747. The responsibility to hope

747. The responsibility to hope.jpg

I've been reading and re-reading Mystical Hope by Cynthia Bourgeault, which I first learned about in one of Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew's newsletters. While the book is introducing me to some new thoughts on the topic of hope, it also has affirmed much of what I've been thinking about—and learning about from others—in recent years while working on my current manuscript. Here's a section from Mystical Hope that speaks about hope as a responsibility. While the word 'responsibility' usually has a heavy ring to it, Bourgeault's language in this paragraph shines on what can emerge.


"[H]ope is not intended to be an extraordinary infusion, but an abiding state of being. We lose sight of the invitation—and in fact, our responsibility, as stewards of creation—to develop a conscious and permanent connection to this wellspring. We miss the call to become a vessel, to become a chalice into which this divine energy can pour; a lamp through which it can shine."



ps. I'll be sending out my Dear Reader newsletter this weekend; if you don't already subscribe, and would like to, you can do so by clicking here.

[Photo: taken of the Stone Arch bridge on a spring evening here in Minneapolis.]


739. On the release of Holy Week

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Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter, is typically thought of as a day of silence. I had never thought deeply about what went on on this day in real time, the day in which Jesus was in the grave, before reading Dante’s Inferno, the first volume of The Divine Comedy, about 12 years ago. Dante as Pilgrim finds himself at midlife (“Midway along the journey of our life”), awakening “in a dark wood.” As he tries to find his way out of the wood, his path becomes blocked by a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf. It is in this moment of his fear and lostness that Virgil appears to him, promising to guide him through Hell and Purgatory, after which he will deliver him to another shade who will lead him to Paradise. Mark Musa, the translator of the version I read, points out that from the book’s beginning, the central motif of the trilogy is revealed: with Dante the Pilgrim as “everyman,” it is “the story of man’s pilgrimage to God.”

What most caught my attention in reading Inferno, was the appearance of Jesus in hell. Although I’d recited the words from the Apostle’s Creed an uncountable number of times throughout my life—“he descended into Hades”—what did I really know of that? What can anyone know? Even so, Dante drew a picture with his words, and it’s a picture worth thinking about on this Holy weekend: Jesus loping through certain circles of hell, releasing sinners. A bridge broke as he passed over. It makes me think of an icon I saw once at The Museum of Russian Art here in Minneapolis in which Jesus in hell reached to grab Adam and Eve.

May your weekend be one of reflection and deep joy.


[Photo: Beautiful sky last week over a Florida beach, where I was grateful to be. Doesn't it look like an abstract dove?]

736. Ashes to go

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A picture in the current issue of Sojourners magazine caught my eye. On a city sidewalk stand two women. One is wearing a clerical robe. The other is a wearing a winter jacket, and, to me, it appears she has the beginning of tears in her eyes. The woman in the robe is marking the woman in the jacket with the sign of the cross on her forehead. It is Ash Wednesday. Instead of waiting for this woman and perhaps a man walking behind her and a couple running to their bus and an untold number of others to come inside a church, the church is going out to meet them. During the last month I've been slowly reading through the gospel of John. Here Jesus is at a wedding, here he is just walking along, here he is in the countryside, here he is getting water at a well, here he is by the sea, here he is walking ON the sea, here he is on a mountain ridge. All the while, he is meeting people where they are.

This short video expands on the story in the magazine picture. You can see the pair I described above at about 45 seconds in. It's quite a moving video; I hope you'll have the two minutes to take a look.


[Photo: taken of a staircase at St. John's University]