Kargador at Dawn

Kargador at Dawn
Work in the Vineyard

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dhikr for the 3rd Sunday of Advent (B)

Readings: Is. 61: 1-2. 10-11; 1Thes. 5: 16-24; Jn. 1: 6-8. 19-28
Text: He said: "I am 'the voice of one crying out in the desert, "Make straight the way of the Lord,"' * as Isaiah the prophet said." (John 1: 23)

Meditation: The call is to ‘make straight the way of the Lord’. Often, we miss the coming of the Lord into our lives, because of the ‘hardness’ of our hearts…

Dhikr Prayer Method…

Dhikr is an Arabic word for remembrance. In the “tariqa” (the way) movement, dhikr developed into a form of prayer… It is a prayer of the heart… following three simple steps:

1. Write in one’s heart a certain passage of the Holy Writ…
2. Make the same passage ever present in one’s lips.
3. Then wait for God’s disclosure on the meaning of the passage…that interprets one’s life NOW…!

It takes a week of remembering (dhikr)…or even more days to relish the beauty of this method…

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advent Reflection on John the Baptist

The Church is like John the Baptizer; it’s like the body of Jesus. The body of Jesus had to die for the coming of the Kingdom; John the Baptizer had to point beyond himself to the Kingdom. The Church is not an end in itself; the Church is a means. The Kingdom is the end. And whenever we make the means into the end, we have created an idol. It is the major sin in the Bible—maybe the only one. (Richard Rohr, OFM)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cultural & Religious Dialogue

Papal Message on Cultural and Religious Dialogue
"Address the Great Challenges That Mark the Post-Modern Age"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the presidents of the pontifical councils for interreligious dialogue and culture on the occasion of the Dec. 4 study day on "Cultures and Religions in Dialogue." The Holy See published the message today.

* * *
To Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi
President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

I desire first of all to express my heartfelt satisfaction for the joint initiative of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for Culture, which organized a Day of Study dedicated to the theme: "Cultures and Religions in Dialogue," as the Holy See's participation in the European Union's initiative, approved in December 2006, to declare 2008 "European Year of Intercultural Dialogue." Together with the presidents of the aforementioned pontifical councils, I cordially greet the cardinals, my venerated brothers in the episcopate, the most excellent members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, as well as the representatives of the various religions participants in this significant meeting.

For many years now Europe has been conscious of its essential cultural unity, despite the constellation of national cultures that have shaped it. It is good to underline: Contemporary Europe, peering into the third millennium, is the fruit of two millennia of civilization. The latter sinks its roots both in the enormous and ancient patrimony of Athens and Rome, as well as above all in the fruitful terrain of Christianity, which has revealed itself capable of creating new cultural patrimonies receiving the original contribution of each civilization.

The new humanism, which arose from the spread of the evangelical message, exalts all the elements worthy of the human person and his transcendent vocation, purifying them from the dross that obfuscates the genuine face of mankind created in the image and likeness of God. Thus, Europe appears to us today as a precious fabric, whose weave is made up of the principles and values of the Gospel, while the national cultures have been able to address an immense variety of perspectives which manifest the religious, intellectual, technical, scientific and artistic capacities of "Homo Europeus." In this connection, we can state that Europe has had and still has a cultural influence on the totality of the human species, and cannot fail to feel particularly responsible not only for its own future, but also that of the whole of humanity.

In the present context, in which ever more frequently our contemporaries ask themselves essential questions on the meaning of life and its value, it seems more important than ever to reflect on the ancient roots from which has flowed an abundant sap for centuries. Intercultural and interreligious dialogue emerges as a priority for the European Union and is of interest transversally to the sectors of culture and communication, of education and science, of migrations and minorities, youth and labor.

Once diversity is received as a positive fact, it is necessary to make persons accept not only the existence of the other's culture, but also the desire to be enriched with it. Addressing Catholics, my predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, enunciated his profound conviction in these terms: "The Church must enter into dialogue with the world in which she lives. The Church becomes world, the Church becomes message, the Church becomes conversation" ("Ecclesiam Suam," No. 67).

We live in what is usually called a "plural world," characterized by the speed of communications, the mobility of peoples and their economic, political and cultural interdependence. Precisely in this, perhaps dramatic hour, though unfortunately many Europeans seem to forget Europe's Christian roots, the latter are alive and should trace the path and nourish the hope of millions of citizens who share the same values.

Believers should always be willing to promote initiatives of intercultural and interreligious dialogue, to stimulate collaboration on topics of mutual interest, such as the dignity of the human person, the quest for the common good, the building of peace and development. With this intention, the Holy See wished to give particular relevance to its own participation in high-level dialogue on understanding between religions and cultures and on cooperation for peace, in the framework of the 62nd U.N. General Assembly (Oct. 4-5, 2007). To be authentic, dialogue must avoid yielding to relativism and syncretism and be animated by sincere respect for others and by a generous spirit of reconciliation and fraternity.

I encourage all those dedicated to the building of a friendly and sympathetic Europe ever more faithful to its roots and, in particular, I exhort believers to contribute not only to zealously protecting the cultural and spiritual heritage that distinguishes them and forms an integral part of their history, but also to commit themselves increasingly to seek new ways to adequately address the great challenges that mark the post-modern age. Among these, I limit myself to mention the defense of man's life in all its phases, the safeguarding of all the rights of the person and the family, the construction of a just and sympathetic world, respect of creation, and intercultural and interreligious dialogue. In this perspective, I wish for the success of the study day planned and invoke on all the participants the abundant blessings of God.

In the Vatican, Dec. 3, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Language of Power vs. the Language of Dialogue...

The world speaks a language that often characterized by power relations and domination. This language divides, separates, discriminates and oppresses peoples. There is, yet another language that people now long to speak. This is the language of dialogue. Here we are speaking of specific dialogue, an inter-religious dialogue where we come and meet as persons of faith and identified with a religious community. Inter-religious dialogue is relatively new in our contemporary world. There are no ready-made rules on how to conduct this kind of dialogue yet there are experiences that may guide and help us as we continue to journey on this unfamiliar and still largely un-charted road.

The first lesson in inter-religious dialogue is the honest and sincere openness to understand and grow in our perception of realities and the “other” and then the willingness to act accordingly. Often time, we were schooled to define realties and the “other” on our terms and language. We engage in an inter-religious dialogue so that we can learn, grow and understand what my dialogue partner believes and cherishes - their fears and aspirations.

The second lesson is the recognition and respect that each partner in dialogue shows in the articulation and self-definition as well as the meaning of belonging to a faith-community.

The communication and self-revelation take place in an environment of TRUST and genuine search for common grounds of fellowship while respecting our diversities and integrity of our faith traditions.

These common grounds are discovered in our faith commitments resulting from our critique of the earth and the relationships between and among peoples, communities and nations. Partners in dialogue become aware of being “stakeholders” as well as participants in the drama and tragedies of communities that we are. In other circle, this level of dialogue is called “dialogue of action”.

(Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI – Badaliyya Philippines)

Dhikr for the 2nd Sunday of Advent (B)

(The readings - Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8)

Text: A voice of one crying out in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'" John (the) Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1: 3-4)

Like John the Baptizer we prepare for the coming of the Lord. He comes in events and moments we least expect… And how do we prepare for his coming into our lives…?

Dhikr is an Arabic word for remembrance. In the “tariqa” (the way) movement, dhikr developed into a form of prayer… It is a prayer of the heart… following three simple steps:
Write in one’s heart a certain passage of the Holy Writ.
Make the same passage ever present in one’s lips.
Then wait for God’s disclosure on the meaning of the passage…that interprets one’s life NOW…!

It takes a week of remembering (dhikr)…or even more days to relish the beauty of this method…

Friday, December 05, 2008

Herald of the Messiah

Always pointing beyond himself, ready to get out of the way, finally beheaded by the powers that be, John the Baptizer represents the kind of liberation and the kind of prophecy that we need in our affluent culture.

He is not just free from the system, he is amazingly free from himself. These are the only prophets God can use, the only prophets we can trust.

John the Baptizer seems to tell us that the desert is the only place bare enough, empty enough to mirror our own motives and disguises.

The desert is the prophet to the prophet.

(Richard Rohr, OFM)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Heart of the Soul

by Dorothy C. Buck

In 858 A.D. the Sufi mystic al-Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj was born in Persia. In 922 A.D. he was accused of violating Islamic law and, after imprisonment and torture, he was executed for blasphemy. The legend of this mystic/martyr of Islam has been kept alive throughout the Muslim world in ritual and prayer. Persian and Turkish mystical poets have told and re-told his story in diverse literary forms and the poet Rumi used the Hallajian themes. Members of Sufi orders today refer to al-Hallaj as a true disciple of divine love.

In his travels as a mendicant preacher and spiritual master, al-Hallaj tried to lead his followers ever more deeply into the reality of the human soul toward ultimate unity with the divine. His writings passionately described divine love as he sought to lose himself in God (Massignon 1983, 2:198): You infuse my heart with consciousness as You infuse bodies with souls.

One of the most compelling themes from al-Hallaj's devotional doctrine is that of the Virgin Heart, which refers to the secret place in the center of the human soul where God alone has access. Al-Hallaj stated (Massignon 1989, 133): Our hearts are one single Virgin, which the dream of no dreamer can penetrate ... which only the presence of the Lord penetrates in order to be conceived therein.

