Musing on God the Father

Author’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series of musings on Each Person of the Holy Trinity. This musing is on God The Father. Read the musings on The Son and The Holy Spirit.

Musing on God The Father

Much can be said and written on Each Person of the Trinity, but ultimately it is a Mystery. All that we know of the Holy Trinity is what has been revealed to us by God, and what we can deduct from those revelations.

But, let us begin with God The Father.

Again, God is Infinite, and thus, if we completely understood Him (which we don’t), could be infinitely described, written about, etc. So, how and where can we even begin to muse, to ponder, to wonder about God The Father?

How about with His Name? The Father.

Jesus reveals His Relationship with His Father: “The Father and I are one,” and other similar passages found in the Scriptures. And, we as Christians accept that God The Father is Jesus’ (the Second Person of the Holy Trinity) Father, and ours also – just as we address Him in the “Our Father” prayer.

We attribute the title “Creator” to Him (as we do similarly with Jesus’ “Redeemer/Savior” and the Holy Spirit’s “Sanctifier”). We understand that He possesses, and is the source of, all the quintessential attributes of a father: loving, protective, caring, authoritative, and so on.

However – without forgetting the magnificence and importance of these above attributes – let us ponder on another attribute of God The Father: knowledge.

“God is a spirit, and the first act of a Spirit is to know and understand. God, knowing Himself from all eternity, brings forth the knowledge of Himself, His own image. This was not a mere thought, as our knowledge of ourselves would be, but a Living Person, of the same substance and one with the Father. This is God the Son. Thus the Father “begets” the Son, the Divine Word, the Wisdom of the Father.” — A Manual of Religion

Thus, we understand – through revelation and deduction – that God The Father’s Eternal Knowledge of Himself begets His Son, the Second Person of the Trinity.

Yet, why do we still call Him Father? Why do we not call Him “God The Knower,” or “God The Almighty” or some other such title?

Why is He The Father?

Because (I would contend) a principle function of a parent is to impart knowledge to his/her child. (This is not so much the case with Jesus, God The Son, as being Fully God, He is Omniscient.)

Think about what an earthly father does, ideally. (Mothers do these things too.)

Among many things, he teaches his children – how to walk, how to throw a ball, how to drive, how to stay away from dangerous things like hot stoves, strangers, and drugs.

But, even more importantly, he teaches his children about themselves.

For instance, my dad has shared stories about things I did as a baby or a toddler that I wouldn’t remember – how I was a fussy baby, but I was calmed by the sound of running water; how I would cry and plead to get a new pet each time we went to the pet store; how I had no scruples about sharing my very frank comments with my family members.

My father helps me know myself.

He is always ready to give me words of criticism or encouragement as the situation provides – “You’re being really negative today” or “You’re really smart, so you should try the advanced class.”

He helps me to see what I cannot see or do not wish to.

And because of that constant flow of (self) knowledge, I look to him for advice, for counsel, for guidance.

We do the same with Our Heavenly Father. For who knows us better than The One Who Created Us and Loves Us Best?

However, like our earthly parents, we can also rebel from Our Heavenly Father – “Oh, you don’t know me. You don’t know what I’m capable of. You don’t know what’s best for me.” But, while earthly parents can sometimes be wrong (but not very often, hopefully), Our Heavenly Father never is.

Another thing that our fathers (again, mothers too) also do is connect us to the past. They tell us stories about our grandparents, great-grandparents; how our family came from this place and settled in that place; and so on.

Happily, more often than not, we devour this (self) knowledge, because our culture has encouraged us to believe that our past will influence our future, for better or worse. Most times, we desire this knowledge, because we want to know where we (inasmuch as our family) came from.

We want to know who we are, and our parents help us in that task.

By learning about who we have been and who are families are, we want to figure out what we are ‘destined’ for – what the outcome of our lives will be.

But, we are created by God The Father out of Love. We are created to love and be loved by Him and our brothers and sisters. We have no need to search for our ‘destiny’ anywhere else, but with Him:

God is both our origin and, we pray, our outcome.

