Apocalyptic Hope Archives — Center for Action and Contemplation
×

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies and our Privacy Policy.

Theme:
Apocalyptic Hope

Apocalyptic Hope

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Week Seventeen Summary and Practice

Sunday, April 25—Friday, April 30, 2021

Sunday
Apocalyptic literature helps us make room for something new by clearing out the old—old ideas, old stories, old ways of thinking, especially if we’ve become overly attached to them.

Monday
Apocalyptic literature is not meant to strike fear in us as much as a radical rearrangement. It’s not the end of the world. It’s the end of worlds—our worlds that we have created.

Tuesday
Twice a year we pause the Daily Meditations to ask for your support. If you’ve been impacted by these Meditations, please consider donating. Any amount is appreciated, as we are committed to keeping these messages free and accessible to all.

Wednesday
Through apocalyptic literature, the Scripture writers were finding a language and set of metaphors that would stir the power of the imagination and shake the unconscious.

Thursday
Jesus’ use of apocalyptic language is his way of showing that everything is passing away. God puts us in a world of passing things where everything changes, and nothing remains the same.

Friday
For people who face situations like [apartheid in South Africa], the Apocalypse is an exciting, inspiring, and marvelous book. It is a book which, in our sociopolitical situation, is a constant call for conversion and change. —Allan Boesak

 

Lingering in Nature

Most Christian denominations made the Gospel into what CAC teacher and friend Brian McLaren describes as “an evacuation plan for the next world,” which does not allow us to take the incarnation seriously. The Word became flesh in this world, said yes to this world, to this planet, to this earth, to physicality and sexuality, and to materiality itself! It’s all very good, according to God in Genesis 1. But most people’s association with Apocalypse is to escape this world—not to renew it. For me, the high point of the book of Revelation is in 11:15, when John writes, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever.” This is not an evacuation plan for the next world—it is a promise of a new heaven and new earth for this world! [1]

The following practice is adapted from my latest book Every Thing Is Sacred, written with my friend Patrick Boland. In this book, Patrick and I create practices and reflections based on selections from The Universal Christ.

In the 1830s Nelson Darby first taught that a rapture would take place, where Christians would be bodily taken up to the clouds to meet the Lord at the Second Coming of Christ. As this view of the world evolved, it shifted the emphasis from the beauty of the first Incarnation to something entirely different. “Sadly,” Fr. Richard writes, “we have a whole section of Christianity that is looking for—even praying for—an exit from God’s ongoing creation toward some kind of Armageddon or Rapture. Talk about missing the point!”

How influenced are we by this idea of escape? How conscious are we of this narrative that tells us our beautiful biosphere, this first Incarnation, is essentially fallen—beyond repair and in need of version 2.0? Perhaps this has affected our attitude toward the earth’s resources, where our behavior displays where our true values lie. Fr. Richard writes:

Without a sense of the inherent sacredness of the world—of every tiny bit of life and death—we struggle to see God in our own reality, let alone to respect reality, protect it, or love it. The consequences of this ignorance are all around us, seen in the way we have exploited and damaged our fellow human beings, the dear animals, the web of growing things, the land, the waters, and the very air.

What difference would it make to the quality of our lives if we lingered more in nature? We invite you to spend some time reconnecting to the wild and alive Earth, and practice experiencing the sacredness of the first Incarnation.

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

Reflective Exercises

  1. At some point during your time in nature, quiet your body and pay attention to the beauty, the complexity, and the sacredness of this landscape and any animals with which you share this space.
  2. Reflect on how God is revealed to you through this first Incarnation. Journal or draw what this evokes within you.

In the words of St. Francis, Fr. Richard’s spiritual father, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

References:
[1] Richard Rohr, In the Footsteps of St. Paul, disc 1 (Franciscan Media: 2015), CD.

Adapted from Richard Rohr with Patrick Boland, Every Thing Is Sacred: 40 Practices and Reflections on the Universal Christ (Convergent: 2021), 36, 37, 39; and

The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (Convergent: 2021, 2019), 20, 18.

