From Source to Source: On Missionary Work

This piece arose out of a very important conversation I had with Colin Miller about the Source of All Hope mission in Baltimore, MD. The ideas flow entirely from his vision for the mission (he is its founder). I can only hope to have approximated what it means, in my own words. It is a shared reflection on how to minister to those outside the Church in the power of the Eucharist.

FROM SOURCE TO SOURCE

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The crucial question for the missionary Christian is how to make Christ present to the other. This presence is an existential reality, something felt in the heart and soul first of all. Therefore, evangelization is not first about getting others to adopt this or that proposition or belief (e.g. “become a Christian”) but rather to give them an experience of God’s love in Christ. The evangelist can trust that, once someone experiences God’s love, they will be well on their way to belief in God and Christ.

For the Catholic Christian, the highest intensity of Christ’s presence in the world is the Eucharist. We are beyond blessed to partake in this mystery. But the missionary must ask: How does God’s love pass from the Eucharist, through us, to the other? (And especially to the poor, who may not know Christ at all.)

It would appear that we are dealing with three modes of Christ’s presence in the world: Eucharist, communicant, and non-Catholic other. According to the universal commission given to the Apostles–spread the Gospel to all peoples of the world–our evangelical hope is for these three modes of Christ’s presence to merge in communion. Our aspiration should be for the christification of the world: for everyone to be where Christ is, for everyone to be “eucharistically transformed,” so that God is “all in all.”

First, there is the “intensive” presence of God in Christ in the Eucharist: that is where he truly dwells. But it is not enough for him to sit on our altars: what we need is for him to dwell in us, so that we are his house on earth–just as Paul says, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). By partaking in the Eucharistic meal with earnest devotion and sincere inner participation, we are assimilated (bit by bit) into God’s “extensive” mode of presence in the world. This is just another way of saying that God extends himself into the world through us, who are members of Christ’s mystical Body. (Clearly, Christ needs us to be good, faithful disciples who are able to act with him at the head; otherwise, his Body is less than it could be and delayed in its work.)

From our encounter with Christ in the Eucharist, we move on to our encounter with Christ in the poor, the downtrodden, the other no-matter-who. Our hope is to transmit the love of the Source to others. We are Christ’s quasi-mediators in the world– “quasi-” because, ultimately, it is God acting through us when we reach others with Christ. The more we adore and abide in communion with him, the “better” we get at allowing God to act (this is sanctification). We grow more and more into accordance with God’s good will. And by relinquishing whatever we are outside of Christ (which is nothing), Christ comes into us that much more abundantly. He raises up our creaturely nothingness into his Spirit, grants us a share in his salvific plan. That is where he fills us with true living water, which will become in us “a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (Jn 4:14).

In the missionary encounter, God’s presence and love is somehow (we don’t exactly know how!) transmitted from the Source and Summit of the faith to others; and we are somehow the relay-point, the deliverer of the message, the vessel or extension of that presence and love. Our formation is so important because the more we are entrusted to God and in consent to his will, the more we are emptied and free of whatever gets in the way of the transmission. The better the formation, the more Christ can work through us to reach the world.

However, there is a third, “elusive” mode of Christ’s presence in the world, the one most easily overlooked, yet perhaps the most important for the Source-work.

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Note on the “Non-being” of Evil

We are accustomed to viewing good and evil as two competing forces. This view is predictably enshrined in super-hero movies. Not only are there good guys and bad guys, but the bad guys pretend to have good motives, while the good guys try to keep their bad motives in check. Such is the way things are “realistically” portrayed in culture. However, this idea of a competition is false, an illusion, because good and evil do not actually exist on an equal playing field. Indeed, they are as polarized in their tendency as being and non-being.

There’s two ways to tackle the problem: 1) freedom versus necessity, and 2) the desire to be.

The reason we are faced with good versus evil is because we are born into a confusion about our freedom, namely, what is it for? We have to make choices about how to use our freedom, and to do so we have to orient it toward some kind of necessity, a goal, etc. But there is a vicious circle here, because we are also free to choose what is necessary (or so it seems). And so we live under the possibility of choosing wrongly. We fall under the sway of doing and living for things that are no good for us, primarily because we are confused and do not see clearly what is good for us. (Once habit and self-deception step in, this pattern can be a real monster to correct.)

At the same time, behind our choice of what is necessary, lies our desire to be. Even the worst choice imaginable, suicide, seeks a state of being that is better than the previous state, even if the new state is imagined as an escape from being altogether. Continue reading

Static and Dynamic Mysticism

Mysticism comes in two basic types, static and dynamic. Static mysticism aims at a restoration of the static state: a realization of the Changeless. Dynamic mysticism aims at something more like the transformation or amorization of the changeable qua Changeless.

Both presuppose very different cosmologies. Static mysticism sees change as simply change. It is not really going anywhere. The Absolute is immobile, so the goal is to stabilize one’s consciousness in the immobile. Movement is finite and relative; it has nothing to do with the infinite and ultimate, save as a veil to be pierced. In this cosmology, the changeable is usually treated as an illusion, a dream, a conventional reality with no substance in itself. You find here the trope of escape, fleeing the world, essential detachment, and so on. The static mystic discovers the Supreme; why bother with the rest?

Dynamic mysticism, by contrast, sees the evolving cosmos as a substantial reality in itself—one with a clear trajectory of increasing union and communion with its Maker. It is not the shadow of anything else, but a genuine creation. Certainly, it is not the Absolute. Yet everything about it seems pointed toward contacting and realizing something of the Absolute. The dynamic mystic sees and senses that multiplicity is striving for a unity that will not cancel multiplicity and movement but “sanctify them in truth” (Jn 17:17), meaning place them in to active relation with the Source, so they may be informed and intensified by it, may draw ever vaster collections of elements into the one element of creative self-giving divine love—which suffuses itself into creation wherever creation loves.

Freud, responding to his friend Roman Rolland, theorized that the “oceanic consciousness” reported by mystics was driven by a desire to return to the inorganic. The inorganic state is, presumably, free of psychic tension, pain, craving, loss, and so on. It’s not a bad observation, but it can only account for static mysticism. Indeed, there are things about it which certainly give credence to that interpretation—that it means acquiescing to entropy, to inevitable death and non-selfness, to the cancelling of change in the immobile silence of uniform matter.

The dynamic mystic objects to this picture. Life is an authentic, not an incidental, advancement in the cosmos. So too is the Mind. Entropy is not the only, let alone the strongest, factor in the evolving universe. Fragile as they appear, there exists a steady complexification of structure and elevation to higher manifestations of conscious life. These evolutions are also *irreversible*. They reveal a universal line of development, namely, centration into higher more integral types, which better exemplify and radiate the Supermind or mind of Christ.

Here there is more than the desire to return to the inorganic or merge in the tranquility of the immobile. There is also the—much stronger—desire to create concentrated centers of energy and consciousness, which are moving toward the Mover, which *know* there is a Master with a master plan in all this. The desire is to be in the flow of a work of world-creation that would be, identically, the flow in/of the very being of God. The mystic masters himself and his potentialities for this sole purpose: to offer them up in consecration to this one task of God-manifestation on earth.

Call it an incarnate metaphysics: the divine principle is making itself flesh, it is dwelling in our midst, it is drawing everything to itself to reconcile everything in itself. It is pushing for an ever-grander and more beautiful synthesis between finite and infinite that does not leave the finite behind but transfigures it into a reality of divine life.

Dynamic mysticism means maximal participation in this “incarnation”—in the ongoing evolution and sanctification of the universe, which is not just petering out in dead matter but is advancing negentropically everywhere through the manifestation of persons.

That is why the dynamic mystic is not content with a cancellation of self, an annihilation of individuality, a disidentification with life leading to withdrawal, rejection, or repose, nor with a dismissal of the created universe as a secondary or illusory phenomenon compared to the Absolute. The cosmos is far too alive and animated to accept that, even on its own terms. It is spiritualized down to the least parcel of matter, which even the static mystic tacitly trusts. But the dynamic mystic has this further insight: everything, even unconscious matter, is striving to please and realize God. Evolution—organizing complex structures, blooming into life and mind, becoming conscious, learning to pray—is magnetized from the get-go by the Absolute, and it is *through* our work with it that we come closest to the Absolute: when evolution, entering its mystical phase, falls in love with everyone and everything: and the cosmos is amortized a communion of beings in love.

