Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Simply Christian

So much extremism evident in Christianity today. On the one the hand, those who would like to go back to "the good ole days" with their triumphant restoration of one type or another, seeking to define who's "in' and who's "out," by bringing errant folks in line. On the other hand, such an extreme liberalism that waters down Christianity so much that it loses its flavor. Nor do I wish to see a fence-sitting Christianity that's afraid to BE the Gospel in the world today. How about being simply Christian?

Simple Christianity finds itself less concerned with turf, and more focused on bringing the People of God together, by empowering them in service and worship. It focuses on BEING the Gospel, and while it accepts the truths contained in the Creeds, realizes that they come from the linear Greek philosophical tradition and a cosmology that no longer exists, and, thus, seeks way to embody and experience these truths rather than merely recite them. It does not simply throw them out.

It is a Way that welcomes LGBT folks and no longer studies them as if they're some sort of disincarnate species rather than flesh-and-blood humans. It, likewise, celebrates the presence of women, people of color, and various groups who dance God's diversity. It certainly takes joy in the contributions of Caucasian folks and straight folks, too, and does not push them out of the way either, in the name of politically correct inclusivity.

It, too, honors other spiritual paths acknowledging that God's tapestry has threads of many colors, but does not deny that Jesus' death on the Cross is one of deep love for all people and that his Resurrection, however it happened, changes his followers profoundly.  

Whether those call from within the community for ordination or those blessed with other forms of ministry, all must come together, humbly, to make community happen; they must wash each other's feet...

Simple Christianity challenges its people to live deeply spiritual lives of inner silence and deep prayer that informs outer action. It preaches the Gospel like Francis and Clare, using words when necessary and reminds of the need for cultivating the spiritual life through prayer and work, like Benedict and Scholastica

This is about Relationship! Jesus is not some king on the clouds in a Cecil B. DeMille extravaganza or simply the leader of the peasant revolt, but desires the transformation of ALL people and the world in which they live. 

It seems to me that the Eucharistic meal must form the backbone of this movement and needs to be celebrated daily, not just weekly. 

Monday, May 30, 2011


No matter what we feel about particular wars, those who fought and died in them, who went through that hell, deserve our respect. May you rest in peace. Those who were injured, some permanently, deserve that respect as well as all the resources we have to help you heal. That is the least we as a country can do.

My prayer this day is that we as people of Earth can somehow evolve beyond killing the "other," in often manufactured conflicts. I am not naive and know that it won't happen over night, but we must strive for this individually, and as a people. It seems to me that we each must reach that of God in our own being in order to see God in the other--for there lies our hope.

May future Memorial Days allow us to remember with humility how we used to handle conflict, so that we stay the course for peace.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Letting Go

Letting go is difficult sometimes, no matter how long you've been on the journey. My goal with this blog is to post every day (at least during the Summer); so much for human-made plans! Nothing flowed yesterday, but a bunch of starts and stops.It's maddening being someone who loves to write, and then have nothing come out. Seems I needed the reminder that it's not about me at all.

How often we delude ourselves, thinking we're in control. Guess what? We're not. We do this in the spiritual life, often thinking if we believe the right things or do the right spiritual practices, we'll get somewhere. When this is done rigidly, it crushes it and makes a mockery of religion. Religion then becomes something to "master" like any other subject. Then, upon so doing, we want everyone else to be just like us. Doesn't work.

Religion provides markers along the path, but we have to let go and trust our Beloved to guide us. This is a relationship. Most folks are so terrified of their own free will to do this because they might just change in the process. Love, like grace, is not cheap. A heart that loves, ultimately bleeds. Jesus shows us that.

Religious fundamentalism, whether right or left, kills the soul; much New Age spirituality suffocates it. How can one really grow if the focus is so much on the self, as it is, ultimately, in both? Yes, the Reign of God is within, as Jesus tells us, but we only get to realize that when we let go of our need to control, looking beyond ourselves to the Christ that speaks through serving others.

