Father Anthony's Homilies
- Last week we spoke about pure, unconditioned, unbounded, uncreated consciousness… that out of which all thought, all ideas emerge which, in turn, condition what we say, feel, and create in the world. When we live from this consciousness, not talking of or about it, intellect becomes servant to consciousness or Spirit. In Gospel terms John has been arrested: the old has given way to the knew. As the intellect begins to serve spirit: as we operate less from intellect, which is always of or about something: we act more from deepest consciousness… our I Am. This I Am, the Christ within – which is the same creative quality of God and of which we are a part: this same I Am conditions the world. It is not led; it leads. It is not acted upon: it acts. It is not created: it creates. We experience good news or an awakening. We begin to hear or experience the Gospel of Jesus (His voice) proclaiming that the Divine resides within us… that we are not merely accidents of nature but lovingly created sons and daughters of God: as such, we have all the qualities of God within us awaiting development and expression. This development leads to an experience of living in spirit whilst still in the world, the kingdom of heaven; and the time for this to happen is right now. The time is fulfilled…. now, not next year.
As we waken to this we experience our deepest being, which is Jesus, the fullness of Christ within: we experience Him, pure consciousness, passing by our intellect and mind (he passes by the sea of Galilee). We begin to hear and discern His voice from among the many other voices within us. This hearing and discernment is the meaning of the name Simon. The more we discern, the more we grow in strength which is the meaning of the name Andrew. These two faculties help us to focus only on Christ, which in turn develops our intellectual soul or mind and heart properly. In Gospel terms we leave our boats: that is, we cease following the ways of the world and create in the world from spirit.
Until this time we have been like fishermen casting their nets from a boat. The boat is a symbol of the body or the world… in other words a container. It is also an ancient way of describing or depicting our attempt to contain a consciousness that is unbounded, uncreated and uncontainable; of limiting consciousness to already existing forms that represent the world and its ways rather than creating new forms that resemble God and therefore lead the world back to Him. The attempt to bind our consciousness in this manner leads us to become dysfunctional or broken. We become people always needing to mend their nets; that is, our consciousness is not yielding anything. It is torn by thoughts and ideas (represented by fish) not compatible with God and therefore out of alignment with divine law or the kingdom of heaven. In other words, we are using our consciousness, our net or matrix - or Christ within – wrongly. Christ is not living in us; we are not living from the unbounded, uncreated, kingdom of heaven but from the limited self-perpetuating kingdom of this world.
But, by using our faculties of hearing and discernment Faith increases, Simon becomes Peter: our strength, Andrew increases. These brothers, these two faculties, reveal another gift of God (Zebedee means ‘gift of God’). Realising we are broken (mending nets in the boat) they reveal two other necessary faculties. James, which means wisdom or right judgement, and John which is spiritual love, i.e. the love which prefers what the other prefers; love which brings us out of ourselves. The faculties of Wisdom & Love, combined with Strength and Faith create a real trust that God will direct us through and across the incidences of the life we are leading now back to Him. Jesus calls us to follow Him using these faculties. He calls us out of the world of our jumbled, wild and erratic thoughts that cloud our consciousness, the fish caught in our nets and tearing them. He calls us to align our thoughts and ideas with His so as to affect and lead the world; or in Gospel terms become Fishers of men.
For this we have to abandon our nets… abandon an idea of our individual closed bounded consciousness for the one and only unbounded consciousness of the Father that underpins everything… becoming one with God again. And for that we have to die to self which is a continuing message of the scriptures. Then we are in a position to teach and lead others with authority… but more of that next week! -
Last week we spoke about the need to follow spiritual intuition, the star, rather than the rational mind, in order to find Christ within; the anointed part of our being that reflects its Creator. This not to denigrate the rational mind but to acknowledge it limitations. Having glimpsed the anointed aspect of our being, fresh new feelings arise along with a general dissatisfaction with the way we are living; these new feelings can be broadly summed up as an awareness of the riches of spirit (Gold); the beauty of spirit (Frankincense); and the eternity of spirit (Myrrh). These feelings attract our undeveloped, childlike spirit and hold us in their light. After this there is no way we can return to former ways… we cannot return to Herod.
