The African Context of Early Desert Christianity

Stephanie:

Fascinating exploration by Oden, well worth a read by the looks of it.

Originally posted on Citydesert:

A valuable resource and important research centre: The Center for Early African Christianity – http://www.earlyafricanchristianity.com/
Three books coming out of the Center are of particular interest:
How Africa Shaped
Thomas C. Oden “How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity” [IVP Academic, 2010]
“Africa has played a decisive role in the formation of Christian culture from its infancy. Some of the most decisive intellectual achievements of Christianity were explored and understood in Africa before they were in Europe. If this is so, why is Christianity so often perceived in Africa as a Western colonial import? How can Christians in Northern and sub-Saharan Africa, indeed how can Christians throughout the world, rediscover and learn from this ancient heritage? Theologian Thomas C. Oden offers a portrait that challenges prevailing notions of the intellectual development of Christianity from its early roots to its modern expressions. The pattern, he suggests, is not…

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Veni Sanctus Spiritus: Come Holy Spirit

I offer this to gently lift our hearts and minds, on the feather light wings of the Holy Spirit. May we mindfully join with our Soul in its eternal song of Joy and Praise. May we find peace in these troubled times, may our gentleness act as a grace within our world and our compassion heal wounds of the human experience. Let us rest in the grace of God and know each other as family no matter how different we may appear on the surface. And may we have the courage to Love.

One commentator on this said the following: ‘Come Holy Spirit and inflame the hearts of nations. Forgive our differences, enlighten our hearts and minds that we may see our common brotherhood as children of the one true God.’  

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Veni Sancte Spiritus 

Latin Text.
Veni, Sancte Spiritus, et emitte caelitus lucis tuae radium. Veni, pater pauperum, veni, dator munerum, veni, lumen cordium. Consolator optime, dulcis hospes animae, dulce refrigerium. In labore requies, in aestu temperies, in fletu solatium. O lux beatissima, reple cordis intima tuorum fidelium. Sine tuo numine, nihil est in homine, nihil est innoxium. Lava quod est sordidum, riga quod est aridum, sana quod est saucium. Flecte quod est rigidum, fove quod est frigidum, rege quod est devium. Da tuis fidelibus, in te confidentibus, sacrum septenarium. Da virtutis meritum, da salutis exitum, da perenne gaudium. 
Come, Holy Spirit, send forth the heavenly radiance of your light. Come, father of the poor, come, giver of gifts, come, light of the heart. Greatest comforter, sweet guest of the soul, sweet consolation. In labor, rest, in heat, temperance, in tears, solace. O most blessed light, fill the inmost heart of your faithful. Without your grace, there is nothing in us, nothing that is not harmful. Cleanse that which is unclean, water that which is dry, heal that which is wounded. Bend that which is inflexible, fire that which is chilled, correct what goes  stray. Give to your faithful, those who trust in you, the sevenfold gifts. Grant the reward of virtue, grant the deliverance of salvation, grant eternal joy.

 

 

Mothers Day: Love at First Sight

Mother

Today is Mother’s Day here in the United Kingdom. Mine are all grown up now with children of their own. I was busy for a while, with 3 daughters under 3 and then twin boys arrived…so I ended up with 5 children under 7, our farm to help run and a hectic schedule leaving me little time to ponder anything much other than groceries, playgroups, school schedules and nappies.

Today all those years on is very different. We had a sharp frost overnight and the sky is blue with not a cloud in the sky. At 8 am my own mother now aged 89 rang to thank me for her card and present, and tell me what a wonderful daughter I am, how blessed she is to have me and my sister and how much she loves us. My father aged 93 made her breakfast.

I opened my cards leisurely with a cup of coffee. The house is quiet. My choices as to what to do today are largely my own other than a lunch out with my husband, a lovely treat. So I went for a walk in the woods on the hill nearby, smelling the fresh earth and scent of the Spruce, the Scots Pine. To my delight I heard first one woodpecker, then his mates reply…one either side of the track, hidden in trees but still well aware of each other. And I thought of how that remains the truth for us “grand”mothers; no longer frantically paddling just to keep our heads above water, with the noise of youngsters fretting, arguing and playing; we now walk at a slower pace, yet remain attached to our children, no matter how old they are or how far away they live from us.

When we gave birth to them, we did not have our children to hang onto them or keep them forever by our sides. We offered them the opportunity of life, to live as they choose, as they must, making the most of the potential within themselves each and every day. We fretted and worried over them, we sat by their beds soothing their brows, we commiserated over errant boyfriends and girlfriends, we chewed our nails to the quick as they went out on motorbikes and then cars, never really sleeping until we heard that door click safely, telling us they were back. We defended them and tried to guide them, ignored the hurts and accusations they hurl at us of “not understanding” them. We ignored the “you love them more than me” accusations, gently reiterating that we love them all the same. And I thought how Godlike that all is. God gave us all the opportunity to live, and to do what we will how we will, hoping we come home safely and negotiate all the dangers and pitfalls that freedom involves. We rant and rail at God, sulk in corners trying to ignore or hide, we think we know best, take a tumble in life and then wail loudly at how unfair it all is. And God just stays calm and constant, soothes our brow, mends the hurts and then pushes us gently in the direction of the door again. Like the woodpeckers, we are always connected, the call, the answer and the safety of knowing we are never lost.

We have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but today is overflowing with potential.
Allan Lokos
Through the Flames

Love Is My Religion: Ibn’ Arabi

Recognized as a Spiritual Master par excellence, Ibn’ Arabi was born in Murcia, Spain, in 1165. He has been a source of inspiration for Sufi and mystical tradition (and beyond) from Andalusia to China for more than eight centuries. The universal ideas underlying his thought are of immediate relevance today. 
It is He who is revealed in every face, sought in every sign, gazed upon by every eye, worshipped in every object of worship, and pursued in the unseen and the visible. Not a single one of His creatures can fail to find Him in its primordial and original nature.” ~ Ibn’Arabi

http://www.ibnarabisociety.org/index.html

 

 

Pray as you can, not as you can’t.

Am sharing this wonderful article as well as the website link for the Northumbria Community. Stephanie.

An article by Trevor Miller

http://www.northumbriacommunity.org/

 

One foundational aspect of prayer taught by the Church Fathers is so basic that it can easily become a case of ‘familiarity breeding contempt’. It is this: in seeking to understand prayer the spiritual masters were more interested in the state of the heart before God rather than the techniques used and so would prayer1summarise it something like this: By far the most important thing for us, if we want to pray, is to seriously undertake to become the kind of people who can pray, who have room in their lives for a God to whom they can pray; then “pray as you can, not as you can’t.”

This well used maxim from the ‘Spiritual letters of Dom John Chapman’ is a great example of the kind of authentic prayer expression encouraged in the Northumbria Community. Henri Nouwen in his L’Arche journal ‘The Road to Daybreak’ gives a really helpful example of this by quoting a summarised version of ‘The Three Hermits’ story written by Leo Tolstoy in the 19th century, that for me gets to the very heart of prayer.

“Three Russian monks lived on a faraway island. Nobody ever went there, but one day their bishop decided to make a pastoral visit. When he arrived, he discovered that the monks didn’t even know the Lord’s Prayer. So he spent all his time and energy teaching them the “Our Father” and then left, satisfied with his pastoral work. But when his ship had left the island and was back in the open sea, he suddenly noticed the three hermits walking on the water – in fact, they were running after the ship! When they reached it, they cried, “Dear Father, we have forgotten the prayer you taught us.” The bishop overwhelmed by what he was seeing and hearing, said, “But, dear brothers, how then do you pray?” They answered, “Well, we just say, ‘Dear God, there are three of us and there are three of you, have mercy on us!’” The bishop, awestruck by their sanctity and simplicity, said, “Go back to your land and be at peace.”

In other words, “There’s a difference between learning prayers and prayerfulness.” That Christlikeness and spiritual growth does not depend on our ability to learn and recite facts, even facts about God and prayer. In Tolstoy’s story, it is the monks who live and pray from the heart, and the bishop who recognises their sanctity and prayerfulness, despite their ignorance of the Lord’s Prayer. Speaking metaphorically, why be concerned about not being able to remember much, if you can walk on water!

This story is a great summary of what our Community is all about in encouraging its own prayer life and ministry. Authenticity – which, as well as the ‘pray as you can not as you can’t’ wisdom of Dom John Chapman, is the ‘what you have to be is what you are’ of Thomas Merton; the ‘finding the heart’s true home’ of Richard Foster; the ‘inner heart’ of Catherine Doherty’s Poustinia. Over time our individual daily use of specific prayers like the Lord’s Prayer and the Jesus prayer become prayerfulness, making us more aware of God around us and within us. This awareness makes possible the apostle Paul’s call to “pray without ceasing”.

prayer alone1Prayer as a living relationship with God is at the heart of the Northumbria Community. Our Rule of life and daily Office are the skeleton that makes the living relationship able to live, move and have it’s being. For us, prayer is life, life is prayer and this is why (early in 2002) we made some minor revisions to our Rule of life. One important modification was to acknowledge many forms of prayer as equally valid. Under Availability to God and Others, we changed the one-word title of ‘Intercession’ to ‘Praying and Interceding’ to better represent this understanding. We realised that not all are called to be intercessors but all are called to pray. Further that the significant quote from the Monk of Patmos ‘Those who lean on Jesus’ breast feel the heart-beat of God’ was more about contemplative prayer than intercession.