Lord, save me!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kenosian Rhapsody

Kenosian Rhapsody

transparent pilgrim, light
flows everywhere, indigo ribboning
soul, fluid body this mine/
not mine

Eucharistic offering 
flows toward me,
stops, as I embrace,
become one with

burst into flame firing dancing,
burns not consumes,
holy ground this, listen
small voice thunders

old ways, old days 
past, yet new, shining
beautiful pottery breaks, roots
solid, tree reaches moving with ruach's benediction

hermit's hands, feet, side vibrate
resonance folly, Golgotha's moment,
taken, broken, offered, received
empowered, sent

mountains laugh, hills sing
six streams, one rushing river, ocean One
yet many,
winds chant monastic, 

trees leaves, kaleidoscopic dawn
Lux Christi!
Lux Christi!
Lux Christi!

Yossi Lopez-Hineynu, Copyright 2011~All Rights Reserved

ruach: breath of God
Kenosis: filling by and with the Beloved

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Standing on the Razor's Edge

As a Religious, my life places me at the edge of Church and society. My calling challenges me to witness to Christ, not by proselytizing, but simply by being. A hermit-monk's or nun's whole life is counter-cultural, challenging all Christians to live their Baptismal Vows fully, strive for their own transformation, and embody compassion, making the world a better place. This is not a popular place to be. In fact, Religious are dangerous for this very reason! 

But part of that transformation means compassionate awareness of others, particularly those who suffer injustice, whether by the Church or the State. A monk or nun can stand back, look at the entire picture, striving to do so with Christ's eyes. Like the Trappist Thomas Merton, he or she can raise awareness through simple words, spoken or written, pointing to the situation. It is then that the monk or nun gets out of the way and lets the Holy Spirit act. Humility brings the realization that whatever happens, it is not about the monastic.

In the Community of Solitude, we find ourselves in a different situation in that we don't live in a monastery. Our cells are wherever we find ourselves; our cloister within our hearts. But this doesn't change our primary vocation of prayer, silence and solitude; yet, when the need arises, we can take a more public stand, but always rooted within that primary vocation. Like the willow in a tempest, we are rooted firmly but flexible as we raise our hands and hearts to the Beloved.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


When I was a Roman Catholic teenager, I remember telling my Mom in a fit of fervor that I wanted to visit a saint's tomb. Without batting an eye, she said "go to any cemetery."  Stopped me in my tracks, I'll tell ya! 

When a person told the late Dorothy Day she was a saint, she snapped "don't dismiss me that easily!"  All too often we look at the saints as being so far beyond our reality, that we feel we can't possibly attain their holiness, so we don't try. Unfortunately, the Church has often saccharinized the biographies of these holy men and women. 

Saints struggle with much the same fears and questions as we do. Their holiness comes from persevering in faith, despite their own doubts and weaknesses. Many go unrecognized, but walk amongst us every day caring for others, praying with them, and working for justice, their saintly vocation hidden. 

For those holy ones who have died, we can ask them to pray with us as we do family and friends. They do not, however, grant favors of their own accord. They are never far from us, and, might just be us, through the grace and love of Christ.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Long Life Study: Conclusions Surprising

In an article at PsychCentral.com, a nice synopsis of the Longevity Project appears.  The Conventional Wisdom of simply being happy does not apply to living a long time, according to the study.  The article is short, so I will not reproduce it here. The following words, however, struck me:
While an optimistic approach can be helpful in a crisis, “we found that as a general life-orientation, too much of a sense that ‘everything will be just fine’ can be dangerous because it can lead one to be careless about things that are important to health and long life. Prudence and persistence, however, led to a lot of important benefits for many years.
“It turns out that happiness is not a root cause of good health. Instead, happiness and health go together because they have common roots.”
It seems to me that a big part of this study's lesson--beyond what leads to living a long time--is that happiness in and of itself is not everything. If one is happy all the time, for what does he or she have left to strive? What about the pain in life? Perhaps the more n'er-do-well types live in denial, thus taking more risky behaviors.

Our consumerist culture focuses all its energy on pre-packaged happiness, that somehow when experienced, should give us all we need, but it lets us down--it's never enough, so we have to go looking for more. The everything-is-going-to-be-okay-no-matter-what attitude is an illusion, and a dangerous one. 

The thought of being "happy" 24/7 is akin to eating too many hot fudge sundaes: the first one's great, but the rest will make you sick. Too much sweetness not balanced by the savory is not good. It not only leads to a shorter lifespan apparently, but also to a life of less quality.