For the Absolute, who is love, wishes to be by us, within us, around us, divine. The mystic stretches out for that closeness and finds it wherever he surrenders to it, saving nothing back for himself but diving, soul-first, into its passionate movement—the cosmos become “the passion of Christ.”

by Timothy Lavenz
Dec 6, 2022

Note on God’s Light in the Mind

The Divine Light is already active and functional at the level of your own mind. It is simply that you crave otherwise and hold preferences that prevent its full unfolding. You grasp at what cannot be held still, so you miss its inherent stillness. You struggle to make it clear, so you obscure its natural clarity. What is constantly changing, you try to fix down and identify, and so you miss the stable reality underpinning it all. Because you think you are at the helm, the controller, the intervener, the driver, the agent, the source of light, you limit its reach, hamper its action, dull its brilliance… when really you are but a grace-offshoot of the Primary Light, into which at any time you may remeld, if you but assent and love it, cling to its movements and its Word. For you are Its gift to you of apprehension, insight, reflection, appreciation. You are Its appendage of consciousness and help, destined to It. You participate in Its freedom, you draw from Its energy, your attention is a spark of Its omniscience. Enlightenment is the state already: so give in to it, surrender, already you are dead in the Light and rising to new life in Its rays. Your spark is not-other than the flame—and suddenly everything is warm with its heat, so adorable the whole world crackles with delight, centering more and more on its perfect axis, imperceptibly. Then what is happening is no longer what you think, but what the Divine Mind really is, in its calm, spacious infinity, which it gives…

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Hell is…

Hell is whenever one acts from self for self without reference to another/Another.

Hell is a zone stripped of motivation for goodness.

Hell is the noise preventing us from hearing God.

Hell is any moment lacking the sense of God’s presence or at least the aspiration for that presence. Hell is made by acts which lack connection to the meaning of the whole and thus forsake destiny.

Hell is anything we’re consciously held back by yet keep doing, knowing it will only worsen things. We find comfort in inertia or destruction: Hell is how we abdicate responsibility and excuse our misbehavior.

Hell is thoughts we don’t want yet keep thinking for lack of true orientation and remembrance of God.

Hell is believing I’m in possession of myself and can use myself however I want as long as I’m satisfied.

Hell is lost in a dark forest, having lost the scent of God, yet remembering one just had it. It is not knowing where to turn, how to pick back up the scent… then gradually forgetting how or why one got to where one is: Hell is the loss of reality sneaking up on you until you’re just going forward, forgetting even that reality is lost.

Hell is hopelessness, lack of prospects, broken why’s, drooping confidence in the value of one’s life.

Hell is when you can’t bring yourself to do what you need to do to get back in line spiritually with the good graces of God.

Hell is instability in our faith in Christ.

Hell is worry about hypotheticals and doubting one’s ability to bring joy, courage, and kindness to difficult moments.

Hell is the soul-pendulum swinging into God’s absence and not trusting it will swing back.

Hell is an uninvested talent, worse: it is never letting yourself know you have that talent, worst: it is knowing your talent but not doing everything you can for it to bear fruit, worst of all: it is spoiling your own fruitfulness through cowardice, faithlessness, and fear.

Hell is a wasted life. But every life outside (and to the extent outside) Christ is wasted, for He is Life. Without Him it would all be a waste, for He is the only principle of fruitfulness. Hell is the labor of fruitlessness: it is anti-existence itself.

The Quiet Love for God

The more we allow the quiet love for God to enter our daily lives, the more we will understand how accessible He is. For He is never absent. Every space is filled to overflowing with His presence, if we have practiced opening ourselves to receive Him. In time we can become so capacious and willing as to not recoil from or close off any of His generous advances. He suffuses every pore, resides in every center, in every interstice. He transpermeates all things with His transpermanence. He is the glory of every station at every step. He is the insurmountably “poor” reality of things, and oh how grand it is to know Him best found there, in the poorest. When this we know, all other knowledge and its mental edifice fizzle out. For here in our poverty we know there is nowhere else, when once we’ve learned to find Him in all the humble, unassuming, simple places. To reach this point we must simply affirm we love Him, over and over, giving Him the reigns and taking off the pressure. For in His eyes there can be no greater accomplishment than to know and love Him, prayerfully and gratefully, in all times and places: for He wants to be so near to us that we cannot even conceive He could be gone.

