Friday, November 30, 2007

In the Darkness

The biblical tradition holds light in high regard as the place that right living will emerge. However, little emphasis is placed from where that light will come. Already in the second verse of the Bible this image is established.

Darkness was over the surface of the deep,
and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

In the Old Testament images of ‘the deep’ are often connected to the sea or ‘waters’. These two lines are connected and parallel each other. Prior to the creation of the world and even before light God is not negated or absent. Rather God exists mingled in the darkness, hovering over the chaos. We tend to think of night as the end of the day. However, in the Jewish and biblical tradition it is night that begins the day. Just as Sabbath is started at sundown in Jewish homes so in the Bible the movement of a day of creation is, “there was evening, and there was morning.” The appropriate movement of relationship to God is often one from darkness into light.
What should be reflected on is that according to the biblical witness it is only light that is created. It is darkness that existed in a primal relationship with God. Light is for our senses and our ability to live well with each other. Created light is not needed in relationship to God. Trust takes the place of senses in our ability to act and perceive. And where should we reside now that light may emerge?

Isaiah 58:6-10
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

If there is a desire to be "a people of the light" then the context must be residing in the places of darkness and the denial or escape from it.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Climate Resolution

In my feeble attempt at having some realtime grasp of climate change I thought that I would start a post in which everyday (or week or something) I would post the actual, average and record highs and lows from Resolute Canada (see just above the 'UN' of Nunavut).

I decided create another blog to house this as I suddenly had flashes of charts and images that would be added later.

My Climate Resolution


Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Roughly ten years ago I had a dream in which someone said to me, "I saw the shadow of the Holy Ghost." Without going into detail of the dream this line has stuck with me since then. And what has occurred to me recently is that the most significant writers who have shaped my thinking since that time have all dwelt heavily on the image of darkness. I am thinking of Fyodor Dostoevsky, St. John of the Cross and Rowan Williams. But before them and before this dream was Johnny Cash who understood that for there to be light in the darkness you must first be present in the darkness.

I See a Darkness
(A cover of Bonnie 'Prince' Billy)
Well, you're my friend, and can you see?
Many times, we've been out drinking;
Many times we shared our thoughts.
But did you ever, ever notice, the kind of thoughts I got?
Well, you know I have a love; a love for everyone I know.
And you know I have a drive, to live I won't let go.
But can you see its opposition, comes rising up sometimes?
That its dreadful imposition, comes blacking in my mind?

And then I see a darkness,
And then I see a darkness,
And then I see a darkness,
And then I see a darkness.
Did you know how much I love you?
Its a hope that somehow you,
Can save me from this darkness.

Well, I hope that someday buddy
We have peace in our lives;
Together or apart,
Alone or with our wives,
And we can stop our whoring,
And pull the smiles inside,
And light it up forever,
And never go to sleep.
My best unbeaten brother,
This isn't all I see.

Oh no, I see a darkness.
Oh no, I see a darkness.
(Oh) no, I see a darkness.
Oh no, I see a darkness.
Did you know how much I love you?
Its a hope that somehow you,
Can save me from this darkness.

I am preaching this Sunday which is the 1st Sunday in Advent. The reading is from Romans 13,
"The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here."


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Proust, Prayer and Memory

In his classic work on Prayer Evagrius of Pontus writes,

"When you are praying the memory brings before you either fantasies of objects from the past, or recent concerns, or the face of one who has caused you hurt."

It is well known (or at least popular history) that the final years of Proust's life were spent largely in a sound proof room in Paris where he wrote at night and slept during the day. Here he completed his metanarrative À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). I am in the final stages of reading the first of the seven volume literary cosmos Swann's Way.
Swann's Way is a meditation on memory and the sublime. Under Proust's pen every instant (every memory) is infinite. In his secluded final years memory dominated him as he wrestled with the faces of love and hurt in his monastic cell. And it was two faces that emerged; one was a young boy's mother in first half of the book and other being M. Swann's lover Odette in the second half.

I read both relationships as exploring the basic human sense of insufficiency. Being alone with your self stands as a terrifying prospect for most individuals. I am not referring to being by yourself but being alone with yourself; to travel inward and commune with what you encounter. This was Proust's journey and as Evagrius points out when you travel inward (typical language for the movement of prayer) you will encounter memory and you will encounter the wound that drives our compulsions. The beauty of Proust's life and work (as I limitedly understand it) is that this movement and intentional uncovering was his healing as his life reflects a solitary communion with self. What Proust offers us is a vision of how attentiveness in life (again typical language of contemplative prayer) opens the gratuitous (infinite?) reality of life. This did not come from fleeing his wound but allowing it to be a generative place in his thought.

Proust entertains only a sort of contemplative memory. As he begins to enter his childhood experience he realizes that he could indeed recall more factual memories of his life in Combray but these came through "an exercise of the will", his "intellectual memory". Here again we hear mystic imagery. St. John of the Cross distinguishes sharply between meditation and contemplation. We can do meditation but not so with contemplation. Contemplation is a state of reception. Proust speaks of 'willful' memory in this way.

"The pictures which that kind of memory shows us of the past preserve nothing of the past itself, I should never have had any wish to ponder over this residue of Combray. To me it was in reality all dead. Permanently dead? Very possibly."

Proust is interested in living memory. This is not the end of a posture of contemplative prayer but it is the path. I will post shortly exploring Proust's most famous passage on 'living memory'.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New Blog

Wow. Some pretty significant contributors over at this new blog.


Sunday, November 04, 2007


Sorry, I should have put this below. Number 2 all time most viewed.


What Will Jesus Let Me Do?

Carrying on from my renewed attention to David Bazan I thought I would offer a verse from 'Selling Advertising' in response to my recent discovery of GodTube.

I know it's hard to be original
In fact nothing scares me more
Because Jesus only lets me do
What has been done before
The path of least resistance
Ancient holy wars
The same old easy targets
Yeah, we've all been there before

It seems that respected artistic expression still drinks from the wells of historic faith but the contemporary church continues to feed off the scraps of late-modern pop-culture. Check out one of the most viewed videos, 'Jesus Muzik'.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Hold On

Neko Case - "Hold On, Hold On"

The most tender place in my heart is for strangers
I know it's unkind, but my own blood is much too dangerous