Posts Tagged ‘Sacred pathways’

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Spiritual Temperaments: Contemplative (8of9)

May 2, 2010

 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

 

Contemplatives follow in this ancient tradition of spending time at the ‘feet of God’ (so to speak) listening to the whispers and intimations of the voice of divine wisdom. In the story from the Gospel of Luke quoted above, the two sisters of Mary and Martha are contrasted in their responses to the presence of Jesus in their home. One sister, Martha, takes on the typical role of Jewish matriarch and hostess energetically using her time to prepare a meal for her honoured guest – the teacher and rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, who, according to the gospel accounts of his life, had become something of a prominent celebrity in their region of Israel at that time.

 The other sister, Mary, takes upon herself not the role of hostess, but that of devotee or disciple. She sits at the teacher’s feet, perhaps gazing into his face, listening to his words. As I understand it, Mary’s actions were quite controversial at the time as the place of sitting at a Rabbi’s feet was usually reserved only for disciples of that teacher and disciples would be men not women. Yet here in this early gospel text, the author describes a woman paying focused attention not on Jesus’ practical needs of food and drink, but to his words. Words that we might imagine could have been delivered softly, gently, seriously, thoughtfully, humourously as in intimate conversation, in contrast to Jesus’ usual preaching voice shouting out to the  gathered crowds.

This short passage illustrates in many ways the contemplative’s heartfelt desire and longing for communion with God – intimacy, relationship, time, devotion, prayer, listening. The contemplative is almost driven to put aside the business of daily life and find time and space to set aside to contemplating the wonder, and majesty, tenderness and love of the Divinity. Usually in the history of world religions the contemplative vocation has been considered a ‘high’ one. Yet, to be a contemplative is in some ways an anti-social, rejection of ordinary life. In stead it is a choice to find the insights of transcendence in solitude, quiet and inactivity (although this should not be confused with passivity, as contemplation is an active engagement with the mysteries of God and the Universe).

One famous modern writer who explored in-depth the contemplative lifestyle was Thomas Merton (31 January 1915 – 10 December 1968). His writings have been very popular with thoughtful, prayerful people from many walks of life. They can be difficult to read and somewhat densely written, but they contain many gems of insight and wisdom into the life of simplicity, prayer and social action for modern people, both women and men.  I have found a picture of Merton in colour below, dressed in simple denim clothes and posed sitting on a bare stool with the trees of his beloved forest arround him. I have also found some quotes by Merton at http://www.octanecreative.com/merton/quotes.html.

  • What do you think about Merton’s words written in the nineteen fifties and sixties do they still speak to us today?
  • Do you resonate with the place of Mary in the gospel story at the home of Martha and Mary? Or do you relate more to Martha – the diligent, active and caring  hostess?
  • It is worth noting that Jesus did not criticise Martha’s active behaviour, which of course practically helps to create a hospitable atmosphere for her no doubt hungry and thirsty guests. However, he refuses to ‘take away’ from Mary – the contemplative – what she has chosen in those precious moments of closeness with an extraordinary teacher. She chooses simple stillness, devotion and loving attention to the presence and words of a unique divine messenger. She shows herself to be a contemplative at heart.

“There is a silent self within us whose presence is disturbing precisely because it is so silent: it can’t be spoken. It has to remain silent. To articulate it, to verbalize it, is to tamper with it, and in some ways to destroy it.

Now let us frankly face the fact that our culture is one which is geared in many ways to help us evade any need to face this inner, silent self. We live in a state of constant semiattention to the sound of voices, music, traffic, or the generalized noise of what goes on around us all the time. This keeps us immersed in a flood of racket and words, a diffuse medium in which our consciousness is half diluted: we are not quite ‘thinking,’ not entirely responding, but we are more or less there. We are not fully present and not entirely absent; not fully withdrawn, yet not completely available. It cannot be said that we are really participating in anything and we may, in fact, be half conscious of our alienation and resentment. Yet we derive a certain comfort from the vague sense that we are ‘part of’ something – although we are not quite able to define what that something is – and probably wouldn’t want to define it even if we could. We just float along in the general noise. Resigned and indifferent, we share semiconsciously in the mindless mind of Muzak and radio commercials which passes for ‘reality.’”

