07 July 2019

For What it's Worth: General News and Plans for the Summer

Well, things around Stillsong are coming along! I hadn't mentioned, I don't think, (or did I?) that they are renovating the complex. This last week they put double-paned windows and doors in my place and they are wonderful!! I finally got my bed put back together (it sits in front of the bedroom window so needed to be taken apart to allow access) and was able to sleep in my own bed last night. AHHH!! There's still a lot to get taken care of before I can live comfortably in my own hermitage (I am getting rid of boxes and boxes of books and other things as well!), but it is looking like it will happen. My prayer mat and zafu is still in another apartment where I have been staying as needed because of sound triggering seizures. So are my computer and books for the work I have been doing. I am loving this second apartment because it is located in the midst of redwoods next to a creek and is generally quieter and more secluded. When the work is completed in the entire complex I could move here -- especially if it eases some of the medical difficulties due to sound. We'll see!

Last Wednesday we finished the second series I have done for Bible Study at my parish. We started with Jesus' parables for the first 8 week series and this one was the Sermon on the Mount --- though we focused mainly on the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer. We were actually to finish last week, but when I announced it was our last meeting there was a bit of a reaction and one of the participants said, "Why?" So we did one more session in order to clarify, expand on, and bring things to some closure before stopping for the Summer. Starting the Thursday after Labor Day the group wants to begin a semester long series. I'm game. Right now I am planning to do Galatians though some suggestions for something else may still come in. So far the series have built on one another in terms of content. Doing Galatians would be a good introduction to the situation in the Church vis-a-vis Judaism and to Paul's theologies of freedom and the problem of Gospel vs Law. Because we introduced the idea of virtue ethics with the Beatitudes it might be possible to continue Paul's own virtue ethics in order to deepen an approach to moral theology in these terms. We have very fine preaching at our parish but the chance to really go deeper into the texts and to see the depth of the theology involved is exciting.

We may need to move to a larger space for the morning group --- though I have really liked and hope to keep the seminar style around a large conference table. The evening session will likely continue in the same place but the morning group has grown and that is likely to continue over time; moving would allow more space and access to some of the things our new parish center makes possible (use of power point, etc). One of the things I have especially loved watch developing is a sense of community with regard to this specific group. Another is the sense that gathering around Scripture allows for real growth in discipleship and personal formation --- always important in a world where the Gospel is so very countercultural, but not always easy to nurture or provide for. Yet people are hungry for both Scripture and for the theology that is rooted in it.

So this Summer I am going to prepare two Bible series. As noted above, the first, which would take us through Thanksgiving, will be Galatians and I am not sure yet what the second will be. I have several ideas including the Passion Narratives (a comparison of a couple of them maybe, or a comparison of the theology of the Cross of Mark vs that of Paul), Women in the New Testament --- perhaps with regard to their role in establishing the early Church, a second Pauline epistle (maybe 1 Thessalonians or 2 Corinthians) --- one of the shorter ones anyway. There are lots of possibilities. I am not ready to branch out into the Old Testament yet (in no way am I an OT scholar) though Galatians will need significant OT background and preparation I think. It sounds like a lot of work, but teaching these last two series has been incredibly life-giving to me and paradoxically, a strong confirmation of my eremitical vocation!

I have already written about this a few weeks ago, but it continues to be true. Eremitical life demands that I go into the Scriptures and the related theology in order to live from these, but it also frees me to do this in ways I had not expected; at the same time the Scriptures (of course!!) throw me back into the silence of solitude and beg that I allow Christ to teach, nourish, and form me as a hermit in ever more profound ways. Simultaneously (and paradoxically), fostering community through Scripture study is clearly a function of my eremitical life as well. It is gratifying to discover that eremitical solitude can be the source of both growth in community and personal formation for some in a parish community. So far, what I have shared, both Scripturally and theologically are those things which have most clearly been a source of inspiration and sense-making (meaning and hope!) for me throughout my life. I am not surprised to find these things are affecting others in some of the same ways.

At the end of Wednesday's session the group gave me a card with a stylized picture of the burning bush on the front of it. One of the members read a poem which said something of what the studies had meant to them: [[Days pass, and the years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles. Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing. Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk. Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns, unconsumed. And we, clay touched by God, will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, “How filled with awe is this place . . . by Rachel Naomi Remen]] It was a wonderful celebration of the grace of God as it came to each of us through both the parables and the Sermon on the Mount --- but I think that was especially true as we explored some of the depths of the Lord's Prayer, the Kingdom present here amongst us, and our own identities as adopted Daughters and Sons in and through Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God.

My other plans for the Summer include more writing, namely on Canon 603, the charism of the vocation, and the way this defines how dioceses approach candidates for profession and consecration. As I noted a few months ago, Rome is concerned with the incidence of fraudulent hermits so it becomes important to make this vocation better known and also better understood, especially by chanceries and pastors. I remain convinced that a failure to understand the charism of the vocation causes chanceries to profess those who will fail to live the vocation well or, alternately, to refuse to profess anyone at all! The problem of mistaking lone individuals for solitary hermits remains significant at all levels; so does mistaking "the silence of solitude" for "silence and solitude". Unless these points are clarified I believe dioceses will continue to have problems discerning good candidates. At the same time the question of formation is no less pressing now than when I first began to think about it myself so I think it is time to get back to that in order (I would sincerely hope) to assist dioceses and candidates for eremitical profession under c 603 as I can.

There are still some decisions to be made about my left wrist. There will likely be some more cortisone injections (only 1 or 2) because of problems with the tendons of my thumb due to a secondary injury; after that we will need to see if surgery to shorten the ulna is necessary because of pressure on and tearing of the triangular ligament joining ulna and radius due to the way the bones healed. I would like to play violin again (understatement of the century!) --- it has always been important to my prayer life as well as to my intellectual and psychological well-being. I miss it --- though I have certainly kept busy enough otherwise and will continue to do so! For the most part those are my plans for the Summer. I will probably not go away on retreat this Summer but I may use this second apartment for that while construction goes on on my own building. It is quiet enough and feels like a guest room at a monastery or retreat house. Meanwhile, an added benefit is that my own director is available to me should I make retreat here.

I wish readers a good and Holy Summer! I hope you have plans for a fruitful time of prayer, maybe for some silence and solitude, and for family and community time as well as for work and recreation! If you travel be safe!!!