Yet, to be with Him, we must first know Him; then, love Him; and serve Him.

So, like an earthly parent, God The Father tries to impart all this (self) knowledge onto us, but it is up to us to decide what to do with it. Like our parents, He assists, protects, and guides us on our path, but we make our own choices. He just wants us to make the right ones, so that we can be with Him one day in Heaven.

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Meditation for Ash Wednesday

Author’s Note: This meditation is based on Psalm 51 and Hosea 1 & 2. In the Book of Hosea, God asks the prophet Hosea to take a prostitute as his wife, and Hosea does so. This corresponds to God’s relationship with the Israelites, his chosen people, who had fallen away from their faith and worshiped false idols. Hosea remains faithful to his wife, despite her unfaithfulness to him, just as God remains faithful to Israel, despite their idolatry. This meditation is told from the wife’s point-of-view.

Meditation for Ash Wednesday

“Into the Desert”

I am a wife – a tainted, unfaithful wife. I was a harlot – selfish and unsure.

Then, I met a Man. And, He married me; even though He knew who I was – who I am still. Though, I try not to be.

I try to pursue my old lovers, but I cannot overtake them. I try to seek them, but I cannot find them.

I know my ways are shameful, and my soul, unclean.

I want to be purified, to be forgiven – to be loved. To be a wife – true, faithful, and pure; to be a mother – attentive, loving, unselfish.

So, He takes me; allures me; leads me … into the desert … into the wilderness. To be cleansed with water; to be purified by fire; to be made holy through His Spirit.

He and I are bound together, connected. A string – solid and bright – connects His Heart to mine, and mine to His. It is a strong cord, but I can break it. When I do, He bleeds inwardly. I bleed also, but He heals me and restores the cord once more.

desert-footprints

As He leads me over the dunes, into the crusty, dirty stretch of silence, I know I could break away from Him. I could snap the cord once more and flee. What if I do not want to follow Him into this desert, this wilderness… this silence?

But I do. Because He loves me, and we are connected. I am drawn to follow Him – out of love. An imperfect love. A flimsy, fleeting love. It is not strong and steady like His Love. But it is there, and it strengthens, slowly and surely with each passing moment.

He draws me into the silence of the wilderness… to speak to my heart.

To blot out my transgression with His Compassion and cleanse me from my sin.

To clean me that I may be pure; to wash me, that I may be whiter than snow.

To create a clean heart for me and renew within me a steadfast spirit.

To restore me to the gladness of His Salvation and uphold me with His Spirit.

To open my lips, that my mouth may proclaim His praise.

To accept the sacrifice of my contrite Spirit.

So, I follow Him into the desert… To be cleansed and purified. And, to grow closer to Him. To become one with Him.

May these days in the desert help me to become one with Him. Amen +CHS

Musing on Movements of the Spirit

A Musing on ‘Movements’ of the Spirit

A few years ago, my friend and I decided to get some ice cream after a workout. We did this occasionally, and when we did my friend usually insisted on paying. We made our order at the drive-thru and pulled up to the window to pay. I gave my friend a few dollars to hand to the cashier. I said that I could pay for the ice cream this time.

My friend was embarrassed. “I saw some $1s on my dresser before I left. I should’ve brought them with me,” he said. “The Spirit told me to, but I didn’t listen.”

I raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything.

“Yeah, because the Spirit–the HOLY Spirit–told you to take that money so you could buy ice cream,” I thought. It’s not that I thought he was lying, or that the Holy Spirit doesn’t move people…

I just figured the Holy Spirit wouldn’t bother with something as trivial as some cash to buy ice cream with later.

But, as I write this, years later, that memory has stuck with me. That recollection of me and my friend in the drive-thru, and the “movement” of the Spirit that he had ignored.

Perhaps my friend was wrong when he said he felt the Spirit ‘moving’ him to take that cash. Maybe the Spirit doesn’t bother with something that trivial. Maybe he was experiencing something more earthly than heavenly.

But, there are times, in my life (and in your life, too, I assume) where there were little “hints”… little “nudges”… that said to do something out of the ordinary… to change the routine… because it will be for the better.