We must travel in a new direction, follow a different path. The same spiritual intuition that led us to find the childlike Christ within, this anointed yet undeveloped aspect of our nature; this same spiritual intuition must now lead us on a new path that will allow the infant Christ within to grow and develop so that, in the end, it leads us through life.
There is a moment when our spiritual nature (John) makes us aware of something entirely different about our being; something untarnished, pure, vibrant, and very strong: unlike anything earthly. This is the Lamb of God: the pure aspect of our spirit. This aspect, which is God like, is the adult Jesus; and it is Him we must follow. First, we must find out where He lives, i.e. where does He live in Himself spiritually? Where does He live in Himself that makes Him what He is? Notice, He doesn’t tell us to do something but, come and see. ‘Be you coming out of yourself and be you perceiving or understanding’. This is the first part of the inner journey; we are invited into His spiritual heart which is ours. We must leave the old tried and tested for a new interior land. We must use spiritual eyes not physical ones.
What will we see and understand? The Gospel answer is subtle. It says, ‘They stayed with him until the tenth hour’. This is not referring just to the time of day, i.e. 4pm. The characters of the Hebrew alphabet also depict spiritual unfoldment. The tenth letter of the alphabet yod is also a pictogram of the hand. The hand is what we work and create with; it is a spiritual reference to unconditioned consciousness… it is the sense of I Am without the sense of I am this or that. Just I Am, being. This consciousness is uncreated, unmade, unformed, unbound – it is pure consciousness out of which we conjure up forms, thoughts and ideas… it is the bedrock of our creative ability which we share with God. The Gospel says, they stayed with Him until they found or became aware of this quality within themselves. With this quality we resemble God; we become God like and co-creators with Him. As an aside - this quality of our being was referred to by the Egyptians and earlier civilisations as the Net: we might say matrix (the mother from which everything is born): that out of which all else emerges. Those who understood and could operate from this quality were called masters or mistresses of the Net. Nets often feature in the Gospels and we will have more to say on this over the weeks. Perhaps our net needs mending!
The disciples stayed with Jesus until they could rest with Him in the same unconditioned consciousness and from it from think, feel and create as He did. For us it is a journey into the depth of soul until we find the anointed space we call Christ… the unconditioned consciousness out of which all else manifests: where we are free and liberated from but in control of everything. It is a lifetime journey. It will take reserves of strength & perseverance (the meaning of Andrew); the quality of Andrew in us will call out our Faith (Peter) his brother. Faith and Strength united will give us the capacity to make this journey back to God and enlightenment.
We cannot make this journey as a spiritual spectator or as an intellectual exercise. We must actually do it. The requirement is an overriding, overwhelming need and desire to know… that however wonderful or horrible the world is… it is not enough. A willingness to let go of everything, even what we think of as our faith and belief. A willingness to find and follow our spiritual intuition with a deep trust that God will lead us over, across and through all the incidences of our lives to the place we seek.
But, more of that next week.
During Advent we spoke about recognising Christ within, the aspect of our being or personality anointed by God as His true reflection. This recognition begins by accepting Christ in Jesus as a reality in time, and history. We look back and celebrate His coming into the physical world at Christmas. But, at some stage what was a reality for Jesus, must become a reality for us; as Christ was fully revealed in Jesus so Christ must be fully revealed in us, too. Our task as Christ-ians is to continue to bring Christ to the world as and through us, as a present reality not a past reflection. We become who and what Christ is without detriment to our individuality. Through the Gospels, Jesus has left a method for encountering or finding Christ within. If you like, the Gospels are training manuals; they outline the spiritual journey which Jesus took to fulfil scripture; His journey is also our journey; it maps out what it takes in order to find Christ within. And having found Him within bringing Him to the world: so that the world and others may see and find in us what it must see and find in itself.
Over the next 6 weeks we will trace the path of Jesus through various Gospel passages: we will let Him teach and show us what to do. First though, there is something that we must be aware of: something that sets the scene for our journey. The feast of the Epiphany details what this is… so let’s pay attention to the Gospel.
The anointed part of our being, the spiritual soul or Christ within, is small and lonely to begin with. At best it feels like a dream; at worst a rational nonsense. But once we glimpse it something in us feels lost and alone as if in the darkness of a cave or stable or spiritual womb. At the same time, we feel at home in nature… all that is naturally of God and untarnished by the world; but we feel very vulnerable. It is as if we can only see, perceive or understand with spiritual eyes, with eyes of light. It seems that the world operates in blindness. It is like being the only person with sight in a room full of blind people… which is alarming and disconcerting. We realise the world has nothing to say to our spiritual soul because… Spirit is never transformed by the material; on the contrary, the material must be transformed by the spiritual from which it emerges in the first place. The world represents the darkness of error, the cave, or stable, the darkness surrounding the infant soul awakening.
On the feast of the epiphany we see what happens spiritually when the Christ child within, is recognised, sensed or glimpsed. For a while our rational mind cannot cope: concepts, language, philosophy, theology, psychology, etc cannot help us. This is Herod (who represents the world). He is at a loss: He has to enquire of deeper wisdom; he cannot do it himself. But wisdom does not follow the rational mind; it follows innate intuition… i.e. the Star. We must follow our Intuition and be led by the spirit - this is what coming from the east means. It is a journey of trust, of abandonment to God: we encounter the world and our life through intuition, trusting that God will lead us across the incidences of each and every day to show us the way. There is no script to follow. We only know as much of the script as we have written… and we have to keep writing, trusting that God will lead and help us write the script of our life. Our journey to the promised land has begun. Innate intuitive wisdom leads us to the deepest aspect of our being; the aspect that reflects God and only God. Here we lay down the what wisdom makes us aware of … the riches of our spirit (Gold); the beauty of our spirit (Frankincense) and the eternal nature of our spirit (Myrrh). These are the gifts through which Christ within will emerge.
This can bring great internal strife. Worldly wisdom (Herod) is deeply threatened by spiritual wisdom; it is disturbing. What our innate wisdom seeks for is far beyond the rational mind. That is why we have to use a different order of our being to access Christ within… Intuition as opposed to Reason and worldly understanding. Intuition is the star that Reason has to follow; our material senses have to give way to higher spiritual senses. From there on in we live by a different path; we cannot go back to our old ways, (Herod). It is on this path that we will meet Jesus in spirit and through the Gospel he will instruct us….
…we become one who learns by instruction of another, mathētḗs (μαθητής), which means a disciple… but that is for next week.
During the past weeks of Advent we have examined several words that convey particular qualities of this beautiful religious season… Awakening, Preparation, Prayer & Devotion and today, ‘Sent’ ‘to be sent’. Let us recall to our minds that the principle quality of Advent is to Awaken to the reality of Christ within us; so that Christ may be born in us, as us: so that heaven and earth will meet in us; that the mystical grandeur and understanding of God will be scaled down and made accessible through us, to others and the world.
The word ‘sent’, ‘to be sent’ is the biblical Greek word we translate as Apostle. An Apostle is one who is sent by God to others… just as the Angel Gabriel was sent to Our Lady. Angels are messengers - that’s what the word angel means, a messenger. We are sent as angels, as messengers to others. We are sent to others in the nature of Gabriel; Gabriel means God is our Strength. God becomes our strength, our only strength, when we are ready to say, ‘may it be done to me according to your word’, when we are ready and willing for Christ to be born in us, as us.
When this birth takes place, when we are configured to the nature of Christ, when ‘to see us is to see Him’, then we reflect the essence of Gabriel: we no longer rely on ourselves; we abandoned ourselves to God; we incorporate our being into God as his anointed, as his Christ; there is no other… only Him and only Him in everything. Then it is, in God’s good time, in His providence, we are ready to be sent to others as His Messengers. The message is to tell them who they really are; to awaken in them the fact that what we have found true for ourselves is also true of them; that they too must awaken to the magnificence of God within them; that Christ must be born in them.
We will have entered the Path of the Heart, the blue flame of Our Lady, the straight path to God. Like all pathways we can travel in two directions. We must travel up and down in both directions. We travel interiorly, going deeper into our own heart; this depth is like a fractal, we go into the centre, of the centre, of the centre: it has no end, no depth can contain it; it is an experience of infinity, the unbounded Love which God is. And we can travel exteriorly into the heart of the world and others; in one direction we fall with infinite abandon into the depth of God. In the other direction we must tred with a gentle finite step as we ground the depth of the infinity of heaven in others and the earth.
