Marta and Maria

Marta and Maria

1 June 2017

To meditate is to quiet one’s mind. Lay thoughts to one side. Leave all preoccupations behind. Not so much to ‘empty’ the mind, but to guard it, as Desert Fathers say.

A good analogy is raising above the clouds, after a take-off. You leave all stuff and noise behind. It is a struggle at first — the noise of the engine, the acceleration, the sequence of rapidly changing views left and right, the foggy stuff in the clouds; and then suddenly — peace and calm. The open blue sky. Not emptiness, just peace.

It is the same when you meditate. You leave all the noise and pollution behind, raise above the preoccupations of here and now, and start to contemplate. Reaching silence and calm is not emptiness, it is the beginning of something full. It is for us to start perceiving it, whether as spirit, God, love, or all of them at once.

Marta and Maria are not only different but also complementary. And at times they become one.

From Dionysius to Heidegger

From Dionysius to Heidegger

25 March 2017

One of the papers I wrote for the Byzantinology module I took for my Master degree was called “Knowledge and Recognition in Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Martin Heidegger”. It was mainly centred on apophatic knowledge (or negative theology), and how a similar approach can be found in Heidegger’s topology of being. The idea is that we recognise traces of being — either intuitively or through signs — rather than clearly know it, as an objective fact. Intuitionism, rather than positivism. Icons, instead of representations. (A shadow or a tear can be very effective icons; an absence is a different kind of presence).

The key term here is analogy. We know God through analogy — we approach him through the things He created, each a new face or model, which reflects something of its creator (see On the Celestial Hierarchy). Another passing is that through logos — we approach God from our imperfect language, to the more refined one of divine models. In both of these there is a ‘mode’ (an analogos) or a way, as Maximus the Confessor calls it. An alternative to the straight, objective route to knowledge. One would be forgiven to simplify the patristic thought as a dialectic of modes.

Utopia – a good place

Utopia – a good place

6 March 2017

Exactly a year ago – room full of academics, and it actually took a lawyer to clarify the features of a “good place”: no poverty, because wealth is despised; no (or very rare) serious punishment, because everyone aspires to virtue; no boredom, because everyone works; no ignorance, because everyone seeks wisdom; no war, because everyone behaves rationally and with tolerance.

Thank you, John.

Advent thoughts

Advent thoughts

15 December 2016

Sam Wells at last Advent Sunday at St Martin-in-the-Fields ended his sermon thus:
“The greatest gift under the Tree is often unopened: it is Christ himself”.
This was something to take away for the remainder of the Advent period — and beyond.
Perusing on the awful tube yesterday morning the volume of Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits (Michael Harter SJ Ed.), Paul’s eyes alighted on this:


The Spiritual Exercises, #23

All the things in this world are gifts of God,
presented to us so that we can know God more easily
and make a return of love more readily.

As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God
insofar as they help us develop as loving persons.
But if any of these gifts become the centre of our lives,
they displace God
and so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance
before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice
and are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
a deeper response to our life in God.

(St. Ignatius Loyola as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, SJ)

… So open the oft unopened (including the heart) as Mary found the tomb in the garden and mistook the Risen Christ as the gardener. He was indeed waiting at the door covered in weeds after years of closure. Ready to plant seeds in tended soil that will bear all fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Paul Collins)

May this Advent bring us the patience to wait, the wisdom to choose, and the humility to receive His blessing. Peace and joy to all.