Like a woman who feels, for some reason, that she should take a different way home that day, and finds out later there was a traffic accident along her usual route. If she hadn’t changed her routine, she would’ve been stuck in traffic.

Or the man who decided to call in sick to work one September morning, and, later, watched in horror as a plane crashed into the North Tower floor where he worked.

Maybe it’s luck or happen-chance. Maybe it’s a strange human instinct or “sixth sense.” But, we as Catholics believe that there is a Holy Spirit – a being that inspires and moves us to do God’s Will in our lives.

If we don’t listen to those movements, it’s only that much harder to accomplish God’s Will. The Spirit has to “re-route,” as it were, and find another opportunity to move us.

Now, why do I mention my friend and the ice cream?

I can’t speak as to the specific circumstances of “why God would want my friend to take the cash,” but I can say this:

If we listen to God in the little things, it is easier to listen to him in the big things.

Musing on Psalm 143:10

“Teach me to do Your Will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” — Psalm 143:10

Tuesday Night Prayer

Teach me to do your will
for you, O Lord, are my God.
Let your good spirit guide me
in ways that are level and smooth.

A MUSING

For years, as I have prayed Tuesday’s Night Prayer, which asks the Lord to send us His good spirit (the Holy Spirit) to guide us in ways that are “level and smooth,” a certain image has always been present in my mind as I say these words.

If you haven’t already noticed, I am a (recent) alumna of the University of Kansas in Lawrence. If you’ve never visited the campus, it is very beautiful (especially in the fall). But, the campus is notorious in Kansas, because it was built on a hill called Mt. Oread. Everyday, students make the trek up “the Hill” to go to class. With the way the campus is configured, there is a dip between Mt. Oread, where the majority of the campus buildings are, and the hill where the dorms are, Daisy Hill.

Many students ride the bus between the dorms and the campus to avoid the walk down Daisy Hill and then the subsequent walk up Mt. Oread (and vice versa on the return trip). While I didn’t live on Daisy Hill, I did frequent the Catholic Center, which is right across the street from the dorms.

In my first few days on campus, I learned about a “back route” to Daisy Hill – a road that didn’t involve any great changes in elevation – Crescent Road. The road curved through a quaint little neighborhood and essentially onto the ‘back porch’ of the Catholic Center. Most students would cut through the Center’s parking lot and continue down the street to the dorms, but I didn’t need to go any farther. The Catholic Center was my destination.

It is a nice walk, and a well-worn one, too. You can see places along the road where the grass won’t grow anymore, because so many students take it. There is a little rise and fall to it, but it’s only noticeable if you’re biking or running. And, depending on where on campus you have to get to, it might be a little bit longer route, but students take it nonetheless.

When I was still there, every now and again, I would take “direct route” down Mt. Oread and up Daisy Hill; but when I did, I would be so worn out climbing the steep hill toward the dorms and the Center. I never missed an opportunity to take Crescent Road back to campus.

It was a place where, now as I look back on it, I think the Spirit was and still is. Many of my Catholic friends and I would take that road to and from Mass, Adoration, spiritual direction, Confession, and other center activities. The Holy Spirit was there, gently pushing us closer to Christ in the Tabernacle, drawing us in, drawing us closer together – both with Him and with one another. And all while on a (relatively) level road.

Perhaps you have your own Crescent Road. Perhaps it isn’t a place. Maybe it’s a point in time. An event. A group of people. Something.

Something that, if you hadn’t known better, you would’ve missed it entirely. Something that made your life easier, even though it might’ve been the “long way.” Something that you missed and regretted whenever you foolishly decided against it. Something that led you closer to Christ, the way Crescent Road led me closer (and more easily) to the Catholic Center.

Something that comes to mind when you think of “ways that are level and smooth.” (Or “level ground,” if we’re going with the NAB translation).

But, anyway, I wanted to share my “level ground” with you. I hope that the next time you pray Tuesday Night Prayer, or read/meditate on Psalm 143, you might remember Lawrence’s Crescent Road and whatever your own “level ground” is.

And, I pray that we are all open to the Spirit, that He may guide us “in ways that are level and smooth.” Amen. +CHS

Poem on Elijah & the Divine Heralds

Author’s Note: This poem was written in 2011, and is based on Elijah’s visit to Mount Horeb in 1 Kings 19. Again, only the first two stanzas are on the site. For the rest of the poem, please see the Word Document.

The Divine Heralds

I fell asleep in a church once.

The sanctuary was a cave—dark and dense with prayers.

The rosemary incense was my anesthesia,

And the chanting was my lullaby…

~        ~        ~

I dreamt I was in a cave,

And I was the prophet Elijah—

In the sanctuary, the very womb, of Horeb,

The Mountain of the LORD…

The rest of the poem is here: Divine Heralds

Meditation from “A Christmas Carol”

It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green that it looked a perfect grove… and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney… In easy state upon this couch [of Christmas foods], there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.
‘Come in!’ exclaimed the Ghost. ‘Come in! And know me better, man.’
Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.
‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. ‘Look upon me!’ Scrooge reverently did so. –Stave III of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

In this scene, Scrooge, after first confronting and meditating on scenes from his past, encounters the Second Ghost—a ghost, who by his very nature, is a spirit of generosity, hospitality, and charity. His first words to the bitter miser echo a message that Christ conveys to all: Come in! Come in! And know me better, man. Here, the Ghost of Christmas Present stands in for Christ, and Scrooge for every Christian, especially the fallen Christian, who is on a journey of conversion and Faith.

Come in! Come in! And know me better, man.

These are words of friendship, of welcome. When a stranger knocks on your door—for instance, while trick-or-treating—you provide them with what they need, but they remain on your porch or doorstep, keeping their distance. There is always a boundary in between. But, when a friend or family member arrives, you greet them eagerly and then invite them in. “Come in,” you say, as if they would have stayed on your doorstep otherwise. The boundary is no longer there; the threshold is broken.

When Christ encounters the Christian, there is a boundary, a disconnect; but, not on Christ’s side, rather on the Christian’s. We wish to keep our distance—our hearts visible but unapproachable, as a person’s house is visible through a screen door, yet we dare not enter it. We keep Christ on the porch when we encounter Him.

Yet, when He encounters us, it is the complete opposite. Come in, He says. It is not simply an invitation; it is a call, a vocation, a drawing in, a beckon. (c.f. Mark 2:14). When a person invites another into his group, he invites him in; he invites the other in his home. This is a word of exclusivity. One must be in the group or out of it. A man must be in his home or outside it. There is another way we use this term: to be in a relationship. Here, the Christian (Scrooge) is outside of that relationship with Christ through his sin and failed understanding. He wants to keep Christ at a distance. Yet, Christ beckons him, draws him back into the relationship.

Come in! Come back into this relationship with Me, Whom you have so long avoided and disregarded…

Come in! And know me better.

Now, Christ uses words which all Christians should ponder and keep throughout their lives, for it is the goal of our existence: to know, love, and serve God. In days past, to know someone was to have an intimate relationship, most often referring to a physical relationship between two persons. To know someone truly was to see them without deception, without veil, without limit. Yet, there is only so much that we can see as petty humans—a level of knowingness that we can never reach, simply because of our nature. We can never know a man the way Christ knows him. We can never see his soul, his mind, his inner being as Christ sees it—all in a simple moment, fully and completely, with total love and adoration. For, how many times do we misjudge a man because of our first impressions? How often does a loved one die, and still we learn about him and his life during the funeral rites? How often do we continually hate and scorn those whom we should love, or even those whom we do love?

And, moreover, how could we ever know God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—as He knows Himself? (c.f. Matthew 11:27 and John 10:15) And, if we were to know and understand the Triune God in Heaven, it would only be through His Power of revelation to us, and not through our own powers or merit. And, that is why Christ calls the Christian to know him better.