Image credit: Belinda Rain, Frost – Touched Grass (detail), 1972 photograph, public domain, National Archives.
Image statement: This image may not present itself clearly upon first glance. With a closer look shape, color, recognition and new understanding fall into place.
Read Full Entry

Apocalyptic Hope

Everything Is Passing Away
Thursday, April 29, 2021

Jesus said to his disciples, “In those days, after the tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. And the stars will fall from the sky. And the powers in the heavens will be shaken, and they will see ‘the human one coming on the clouds’ with great power and glory. . . . Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Mark 13:24–27, 31)

Apart from the book of Revelation, Mark 13, along with parallel Gospel passages, is a primary example of apocalyptic literature in the New Testament. It is Jesus’ way of showing that everything is passing away. If we don’t hold this counterpoint in mind, we do one of two things: we take this world far too seriously, or we try to hold on to everything. We think it’s all going to last, but it isn’t. The 21st century, the United States of America, capitalism, our churches and our political parties, and all the rest are passing away. We might recall the Buddhist heart sutra “Gone, gone, entirely gone” when we watch old movies—even celebrities and stars die. We can take this as a morbid lesson, or we can receive it as the truth ahead of time, so we’re not surprised, disappointed, and angry when it happens in our generation.

The spiritual message is really quite simple, although a very hard one for us to learn. It is saying that nothing is permanent. Apocalyptic literature tells us to be prepared for that, so we won’t be shocked or scandalized when someone dies, or something is destroyed. You might learn this truth the moment after you hear of the death of your mother or father, when the rug is pulled out from beneath you. Or, during that moment when you go to the doctor and get a fatal diagnosis and are told you have three months left to live. Or when your house is destroyed by a tornado or flood in seconds. Apocalyptic literature describes such moments and crises. Again, this message is not meant to be heard as a threat, but as a truth that nothing lasts forever. Our great hope is that there will be something we can grasp onto, something that’s eternal, something that’s God. We want the absoluteness of God, the eternity of God, and we can’t fully find it here.

God puts us in a world of passing things where everything changes and nothing remains the same. The only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. It’s a hard lesson to learn. It helps us appreciate that everything is a gift. We didn’t create it. We don’t deserve it. It will not last, but while we breathe it in, we can enjoy it, and know that it is another moment of God, another moment of life. People who take this moment seriously take every moment seriously, and those are the people who are ready for heaven. If religion isn’t leading us into an eternal now, an eternal moment, an always-true moment, an always-love moment, then we have not lived the moment at all.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “The End of Worlds,” homily, November 15, 2015; and

“A Time of Unveiling,” Four Steps to the Second Coming, Day 1, presentation to Franciscan friars, November 25, 2020, video. Unpublished talk; used with permission.

Story from Our Community:
It was a bitter cold Sunday afternoon when my husband, struggling with hypertension, gently shared with me how my behavior hurt and caused him anxiety. Fortunately, insights from Richard Rohr’s meditations overwhelmed me with peace, allowing me to listen intently. I did need to change. We had a heartwarming conversation. How humbled I felt as a result but how grateful I knew exactly where to turn for guidance on change. The Daily Meditations and love will show me the way. —Mary S.

Image credit: Belinda Rain, Frost – Touched Grass (detail), 1972 photograph, public domain, National Archives.
Image statement: This image may not present itself clearly upon first glance. With a closer look shape, color, recognition and new understanding fall into place.
Read Full Entry

Apocalyptic Hope

Stirring the Imagination, Shaking the Unconscious
Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Let’s further distinguish the character of apocalyptic literature from prophetic literature in the Bible. Since the Western mind is literal and analytic, it usually misunderstood both types of literature. We viewed apocalypse as threatening and prophecy as foretelling, and our understanding of both missed the point. Prophecy came to mean predicting things and apocalypse came to mean the final destruction of things—both in the future. We projected everything forward, instead of realizing that these writings were, first of all, present descriptions of reality right now. We did the same thing with heaven and hell. In terms of the actual biblical message of transformation and enlightenment, this approach is largely useless, in my opinion, and often even harmful. They just reinforced our reward/punishment story line which keeps us at an immature level of development.

Through apocalyptic literature, the Scripture writers were finding a language and set of metaphors that would stir the power of the imagination and shake the unconscious. The Book of Apocalypse or Revelation was written almost entirely in this apocalyptic style, with archetypal symbols of good and evil such as the Heavenly Woman, the Lamb of God, the Mighty Warrior, and the Red Dragon. The genre we are familiar with that comes closest to what Revelation does is science fiction—but please don’t think I’m dismissing the divinely inspired character of the book. The well-known Bible translator Eugene Peterson (1932–2018) understood the symbolic power of the Book of Revelation:

I read [John’s] Revelation not to get more information but to revive my imagination. “The imagination is our way into the divine Imagination, permitting us to see wholly—as whole and holy—what we perceive as scattered, as order what we perceive as random.” [1] St. John uses words the way poets do, recombining them in fresh ways so that old truth is freshly perceived. He takes truth that has been eroded to platitude by careless usage and sets it in motion before us in an “animated and impassioned dance of ideas.” [2] . . . Familiarity dulls my perceptions. Hurry scatters my attention. Ambition fogs my intelligence. Selfishness restricts my range. Anxiety robs me of appetite. Envy distracts me from what is good and blessed right before me. And then . . . St. John’s apocalyptic vision brings me to my senses, body and soul. [3]

To change people’s consciousness, we have to find a way to reach their unconscious. That’s where our hearts and our real agendas lie, where our mother wounds, father wounds, and cultural wounds reside. The unconscious is where it all lies stored, and this determines a great deal of what we pay attention to and what we ignore. While it took modern therapy and psychology for us to recognize how true this was, through apocalyptic literature, the Scripture writers were already there. We can’t get to the unconscious logically, literally, or mechanically. We have to fall into it, I’m sorry to say, and usually by suffering, paradox and the effective use of symbols. Until our certitudes and our own little self-written success stories begin to fall apart, we usually won’t touch upon any form of deeper wisdom.

References:
[1] Wendell Berry, Standing by Words: Essays (North Point Press: 1983), 90.

[2] Paul S. Minear, review of A Commentary on the Revelation of John, by George Eldon Ladd, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 26, no. 4 (October 1972), 487.

[3] Eugene H. Peterson, Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination (HarperOne: 1988), xi–xii.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, In the Footsteps of St. Paul, disc 1 (Franciscan Media: 2015), CD.

Story from Our Community:
I discovered CAC and Fr. Richard years ago and deeply resonated with non-dualism. Critical to my growth has been the melting away of certitudes and expanding openness and inclusiveness of radical love. As a pastor’s spouse, I’ve often felt invisible, but now see how walking under the radar and sitting with folks in luminous liminal spaces has been a beautiful gift to share. —Linda C.

Image credit: Belinda Rain, Frost – Touched Grass (detail), 1972 photograph, public domain, National Archives.
Image statement: This image may not present itself clearly upon first glance. With a closer look shape, color, recognition and new understanding fall into place.
Read Full Entry

A special note from Fr. Richard: My hope for this community

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Dear Friend,

I believe my first real spiritual experience happened when I was probably five years old. I was alone in the living room of our home in Kansas and only the Christmas tree was lit. I had the sense that the world was good, I was good, and I was part of the good world—and I just wanted to stay there. It was like being taken to another world—the real world, the world as it’s meant to be, where the foundation is love and God is in everything.

I remember feeling very special, very chosen, very beloved, and it was my secret. The rest of my family didn’t know what I was knowing—see how my ego was already getting involved? Like the Apostle Paul, I now believe that chosenness is for the sake of letting everybody else know they are chosen, too.

My hope for our near future lies in those who are waking up to this Divine DNA that was there from the start—especially amid the painful experiences of life. We must all move through the universal pattern of Order, Disorder, and Reorder, and we must do it again and again and again.

By choosing a life of simplicity, service, generosity, and even powerlessness, we can move forward trusting both Love and Mystery. We don’t need to be perfectly certain before taking the next step.

Our job is to be who we say we are and who God says we are—carriers of the divine image. “My deepest me is God,” as St. Catherine of Genoa said. I can only imagine how differently our lives, families, and nations would look if we trusted the foundational promise of Christian incarnation. When you can see Christ in all things (including yourself!), you will see and live differently.

I’ve spent my life trying to remind people of their inherent belovedness, and I pray that our work at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) has played a role in helping you to see, feel, and experience the hope of your own chosenness in God.

Twice per year, we pause the Daily Meditations to ask for your support. If you have been impacted by the CAC’s programs (including these Daily Meditations) and are financially able, please consider donating.

Your support is what enables this work of sharing the transformative wisdom of the Christian contemplative tradition with people all over the world. Thank you for being part of this community. I hope our work has been helpful in your life this year and we are so grateful for your partnership in making it possible.

Please take a moment to read our Executive Director Michael’s note below. Tomorrow the Daily Meditations will continue exploring the challenging theme of Apocalyptic Hope.

In the words of Teilhard… “Christ ever greater,”

Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M. signature

 


 

Dear Friend,

All of us at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) are honored and grateful to be a part of this incredible community—especially given this past year.

