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Mystical Hope: Weekly Summary

Mystical Hope

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Week Forty-Nine Summary and Practice

Sunday, December 5, 2021—Friday, December 10, 2021

Sunday
Hope is the patient and trustful willingness to live without full closure, without resolution, and still be content and even happy because our satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves. —Richard Rohr

Monday
Theologically speaking, we identify the virtues of faith, hope, and love as participation in the very life of God. We don’t achieve this by will power; we already participate in it by our deepest nature. —Richard Rohr

Tuesday
Hope must be born over and over again, for where there is love, there is always hope.Ilia Delio

Wednesday
In Bonaventure’s world, the frame of reality was still big, hopeful, and positive. He was profoundly Trinitarian, where the love always and forever flows in one positive and forward direction. —Richard Rohr

Thursday
Hope fills us with the strength to stay present, to abide in the flow of the Mercy no matter what outer storms assail us. It enters us and fills us with its own life—a quiet strength beyond anything we have ever known. —Cynthia Bourgeault

Friday
This dynamic of being able to yield unconditionally to God’s future is what John of the Cross calls hope, a hope that exists without the signature of our life and works, a hope independent of us and our accomplishments. —Constance FitzGerald

 

Presenting Our Lives to God

Author and CAC teacher Brian McLaren understands Jesus’ mother Mary as an example for all of us to find a larger hope by surrendering our lives to God. Here he comments on Luke’s Gospel and offers an Advent practice inspired by Mary:

All of us experience this sense of frustration, disappointment, impatience, and despair at times. We all feel that we have the capacity to give birth to something beautiful and good and needed and wonderful in the world. But our potential goes unfulfilled, or our promising hopes miscarry. So we live on one side and then on the other of the border of despair.

And then the impossible happens. . . .

In Luke’s telling of the birth of Jesus, God aligns with the creative feminine power of womanhood rather than the violent masculine power of statehood. The doctrine of the virgin birth, it turns out, isn’t about bypassing sex but about subverting violence. The violent power of top-down patriarchy is subverted not by counterviolence but by the creative power of pregnancy. It is through what proud men have considered “the weaker sex” that God’s true power enters and changes the world. That, it turns out, is exactly what Mary understood the messenger to be saying: [read her Magnificat, especially Luke 1:48, 51, 52, 53]. . . .

So Mary presents herself to the Holy Spirit to receive and cooperate with God’s creative power. She surrenders and receives, she nurtures and gives her all, because she dares to believe the impossible is possible. Her son Jesus will consistently model her self-surrender and receptivity to God, and he will consistently prefer the insightful kindness of motherhood to the violent blindness of statehood.

That’s what it means to be alive in the adventure of Jesus. We present ourselves to God—our bodies, our stories, our futures, our possibilities, even our limitations. “Here I am,” we say with Mary, “the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me according to your will.”

So in this Advent season—this season of awaiting and pondering the coming of God in Christ—let us light a candle for Mary. And let us, in our own hearts, dare to believe the impossible by surrendering ourselves to God, courageously cooperating with God’s creative, pregnant power—in us, for us, and through us. If we do, then we, like Mary, will become pregnant with holy aliveness. . . .

Activate: Start each day this week putting Mary’s prayer of commitment and surrender, “Let it be to me according to your will,” into your own words. Let this be a week of presenting your life to God so that “holy aliveness” grows in you.

Meditate: After lighting a candle, hold the words, “Here I am, the Lord’s servant,” in your heart for a few minutes in silence. Try to return to those words many times in the week ahead.

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

Reference:
Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation (Jericho Books: 2014), 68, 69–70.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations editorial team.

Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Seattle. Used with permission.
Image inspiration: What if I stopped complaining about how suburban streetlights pollute the night sky and instead tried to discover what beauty their light could uncover? How could my commitment to seeing something as it is, without judgment, help me see beyond my initial impression of it?
—Nicholas Kramer, Photographer of December DM photo series

Hope Beyond Our Lifetimes

Mystical Hope

Hope Beyond Our Lifetimes
Friday, December 10, 2021
Anniversary of Thomas Merton’s Death

Theologian and Carmelite sister Constance FitzGerald identifies hope as a profound freedom to accept God and reality as it is. She takes inspiration from the work of St. John of the Cross (1542–1591):

This dynamic of being able to yield unconditionally to God’s future is what John of the Cross calls hope, a hope that exists without the signature of our life and works, a hope independent of us and our accomplishments (spiritual gifts or ordinary human achievements), a hope that can even embrace and work for a future without us. This theological hope is completely free from the past, fully liberated from our need to recognize ourselves in the future, to survive, to be someone. [1]

This gift of hope is what allows author Victoria Loorz and others to embrace a “post-doom” spirituality [2] which is large enough to face climate crises and not be driven to despair. Grounded in the Gospel, such hope affirms that love is stronger than death. Loorz writes:

Post-doom spirituality . . . accepts the fullness of our reality: the tragedy as well as the beauty. This spirituality moves into—and then eventually beyond—grief and repentance toward a deeper, more courageous, compassionate, and spiritual aliveness. . . .