This journey into others contains no harshness or bullying; it does not trespass or proselytise, shout or scream. Deeply embedded and practised in God as His Christ, His anointed, we must reflect the perfect example of His being in the world. Certain, strong and confident, our being will also be characterised by humility, courtesy & kindness: we will have a reverence for the world as another body in which God is reflected: we will have the very deepest respect for others, in whom, we can only really see another reflection of God expressed as they are.
Becoming as Gabriel is we find Mary as our centre; and, being as She is, we give birth to God. And Advent is fulfilled.
We have spoken about awareness and staying awake(1): about preparation and practice. We should now examine prayer a little more deeply.
Prayer is about communing, communicating or being with God. It is about being in the presence of God. Very often we are not in the presence of God; we are in the presence of an image of God formed in the mind and substituted for God. We speak to the image, plead with it, ask things of it and generally commune with it. The image we have of God is not God just as the image we have of another person is not them. To be in the presence of God there can only be God present to us. Yet God is immense; everything that has been, is and will be emerged, emerges and will emerge from God... including ourselves; God is all of it and more. God cannot be contained by any or all of it. God is familiar yet entirely other. The immensity of God scaled down to our level is often experienced as silence… the silence of immensity. It can be scary. In the presence of immensity, we must learn to be relaxed, passive, quiet… but highly alert. There must be no expectations, no cajoling, no bargaining, no asking. Daily, we must learn to find this silence. The noise in us will get in the way; all the thoughts, feelings, angers, worries, anxieties and so on. We have to learn to let them pass by all the time seeking this silence.
We are attempting to find a particular place in the soul that mirrors the silence of God. Silence is not referring to the absence of sound but to a quality of soul, ’that place in the soul where you have never been wounded’, Meister Eckhart. There really is a place where we have never been wounded… and we must find it. How?
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.’” The word for voice is phóné: φωνή, meaning a sound, noise, voice. As we know, sound is very powerful. It can heal or wound, soothe or irritate, inspire or destroy. As we sink deeper and deeper into the depth of our soul, through the practice of quiet and stillness in the presence of God, the silence in us will.
resonate with a quality of the Silence or Immensity of God; we will find a rhythm, a sound, a vibration, a feeling: it is shallow at first, and as I say, perhaps scary at first, but it is a quality that grows as we seek it out and persevere in it. This is the voice or sound that cry’s out in the wilderness (depth of the soul). This is the place that has never been wounded by our experience of the world. It is virgin yet will give birth. It is what is often referred to as the child within (Son of Man): the untarnished image of God that we are. It cries out to be heard… to be born. The real you is crying out to be born; this real you is the reflection of the Godhead out of which you truly emerged as His thought. It is fed and grows by being encountered and listened too. To pray to God by finding the silence of the soul is to find yourself. Placed there by God it is the sound that leads us back to Him: it does not abandon us but transforms us and all around us... This sound defines our identity. It is not a label; it is the ‘I Am’ out of which all labels emerge (priest, prophet, etc). It is the sound out of which all was made (God Said: it came to be). It is God in us.
Year after year the church invites us to find this place: how many years must go by until we do. There is urgency: the world is not in a good place. It can only be changed and healed as we change and heal ourselves. As a community of individuals each of us must do this. We must bring Christ into the world; to encounter us must be to encounter Christ. Remember Christ means anointed; the scaling down of the magnificence of God to our level.
In our prayer we do well to go to Her who carried the perfect embodiment of this Voice; Jesus. If we have not done so already it is worth contemplating devotion to Our Lady; after all She is devoted to us.
1 (Note to self: Awakening begins when you realise you are going nowhere and do not know where to go.)
