Fresh Air

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We want a God who supports us in our lust to dominate each other, who is thus a grandiose version of ourselves. And this is a God who is angry as we are, who differs from us only in having limitless power to impose his will and to punish. This is God-like-us, and it is the whole purpose of God’s self-disclosure to show us that there is no such being, which gives to our mind a huge breath of fresh air called Holy Spirit. In this fresh air, we see each other for the first time, in the love that God is.

Sebastian Moore, Poetry of the Word

Fr. Stuart introduced me to Sebastian Moore and this is a fine sample.  The basic idea is not new, for Paul and Augustine and Luther and C.S. Lewis said much the same, but Moore’s way of seeing and saying old things is a breath of fresh air.

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  1. As a corollary to this post, several members of the Seekers class asked that I make available the quote I shared on Feb. 2 from Henri Nouen.
    “God cannot be “caught” or “comprehended” in any specific idea, concept, opinion, or conviction. God cannot be defined by any specific emotion or spiritual sensation. God cannot be identified with good feelings, right intentions, spiritual fervor, generosity of spirit, or unconditional love. All of these experiences may remind us of God’s presence, but their absence does not prove God’s absence. God is greater than our minds and greater than our hearts, and just as we have to avoid the temptation of adapting God to our finite small concepts, we have to avoid adapting God to our limited small feelings.
    This is a difficult reality to accept in a culture that suggests we are trained to master a subject, define all knowledge, and control our destinies. Doctors, lawyers, and psychologists study to become qualified professionals who are paid to know what to do. A well-trained theologian or minister is only able to point out the universal tendency to narrow God down to our own little conceptions and expectations, and to call for an open mind and heart for God to be revealed.
    How then are we, like the professor in the parable, to seek this incomprehensible God? When we are willing to empty our cup and detach ourselves from making our individual experience the criterion for our approach to others, we may be able to see that life is greater than out personal life, history is greater than our family history, experience greater than our own experience, and God greater than our god.
    Both theological reflection and spiritual formation require an articulate not-knowingness and a receptive emptiness through which God can be revealed. Just as theology asks us to empty our cup so that we can open our mind to the incomprehensible things of God, spirituality asks us to empty our mind so we can open our heart that needs to be empty enough for the Spirit to enter and fill it. This process of self-emptying and spirit filling is called spiritual formation – the gradual development of the heart of God in the life of a human being, aided by contemplative prayer, inclusive community, and compassionate ministry.” (Henri Nouen, “Spiritual Formation, Following the Movements of The Spirit”, Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird, pp 4-5, Harper Collins Publishers)

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