Sinful Nature

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The sinful nature of the human being is often depicted in a strange sort of way.

The image present in many strains of Christianity is something like this: God, an old, grumpy man in the sky, has set forth Rules. The individual breaks a rule, which then pisses God off, and so God decides the individual must burn forever.

I condemn this view because of how weak, childish, silly, and outright dangerous it is. This idea of sin and God is at the level of understanding of a three-year-old, yet some Christians perpetuate this for the duration of their life to disastrous consequences, not the least of which that it leads no one and has never led anyway to theosis.

While in bed this morning, praying because I was trying to go back to sleep and because I find prayer much easier in a relaxed state (but this should go without saying), a more suitable illustration came to me:

imagine that a person beholds a perfect, clear light, a light which heals and sets right any ailments the person may have in their spirit, a light which endows the individual with infinite meaning in their life and experience.

Now imagine that instead of beholding that light, the person is inclined to put heaps of mud upon their eyes because the mud provides a sort of soothing, pleasurable sensation. And it isn’t just an idea that comes to us; no, the desire to put mud upon our eyes because it feels good is a natural happening (or seemingly so).

There you have it- that’s the sinful nature of mankind in the presence and experience of Almighty God. We deprive ourselves by substituting something else that seems to be what we would like but is ultimately lacking, even if it seems sensible at the time.

Now, that being said, please understand that this illustration is by no means absolute or perfect. I’m only pushing it forward to try to give a more mature and spiritual understanding of the relationship between a human being and God.

As for the Book of Common Prayer experiment, I’ll say that’s been the best decision I’ve made in a long time, right up there next to ceasing to be vegetarian. I’ll also say that this experiment works for me because somehow I was instructed in my spirit about the matters; this is by no means an absolute rule.

Some people are strange in that the figure out a new way to do something or something that works for them, and they make an error of ultra-generalization, “Why, if EVERYONE just used the Book of Common Prayer every day, we would all be okay!” True, it would be helpful for those of us officially belonging to the Anglican Tradition to practice our tradition, but our culture is a specific one, and what works for us might not work for others.

This brings us to another point of interest with regard to theology: the night of my Confirmation Mass, I told the Bishop that I felt the theology of Anglicanism has a greater flexibility than the theology of the other considered denominations, which is what caused me to go with Anglicanism after all was said and done. (That and the lack of more mystical denominations around me also caused this decision. I also blame the Red State Mystic for making mainstream Christianity make sense to me.)

And herein lies the need of the flexibility: the Mystery the Living God is an explosive one, and if one has a theological framework that is bricked up and inflexible, the Actual, True, Real, Living Mystery will shatter the theological framework by revealing things unpredicted and for which the theology does not prepare you.

The flexibility effect, instead, allows for the containing of that Mystery so that it might be lived out and experienced and (very importantly) shared through the being of the individual.

I think this is enough for tonight.

Stevo

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On the Book of Common Prayer and More

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My home parish, St. Michael’s, gave me a portable copy of the Book of Common Prayer upon my Confirmation in 2012.

And while I’ve used the BCP, I haven’t used it as much as I could or should.

Anyone reading my blog knows that I’m always pushing forward on the spiritual quest and asking questions. And honestly, sometimes the archetypal forces of the Evangelical Christianity with which I was raised rear their ugly heads, and I just feel disgusted with Christianity.

At that point, I have to refocus and realize that I’m committing a number of errors in reasoning, not the least of which is predefining Christianity and then reacting against that definition.

But when I think fondly of the people at St. Michael’s, and I think of my far-flung friends Anglican and Gnostic and Catholic and Orthodox across the world, I relax a bit, and I realize that these people are the ones that give me reassurance of Christ’s goodness in me and in the world.

Anyway, the Book of Common Prayer is a nifty little thing, though sometimes I do wish we featured more prayers to Mary and various saints beyond their being mentioned in the Collects.

So, let’s discuss how I’m currently using the BCP.

One issue that I heard of long ago from a Roman website is that the Holy Spirit must teach us how to pray. My problem, of course, is that I always seem to think of things as “this, not that,” whereby I mean that I fail to recognize the Holy Spirit or my own spirit.

But enter the Black Fire, of which I’ve spoken for so, so long. The key here is to pray with and as the inner Black Fire- by praying this, by praying the very best part of me and best experience I can have, by offering that to Christ in the Holy Eucharist (the Eternal, Cosmic Eucharistic Christ, in other word) consistently, I can pray and begin to understand the words of the Book of Common Prayer.

Mostly, it’s best effects are for the Cycle of Prayer. Many people are against the idea of consistency because they think acting whimsically is more authentic. The whimsical and random action may have its place in individuality, sure, but if one also of one’s own volition subscribes to a Cycle of Prayer, doesn’t that also express one’s own individual needs?

