Day 8 : Thursday 2 March

Hear our voice, O Lord, according to your faithful love.

| Additions to Esther 14.3-14 | Psalm 138.1-3 | Matthew 7.7-12 |


Produced by the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine.

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from: Eternal echoes, by John O'Donohue. Perennial, 1999.pp. 115&ndas;15.

The Prison of Belief

There is nothing in the universe as intimate as the Divine. When the image of the Divine we inherit is negative, it can do untold damage. When your God is a harsh judge, he forces your life to become a watched and haunted hunt for salvation. Like a sinister Argus, this God has eyes everywhere. He sees everything and forgets nothing. Such images of the Divine cripple us. If salvation and healing do not come lyrically as gifts, they are nothing. Belief should liberate your life. Anything that turns belief into torment hardly-merits the term “salvation.” The reduction of the wild eternity of your one life to a harsh divine project is a blasphemy against the call of your soul. People who inhabit the tormented prison of negative deity have awful lives. Tragically, they are partly responsible for keeping themselves locked in there; religion supplied the building material and they took up the task of their own self-incarceration. The spirit of a person is as intimate as his or her sexuality. When a person is theologically or spiritually abused, the pain can shadow the whole life. Spiritual abuse sticks like tar in the core of the mind. When you stay in the inner jail of harsh deity, all the fun, humour, and irony go out of your life. Such a God has a fierce grip; he awakens everything fearful and negative in you and whispers to you that this is who you really are. Your presence becomes atrophied. Your face turns into a brittle, mask-like surface. You have become prisoner and warder in one.

When you turn your natural longing for the Divine into a prison, then everything in you will continue to ache. The prison subverts your longing and makes it toxic. Watched by a negative God, you learn to watch your self with the same harshness. You look out on life and see only sin. Your language becomes over-finished and cold. Others sense behind your eyes the ache of forsakenness that does not even know where to begin searching for itself.

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The world of Celtic spirituality never had such walls. It was not a world of clear boundaries; persons and things were never placed, in bleak isolation from each other. Everything was connected and there was a lovely sense of the fluent flow of presences in and out of each other. The physical world was experienced as the shoreline of an invisible world which flowed underneath it and whose music reverberated upwards. In a certain sense, the Celts understood a parallel fluency in the inner world of the mind. The inner world was no prison. It was a moving theatre of thoughts, visions, and feelings. The Celtic universe was the homeland of the inspi¬rational and the unexpected. This means that the interim region between one person and another, and between the person and Nature, was not empty. Post-modern culture is so lonely, partly because we see nothing in this interim region. Our way of thinking is addicted to what we can see and control. Perception creates the mental prison. The surrounding culture inevitably informs the perception. Part of the wisdom of the Celtic imagination was the tendency to keep real¬ities free and fluent; the Celts avoided the clinical certainties which cause separation and isolation. Such loneliness ,would have been alien to the Celts. They saw themselves as guests in a living, breathing universe. They had great respect for the tenuous regions between the worlds and between the times. The in-between world was also the world of in-between times: between sowing and reaping, pregnancy and birth, intention and action, the end of one season and the beginning of another.

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Susu Slava (Glory To Jesus). Ukrainian Christians sing prayerful praises on the streets of Amsterdam.

May God our Redeemer show us compassion and love. Amen.