Another word for advent is prepare. The word comes from the latin to make ready before hand. It ties in with the term we looked at last week, ‘to stay awake’. One of the ways we prepare is by staying awake. Remember, this wakefulness is not about getting out of bed in the morning but recognising Christ within. Forget the books and sermons and all the other distractions. It is not about talking about Christ but actually coming from Him, being as Christ is. The world deals with externals; spirituality deals with internals. If we get the internals correct the externals will follow. Christ comes into the world as and through us, not as a separate being. Christ means a state of being, anointing, a quality within. Do you remember when Jesus says to Philip, ‘to have seen me is to have seen the Father’. This must be true of us too. To see us must be to see Christ. Too much time is given to waiting and searching for Christ in history; it’s another distraction. Christ is going to come as and through us… and we must prepare for it. It is a huge responsibility to give birth to Him. To wait for Christ to come again in history is to wait; to bring Him forth now is to act: it is to make history and affect the future now; and never has it been so needed. We must be serious about this; it’s no good waiting in time; we have to act in time.
What we are looking for is to be dressed in camel’s hair, with a leather girdle about our waist, living on locusts and wild honey. This ancient description has a spiritual or metaphysical meaning… it describes our true nature freed from the darkness of error, pride, envy, resentment, insecurity and hatefulness… in order to become precise, humble, self-assured, content, accepting and loving - living spontaneously on what the world naturally has to offer. It is becoming a person freed from the shackles of the world and other dominant voices. It is making straight a pathway to God by pushing aside all external barriers, i.e. conforming to the will of the crowd, listening to spurious teachers, DECEITFUL governments & leaders, GREEDY corporations and especially being fooled by the whole paraphernalia of advertising; the path we create in the world is a result of spiritual insight; we do not allow ourselves to be led along a path by blind worldly guides: we create the path before us by spiritual light; and as we walk this path we meet God coming from the opposite direction: we fuse with God.
How do we get there?
When I make a tomato sauce I pay great attention to it: I spend ages slicing the onions and the garlic razor thin: I sauté them gently in olive oil so that the full flavour is released and they don’t burn. At the right time in goes basil, salt and pepper – just the right amounts: and then the tomatoes, tomato puree and a little water… I bring it to the boil and then simmer for a long, long time extracting all the flavour. I constantly check the sauce is not boiling; I taste for flavour and season accordingly.
Our spiritual ingredients are thoughts, emotions, desires, intentions and passions. We need to learn how to use and combine them. We must learn to observe and examine them during the day. Do they feel or taste right? Do they need seasoning with love? Don’t let them boil over with strain or self-recrimination… just check what is going on interiorly. This constant yet gentle observation will tell us a great deal about ourselves… especially about anger, resentment, despair and other dark feelings. Some of the stuff we observe about ourselves is not very nice and may cause us to feel shame… but be brave; all this horrible stuff is a consequence of being away from God: it is quite natural; these are the areas from which we will grow; areas we will look back on with a strange fondness because it was from here that Christ was born in us. Remember, He did not baulk at birth in a stable, amid the animals and all the muck. Change or transformation will come about over time quite naturally out of the muck and stable of our lives.
All this is practice; it is preparation for something someone to be born within us.
To practice we must add prayer and devotion… but, let’s talk about that next week.
One of the watch words for Advent is, ‘Awaken’… stay awake, be aware, look within. The quality of this wakefulness is not that of pushing back the duvet in the morning; it is the wakefulness of recognising Christ within, or the infant within, or the child within… the son of man. We are talking about a quality that reflects Christ: a quality about each of us that is of a similar shape, dimension and character of Christ where Christ, the anointed one - that’s what it means -represents the immensity of God scaled down to our level. When we first come across this quality, it seems small and hidden, lost in the dark cave of our many thoughts, feelings, worries, concerns, joys and desires. It is almost a hint of something: of something different, something fleeting yet consoling…. it seems like a good fit…it feels right. Then it goes and the world takes over again. It is a glimpse of Christ within; it is this we must build.
If the world is ok with you and life is swimming then thank God and carry on. Sermons like this will be novel at best and an irritant at worst.