Though prayer may take as many forms as there are pray-ers, as a Community we have tended to emphasise three types of prayer expression.

a) Liturgical Prayer – the daily use of the Divine Office (Celtic Daily Prayer). This is how our Rule puts it, “A daily discipline of prayer is important. It is often inconvenient and may be dry, but gives stability to our life, making prayer its foundation, and allowing God to teach us inwardly. The Office is there to serve us in this capacity, and it is recommended that Companions in Community use this as an expression of our common life in God.”

b) Intercessory Prayer – In our Community there are some who meet regularly to share Principles of Intercession taken from Joy Dawson’s YWAM book – ‘Intercession, Thrilling and Fulfilling’, and in so doing continue a practice used since the earliest days of Northumbria Community with its emphasis on intercession as prophetic listening and healing prayer.

However, for most of us it is simply praying for others whose lives we touch day by day and doing so in very ordinary ways. For example at the Nether Springs we use the Prayer net for specific intercessions, the prayer basket with names of Companions and Friends drawn out for silent prayer twice each day, along with relevant written prayer requests. We also have the informative Prayer Guide to help us. You may have similar helps to prayer and intercession where you live.

c) Contemplative Prayer – This is being ‘unbusy’ with God instead of being busy with other things. It is learning to relax into not having to do anything useful or productive when centred in the presence of God. It reminds me of a much-quoted sentence from Thomas Merton in the early formation of our Community, that is, “The monk is not defined by his task, his usefulness. In a certain sense he is supposed to be ‘useless’ because his mission is not to do this or that job but to be a man of God”.

Of course, this sense of ‘intentional uselessness’ had to be lived in creative tension with the real world. In the every day of our lives there are endless opportunities to pack our minds and hearts with countless things to do, to look at, listen to, read about; numerous people to visit, email, talk to, and worry about. With all of this going on around us and within us, a life without a quiet centre easily becomes delusional.

If the world around us is asserting that “if you are not making good use of your time, you are useless” then we need to remind ourselves that Jesus urges us to “come and spend some useless time with me; come and waste time with God.’ This is the practice of contemplative prayer, the prayer of quiet.

CA8P8HGRWe live in mystery. Each of us experiences a reality that others can’t see. We mustn’t presume to know too much. What we do know is that there are different experiences of prayer. They are as unique as the individuals who live them, and it follows that if prayer is to nourish and sustain us, it cannot be imposed. Rather, prayer has to be desired, longed for and then, experienced. It is both a gift, and a lifelong adventure, requiring quality time, humility, and perseverance – like any loving relationship.

We also know that God’s nature is love. He does not love us any more when we do everything right and he does not love us any less when we do everything wrong. He just loves us; that’s who he is. Prayer is keeping company with the God who loves us.

 

Compassion: The Golden Rule of Religion: Karen Armstrong

I have just re-read The Spiral Staircase by Karen, and of course I have read her book, The History of God. She and I sing from the same great root. So I am delighted to tease you towards this lady’s work; if you have not already come across her, with this short clip on Youtube. Her work is profound and in this day and age, perhaps more important than ever.

Be Still My Soul

 

Firstly a heartfelt welcome to all of you new ‘followers’ who pressed the follow button of late. Thank you for pressing the button, and I hope you find the time to browse and enjoy the rich storehouse of archived posts. You will find posts inspired from all faith traditions, all celebrating our Divine Source. They are as varied as each one of us human beings is unique. Together we make one big human family. Regardless of culture, faith, nationality, or colour we are all  Gods children, created equal and equally loved. In our variety we can choose to weave a beautiful blanket of love to wrap around our world. Let none divide us. 

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 In the frenzy of everyday life many become overwhelmed, and stress is a modern day epidemic. For all those of you who juggle life’s many and varied demands and challenges, and struggle to find time for your cell to sit within, or who yet have to discover their own cell to explore…this is for you. May it bring peace and a stilling of your Soul within. May it strengthen you and re-balance you so that you may re-enter your homes and workplaces, refreshed and balanced.

For those of us whom God has called to:

“Go, sit in a cell, and your cell will teach you everything.”
— Abba Moses (4th century)

May it strengthen us, and may God grant us the joy, courage and endurance to stay and witness its beautiful transformation.