Like many of you, we had no idea how much the challenges of 2020 would force us to change or adapt. Thanks to your support, the CAC has been able to continue the work of reminding more and more people of their inherent belovedness. And, if the tremendous volume of emails and letters we’ve received is any indication, there continues to be a great appreciation and growing need for this to continue to expand. Here is one example from last month:

I want to let you know that the daily meditations and podcasts helped me tremendously to live through the pandemic, the political uncertainties and many other difficulties. Words cannot describe how important they are to me during these times. It calmed me down in my panics, fears and hopelessness. It kept me from sinking to the bottom. It has been ‘the’ one and only place that helps me to see God clearly and feel his love dearly.

Thank you, and God bless you.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to pass along this message of thanks, because it isn’t just for Father Richard or the CAC, but for each of you as well. Your generous contributions are what allow this work to reach people—all over the world!

The CAC’s programs and resources are designed to help deepen prayer practice and strengthen compassionate engagement. Whether you’re reading the Daily Meditations, listening to a podcast, or working through an online course—everything the CAC offers is in service to awakening Love in you and in the world.

Thank you for being part of this community and one of the partners that makes it possible. The CAC is not funded by any denomination, endowment, or even large foundation; we are supported by thousands of small donations from people like you. We deeply appreciate any support you are able to provide.

Please consider making a one-time donation or a recurring gift to support the future of this work. If you are able, please consider making your donation a monthly one. Monthly support helps create the stability the CAC needs to share this message in new and increasingly accessible ways.

Donors from outside the United States may find PayPal the most effective credit card processor. Click here to donate via PayPal through our bookstore.

In gratitude for an online donation of any size, we will send you a free digital version of our new edition of ONEING with the important theme of Trauma.

I am so thankful for your partnership with us on the journey, and I hope we all can continue to help those who need a reminder of their chosenness and beloved identity in God to find it.

Peace and Every Good,

Michael Poffenberger's Signature

Michael Poffenberger

Executive Director
Center for Action and Contemplation

P.S. You may donate securely online at cac.org/dm-appeal or send a check (USD only) to CAC, P.O. Box 12464, Albuquerque, NM 87195. Donations are tax-deductible in the United States; CAC’s federal ID number is 85-0354965. Learn more about charitable giving at cac.org/support. Email us at [email protected] if you are considering making a legacy or estate gift. Thank you.

Read Full Entry

Apocalyptic Hope

This Is an Apocalypse
Monday, April 26, 2021

In April of last year, I was invited by the Call to Unite [1] to share my thoughts about what we might learn from the COVID-19 pandemic. I knew it might be a risk, but I felt a strong urge to speak about the much-misunderstood meaning of biblical apocalypse. Here is a portion of that conversation:

What apocalyptic means is to pull back the veil, to reveal the underbelly of reality. It uses hyperbolic images, stars falling from the sky, the moon turning to blood. The closest thing would be contemporary science fiction, where suddenly you’re placed in an utterly different world, where what you used to call “normal” doesn’t apply anymore. That perfectly describes this COVID-19 event.

So hear this word rightly—it is meant to shock: this is an apocalypse, hap­pening to us in our lifetime, that’s leaving us utterly out of control. We’re grasping to retake control, by things like refusing to wear masks and defying boundaries at potential superspreader events. But I think we now know in a new way that we can’t totally take control.

There is a giveaway in all of the apocalyptic sections of the three Synoptic Gospels. In Matthew 24:8, hidden there in the middle of the wars and earthquakes it says, “All this is only the beginning of the birth pangs.” Apocalypse is for the sake of birth not death. Yet most of us have heard this reading as a threat. Apparently, it’s not. Anything that upsets our normalcy is a threat to the ego but in the Big Picture, it really isn’t. In Luke 21, Jesus says right in the middle of the catastrophic description: “Your endurance will win you your souls.” Falling apart is for the sake of renewal, not punishment. Again, such a telling line. In Mark 13, Jesus says “Stay awake” four times in the last paragraph (Mark 13:32–37). In other words, “Learn the lesson that this has to teach you.” It points to everything that we take for granted and says, “Don’t take anything for granted.” An apocalyptic event reframes reality in a radical way by flipping our imagination.

We would have done history a great favor if we would have understood apocalyptic literature. It’s not meant to strike fear in us as much as a radical rearrangement. It’s not the end of the world. It’s the end of worlds—our worlds that we have created. In the book of Revelation (also called the Apocalypse, or Revelation to John), John is trying to describe what it feels like when everything falls apart. It’s not a threat. It’s an invitation to depth. It’s what it takes to wake people up to the real, to the lasting, to what matters. It presents the serious reader with a great “What if?”