In Spanish, there are two words to convey this understanding: saber (to know information) and conocer (to be familiar/acquainted with someone). One might say “I (saber) know English, and I (conocer) know my English teacher.” We cannot treat the Mystery of God as saber knowledge, a familiarity that may be gained through study and other physical means. Although, those avenues have their places, they are not the only nor the primary means we must take to know God better. Christ invites us to conocer know Him: to be familiar, to be intimate with Him.

In today’s world, we might look at a man’s Facebook profile and learn all about him: his family, work and school history, circles of friends, likes/dislikes, and so on. And, despite ever meeting that man, we could claim that we know him. But, others would argue—that man, particularly—that we didn’t know him simply because we read his Facebook profile, and we never could. We could grow familiar with his habits and his ways, but we couldn’t truly know him as person merely through physical, superficial means, as if he was a subject to be studied—to be known. We would only study the two-dimensional sheet of ice without realizing its third dimension and acknowledging it as an iceberg.

Before, we only saber knew Christ, and because of that, continued to keep Him at a distance and to guard Him from our hearts. Now, because He has called us and beckoned us, we must conocer know Christ and enter into a better relationship with Him—to allow Him in so that we might be familiar and intimate with him as best as we can in this life.

Leave your heart open to Me, that I may enter into it, and fill your soul with the Spirit of Knowledge, which you so desperately need to Love and to Serve Me…

Know me better, Man.

In the story, the Ghost does not call Scrooge by his given name, but rather says, “know me better, man.” In everyday life, this is common. “How are you doing, man?” Or, even, “Boy, he’s fast!” We refer to a person by what they are, rather than who they are; it’s similar to calling a pet collie “dog” rather than “Lassie,” or calling a stray cat “kitty.” It’s generic, rather than specific; probably because we are unfamiliar with the person/thing we are addressing. The cat is a stray, so we call it “kitty.” The guy at the gym might be a stranger, so we say, “Good game, man.” Yet, in most cases, especially when it is a casual gathering, it is not considered rude to address a person in this way, even a close friend. “Hey, man, I haven’t seen you in a long time.” Perhaps it is merely a quirk of our culture. (We recognize women similarly by addressing them as “woman” or “girl” in similar situations: “Girl, how have you been?” and so on.)

Yet, even in situations of familiarity, why do we allow such a generic address? We recognize one another as humans, yet why do we have to remind ourselves or them of this in our address? It is unclear. Perhaps, because it is endearing; or, more importantly, because it is a subtle, subliminal way to remind us of our common humanity—our fraternity.

But, for the Ghost, as for Christ, it is the addressing of a higher spirit to a lower being. We are the creation of God, mere dust of the earth. (c.f. Genesis 3:19) He calls us by what we are: Man. We are a race of creatures: the human race. Yet, He does not call us “slave” or “servant” or “dust”—even though we are all those things, as Scrooge is. But, neither does He call us “mister/madam,” etc. The Ghost’s address is not an elevated one, but rather, it is a common one. “Man.” It is a common, or ordinary, address, because it is an address that is common, or shared.

Because Christ became Man. God made man, and God became man. (c.f. John 1:14) And, in that respect, we have something in common: our humanity. It is a nature, an experience, an existence that we share not only with Christ, but with our brothers and sisters. Throughout Scripture, God has called man to be many things: dust, slaves, sons and daughters, servants, children, the Bride, disciples, beloved, and so on. And the field is very stratified, as Children of God is exalted title compared to servants.

Yet, despite our humble nature, but our exalted vocation, there is a word, an address, which lies perfectly in between all those names that God has given us: Man. We are dust, but we also have been given dominion over that dust. (c.f. Genesis 1:26-30) We are made the Image and Likeness of God, out of the earth; yet, God Himself became flesh, became Man. It is indeed a brotherhood, a brotherhood that we share with Christ: to be both dust and Children of God simultaneously. It is a calling, it is a beckoning.

Come in! Come in! And know me better, man.

Be with me! Be with me in a relationship of knowledge and love and service, so that you may fulfill your vocation: to be Holy as I am Holy, and I have set you apart to be Mine… (c.f. Leviticus 20:26)

Come in! Come in! And know me better, man.