Thomas Merton: Essential Writings

 

“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own isolated meditations. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love. And if this love is unreal, the secret will not be found, the meaning will never reveal itself, the message will never be decoded. At best, we will receive a scrambled and partial message, one that will deceive and confuse us. We will never be fully real until we let ourselves fall in love – either with another human person or with God.” Love and Living, Thomas Merton

 

“If the salvation of society depends, in the long run, on the moral and spiritual health of individuals, the subject of contemplation becomes a vastly important one, since contemplation is one of the indications of spiritual maturity. It is closely allied to sanctity. You cannot save the world merely with a system. You cannot have peace without charity. You cannot have social order without saints, mystics, and prophets.” A Thomas Merton Reader

“What we are asked to do is to love; and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbor worthy if anything can. Indeed, that is one of the most significant things about the power of love. There is no way under the sun to make a man worthy of love except by loving him. As soon as he realizes himself loved – if he is not so weak that he can no longer bear to be loved – he will feel himself instantly becoming worthy of love. He will respond by drawing a mysterious spiritual value out of his own depths, a new identity called into being by the love that is addressed to him.”  Disputed Questions by Thomas Merton

“There must be a time of day when the man who makes plans forgets his plans, and acts as if he had no plans at all.There must be a time of day when the man who has to speak falls very silent. And his mind forms no more propositions, and he asks himself: Did they have a meaning?

There must be a time when the man of prayer goes to pray as if it were the first time in his life he had ever prayed; when the man of resolutions puts his resolutions aside as if they had all been broken, and he learns a different wisdom: distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from the dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill.”  No Man is an Island

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‘We simply went out looking for the lost and the dying’ – Spiritual Temperaments (6 of 9): Caring for the poor and marginalised

April 23, 2010

“Caregivers serve God by serving others. They often claim to see Christ in the poor and needy, and their faith is built up by interacting with other people. Such (people) may find the devotional lives of contemplatives and enthusiasts as selfish. Whereas caring for others might wear many of us down, this recharges a caregiver’s batteries.”

Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas, Page 27

I have been wondering about how to write this section on spiritual temperaments as I personally struggle with giving physical care to others in need, although I find prayer, contemplation, sensuous worship and being out in nature, natural, spiritual responses for me. I do care about the poor and needy though and when I can, I attempt to chat and listen to homeless people who are selling magazines such as The Big Issue ( a magazine started in the late 80s/early 90s in Britain to help homeless people provide for themselves). Still such random, small acts of humanity seem like crumbs compared to the banquets real care-givers provide for the weak, poor and marginalised.

Since being a teenager, I have always liked the earthy, salty and fiery common sense teachings of the writer of the Book of James in the New Testament. I always love the following phrase which is set in the context of not just listening to the ‘word’ (or new teaching of Jesus), but doing it. James seems to encapsulate the heart of the Christian message, as do so many caregivers:

26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:26-27

Those words inspire me:

27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…

Oh yes, let it be so!

Thomas uses the example of Mother Teresa in his book – a supreme model of self-giving and caring for the oppressed and poverty-stricken ordinary people of India, whose example has led to the setting up of convents and missionary works to minister to the poor across the globe. An extraordinary woman and an extraordinary Christian, whose work today is carried out by many more beautiful and humble servants of God and of suffering people.

 

However, the people who come to my mind are still alive today and have established an amazing ministry in Mozambique, with influence across the world. They have experienced many signs, wonders, visions and miracles while working with some of the poorest most unfortunate and weakest of society – abandoned children and orphans – in a country which was and still is, I believe, one of the poorest in the whole world.

How have they done it? Well, to be honest I really don’t know how to describe their work adequately in words, but you can read more about their mission and work in Mozambique at the following web-address:

http://www.irismin.org/p/background.php

I also wholeheartedly commend the book There is Always Enough The Story of Rolland and Heidi Baker’s miraculous ministry among the poor by Rolland and Heidi Baker, Sovereign World Ltd. I think it may have been republished simply as Always Enough.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/There-Always-Enough-Miraculous-Mozambique/dp/1852402873/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272051122&sr=1-1

The Bakers’ story is heartbreaking and awe inspiring in the wonderful progress they have made and continue to make with the poor children and people of Mozambique. A lot of it is difficult to believe that such good things could be done by ‘ordinary’ human beings with the help of God. The testimonies, however, are breathtaking and heart warming as the weak are touched in the kindest ways by the  love of God, are healed and transformed. It’s a wonderful read and a wonderful example of what practical caring for the poor, as well as powerful intimacy and worship of God through Jesus can do in this broken, but beautiful world.