Facing the reality that we’re standing on a precipice right now, as a species and as a whole planet, is sobering, to say the least. But facing what is real opens the heart to grief, which somehow opens the heart to love even more deeply. . . .

When you reconnect with the alive world in a more compassionate way, and when you realize that the whole world is a living system that can only thrive when death makes room for new life, you may feel a calm settle into you. You may find yourself with the energy that comes from love to embrace the whole story, including the necessary emptiness and loss. . . .

When we look toward what has been lost with the climate crisis or other ecological damage that our species has inflicted, we do still need to strive toward repair, but the cure is within our own mentality. The mentality that love really is as strong as death (like the beloved says to the lover in [the] Song of Solomon) compels us to regard those of us who remain—forests, polar bears, wilderness, people—with fierce love, looking toward how we can all live our highest quality of life together as beloved community, no matter what.

We do not need to minimize or overlook the pain and tragedy we encounter as we live in this time of interwoven crises. Eventually, when we recognize that the pain is directly connected with our love, we can embrace it. We can move into actions of restoration that are firmly planted in love. [3]

References:
[1] Constance FitzGerald, “From Impasse to Prophetic Hope: Crisis of Memory,” in Desire, Darkness, and Hope: Theology in a Time of Impasse, ed. Laurie Cassidy and M. Shawn Copeland (Liturgical Press Academic: 2021), 442–443.

[2] The idea of “post-doom” spirituality has been identified and developed by evolutionary teacher and author Michael Dowd. To learn more, go to www.Postdoom.com

[3] Victoria Loorz, Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us into the Sacred (Broadleaf Books: 2021), 162, 163, 164, 165.

Story from Our Community:
I grew up never hearing about a God of love, only a God who had his (and God could only be a male) thumb ready to pounce on the merest of transgressions. I grew up with a very real fear of God. When a friend introduced me to Fr. Richard’s daily offerings, my worldview and perception of God opened up even more and does so continually. Many, many thanks for your gifts of hope and love and possibilities I never dreamed of. —Diane M.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations editorial team.

Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Seattle. Used with permission.
Image inspiration: What if I stopped complaining about how suburban streetlights pollute the night sky and instead tried to discover what beauty their light could uncover? How could my commitment to seeing something as it is, without judgment, help me see beyond my initial impression of it?
—Nicholas Kramer, Photographer of December DM photo series

A Metaphysics of Hope

For as the heavens reach beyond earth and time,
we swim in mercy as in an endless sea. —Psalm 103:11

Cynthia Bourgeault explores the idea that mystical hope is something that arises from within us, not as a result of our own effort, but as a fruit of our ability to consciously abide in what she calls “the Mercy” of God. Bourgeault writes:

We ourselves are not the source of that [mystical] hope; we do not manufacture it. But the source dwells deep within us and flows to us with an unstinting abundance, so much so that in fact it might be more accurate to say we dwell within it. . . .

The term I will use to describe this embodying fullness is “the Mercy.” It is the water in which we swim. Mercy is the length and breadth and height and depth of what we know of God—and the light by which we know it. You might even think of it as the Being of God insofar as we can possibly penetrate into it in this life, so that it is impossible to encounter God apart from the dimension of mercy. . . .

The mercy of God . . . is unconditional—always there, underlying everything. It is literally the force that holds everything in existence, the gravitational field in which we live and move and have our being. . . . Mercy is God’s innermost being turned outward to sustain the visible and created world in unbreakable love. . . .

Mystical hope would simply be what happens when we touch this innermost ground [within our own selves] and it floods forth into our being as strength and joy. Hope would be the Mercy—divine love itself—coursing through our being like lightning finding a clear path to the ground. . . .

In this new positioning, the underlying sense of corporateness [oneness] is physically real, for that “electromagnetic field of love” is the Mercy—and the Mercy is the body of Christ. Through this body hope circulates as a lifeblood. It warms, it fills, it connects, it directs. It is the heart of our own life and the heart of all that lives.