5 Practical Tips for Resolving Doubt

My recommendation to those struggling with doubt (see video above):

1) Put less stress on apologetics, debates, arguments, anything theological that feels too abstract for you, that makes you “go mental”, that sends you through some labyrinth of proper names, that locks your consciousness at the level of concept or language or history.

2) Instead get to know the saints and holy people—Jesus above all! Take them as your models and exemplars. Absorb their personal witness into your soul. Learn their stories, glean lessons from their lives, read their diaries and letters and spiritual works. Admire what they aspire to, think about the goal they set for humanity. Pay attention to what they taught in terms of virtue, asceticism, personal reform, purifying of desire, etc. Get a feel especially for how they contemplate, how they find and rest in God: how they love. Incorporate some aspect of that love into yours. Then:

3) Patiently put their advice into practice, letting your models’ composite greatness be your goal, better yet, the source of your imagination. Conduct life at the heart-level, from your inner soul. Follow what activates your devotion as much as if not more than the mind. Clean your person in the mirror of these other honorable persons. Do not stress or worry, but trust it’s all in God’s hands. Above all, let your intuition be educated by the holy ones, by contact with the Holy One. And let yourself be changed.

4) Don’t underestimate yourself. Think of yourself as a saint in training, ready to undergo any trial, any aridity, any darkness for his love.

What I mean is this: Avoid controversies, quarrels, analysis, general or secondary issues, and instead seek to have first-hand experiences of putting on the mind of Christ and renouncing self. Let the deepening inner experience and time spent in attention to God shape your outer life and habits more and more, so that subjective and objective grow in unison. Remember that the prerequisite for spiritual knowledge is moral transformation. This is one core aspect of faith: to prepare your vessel to receive God while he is yet hidden from you.

By learning from divine, holy, sage, wise, and God-realized people—their number is so many!—, we are inspired to emulate their commitment and sacrifice and gain a stable experience of the presence of God. Once we have a taste of that, the soul is coming awake and we can live from the memory of that taste in full trust. Then we need no longer guess. God is no longer a matter of arguments, but palpable guidance whenever we call on him. Once we have the encounter, the effect is irreversible, even if ups and downs come. Work on attuning your inner compass to heed every hint of the Spirit. Obey when it’s time to say Yes and when it’s time to say No. The more we respond, the clearer our response becomes to us. The more we let ourselves rest in his presence, the more we will know that his presence goes with us everywhere.

Here is the trick: you will never think your way to faith. Focus on matters of the heart, inner devotion, prayer, repentance, service, love and striving to be without sin. Try to recollect God in every instant, aspiring to make real contact. “Knock and the door shall be opened.” All we have to do is learn how to knock and keep knocking. Keep it personal. Imagine how much God loves you. Close your eyes, quiet your mind, turn off your desires, wait on him. I guarantee the doubt will clear. We need only make ourselves available, make an empty space for him. He desires nothing more than to fill us with himself. Always remember that, and it will happen.

Of course, this approach to having “doubts” will not answer every question at the intellectual-reflective-propositional level of “beliefs,” but love and trust in God will take care of that. Love will elevate us into an intimate knowledge that is profoundly anti-fragile, that is not about right or wrong and its anxieties. Once we know him, we can take refuge in the wisdom of the Church and focus on “abiding in God.” That’s what all our beliefs are supposed to serve anyway! He will never disappoint us. From that basis I think we will solve our theological and ecclesiastical quandaries to satisfaction, such that they do not trip us up anymore, but increase our surrender to the mystery of his love.

5) Go to daily Mass.

Why Hope Never Ends

Prolonged exposure to the vision-worlds of humanity’s great saints, mystics, and theologians—they go in various cultures by so many names—leaves one feeling strangely squished. What can I possibly have to add to this wealth? Here I am witness to heroic levels of sacrifice, of dedication to understanding Divinity without bounds; feats of asceticism and interpretation and teaching which startle the imagination; zealous acts of mercy and love which hardly seem possible for humans. And then witness the diverse array of these persons, how they spoke holy words in every dialect on earth, arose from every background in every land. And yet how, in broad outline, they agree! And how, in the final analysis, they are fated to converge in a practical synthesis for the future of the human spirit. For each of these efforts was animated by a similar astonishment, by love for a similar ultimate. The panoply of greatness indeed astounds the mind and what is even more astounding, for the believing person, is to realize that “God” has made all this possible—all this mind-blowing and heart-opening access to the timeless truth and reality of love.