I wish I could get to Mass more often. I wish to receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist more often. But in my life, this has increasingly become difficult and problematic, which can only mean that a very good solution is coming my way soon (and yes, I’m praying about it.)

I confess, the last time I attended Mass was with my husband, right after we were married, at the Great Easter Vigil. It was glorious and magnificent and wonderful. But that’s been the only time this year, and we need to remedy the matter soon.

Trouble is, now my husband is on the NIGHT shift, so we’re usually sleeping in the mornings. But of course, he doesn’t work weekends, so we could hypothetically get some sleep in. If only more Vigil Masses were offered in the Episcopal Church!

Anyway, the mysticism in any religion is something that ultimately comes from the encounter of the individual spirit with that of the Ultimate Reality. Our prayers, our rituals, all such things, are the channels through which this connection grows- and while I myself have had any number of days when the prayers I said and thought and sung seemed empty and decayed, that isn’t the fault of the prayers themselves, which ultimately serve to be channels for bringing the Ultimate Reality in daily consciousness.

Thus, one might conceive of something such as the Book of Common Prayer as being a candle that must be lit; the BCP does not in and of itself contain the fire, though it can draw out the fire within one, in other words.

I also recommend highly to people to light a candle while praying. Just one will do. More are great. But one will do, I think. Incense is also lovely, but I know that if you’re like me, a lot of incense triggers allergies and stuffy sinuses and sinus headaches, yikes.

That’s why incense is preferable in the church itself, of course, because it disperses so much that one gets the heavenly scent of frankincense without a sinus headache.

Well, in typical Stevo fashion, this blog has been all over the place. However, it does function to kind of give the unfolding realizations of a mystic as I think this is extremely important. Any mystic recording their journey is good; however, to see what happens along the way is also good.

Anyway, we’ll see what happens with the Cycle of Prayer using the BCP.

Stevo

The Trip to the Church

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The doors of the Church are supposed to always be open. Apparently, this is not what many churches this day and age do, but I don’t blame them- valuables inside the church could be stolen, people could desecrate it, and so on.

The Episcopal Church’s doors, at least in this area, are always open, in a strange sort of way. That speaks volumes to me. Of course, most people probably think that the doors are locked or have no idea what an Episcopal Church is.

Anyway, I go to to the local Episcopal Church a lot to pray. I’ve never been to Mass there, not in all the years I’ve gone in to pray. Sometimes, I just sit with God. Sometimes, I do a bit of exploring. The acoustics in the church are absolutely amazing- just barely talking creates an almost thunderous roar. I can’t imagine how powerful the Mass is with all the voices chanting together.

I opened the Book of Common Prayer. Now, as an esotericist and in reading The Science of the Sacraments, I could find a lot to criticize about the Book of Common Prayer, but of course, this is all in the matter of the measuring of spaghetti- my phrase for extreme head knowledge that keeps us shut out of experience and can lead us down a garden path of destruction.

Reciting the Creed, as I said before, is much different when one is in the church, standing there, and kneeling at the mention of the Incarnation and such- the experience of this is much different than simply imagining it. While imagination can help prepare us for some things, something about the power of mysticism defies this.

The recitation of the Creed in the church wasn’t to proclaim that I necessarily believe what the Creed says- but it was to take the action of saying it to see what the deeper meaning is, to feel what it feels like to say such a Creed, and to know the underlying power.

As I was trying to find the Creed in the Book of Common Prayer, I came upon several other prayers, and they were beautiful, absolutely beautiful, even majestic. I could scarcely believe it as I read many of the prayers and prayed them aloud to God- something about the Book of Common Prayer began to captivate me, began to be realized. Here was Tradition- and here was an honoring of the Holy Catholic Church, which is mentioned many times in the book, asking for God to guide her.

The gem of the trip, though, was when I went into the sanctuary. For those of you who are unaware of the Catholic tradition, the part of the church in which people sit is called the nave, and the sanctuary is only where the altar is. Naturally, here I was around at the altar and wanted to be extremely respectful and reverent to it, as this is where Mass is said- and I looked at the Tabernacle, where the candle burned, and even though the Tabernacle is plain, wooden, and in the wall, it still has a lock on it that keeps any random person from coming and taking the Lord out of it. I walked closer to it and felt a definite sensation in my third-eye- a kind of presence or energy was indicated there, and I knew Our Lord was there.

The gem: I walked to one of the seats near the altar and found a beat-up old copy of St. Augustine’s Prayer Book- an extremely beautiful Anglo-Catholic book of devotional prayers. I sat and read through it, noting all the popular devotions (to the Sacred Heart, for instance) that I myself maintain. What a magnificent and strange synchronicity!

One day, I’ll wake up early enough to go to Mass, and I’ll be glad for it.

Beaux