Hope’s home is at the innermost point in us, and in all things. It is a quality of aliveness. It does not come at the end, as the feeling that results from a happy outcome. Rather, it lies at the beginning, as a pulse of truth that sends us forth. When our innermost being is attuned to this pulse it will send us forth in hope, regardless of the physical circumstances of our lives. Hope fills us with the strength to stay present, to abide in the flow of the Mercy no matter what outer storms assail us. It is entered always and only through surrender; that is, through the willingness to let go of everything we are presently clinging to. And yet when we enter it, it enters us and fills us with its own life—a quiet strength beyond anything we have ever known.

Reference:
Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God (Cowley Publications: 2001), 20–21, 25, 34, 86–87.

Story from Our Community:
I grew up never hearing about a God of love, only a God who had his (and God could only be a male) thumb ready to pounce on the merest of transgressions. I grew up with a very real fear of God. When a friend introduced me to Fr. Richard’s daily offerings, my worldview and perception of God opened up even more and does so continually. Many, many thanks for your gifts of hope and love and possibilities I never dreamed of. —Diane M.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations editorial team.

Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Seattle. Used with permission.
Image inspiration: What if I stopped complaining about how suburban streetlights pollute the night sky and instead tried to discover what beauty their light could uncover? How could my commitment to seeing something as it is, without judgment, help me see beyond my initial impression of it?
—Nicholas Kramer, Photographer of December DM photo series

Cosmic Hope

Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary

Richard’s love for the Trinity finds inspiration from the Franciscan mystical scholar St. Bonaventure (c. 1217–1274), who viewed all reality as coming from, participating with, and returning to God. Such a cosmic vision is mystical hope at its best!

Bonaventure’s vision is positive, mystic, cosmic, intimately relational, and largely concerned with cleansing the lens of our perception and our intention so we can see and enjoy fully. He shows little interest in a reward/punishment frame for history.

He starts very simply: “For [none] can have understanding unless [they] consider where things come from, how they are led back to their end, and how God shines forth in them.” [1] For Bonaventure, the perfection of God and God’s creation is quite simply a full circle, and to be whole the circle must and will complete itself. He knows that Alpha and Omega are finally the same, and the key holding it all together in unity is the “Christ Mystery,” or the essential unity of matter and spirit, humanity and divinity.

In Bonaventure’s world, the frame of reality was still big, hopeful, and positive. He was profoundly Trinitarian, where the love always and forever flows in one positive and forward direction. That was both his starting point and his ending point. Most of Christian history has not been Trinitarian except in name, I am sad to report. It has largely been a worship of a Jesus who was extracted from the Trinity—and thus Jesus apart from the eternal Christ, who then became more a harsh judge of humanity than a shining exemplar of humanity “holding all things in unity” (see Colossians 1:17–20).

Today the Catholic Tradition celebrates the feast of the “Immaculate Conception” of Mary, who is the feminine archetype of a human woman carrying such wholeness from the very beginning of her life. This is esoteric for many, but it is really quite profound in its declaration!

God, for Bonaventure, is not an offended monarch on a throne throwing down thunderbolts, but a “fountain fullness” that flows, overflows, and fills all things in one exclusively positive direction. Reality is thus in process, participatory; it is love itself. God as Trinitarian Flow is the blueprint and pattern for all relationships and thus all of creation, which we now know from contemporary science is exactly the case.

I regret to say that there has been a massive loss of hope in Western history, a hope still so grandly evident in Bonaventure in the 13th century. His God was so much bigger and more glorious than someone to be afraid of, or the one who punished bad guys—because his cosmos was itself huge, benevolent, and coherent. Did his big God beget an equally big and generous cosmos? Or did his big cosmos imply a very big God? You can start on either side. For many today, awe before the universe leads them to reverence whoever created this infinity of Mystery and Beauty.

References:
[1] Bonaventure, Collationes in Hexaëmeron (Lectures on the Six Days), 3.2. See The Works of Bonaventure: Cardinal, Seraphic Doctor, and Saint, vol. 5, trans. José de Vinck (St. Anthony Guild Press: 1970), 42.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2016), 163, 164–165, 168–169.

Story from Our Community:
I was introduced to Richard Rohr’s meditations by my pastor. It has been so refreshing to hear a message of goodness and hope. My eyes have been opened to a beautiful gospel that is life-breathing and life-changing. The meditations have given me new perspectives and released in me a love I’ve always wanted to feel from my heavenly father. Thank you for your courage and insight and for sharing this good news in such a beautiful way!
—Tom F.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations editorial team.

Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Seattle. Used with permission.
Image inspiration: What if I stopped complaining about how suburban streetlights pollute the night sky and instead tried to discover what beauty their light could uncover? How could my commitment to seeing something as it is, without judgment, help me see beyond my initial impression of it?
—Nicholas Kramer, Photographer of December DM photo series

The Christ Mystery

Richard writes about how the coming of Christ is far more than the birth of a baby. The Christ Mystery is nothing less than a cosmic hope for history:

The Second Coming of Christ that history is waiting for is not the same as the baby Jesus or even the historical Jesus. The historical Jesus was one man, and Christ is not his last name. The Christ includes the whole sweep of creation and history joined with him—and us too. We call this the Cosmic Christ. We ourselves are members of the Body of Christ and the Cosmic Christ, even though we are not the historical Jesus. So we very rightly believe in “Jesus Christ,” and both words are essential.

The celebration of Christmas is not a sentimental waiting for a baby to be born, but much more an asking for history to be born! (see Romans 8:20–23). Any spirituality that makes too much of the baby Jesus is perhaps not yet ready for real life. God clearly wants friends, partners, and images, if we are to believe the biblical texts. God, it seems, wants mature religion and a free response from us. God loves us as partners, with mutual give and take, and we eventually become the God that we love.

All of us take part in the evolving, universe-spanning Christ Mystery. Jesus is a map for the time-bound and personal level of life, and Christ is the blueprint for all time and space and life itself. Both reveal the universal pattern of self-emptying and infilling (Christ) and death and resurrection (Jesus), which is the process we have called “holiness,” “salvation,” or just “growth,” at different times in our history. For Christians, this universal pattern perfectly mimics the inner life of the Trinity in Christian theology, which is our template for how reality unfolds, since all things are created “in the image and likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26–27).

The power of the biblical proclamation is that it clearly invites us into “cooperation” (Romans 8:28), free “participation” (Philippians 3:10), and the love of free and mature persons in God (Ephesians 4:13). We can apparently trust ourselves to grow because God has done it first and foremost. The Christ we are asking for and waiting for includes our own full birth and the further birth of history and creation. Now we can say “Come, Christ Jesus” with a whole new understanding and a deliberate passion!

Franciscan theologian and scientist Ilia Delio affirms the intrinsic hope and loving responsibility of Christian faith in an evolutionary universe:

We must suffer through to something higher, something more unified, more conscious, more being in love. Hope must be born over and over again, for where there is love, there is hope. Christian life is birthing love into greater unity; it is our contribution to a universe in evolution. We point the way to something more than ourselves, something up ahead that we are now participating in, where heaven and earth will be renewed (Revelation 21). [1]

References:
[1] Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Orbis Books: 2013), 198.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent (Franciscan Media: 2008), 7–9; and

Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (Convergent: 2019, 2021), 20–21.

Story from Our Community:
I was introduced to Richard Rohr’s meditations by my pastor. It has been so refreshing to hear a message of goodness and hope. My eyes have been opened to a beautiful gospel that is life-breathing and life-changing. The meditations have given me new perspectives and released in me a love I’ve always wanted to feel from my heavenly father. Thank you for your courage and insight and for sharing this good news in such a beautiful way!
—Tom F.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations editorial team.

Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Seattle. Used with permission.
Image inspiration: What if I stopped complaining about how suburban streetlights pollute the night sky and instead tried to discover what beauty their light could uncover? How could my commitment to seeing something as it is, without judgment, help me see beyond my initial impression of it?
—Nicholas Kramer, Photographer of December DM photo series

The Gift of Confidence

Father Richard describes the gift of confidence, which arises not from our ego or efforts, but from the foundational goodness of God.

When we are confident, we believe in a deep way that life is good, God is good, and humanity is good. We become safe and salutary people for others. We do exciting and imaginative things because we are confident that we are part of a story line that is going somewhere, and we want to be connected to something good. This is what modern secularism cannot offer us.

Theologically speaking, we identify the virtues of faith, hope, and love as participation in the very life of God. We don’t achieve this by will power; we already participate in it by our deepest nature. It is not occasioned by perfect circumstances. In fact, most of the people I know who have great faith or hope live in difficult circumstances.

True confidence is really a blending of both faith and hope. I don’t understand the alchemy of that union, but I know when it is present and when it isn’t. It often feels like something which I have accidentally discovered, something given from nowhere, something that participates in Someone Else’s life. It is of an entirely different nature than natural virtues like temperance or patience, which we gain through practice. I think that is why we pray for hope, wait for it, and believe in it, leaving the ground fallow until it comes. Those who do such things know that it does come and is always given—and all they can do is thank Someone.

The good news is that there is a guide, a kind of inner compass—and it resides within each of us. As the Scriptures put it, “the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). This Holy Spirit, described in John’s Gospel as an “advocate” (John 14:16), guides all of us from home and toward home. The Holy Spirit is entirely for us, more than we are for ourselves, it seems. She speaks in our favor against the negative voices that judge and condemn us. This gives us all such hope—now we do not have to do life all by ourselves, or even do life perfectly “right.” Our life will be “done unto us,” just as happened with Mary (see Luke 1:38).