I would like to finish with just a few quotations from Always Enough :

‘There still wasn’t much at Chihango (this was the state orphanage taken over temporarily by the Bakers on arriving in Mozambique) for the children. Their rooms were bare, picked clean by thieves. They slept on the cement floor with no sheets, pillows or even mats. There was absolutely nothing in their rooms. They had no extra clothes other than those on their backs. They had no possessions of any kind. Many of them needed medical attention. Some were missing limbs from land mine explosions.

I bought the children their first cups and plates. For years they had eaten out of troughs and drunk under faucets. we brought toothbrushes. We repaired a bakery that had been built years ago at Chihango and started baking seven hundred loaves a day, for us and for sale in town. We cleaned the septic tanks, installed wiring and painted walls. We hauled beans and rice from South Africa in a used army trailer. We assumed total responsibility for the centre’s administration and funding. It had been treated as a correctional institution for problem street children, but we turned it into a gospel centre for desperate and unwanted children of any kind. We simply went out looking for the lost and the dying.’

There is Always Enough, Rolland and Heidi Baker, page 41

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Spiritual Temperaments – Activists energised by struggling for justice (5 of 9)

April 20, 2010
 
“Activists serve a God of justice, and their favourite Scripture is often the account of Jesus cleansing the temple…Activists may adopt either social or evangelistic causes, but they find their home in the rough-and-tumble world of confrontation. They are energised more by interaction with others, even in conflict, than by being alone or in small groups.”
 
Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas, Page 26 

 

When I think of activists, I think of the charities and social campaign groups, such as Greenpeace, Oxfam, The Children’s Society, Christian Aid, (C.A.P.) Christians Against Poverty, Amnesty International etc. The people who work for these organisations are tireless in campaigning for social and/or environmental justice in our country, but also in other nations across the globe.

Greenpeace is one charitable organisation that often makes me think and question the selfishness of my  21st Century consumer-driven lifestyle. These environmental activists campaign for ordinary people, politicians and big-businesses to stop abusing the natural world and to take better care of the living organisms of the earth’s bio-sphere.

Deforestation in Amazon rainforest

Recently they campaigned against Nestle using palm oil in their chocolate bars, such as Kit Kat. It took the careful attention, boundless energy and concerted efforts of activists at Greenpeace to highlight for the public the devastatingly negative consequences of a large chocolate manufacturer purchasing palm oil from South East Asia, where rainforests are being torn down to grow featureless miles upon miles of palm oil plants. As a consequence, the natural inhabitants of the rainforests such as Orangutans are being slaughtered through the deforestation process. It’s a chilling connection, which few of us would make where it not for the efforts of Greenpeace and other environmentalists’ activism.

Environmental activism is just one form of campaigning which those people who have an activist spiritual temperament might participate in. For me, although organisations such as Greenpeace have no particular religious affiliation, their dedicated work to alerting peoples’ attentions to the cruelty of modern exploitative, ‘developmental’ processes towards many animals, fish, sea mammals, birds, plants and other natural creatures is part of God’s mandate to humanity, as recorded at the beginning of the Bible:

Genesis 1 (The Message)

Heaven and Earth

 1-2First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.

 3-5 God spoke: “Light!”
      And light appeared.
   God saw that light was good
      and separated light from dark.
   God named the light Day,
      he named the dark Night.
   It was evening, it was morning—
   Day One.

 6-8 God spoke: “Sky! In the middle of the waters;
      separate water from water!”
   God made sky.
   He separated the water under sky
      from the water above sky.
   And there it was:
      he named sky the Heavens;
   It was evening, it was morning—
   Day Two.

 9-10 God spoke: “Separate!
      Water-beneath-Heaven, gather into one place;
   Land, appear!”
      And there it was.
   God named the land Earth.
      He named the pooled water Ocean.
   God saw that it was good.

 

 

 11-13 God spoke: “Earth, green up! Grow all varieties
      of seed-bearing plants,
   Every sort of fruit-bearing tree.”
      And there it was.
   Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
      all varieties,
   And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
      God saw that it was good.
   It was evening, it was morning—
   Day Three.

 14-15 God spoke: “Lights! Come out!
      Shine in Heaven’s sky!
   Separate Day from Night.
      Mark seasons and days and years,
   Lights in Heaven’s sky to give light to Earth.”
      And there it was.

 16-19 God made two big lights, the larger
      to take charge of Day,
   The smaller to be in charge of Night;
      and he made the stars.
   God placed them in the heavenly sky
      to light up Earth
   And oversee Day and Night,
      to separate light and dark.
   God saw that it was good.
   It was evening, it was morning—
   Day Four.