But if there are niggles… if you are not quite content, if life seems a bit transitory, if you are racked with anxiety, worry, concern, depression… then all is not as it should be. Just as physical pain is telling you something is wrong so all these negativities are also telling us something is wrong… something is not right within. Our spiritual faculty is asleep… it is not functioning as it should do. This faculty actually reveals who we really are… it gets behind all the constructs we make for ourselves in order to inflate our ego or cope with the world… the image we present to the world. This faculty peers behind the rubbish and shows us who we truly are… what we glimpse is full of strength and confidence: it looks beyond the world while loving the world… for the first time you feel as if you are really standing on your own two feet. You simply do not care what others think of you or what they say about you; while loving them all the time. The wise men – the wisdom of the world - bow down before this quality, this spirit and lay their gifts before it; it is this quality or spirit that took the child Jesus away from his parents into the temple to answer the wisdom of the world; this quality drove Jesus into the desert, it attracted others to gather around him; it took death in its stride and put death it in its place by rising again.
We have to get behind all the religious language and images and find this reality for ourselves… not as a theory but as a felt experience. It’s not a game, a religious exercise. It is the reality of waking to your true self as the image of God so that something magnificent can be born.
How? Well, ditch the TV, the Computer, the radio, the newspaper all the things of the world you are attached to. Ditch them for a little while every day. At a set time and in a special place go to God every day. Choose a Saint to assist you… I personally go to Our Lady along with St Teresa of Lisieux and Padre Pio. Test whether you really want to find the person you truly are, the person whose image resembles Christ; regardless of your answer stay there. Begin with simple words of prayer and get as complex as you want but try to end in a silence that allows the presence of God to smile into you and awaken things long forgotten. Persevere with this during Advent.
Next week we will go further on this journey; into its preparation and what we might expect to find long the way.
In Genesis we read that God kicked Adam out of the garden. But, there is way of reading the ancient text which renders an alternative meaning. Several Jewish scholars would suggest that it is in fact Adam who pushes God out of the Garden! Having eaten of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil Adam gains knowledge previously hidden from him: this breaks his unity with God… his ability to see and understand everything only as God does. He begins to see and understand through himself. He detaches himself from God and a separation takes place. This separation is Adam pushing God away. Adam puts himself in place of God as king. He becomes the king of his own little world. He becomes self-preoccupied, selfish, inward looking, timid and afraid. Fear enters the world for the first time. So does greed, envy and ignorance. It is only in unity with God that Adam can truly look outwards with love and without fear.
Many mystics mention an experience where God is asking to be let back into their hearts. ‘I stand as a beggar at your heart waiting to be let back in’. And it raises a question for all of us… who is King in our world and in our heart. What, in our lives, claims pride of place; what motivates us; what is it that we desire. Humanity as a collective, as a group of nations, does not seem to be doing very well. It ridicules God and religion relegating it to myth, legend and the bin. Yet the material gods it has put in its place, science, media, IT, corporations, governments and so on do not seem to be doing very well. They demand that we serve them but offer very little in return so that 1% of the world’s population owns over half the world’s wealth…. Surely there has to be something wrong here. But, many say, ‘what can I do I’m only a little cog in a big machine.
There is a story of a village holding a feast. The mayor asks everyone to come at night and put food into the communal pot. Each comes at night and puts something in. On the day of the feast the mayor opens the long simmering pot and begins ladling out the stew… and all they get is a bowl of water. Selfishly everyone left it to someone else to put some food in while putting only water in themselves. We cannot leave it to others. Each of us has to put something in. If the church is declining, if our moral compass is spinning, if society is confused then perhaps we are not putting enough into the communal pot.
The only true correction for a broken world is to recognise that Christ is King of the Universe and the rightful King of our hearts. He is the cure for self-preoccupation, selfishness, greed, timidness and fear. We cannot leave Christ to be king of someone else’s heart; He must be King of our heart and we must invite Him in.
How this is done some ask. The answer has to be… go and find out. It is a truly personal journey through prayer, meditation, devotion and practice. No one can do it for you just as they cannot eat, breathe or think for you.
But, scripture tells us to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbour as our self. When we attempt to love others by preferring what they want instead of what we want we will discern Christ in them: as others assume a place in our hearts, Christ will be felt in our hearts too, because He is in them; as we get to recognise Him and know Him He will then occupy the only place He can in our heart… that of King.
If we have not already done so let us invite Him in today.