Optimism is a natural virtue and a wonderful gift of temperament when things are going well, when we think tomorrow will be better than today. Yet Christian hope has nothing to do with the belief that tomorrow is necessarily going to be better. Jesus seems to be saying that if even one mustard seed is sprouting, or one coin found, or one sheep recovered (see Luke 15)—that is reason enough for a big party! Even a small indicator of God is still an indicator of God—and therefore an indicator of final reason, meaning, and joy. A little bit of God goes a long way.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Franciscan Media: 2001, 2020), 119–120; and

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), 91–92.

Story from Our Community:
With every morning’s reflection, brought together with so much love, under the guidance and spiritual vision of Father Richard, my day is expansive with the love of God. As a retired teacher and “lifelong learner,” I have found new ways to participate in the gifts I receive every day and to live with hope and an understanding that God’s mercy and love are eternal. Thanks so much to you all! —Hilda W.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations editorial team.

Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Seattle. Used with permission.
Image inspiration: What if I stopped complaining about how suburban streetlights pollute the night sky and instead tried to discover what beauty their light could uncover? How could my commitment to seeing something as it is, without judgment, help me see beyond my initial impression of it?
—Nicholas Kramer, Photographer of December DM photo series

The Theological Virtue of Hope

Mystical Hope

The Theological Virtue of Hope
Sunday, December 5, 2021
Second Sunday of Advent

Mystical hope offers us an experience of trust that God’s presence, love, and mercy is in and all around us, regardless of circumstances or future outcome. Father Richard Rohr writes of such hope through our anticipation of Jesus’ coming during Advent:

“Come, Lord Jesus,” the Advent mantra, means that all of Christian history has to live out of a kind of deliberate emptiness, a kind of chosen non-fulfillment. Perfect fullness is always to come, and we do not need to demand it now. The theological virtue of hope keeps the field of life wide open and especially open to grace and to a future created by God rather than ourselves. This is exactly what it means to be “awake,” as the Gospel urges us! We can also use other a words for Advent: aware, alive, attentive, alert are all appropriate. Advent is, above all else, a call to full consciousness and also a forewarning about the high price of consciousness.

When we demand—or “hope for”—satisfaction from one another, when we demand any completion to history on our terms, when we demand that our anxiety or dissatisfaction be taken away, saying as it were, “Why weren’t you this for me? Why didn’t life do that for me?” we are refusing to say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” We are refusing to hold out for the full picture that is always still being given by God.

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann views hope as trust in what God has done and will do, in spite of evidence to the contrary:

Hope in gospel faith is not just a vague feeling that things will work out, for it is evident that things will not just work out. Rather, hope is the conviction, against a great deal of data, that God is tenacious and persistent in overcoming the deathliness of the world, that God intends joy and peace. Christians find compelling evidence, in the story of Jesus, that Jesus, with great persistence and great vulnerability, everywhere he went, turned the enmity of society toward a new possibility, turned the sadness of the world toward joy, introduced a new regime where the dead are raised, the lost are found, and the displaced are brought home again. [1]

Richard continues:

“Come, Lord Jesus” is a leap into the kind of freedom and surrender that is rightly called the virtue of hope. Hope is the patient and trustful willingness to live without full closure, without resolution, and still be content and even happy because our satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves. We are able to trust that Christ will come again, just as Christ has come into our past, into our private dilemmas, and into our suffering world. Our Christian past then becomes our Christian prologue, and “Come, Lord Jesus” is not a cry of desperation but an assured shout of cosmic hope.

References:
[1] Walter Brueggemann, A Gospel of Hope, compiled by Richard Floyd (Westminster John Knox Press: 2018), 104–105.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent (Franciscan Media: 2008), 1–3.

Story from Our Community:
With every morning’s reflection, brought together with so much love, under the guidance and spiritual vision of Father Richard, my day is expansive with the love of God. As a retired teacher and “lifelong learner,” I have found new ways to participate in the gifts I receive every day and to live with hope and an understanding that God’s mercy and love are eternal. Thanks so much to you all! —Hilda W.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations editorial team.

Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Seattle. Used with permission.
Image inspiration: What if I stopped complaining about how suburban streetlights pollute the night sky and instead tried to discover what beauty their light could uncover? How could my commitment to seeing something as it is, without judgment, help me see beyond my initial impression of it?
—Nicholas Kramer, Photographer of December DM photo series
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