 20-23 God spoke: “Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life!
      Birds, fly through the sky over Earth!”
   God created the huge whales,
      all the swarm of life in the waters,
   And every kind and species of flying birds.
      God saw that it was good.
   God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Ocean!
      Birds, reproduce on Earth!”
   It was evening, it was morning—
   Day Five.

 24-25 God spoke: “Earth, generate life! Every sort and kind:
      cattle and reptiles and wild animals—all kinds.”
   And there it was:
      wild animals of every kind,
   Cattle of all kinds, every sort of reptile and bug.
      God saw that it was good.

 26-28 God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
      reflecting our nature
   So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
      the birds in the air, the cattle,
   And, yes, Earth itself,
      and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
   God created human beings;
      he created them godlike,
   Reflecting God’s nature.
      He created them male and female.
   God blessed them:
      “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
   
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
      for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

 29-30 Then God said, “I’ve given you
      every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth
   And every kind of fruit-bearing tree,
      given them to you for food.
   To all animals and all birds,
      everything that moves and breathes,
   I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.”
      And there it was.

 31 God looked over everything he had made;
      it was so good, so very good!
   It was evening, it was morning—
   Day Six.
 

I like Eugene Peterson’s translation of this ancient, ancient passage of the Bible from the beginnings of the Hebrew Scriptures. Peterson channels something of the creative energy and joy that Jews, Christians, Muslims especially believe took place at the beginnings of the Universe and formation of the Earth, so many eons ago.

Peterson is also careful to translate the word which for hundreds of years was translated as ‘have dominion over’ in the King James Version of the Bible, as ‘be responsible for’. Some may argue over the linguistic accuracy, yet from what we know now from science and environmental studies that humanity has used the mandate to have dominion over nature purely to exploit and capitalise upon it, bringing the planet ever closer to complete destruction that surely God’s intention was for human beings to care and steward for nature, not rape it for personal profit.

Activists may often make us feel unease in our comfortable lifestyles, when they draw our attentions off material gain and succeeding according to society’s materialistic goals, and instead point to the needless suffering and agony in the world due to humanity’s inherent selfishness and greed. However, they are some of the prophets of our generation and their sobering message is a very much-needed in a culture of ‘me’ orientated hedonism.

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Spiritual Temperaments- Traditionalism (3 of 9)

April 15, 2010

He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." Luke 22:19

In his helpful book on nine different kinds of spiritual temperament – Sacred Pathways, Christian author Gary Thomas describes a third category of people whom he calls: Traditionalists. He writes: 

‘Traditionalists are fed by…the historic dimensions of faith: rituals, symbols, sacraments, and sacrifice. These people tend to have a disciplined life of faith. Some may be seen by others as legalists, defining their faith largely by matters of conduct…Traditionalists have a need for ritual and structure. The contemplative’s unstructured “prayer of the quiet” would be confusing and fairly un-fulfilling to them.’ (Page 24) 

Thomas identifies 3 distinct aspects to the traditionalist way of life: 

  1. Ritual (or liturgical pattern)
  2. Symbol (or significant image)
  3. Sacrifice

The three different facets of the traditionalist approach are physical ways of representing spiritual realities. (Page 73) 

A resurgence of interest in traditionalist spirituality can be found in the recent popularity of Celtic spirituality, New Monasticism and the Rule of Benedict. The Northumbria Community are one example of a contemporary community that practices and encourages associate members to regularly pray the Office during the day. They divide each day by stopping, recollecting and praying at specific times – morning (matins), noon, evening and Compline. These prayer times are practised together at their community house in Northumbria, but associates also follow this rule, wherever they may be in the world by using the Northumbria Community’s Prayer Book and guided readings – Celtic Daily Prayer. 

The Rule of Benedict , is a  medieval book written by Saint Benedict of thoughts and guidance on the monastic life that has influenced most religious orders in Western Europe. It has received popular interest due to the 2005 television programme The Monastery, which followed three nonreligious men in their thirties and one older retired man experiencing a month long retreat at the Benedictine monastery Worth Abbey in England. 