But the sober appraiser of humanity may quickly come to another, starker analysis. How can it be that these individuals have discovered so much, while we as a human community have put their discoveries into practice so little? As a whole, we have all but neglected our sage advisors, preferring to deem their quests for the rare few, for the eccentric and wan. But for the researcher in religion—I do not mean the scholar, but one who seeks salvation—the hypothesis of rarity cannot hold up, for the claims made by all the saints have a universal bearing, they pertain to every created spirit without exception. Here, we cannot help but notice: the advice to the seeker is always the same. It is the same advice since the dawn of wisdom, whether its guise is Platonic, Vedantic, Buddhist, Islamic, Christian, or otherwise. I hold aside the competition between idioms and ideologies for now, and focus on what might be called the “heart message” of them all. On this matter, they are all agreed or at the very least convergent:

“God” or “Truth” is realized through love; through withdrawal from our outwardly-tugged passions; through a quieting and disciplining of our mind to turn inward; through a cleansing of selfish habit and destructive tendency; through a meditation on death and the nothingness of our existence; through an “indifferent” practice of self-giving and unspoken sacrifice; through empathy with suffering and the rejection of violence; through a true apprehension of Being as such and as a whole and its beauty; through total self-surrender to the Absolute Mystery which is our hope and our home, our one “entitlement” and our future.

Yes, the heart message bears repeating, and with great rejoicing I will repeat it! This message will never be dulled, it will never go quiet, it will never be stifled, for “we can do nothing against the truth, only for it” (2 Cor 13:8).

And yet the stark analysis persists: humanity, as a whole, has yet to hear this plea of the pure in heart, the God-seers (Mt 5:8). Turn by turn we have chosen to complicate everything, in service to our own small demands. Our species is a sucker for wars of ideology and superstition, battles of membership and exclusion. We are easily triggered by divergences in ways of speaking and conceptualizing the world. We are even more easily diverted from what is humble and primary for the sake of some glossy secondary concern, which we choose because it seems easier and puts us less at stake, thus asking from us less of a change.

Meanwhile, what actually is primary continues to stare us in the face, an immovable archive of Evidence of Religion–evidence of what we could be. For although, on the one hand, we know we’re still babies in britches, at the same time we cannot survey all these spiritual riches and think there is anything essential yet to discover. No, we have everything we need. God has opened his mouth in every language, to every people. We have tools and methods and testimonies literally coming out of our ears! He has shaped his glory exactly to the nature of each vessel in each time and place, so they could receive him fully as they could within their bounds. This he has done enough to prove: he will do it for anyone who is “poor in spirit” enough to consent. For we too are one of those vessels he has created for himself; and as the positivistic world of technocratic conformism daily spreads its homogenizing pall over our bored overstimulated bodies, God sees fit to open the floodgates of spiritual knowledge for us all. It only takes our choice, our resolve in seeking the ultimate, for the gates of heaven to be opened and our souls to be washed clean and elevated by the most magnificent light.

What should we do with this opportunity? What shall we say? The world is less religious than ever, but the transcendence of the human spirit will never go away or relinquish its demands, for it is the very foundation of all knowledge and freedom. We seek a fulfillment of that transcendence, for we know it must have some term, some brilliant peg to fit the empty shape within us. And there is. We have been told its many names: Bodhicitta, Brahman, Peace of Christ. The Almighty is clarity and perfection, source and end of our being, goal of every free act, terminus of all knowledge. We need only turn in silence to our own heart and bring ourselves to a halt in that silent space. Then we will find all the proof we need of the eternal power dwelling there and giving us, continually, a participation in itself. That participation, that gift, is our very self. It is who we are beyond all temporal loss. It is the moving idea of us in God, who has predestined us to share his glory. There is life, joy abundant, our link to the Most High. There is the realization of the Perfect.

And so my tongue cannot despair, no matter how much we squander and miss our chances. I cannot sorrow in humanity’s neglect any longer, for God is there. He has proved himself with the force of ten-thousand angels, and though I am but an average sinner, bumbling along like all the rest, I understand now: the only crucial factor in all this is trust in Him. Trust in the essence of yourself–beneath ego and behind attachments, where your soul is one with Him because so in love with Him–and there you will find the grace of adoration to bridge over every garbled gap. There you will know the courage of the holy ones–it is simply the will to let go of whatever is not him, whatever comes before him, whatever stands in his way. “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God!” (Is 40:3).

So we have not yet acted on our discoveries! So we have not yet made the discovery of God for ourselves! So we are daily bungling our chance at liberation, forfeiting the offer of holiness which is constantly extended!… Yes, from a certain vantage, this is the most horrible waste imaginable—we could be like angels; but from another, it all seems in keeping with the uniqueness of each soul and the mystery of the dispensation in time of God’s openings. For he has his rhythm of concealments and disclosures, his balance of taciturnity and explosion. The reason of revelations we can only comprehend from the end, after having traveled the path faithfully to culmination, while today we are always in media res, combating the hells and demons that would drag us to the pit, and there are many. For no matter how grand the spiritual catalogue may be—and would you believe that every day it becomes grander?—it is set in the logic of things that each will have its trial to undergo, its ignorance to dispel, its low behavior to correct, its atonement to profess, its repentance to weep, its courage to muster, its self-reformation to engage, above all, its heart’s prayer to pursue through every darkness, every aridity, every jail.

No one can substitute for us in the spiritual equation, for God has made us irreplaceable in his eyes. He will never let us go. He wants us wholly, and so there are no shortcuts, and no one can make our quest for us. He will hound us until we understand this unconditional love he has for us, his impossible mercy suffering all our sin and failure, his overwhelming embrace of all we are. For he has deigned—we will never fathom this miracle—to include us in his creation. He wishes us to share in the power of his own creative act and in its glories. This points toward and culminates in what those stacks of books only dimly intimate, yet also infallibly obscurely recommend: the establishment of a mature and lasting intercommunication of spiritual persons, who are redeemed from every lie and falsehood and set free to resonate together in rapture and tranquillity at the sight of God’s insuperable divine majesty, and to do so for all eternity. They—we!—will keep moving toward this culmination through every step of our increasing dependency on him; through testimony, intercession, and worship of His Sacred Heart, which has poured itself out so we would wake up to this our destiny, which we find only in Him who exceeds all, yet is everything.

Why, then, does my hope never end? Because I have listened and heard, and behold, I, who by his grace see God, am no different from you. The invitation lies open and ready–let us take it on and take it in…

by Timothy Lavenz
Oct 22/Nov 10, 2022

A Kingdom “Not of this World”

The Gospels announce the Kingdom of God such that all worldly kingdoms, empires, and nations are brought down. This effects a total change of perspective, a world-inversion. Its primary concern is to make our relation to God primary above all things—over all earthly dominion, status, legacy, worth and power. This is the central Gospel motif, “What does it matter to gain the world if you lose your soul?” The question provokes a remembrance of what was lost in the Fall–personal intimacy with the Ultimate–and points toward its recovery.

To save one’s soul is to have one’s “portion” BE (with) God—to live and move and have one’s being in God alone. That is to “have eternal life”: to know oneself existing in such permanent communication with the Eternal that one conceives of no self-existence apart from the Eternal: we are created, upheld, and preserved entirely in God’s Love. To know this is to know oneself a child of God, a citizen in God’s Kingdom first of all.

Early Christians thus saw in Jesus a superabundant fulfillment of the “messiah” role, foiling expectations of a reunified and triumphant Israel but raising these expectations to a new level. It was nothing short of restoration of paradisaical justice with God: to walk with God as “children of the light.” (Emmanuel Levinas rejects this spiritualization of the messianic idea and insists it should have political weight. Jacob Taubes contests this: for him any attempt to bring redemption about directly on the historical stage is a recipe for catastrophe, and thus he sees its “inwardization” as crucial.)

