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Dear Friends,

 

Here is a poem by Ranier Maria Rilke that I hope you find intriguing:

 

AUTUMN

 

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,

As if orchards were dying in space.

Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

 

And tonight the heavy earth is falling

Away from all other stars in the loneliness.

 

We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.

And look at the other one. It’s in them all.

 

And yet there is Someone, whose hands

Infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.

 

I say intriguing because Rilke really had no relationship with any kind of Church or Christian faith as a foundational or inspirational role in his life or his poetry, and yet, his poetry in my mind is theological reflection of the highest order on the mysterious and essential relationship between matter and spirit.

 

Christ is the word we use in theological language to locate the mysterious and essential relationship between matter and spirit that we claim to be revealed in the Bible and Church Tradition.

 

The specific theological language to express this relationship of matter and spirit is “hypostatic union” and, while the language may belong to the Catholic Church, Christ does not.

 

Christ is the universal Healer, not a denominational property.

 

It is not easy to preach about this or to study the concept for many reasons, but it is worth pondering this weekend when we are asked to figure out who this Jesus is that is the central character of the Gospel stories and the absolute basis of what we claim is our faith.

 

Among the many things that I find so disappointing in the Catholic Church in these times is the lack of support and encouragement for studying and talking about the universal Christ.

 

The institutional Church in many places both near and far has battened the hatches of the DeLorean and is going full speed in reverse back to the future.

 

We have branded “Christ” as a code for values, ideas, practices, and hopes that are from the past, like Happy Days or Laverne and Shirley or Lucy and Desi with their separate beds.

 

If you saw the various movements and projects being encouraged and undertaken as means to reach out to the young, disenchanted, former Catholics, you, too, would find dismay as your principle reaction.

 

Combining beer bus runs, Stations of the Cross, and Mass is imaginative, but not very substantive fare.

 

Some elements of the Catholic Church in many, many ways, with a lot of participation of other churches that claim to be based on “Christ,” act as if the resurrection never happened and Christ is dead as a doornail in some forgotten tomb.

 

There is a weird resistance to consider anything new, even though the resurrected Christ promised and prophesied that, “I will make all things new!”

 

(You can find that in the much-quoted Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 43:19, and the Book of Revelations, 21:5.)

 

What did and does that mean? Our leaders are so ripe to take out of context phrases and words in the Bible and give them the force of unchangeable dogma, why do these words not pass their muster?

 

Is it Christ that these churches are interested in proclaiming and teaching or is it the restoration, preservation, and maintenance of a privileged male prerogative?

 

The Gospels make clear, as we hear this weekend, that Jesus Christ experienced the same kinds of resistance and dimwittedness, so it is nothing new.

 

Despite the fact that the experiences of huge swaths of people are categorically dismissed by the leaderships of many Christian Churches, many Catholic Churches, there is clear evidence that there is a hunger, a ravenous hunger for the union of matter and spirit.

 

Catholic history is rich with women and men who knew this less rational, even, irrational Christ, women and men who felt their way to Christ rather than thought their way to Christ, people who found Christ in the eyes and bodies not their own.

 

Most of these people, these great witnesses to Christ in the union of matter and spirit on the earth, are nameless, unknown to us. They went about the business of their lives loving and caring and seeing and hearing the mysterious union of matter and spirit building up the flourishing of the Divine in the human.

 

The official Roman Catholic Christ is limited to a very confining vocabulary of language and symbol, language and symbol controlled and administered by the sensory deprived males jostling for power and influence, not at all unlike Peter in this Gospel story.

 

But think of Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Buonarroti, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, J.W.M. Turner, Alberto Giacometti, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ranier Rilke, Charles Baudelaire, Henri Cole, Charles Simic, and then…

 

think of Monet and Manet, Rembrandt and Vermeer, Beethoven, Bach, and Debussy, Ravel, Eric Satie, John and Paul and Ringo and George, Simon and Garfunkel, and the mothers that bore them all.

 

Think of the legions of women artists of all disciplines who labored to create knowing that their creations would be dismissed and ignored, but creating nonetheless, if for no one but themselves to bring matter and Spirit together to be seen or heard or touched or read or felt.

 

Aretha Franklin, Louise Glück, Mary Oliver, Marilyn Robinson, Barbara Streisand, Lily Tomlin, Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Mary Shelley, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt are just a few of those women who were not easily dismissible but were able to bring matter and Spirit together in ways that were accessible to ordinary human experience.

 

There is serious research into the use of cannabis and psychedelics as adjuncts to developing and maintaining spiritual insights and experiences just as they were in the past, as were dance and music and body striation and markings were to our earliest ancestors.

 

People, young and old, with tattoos and piercings are attempting to find Christ, they might never acknowledge that in so many words because no one has ever listened to them to try and understand with them what this great desire, this great urge, this great need is that drives us to communions with life in the face of deaths.

 

Christ is found in suffering, in friendship, in loneliness, in love, above all in love, all kinds of love.

 

People seek Christ when they seek communions, we don’t all seek or find in the same way, it is the journey not the destination in all things of the Sacred because the Sacred is inexhaustibly Real Presence.

 

Our Catholic Tradition has a great depth and a great width, limiting it to the North American, middle class, Caucasian male’s experience of the mid 20th century Christ, will, I fear, prove to be unwise.

 

One of my favorite images of Christ is as Lord of the Dance.

 

I am envious when I think of young people packed together moving their bodies and souls to the beat of a music that is not their own but comes from the Mystery, sweating together in a great ritual of longing for communions between matter and Spirit.

 

O, to be young again AND know what I know now!

 

Father Niblick

 

AUTUMN FAITH FORMATION FOR ADULTS

 

I am offering conversations that will look at the lives of artists, their times, the role of religion or the absence of religion in their work, not so much their art, but their lives as best as we can put the details together.

 

 

Tuesdays afternoon, 1:30-3:00 evening, 6:30-8:00

In Casa Maria building. All are welcome, no reservations necessary.

 

September 25: John Constable

 

October 2: Rembrandt van Rijn

 

October 9: Johannes Vermeer

 

October 16: Michelangelo

 

October 23: Leonardo da Vinci

 

CWN