A helpful book inspired by the Abbot of Worth Abbey’s experiences with guiding nonreligious people through retreat at the monastery is Finding Sanctuary – Monastic Steps for Everyday Life. Abbot Christopher Jamison refers to many modern peoples’ frustration and disasitisfaction at their lives being so busy. He then sets out seven monastic steps based on the Rule of Benedict which he believes can help the modern person remedy the busy distraction of their contemporary lives. They are: 

  1. Silence
  2. Contemplation
  3. Obedience
  4. Humility
  5. Community
  6. Spirituality
  7. Hope 

  

Thomas in his book provides helpful questions to discern whether you are a traditionalist. Giving yourself a grade between 5 and 1 for each question – five being very true and one being not true at all.

  1. I sense God most intimately when I take part in a style of worship that returns me to childhood memories. Traditions and rituals touch my soul more than anything else.
  2. I believe that an emphasis on individual self-expression within the church can be detrimental to peoples’ spiritual well-being. Christianity is about being part of a community and therefore our faith should be expressed as corporate worship.
  3. Tradition and history are both words that appeal to me.
  4. I would enjoy taking part in a formal liturgy or prayer-book service. I like to remind myself of my beliefs and spiritual loyalties by placing symbols in my car, house and workplace. I also feel that the religious calendar is important for me and my family. I like to follow the different seasons and celebrations of my faith throughout the year.
  5. A book such as Celtic Daily Prayer would interest me.
  6. I enjoy developing my own personal daily rituals for prayer, meditation, study, and spending time alone or with friends.

  

Once again the higher the score the more your temperament fits the traditionalist description.  

(Sacred Pathways, page 92-3) 

http://www.cloistersonline.com 

http://www.northumbriacommunity.org/ 

http://www.findingsanctuary.org/index.htm 

http://www.worthabbey.net/bbc/

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Spiritual Temperaments – Experiencing the Divine through the Senses (2 of 9)

April 14, 2010
 
 
‘Sensate(s)…want to be lost in the awe, beauty, and splendour of God. They are drawn particularly to the liturgical, the majestic, the grand. When sensate people worship, they want to be filled with sights, sounds, and smells that overwhelm them. Incense, intricate architecture, classical music, and formal language send their hearts soaring.’
 Sacred Pathways – Gary Thomas, P.23
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

A Mosaic of Christ the Pantocrator (Creator of All) from the Hagia Sopia Constantinople

 

 Thomas’ second group of people  are ‘sensates’.  These people find it first and foremost easiest to relate to the transcendent through the five senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Religious Traditions across the world have used practices which communicate through all of the senses, a vivid example being Hindu worship of Indian deities, which often involves fire, water, food, flowers, pictures and incense. Western culture, however, especially in Northern Europe has over the centuries  turned its back on sensuous practices for a more austere and bland kind of religion.  This development was firstly influenced by the Protestant Reformation’s rejection of Roman Catholic rituals and iconography in the sixteenth century, in favour of a religion based solely on the ‘Word of God’, i.e.  the preaching and singing of the Bible. Furthermore, it was also shaped by the industrial revolution and a modernistic emphasis on proving the rightness of ideas purely through rational argument. Even today many non-Conformist church buildings and services are very minimalistic and with little decoration. 

Yet, a very sensuous kind of worship in European culture has always been evident in the Eastern Orthodox church,where ornate architecture and vivid, stylised icons, combine with ritualistic liturgies and practices such as the burning of incense, lighting of candles, kissing of icons and annointing with oil.

 

Lighting a candle can be a special form of prayer

 

The above photograph depicts a scene from a Bulgarian Orthodox church, but it reminds me of my years spent liiving, studying and working in Romania. In every Orthodox church I visited in Romania there is a place to remember friends, family and hurting people by lighting a candle. When I was far away from home it felt to me like a powerful and touching way of praying for my distant relatives and friends. Sometimes when it was difficult to pray in long sentences, the gesture of lighting a candle in the darkness seemed to speak much more clearly and profoundly to God and to my soul than I could with mere words.

 

Thomas writes in his book Sacred Pathways (pages 51-61) that he percieves Dutch Roman Catholic priest, Henri Nouwen to be a sensate Christian. He is struck by Nouwen’s description of his encounter with Rembrandt’s painting – The Return of the Prodigal Son – described in his book by the same title. Nouwen writes how he was visiting a friend after a busy and exhausting lecture tour. While sitting in his friend’s office he was taken aback by a poster of  Rembrandt’s painting on the wall. Nouwen describes how at that point in time the painting communicated to him deeply exactly what he felt that he needed. Simply, to kneel in front of a Father God and be embraced. Moved by the encounter with the picture, Nouwen then set about trying to arrange a visit to Moscow, where The Return of the Prodigal Son is exhibited, to see the painting at first hand.