As far as the world goes (as we think we know it in our ignorant state), Jesus radicalizes the insight of Ecclesiastes (“all is vanity”), yet also adds something quite unexpected: a cancellation of the curse. The curse to toil on the earth from Genesis is removed, as Jesus says “don’t worry what happens here, it is all in God’s hands, he is overseeing all with love” (Lk 12:22-24). Likewise, whereas wisdom once meant to bring prosperity, worldly stature, social repute, and so on (itself an echo of the curse), with Jesus putting your treasure where “moth and dust doth corrupt” is antithetical to wisdom. Now, you only “have” what you give: you are a libation poured out for the salvation of the world. This aneconomic gesture removes reward from the realm of the visible world and transfers it to the invisible reward with the Father in heaven. (In the Gift of Death, Derrida sees this as the genius of Christianity, since it renders gift-giving utterly exorbitant: “Do not let your right hand know what your left is doing.”)

Henceforth, what the Father sees in secret is all that matters. That relation is so primary, so preeminent, that we can no longer even evaluate things by looking at the surface. Acting in accordance with the Father’s will is the sole criterion. As this truth is absorbed and we come into accord with it–as we come to approximate the perfect obedience of Christ–something like a prelapsarian confident nakedness before God is restored (Gen 2:25). A shameless and blameless sanctity becomes possible in the Lord, because “everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light” (Eph 5:13).

Paul invokes this world-inversion as well, the teaching that all creation was consigned to “futility” yet in expectation of the revelation of the sons of God (Rom 8:19-22). The futility of this world is counterbalanced by the recognition that all goodness has eternal import, even if we never see the result. This hope is not a vain wish but a knowledge of faith: that our true life is “hidden in God,” who sees what we only glimpse and knows what our minds could never grasp. And yet God lets us share in the knowledge of this mystery. We see the sufferings of this world as nothing compared to the glory of what is to come in the future aeon—which begins in us, for we are its first-fruits. Christ’s resurrection opens the door and is the pledge of ultimate fulfillment—such that life in this world IS crucifixion, the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church, poverty and renunciation of power are the signs of blessedness and nobility, eternal life comes by “dying daily,” and so on.

What the Lord tells Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness,” summarizes the world-inversion at stake on the Cross. Also related here is how barrenness becomes fecund virginity in Mary: bearing spiritual bodies of light into the world, obedient to God’s Word, is what counts. It takes an attitude of faith in the heavenly dominion which walks by faith and lives with the “peace that surpasses knowledge,” “on earth as it is in heaven,” in prayer for God’s Kingdom to come and save all.

Jesus is thus able to say, “Yes, I am a king, but my kingdom is not of this world; if it were, my followers would be fighting to defend me. As it is, all power is from the Father. You can do nothing against him, and what you are about to do to me will prove that. For you may kill the body; but our being in God you cannot kill.” The world is inverted, it is “over”: its dominion is no longer primary, its demands have no priority. As Agamben points out, the Church has often forgotten its eschatological vocation as a vessel of preparation and hastening the end of the world–not a literal, spectacularly apocalyptic end but an end to its priority, an end to the illusion that the world has any independent existence apart from God.

For there is no kingdom except the Kingdom of God! That is the Truth to which faith bears witness: “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand…” Come, let us share in the feast of the Lamb!

by Timothy Lavenz
November 3, 2022

The Mouth Speaks What the Heart is Full Of

1
If I had to share one lesson drawn from my life as a writer, it would be that every word we say is linked to an inner state of the heart, and it remains so linked.

“The mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Mt 24:34). Our language is wholly determined by the state of our heart.

2
In using words, we think we are telling stories, expressing opinions, arguing points, making observations, attesting truths, thinking things through. Indeed, we are doing all that. But in a more basic sense, we are manifesting the state of our heart.

This factor goes beyond the words, beyond intonation and silence, I’m tempted to say beyond anything “empirical” that science could record. Think of it as a “transcendental tether.” It is “in” language yet not linguistic: it is the person in language, “tethering” language to the heart.

Although, cognitively speaking, we are usually unaware and distracted from this manifesting heart-state by the *content* of what’s being said, I submit it is the primary thing that language manifests—that we broadcast far past the control of our minds.