So, no, happiness is not the point. JOY is! They are different in that the latter flows from within a person who has had his or heart broken open in pain, yet, remained diligent in living life. It leads one to pay attention to his or her surroundings presently, not dwell in the past or long for an imagined future. The only way to deal with pain is to walk through it. 

I cannot be happy that in less than a year, I have endured the death of my Mom, one of my dogs, and a monastic friend. It sucks. My monastic friend helped me through a rather terrifying dark night of the soul (which is not depression or grief incidentally) wherein I thought I was losing it, which, praise God, I was on some level! My whole world and its place in it changed, or at least my perspective did. But I am in no way bitter, but now know a joyfulness that permeates my being, though I still miss those who died and the spiritual security I thought I had before. Having gone through such equips and inspires me to help others as well.

So, will I live a longer life because of this? I don't know, and frankly don't care. I want to live my life to the fullest in each and every moment no matter what life throws at me, knowing that this too shall pass.


Monday, May 23, 2011

My First Language is Silence

Talk is cheap. It's amazing how often we can verbalize merely to hear ourselves sound important or to drown out the silence, perhaps both. Many folks seemingly have to have a radio playing or television blaring--white noise--in order to feel secure. Others cannot be apart from their beloved texting, which, while silent in and of itself, creates a cacophony within.   

Silence is not merely the absence of external sound.  It is, in reality, a state of being, and, as such, does not drop out of the sky, but needs cultivation, through a life of contemplation, meditation, and prayer.  St. Romuald, founder of the Camladolese Benedictines, tells the monk and nun  "like a skilled angler on the lookout for a catch keep a careful eye on your thoughts.The path you must follow is in the Psalms--never leave it...and if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more" (Brief Rule 3,4,6).  But even when one is not reading, he or she is called back to mindful attention; this applies to all, not just the vowed Religious.

Like a beautiful garden, weeds need removing, the soul needs emptying of attachments which block its way to the Beloved. This is kenosis. As this weeding takes place, emptiness takes hold, wherein the temptation is to fill it with the white noise mentioned above. It is here that letting go even further must take place, this terrifying vulnerability wherein God must be realized; this is theosis.   

Are people afraid of what God might be saying to them? Maybe it's what we don't want to hear sometimes, so better to drown it out, rather than be pulled kicking and screaming from our comfort zone. Discipleship in Christ is not about having things exactly as we want them, but transformation. It is through silence that we learn to listen to that still small voice, whether we are in a physical monastery, or our monastic cell, which is wherever one finds oneself.  

So, yes, Silence is my first language, because it slows me down, fine tunes my inner hearing, opens me not always to happiness but, in fact, oftentimes pain, but, a deep-found joy, nevertheless. It is to this that my monastic life witnesses.

Without Borders?!!

This monk is a catholic Christian before he is anything else, including a monk, LOL!! The vows eventually professed by me flow from the Baptismal Vows.  Jesus Christ is my way, truth and life; the Eucharist, which feeds me, intersects sacred and secular, uniting them for the Beloved dances in and through All.  Before I can approach another tradition in its fullness, I have to know who I am and where I stand, yet, must do so with an open and radiant heart.  

But once I let go and go deeper, through contemplative practice, meditation, chant, and prayer, ego walls fall like those at Jericho, the herald's trumpet tumbling them. It is then, that I, a monk in the Camaldolese tradition, can dance with the kabbalistic Jew, the socially engaged Buddhist, and the joyous Sufi, each honoring the other's tradition.  This heart resonance is not syncretism, simply deep sharing and understanding.  At this level, when I look into my brother's or sister's eyes, God looks back!

Do I then throw away all doctrine of my tradition?  No, but I am humbled to realize that it points to a greater Reality, mysterious, yet personal, in the Incarnation. Like Buddha's finger pointing to the moon, one must never mistake his fingertip for the moon; I should never mistake doctrine for the greater Mystery to which it points.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Know that all who have landed here are welcomed as Christ.  This is one contemporary hermit-monk's musings about life.  So, grab a cup of your favorite beverage and pull up a chair.  Let us share and grow in the process!