 

For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' Luke 15:24

 

Rembrandt’s painting has a very sensuous presence. Painted in rich colours, subtle tones and hues, with dim lighting surrounded by deep shadows. A blood red robed elderly Father gently envelopes the destitute son barely covered in rags, as other characters from the story and the Gospels look on. As viewers we might take in some of the senses involved in this picture. Touch especially, is winsomely communicated. The softness of the Father’s luxurious clothing, the human, non-threatening warmth of  both Father and Son’s  reunion embrace. Perhaps, we might also imagine the scene effecting our sense of smell as the woody fragrant spices the Father is wearing and the unpleasant reeking of the son -unwashed and unclean, having worked in a farm feeding pigs, blend together in a very human scene of  a wealthy father welcoming a poor son. At the same time sight is obviously involved. The lighting is intimate, bathing the scene of familial reconciliation in gentle amber light while all around is in darkness and shadow.

If a painting such as the one above and traditional religious devotion inspires you then you may well be a Sensate. Thomas asks the following questions (page 66). Marking each question 1 to 5, with five being very true and one being not true at all.

  1. I feel closest to God when I’m in a church that allows my senses to come alive – when I can see, smell, hear and almost taste his majesty.
  2. I enjoy attending a “high church” service with incense and formal Communion or Eucharist.
  3. I’d have a difficult time worshipping in a church building that is plain and lacks a sense of awe or majesty. Beauty is very important to me, and I have a difficult time worshipping though second-rate Christian art or music.
  4. The words sesnsuous, colourful and aromatic are very appealing to me.
  5. I would find a book called Beauty and the Transcendent interesting to read.
  6. I would like to explore prayer through drawing, art and music.

 A high score between 15 and 30 would indicate that you have a disposition oriented towards experiencing the world and God through the five senses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Discussion board: “What aspects of life make you feel more in tune with your soul and the transcendent?”

April 11, 2010

In the next couple of weeks, I will continue to look at the nine spiritual temperaments as described by Gary Thomas in his book – The Sacred Pathways. In parallel to this I would like to invite people to contribute their own thoughts  and feelings on what aspects of life they find truly energises or inspires them.

Discussion

 

“What aspects of life make you feel more in tune with your soul and the transcendent?”

 

Please post your comments below:

I would describe myself as a frustrated Protestant Sensate, Martha-like always painfully aware of the human and monetary cost of churches that are ‘dripping’ with luxurious materials which to some extent form a barrier between myself and the Infinite Father and yet something ‘lights up’ in the presence of paintings such as the Rembrandt Prodigal Son… the artist has expressed something which I feel but cannot articulate.

However, much of the early art was paid for by rich people who wanted to reduce their time in purgatory and the heavy work of carting tons of marble/stone to the top of the hill (witness Malta for example) were poor workers which taints and interferes with the spiritual rapture a little.

S Harman

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Spiritual Temperaments – Nature lovers (1of9)

April 11, 2010

'Leave the books behind, forget the demonstrations - just let them take a walk through the woods, mountains or open meadows.' (P22)

Saint Anthony, was an ascetic and monk who lived in the Egyptian desert during the third century CE. Thomas notes that: ‘he was made famous by the writings of Athanasius and was once asked: 

“How…dost thou content thyself, father, who are denied the comfort of books?” 

Anthony replied: “My book, philosopher, is the nature of created things, and as often as I have a mind to read the words of God, it is at my hand.”‘ 

The Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas, Zondervan,P.39 

Thomas includes in his book, helpful short questionnaires at the end of each chapter to help readers discern if that specific temperament is one that resonates with them. For naturalists he asks the reader to score the following statements on a scale of one to five: 

  1. ‘I feel closest to God when I’m surrounded by what he has made – the mountains, the forests, or the sea.
  2. I feel cut off if I have to spend too much time indoors, just listening to speakers or singing songs. Nothing makes me feel closer to God than being outside.
  3. I would prefer to worship God by spending an hour beside a small brook than by participating in a group service.
  4. If I could escape to a garden to pray on a cold day, walk through a meadow on a warm day and take a trip by myself to the mountains on another day. I would be very happy.
  5. A book called Nature’s Sanctuaries: A picture book would be appealing to me.
  6. Seeing God’s beauty in nature is more moving to me than understanding new concepts, participating in a formal religious  service, or participating in social causes.’ (P.49)

A high score for these statements would indicate at least an underlying appreciation, if not preference, for this kind of spirituality.