Our best response is to end our fight with reality-as-it-is. We will benefit from anything that approaches a welcoming prayer—diving into the change positively, preemptively, saying, “Come, what is; teach me your good lessons.” Saying yes to “What is” ironically sets us up for “What if?” Otherwise, we get trapped in the negative past.

References:
[1] The Call to Unite is a national movement promoting a culture of crossing lines that divide and embracing ideas that unite.

Richard Rohr, “This Is an Apocalypse,” in The Call to Unite: Voices of Hope and Awakening, ed. Tim Shriver and Tom Rosshirt (Viking: 2021), 54–55.

Story from Our Community:
In these times there are so many ways to get “off track” in deed, word, or thought. The real and sustaining light for me has been Richard Rohr and the daily devotions from CAC! These times of unveiling demand a calm, steady, and accepting voice to remind me we are merely experiencing the natural evolution of growth. It can be quite challenging and painful. A true, trusted, insightful guide is appreciated more than words can express. —Jimmy W.

Image credit: Belinda Rain, Frost – Touched Grass (detail), 1972 photograph, public domain, National Archives.
Image statement: This image may not present itself clearly upon first glance. With a closer look shape, color, recognition and new understanding fall into place.
Read Full Entry

Apocalyptic Hope

A Time of Unveiling
Sunday, April 25, 2021

I believe this past year has been an apocalyptic time, though not necessarily in the way we might think. When the CAC staff first started speaking with me in the fall of 2020 about potential themes for the 2021 Daily Meditations, we were about seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing and staying home were the norm. The presidential campaign, with all its ugly rhetoric, was in full swing. Only half-joking, I suggested “apocalypse” as a theme! But the Daily Meditations editorial team took my idea seriously and transformed it into something broader, deeper, and much more accessible. We called this year’s theme “A Time of Unveiling.” For many of us, the word “apocalypse” conjures thoughts of the rapture, fear, a vengeful God, and violent and exclusive religion. It is an overwhelming judgment on Western Christianity that it is drawn to such beliefs. But despite its misuse, I’m convinced the biblical meaning of apocalypse is a helpful and ultimately hopeful framework.

A quick etymology of the word will help: kaluptein is the Greek word for “to cover” and apo means “un,” so apokaluptein means to uncover or unveil. While we primarily use the word “apocalypse” to mean to destroy or threaten, in its original context, apocalypse simply meant to reveal something new. The key is that in order to reveal something new, we have to get the old out of the way.

I begin my book Eager to Love with these poetic words from Neale Donald Walsch that put this quite nicely.

Yearning for a new way will not produce it. Only ending the old way can do that. You cannot hold onto the old all the while declaring that you want something new. The old will defy the new; the old will deny the new; the old will decry the new. There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it. [1]

That’s what apocalyptic literature does. It helps us make room for something new by clearing out the old—old ideas, old stories, old ways of thinking—especially if we’ve become overly attached to them. The goal of apocalyptic language, as used in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, is to shake people out of their reliance on conventional wisdom and undercut where we all operate on cruise control.

The most common mistake is to confuse apocalyptic literature with prophetic literature.  They serve very different functions. Apocalyptic writing deconstructs the “taken-for-granted world” by presenting a completely different universe, similar to what a good novel or even a science fiction movie does for us. As the Buddhist heart sutra says it, “Gone, gone, utterly gone, all has passed over to the other side.” It makes room for the reconstruction of a new vision of peace and justice, which is the job of the prophets. Yes, prophets do plenty of deconstruction too, but it is always to make room inside the mind and soul for vision, expansion, hope, and a future inhabited by God and not by fear.

References:
[1] Neale Donald Walsch, Facebook post, July 22, 2014.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), xiii; and

“A Time of Unveiling,” Four Steps to the Second Coming, Day 1, presentation to Franciscan friars, November 25, 2020, video. Unpublished talk; used with permission.

Story from Our Community:
In these times there are so many ways to get “off track” in deed, word, or thought. The real and sustaining light for me has been Richard Rohr and the daily devotions from CAC! These times of unveiling demand a calm, steady, and accepting voice to remind me we are merely experiencing the natural evolution of growth. It can be quite challenging and painful. A true, trusted, insightful guide is appreciated more than words can express. —Jimmy W.

Image credit: Belinda Rain, Frost – Touched Grass (detail), 1972 photograph, public domain, National Archives.
Image statement: This image may not present itself clearly upon first glance. With a closer look shape, color, recognition and new understanding fall into place.
Read Full Entry
Join Our Email Community

Stay up to date on the latest news and happenings from Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation.


HTML spacer