Jewish Figures in the Eastern Liturgy  

Posted by Joe Rawls in ,

Shawn Tribe of The New Liturgical Movement has put together a most informative post on the liturgical use of the so-called "righteous of the Old Testament" (mainly prophets) in the Eastern churches. Figures such as Abraham, Isaiah, and Elijah are commemorated with their own propers and icons, such as the one of Moses and the burning bush above. In the wake of Vatican II the western churches very laudably recovered the use of the Hebrew Scriptures in public worship, but could still stand, in my opinion, to incorporate some of these "ancestors in faith" into their liturgical calendars.

You can also click here for another Roman Catholic interpretation of typology.

Lectio Divina Resources  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

Over at the Oblate Spring blog, John has an excellent post containing 10 links to sites discussing lectio divina. Lectio is a very ancient way of reading Scripture or other spiritual writings in a slow, meditative way so that the very act of reading becomes a prayer. Benedict in his Rule frequently refers to lectio, and it is probably the closest thing to a distinctively Benedictine form of spirituality. Well worth checking out in detail.

Rowan Williams on Teresa of Avila  

Posted by Joe Rawls in ,

On today's feast of St Teresa, we offer a passage from Archbishop Rowan Williams' excellent Teresa of Avila (Continuum 1991). The context of this quote is Teresa's personal history. In 1492 the large Jewish community in Spain was given the choice of conversion to Catholicism or expulsion. The Jews who agreed to baptism almost immediately came under the suspicion of the Inquisition, which doubted the sincerity of their conversion. Talk about double binds. Teresa's own family were conversos of this sort, and she would have grown up feeling somewhat marginalized in Spanish society. The quote is found on pp 162-163.


We have been made more attentive than ever in recent years to the extent to which context (rightly) sets the agenda for the enterprise of Christian reflection. Teresa's case is no exception. For her, the unity of the story is, as we have seen, centered in the twofold sense of God as wanting our company and God as the enemy of the human systems of status. If Teresa's family and social world had been different, this would not have been so manifestly the focus of her thought. As we saw in the first chapter, she was in several ways an anomalous person, not an insider. Thus the unifying thread she perceives is to do with the God who is hidden within the diversities of human life (the King in the centre of the castle), who is 'anomalous' in refusing to stay within the proper hierarchical structures of a well-ordered universe, and whose action is essentially at odds with the quest for personal security and legitimacy on the basis of good behavior. 'God at the centre' is consistently set in opposition to a 'centre' of social order and power and purity--the centre from which Teresa, as a woman and a Jew, is distant. Turning to God within is a very familiar strategy in religious protest; when the approved centre of public existence is not accessible, it is necessary to relocate the centre in the inner life. But what makes Teresa so interesting in this respect is that this shifting of the centre is conceived as God's own characteristic movement; God is a reality moving away from a centre of self-possession towards being-in-another. And so the moving of the centre of meaning that is involved in turning from external ambiguity to inner clarity is is saved from being simply a move into the private sphere by its association with God's journey into creation. The rejection of the world's standards is also a claim on behalf of God's will and ability to penetrate the world and to remake it in self-abandoning love.

Chalcedon and the Real World  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

The fifth-century Council of Chalcedon issued an authoritative pronouncement on the way in which Jesus Christ combines divinity and humanity in his own person. For most Christians something this seemingly abstruse is completely off the radar; many mainline Protestants deny it altogether. However, Christopher Evans has a somewhat more immediate take on this doctrine.


Part of the importance of Chalcedon is that the Divine Person took up human nature...The Word did not merely become a particular human person, but the Divine Person became the whole humanity and took up each particular within Himself....

What this thinking does is make all flesh iconic of the Second Person. Even if our own eyes are blind to God's glory. And if all flesh is iconic, how we approach each creature must be tuned to a similar reverence with which we bow at the Thrice-Holy.

This is to say that the same way of thinking that dares think of rocks as mere raw resources and plants as long-term investments and animals as little more than factory cogs is involved in thinking of minority peoples and women as not in the image of God, not capable of representing Christ, as even refractive of God's glory. Such thinking is radically anti-Incarnational no matter how traditional, no matter how covered in Patristic cloth. It is contra-Chalcedon. And it is destroying the earth.

Cloister of the Heart  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

Carl McColman of Anamchara has a great post on the relationship of contemplative spirituality to the everyday lives of ordinary people. Carl is a lay associate of a Cistercian monastery near Atlanta and his observations grew out of a conversation with another associate.


To non-monks, a cloister may seem to be nothing more than a barrier: a wall or fence that divides the abode of monks from the rest of the world...But..the real beauty of the cloister is not its periphery, but its center. The cloister is the place where community happens. It is the anchor of stability, the crucible where penance and humility are forged, the home where lovers of Christ--and of the brothers and the place--reside, hopefully joyfully, usually imperfectly, always with the help of God's grace...

"We are not called to live in the cloister",my friend mused, "but we are called to embrace the charisms of the cloistered life. To me, this means we must find a 'cloister of the heart', a place within ourselves where we can cultivate stability and silence and simplicity and all the other Cistercian charisms".

...This does not mean that we simply withdraw into some sort of navel-gazing introversion. Far from it. Like the cloister itself, the heart is a center, not a boundary. The heart's lifelong job is to receive blood, and then send the blood out again. If the blood stops moving through the heart, the heart--and the body it serves--quickly dies...For a person who has embraced the cloister of the heart as a lay contemplative, this means we continually draw within ourselves the refreshing silence and solitude of contemplative prayer, only then to give it away, bringing the gifts of a life immersed in the love of God to all those whom we love and whom we meet in the course of our busy lives. God comes into us through prayer and meditation and silence and solitude, and we give God away through love and service and acts of mercy and charity and justice. We pray and we work: ora et labora, which happens to be the motto of Benedictine monasticism.