In 1907 Louis Massignon, a young Frenchman, became interested in the life of al-Hallaj, traveling to Iraq as an archeologist, in pursuit of the Hallajian legend. Al-Hallaj soon became the subject of Massignon's doctoral dissertation at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Massignon's passionate search for sources on al-Hallaj's life, doctrine, and legend led him on a fifty-year journey of research and writing. Most profound, however, was his own experience of al-Hallaj, which Massignon felt contributed to his own spiritual conversion to Catholicism. Massignon (1883-1962) was a renowned Orientalist of his time. Not only was he a distinguished professor at the prestigious College de France, but he also served as the French cultural ambassador to the Near East. An advocate of Islamic-Christian dialogue, he ultimately became a Catholic priest of the Melkite Rite, even as his life work was focused on the life and teachings of al-Hallaj, the mystic martyr of Islam.

Massignon's conversion experience, from modern secular intellectual to devout seeker of the divine, took place in Baghdad in 1908. The unique nature of his experience was that his call to Christianity took place in the Muslim world and that he was convinced that it happened through the intercession of the tenth century mystic of Islam, al-Hallaj.

Massignon's reflections on al-Hallaj's Virgin Heart, or le point Vierge, were incorporated in his major writings, lectures, and extensive correspondence, and became an integral part of his ongoing spiritual conversion. He conceived of this theme as a connecting link between his growing conviction of the need for interreligious dialogue and understanding and his belief in the need for hospitality, humility, and compassion for all of humanity. Massignon wrote (Massignon 1989, 133):Introspection must guide us to tear through the concentric "veils" which ensheathe the heart, and hide from us the virginal point, the secret (sirr) wherein God manifests himself.

Massignon leads me to reflect deeply on the layers of meaning evoked by this image of the Virgin Heart at the center of the human soul. Here he is suggesting that my heart is "ensheathed," covered over by "veils" of illusions, assumptions, judgments, and attachments that prevent me from even imagining a place for the divine within me. This blindness prevents me from recognizing the same virginal point in the souls of others.

In 1959 the Trappist monk Thomas Merton began a correspondence with Massignon. Both men were seekers of the mystical aspects of diverse religious traditions. Merton was drawn to Massignon's increasing activism as a witness against war, specifically the Algerian-French crisis, and was intrigued by the theme of the Virgin Heart. In a letter to Massignon on July 20, 1960, he wrote (Merton 1994, 278):

Louis, one thing strikes me and moves me most of all. It is the idea of the "point vierge, ou le désespoir accule le coeur de l'excommunié" ["the virginal point, the center of the soul, where despair corners the heart of the outsider"] ... We in our turn have to reach that same "point vierge" in a kind of despair at the hypocrisy of our own world.

One day Thomas Merton was standing at the corner of an intersection in the heart of a busy shopping district. He wrote (Merton 1965, 156-57):

I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness ... This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud ... I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

Merton's epiphanous moment reminds me of al-Hallaj, who, in his passion for God, came to see the Divine everywhere and in everyone. In this vision there is a recognition of the Virgin Heart, a momentary joy at knowing what is hidden from most of us by our own despair and inability to open our hearts to others in true hospitality, especially those who are strangers, who practice other religions, or whospeak other languages.

I am afraid to experience the sacred in others. It would require me to risk being touched by the Spirit, as Massignon was, and to experience my own conversion. My heart would be transformed by the presence of the divine seeking hospitality in the depth of my soul. Yet, despite my fear of changing my habitual way of seeing the world, of making artificial distinctions between people of different nationalities, races, or beliefs, the unexpected visitor awakens me and arouses my desire for communion, for connection, and love itself transforms my vision. Then I must see people "walking around shining like the sun". Then I can no longer pass by the homeless people as if they did not exist, nor can I make any distinction between those who have wealth, education, or position, and those who do not. I can no longer deny that I too am homeless, a refugee, a victim of social and political injustice. I must speak out with al-Hallaj, Massignon, and Merton, who wrote (Merton 1965, 158):

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God ... this little point ... is the pure glory of God in us ... It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody.

I understand this "point of pure truth" to mean that I must be capable of recognizing the sacred in everyone, as al-Hallaj did. To believe in the mystery of the Virgin Heart is to believe in a secret place in every human soul where the sacred is given to us despite our unworthiness, failures, and human limitations. That place cannot be touched by anything I do, and yet it calls me to transcend myself, to see all others as they are -- sacred. Only then can I say with Hallaj (Massignon 1983, 426):

My soul is mixed and joined together with your soul and every accident that injures you injures me.

Massignon, Louis. 1983. The Passion of al-Hallaj: Mystic and Martyr. Vol. 2. Translated by H. Mason. Princeton, N.J.: princeton University Press.
Massignon, Louis. 1989. Testimonies and Reflections: Essays of Louis Massignon. Selected and introduced by H. Mason. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.
Merton, Thomas. 1965. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. New York: Image Books, Doubleday.
Merton, Thomas. 1994. Witness to Freedom: The Letters of Thomas Merton in Times of Crsis. Selected and edited by W. H. Shannon. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.