Each word gives the whole person. You can’t state it, or force it to change by using words. The rosiest poem can be full of thorns, and the roughest screed may be booming with gentle love. It is the inner state that determines. The words are simply tethered to it. The less one is aware of that, the more chaotic and violent is this whole business of speech…

3
A writer is someone forced to reflect intensely on these facts. His first instinct is to say that we rarely accomplish saying what we mean, that our words are constantly *veiling* the true state of the heart. For the writer has this experience: hours, days, weeks go by, testing words, rearranging words, erasing and rewriting—all so that, by the end, word will correspond with heart. And that is, no doubt, a most admirable aim.

And yet, this strategy is like trying to push a tetherball with the tether. All you’re doing is flopping around a loose line, which makes loopy shapes but keeps going slack on the ground. So that if you want to get to the core, you have to put your hand directly on your heart. And that leaves you speechless. Not the tether itself, but the *need* of the tether disappears…

Seen spiritually, therefore, our first instinct to doubt the capacity of language is wrong. Really it is all about the stature of heart.

That is what the writer is really confronted with in all his scratches and sketches, fragments and drafts and old pieces: the stature of his heart. It is an inescapable recognition: he is (or has been) this way. This is what his heart sounds like today (or did). Whereupon he must ask in all earnestness: Do I want my heart to be this way? To sound this way? Is this how I wish to be for all eternity? “Be careful, lest the light in you is darkness…”

The writer gradually realizes that his language will be a prison until he liberates his heart and makes sure that the light in him is not darkness. Then he will start to sound as he really is. And he will never again feel like he cannot say what he means, for now he can trust that, if he *is* who he means to be, all his words will say that meaning.

4
If the heart cannot reveal something to itself, neither can words reveal it. They may help it get noticed, draw attentive crowds to the problem, but they can never get you all the way. Mere manipulation of words will never help, and there is great danger in using them as flags.

Many writers, I think, substitute change of words for a change of heart. As with everything in life, the temptation is to turn imprisonment into virtue, a sacrifice for art, etc. It is a very grave situation. Because the tether is so intensely alluring, it always seems that we can reach something else by messing with it. But this is simply not the case.

Every word remains tethered to the heart-state within, but it is only when the heart is free that this is a blessing and not a curse. Then, the priorities are straight, and the “writer” need “write” no more. That is, he can let writing assume its proper place: as the servant of holiness of heart.

Then, the words can and will be redeemed. They find their true importance, head to the right destination. Then, whether one writes or not anymore becomes a matter of indifference. Love of life in the heart—it is enough and more than enough, for then the Word is in everything…

5
“No one can tame the tongue—it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (Jm 3:8). So writes the Apostle James after comparing the tongue to a little rudder that steers a giant ship, or a tiny spark that starts a raging wildfire. He reminds his listeners that out of the same mouth come blessings and curses, praise and insults, invitations and judgments, beauty and crudity. Brothers and sisters, it should not be so!

Ours is a time flooded with content. With division of groups and competing worldviews. With a never ending stream of things to talk about, that’s for sure.

But in the end, what are we really talking about? We are only ever saying who we are, and where our heart is that day.

That is an incredible grace. It means, if we’re honest readers, we can always know where we are. If we are cruel in our speech, we know our heart is hurting. If we are gracious, we know our heart is full. The gradations and nuances are limitless here—the point is, we have a perfect ledger, a perfect gauge, a perfect seismometer of our inner state. We often wish to pretend it otherwise, excuse ourselves, down play the impact of our words and shrug off the inner truths they reflect. But finally, we cannot escape our speech, for it comes from inside the person. Though it gets lost in the world or in screen-scrolling, the psycho-spiritual effects do not decay. They can only be revisited, learned from, healed, and reformed. There is no anonymity at the source point, only the risk of self-neglect. And every instance of attention and negligence adds up.

We must find the person at the source of our speech, dive into awareness of the Heart, to verify if what we’re saying is worth our worth—or if it is not a kind of death sentence we’re pronouncing upon all. (Sadly, the way the Heart sees things, this is what is happening more often than not…)

We can learn to speak a better way, but only by changing and liberating our heart, ensuring that it is full of what is good and holy, so our mouths may speak this fullness—renouncing all curses and clearing all poisons, surrendering tongue and person fully to the blessings of the light.

by Timothy Lavenz
Oct 24, 2022