The one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience or devotional practice [is] that it must lead directly to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine [makes] you kinder, more empathetic and impelled you to express this sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness this [is] good theology. But if your notion of God [makes] you unkind, belligerent, cruel, or self-righteous, or if it [leads] you to kill in God’s name, it [is] bad theology.
Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase
We greet the morning sun each day with our to-do lists, while the monk greets the sun with prayer and silence.
Lonni Collins Pratt with Daniel Homan, Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love
Ich vermisse heute bei vielen Predigten und bei der Gestaltung von Gottesdiensten die Achtsamkeit für die Sprache. Da spürt man oft nicht mehr das Bemühen für die Schönheit.
(Anselm Grün, Schönheit: Eine neue Spiritualität der Lebensfreude)
Henri Nouwen, in The Wounder Healer, quotes James Hillman, who talks about the Jewish mystical doctrine of Tsimtsum, noting that
God as omnipresent and omnipotent was everywhere. He filled the universe with his Being. How then could the creation come about? … God had to create by withdrawal; He created the not-Him, the other, by self-concentration … On the human level, withdrawal of myself aids the other to come into being.
when we have found the anchor places for our lives in our own center, we can be free to let others enter into the space created for them and allow them to dance their own dance, sing their own song and speak their own language without fear. Then our presence is no longer threatening and demanding but inviting and liberating.
Impulsive master of misunderstanding,
You comfort me with all your big mistakes;
Jumping the ship before you make the landing,
Placing the bet before you know the stakes.
I love the way you step out without knowing,
The way you sometimes speak before you think,
The way your broken faith is always growing,
The way he holds you even when you sink.
Born to a world that always tries to shame you,
Your shaky ego vulnerable to shame,
I love the way that Jesus chose to name you,
Before you knew how to deserve that name.
And in the end your Saviour let you prove
That each denial is undone by love.
From: Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year
Spirituality and fundamentalism are at opposite ends of the cultural spectrum. Spirituality seeks a sensitive, contemplative relationship with the sacred and is able to sustain levels of uncertainty in its quest because respect for mystery is paramount. Fundamentalism seeks certainty, fixed answers and absolutism, as a fearful response to the complexity of the world and to our vulnerability as creatures in a mysterious universe.
David Tacey, ‘Rising Waters of the Spirit’
It’s the really hungry who can smell fresh bread a mile away. For those who know their need, God is immediate – not an idea, not a theory, but life, food, air for the stifled spirit and the beaten, despised, exploited body.
Rowan Williams, as quoted by Sara Miles, Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion