oneness a lot. Classic definitions of divine intimate encounter often stumble towards language of union. There’s a long tradition in Christian mysticism (John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila) of what’s called spousal mysticism. This refers to those spiritual lovers that find such delight in divine love that the only language appropriate to their experience is ecstatic exclamations of marital and erotic union. Failing metaphors, they draw on the most intimate language available. “I am my... Read more

March 16, 2019

The below is excerpted from my article in Kosmos Journal’s Fall 2018 issue. It can be read in full here. Our globalized world lures us to crave more. The culture of “more” is a culture of not enough, accumulation and conquest, and sought but constantly deferred satiety. Every time we text message or update Instagram, researchers tell us that our brains loop in a dopamine cycle of neurological yearning. We seem unable to discern when enough really is enough—and especially... Read more

March 14, 2019

As Christians begin moving through the season of Lent, it’s well-worth considering repentance. The forty days of Lent are associated in the Bible with the Israelite’s forty years of testing in the wilderness, or Jesus’s time in the wilderness facing down temptations. Repentance is a way of naming that wilderness process of tackling our inner preparedness to meet Christ’s resurrection. Of course, repentance is also a word weighed down heavily with baggage, most of it unfortunately associated with a punishing God.... Read more

March 4, 2019

Contemplation is not only personal, something to be pursued individually in the “prayer closet.” It can also be public and communal: the silent rest of savasana at the end of a sweaty yoga class. The hushed breathing and pause after a rousing live song. The inner silence amidst the flow of conscious movement and rhythm. The moment in church when the congregation prays together—not only in words, but in felt actuality. Legendary African-American mystic Howard Thurman prayed in his prayer... Read more

February 28, 2019

Contemplation has burst out of cloistered gates. For centuries, spiritual wisdom has been hidden but passed down by faithful renunciates in monastic orders. Carmelites, Franciscans, Dominicans, Trappists, and more nurtured mystical wisdom and spiritual practices of transformation and passed it on. Mysticism has been Christianity’s “pearl of great price”: usually ignored, sometimes derided and mocked, sometimes cause for rational religion’s shame, but for those who tasted Love’s depths, fearlessly kept with care. Today though, longtime monastic disciplines such as silent... Read more

Browse Our Archives