Posted in Authentic Freedom Academy, church, Mystics, Spiritual Formation

Not That There’s Anything Wrong with That (Church that is!)

In Monday’s blog, I made it clear that the Authentic Freedom Academy Sunday Service is NOT Church. Today I want to make it equally clear, “Not that there is anything wrong with it (Church, that is).” Church, as we have (mostly) experienced it in the West, is a beneficial human practice which speaks deeply and profoundly to the needs of some. This traditional model of Church provides for a specific human need – it declares certainty in what is at best, an uncertain world. In the human condition there is suffering. Poverty, hunger, disease and death are all very real parts of the human experience. Good things happen to bad people and bad people often seem to be rewarded for their evils. All of these realities of the human experience create anxiety, worry and fear in even the most courageous and daring of human beings. In the face of all this uncertainty – the Church provides comfort in promises of a peaceful future in the afterworld – for those able and willing to fulfill the conditions necessary for acceptance into this heavenly abode. If you follow these rules, obey these commandments, live according to the regulations of the outside perceived authority, then you will be happy in the afterlife. For many, this provides great peace.

This model of Church that we have mostly known in the West is not the only way in which Westerners have experienced Church…it is just the one that gets the most attention. This model of Church that seems to get the most attention is the orthodox (concerned about doctrine, dogma, rules, enforcing rules, priest as intercessor) and exoteric (outward directed) model of Church whose greatest concern is the hereafter.

 

TeresaAvila

While the exoteric model of Church has gained prominence, developing alongside the orthodox Church, is the contemplative/mystical church (notice the lower case “c”) and its concern with personal relationship, direct knowing, personal growth and development; and whose deepest concern is experiencing heaven on earth. This is the church experienced by Francis and Clare of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Ignatius of Loyola, Hildegard of Bingen – and many more. This is the model of church that historically been “in” the Church, but not “of” the Church. While ultimately under the jurisdiction of the papal hierarchy, these models of church have developed outside the influence of orthodoxy, guided by its founders’ intimate and personal relationship with Christ.

If the Authentic Freedom Academy Sunday Service is accused of being anything like church, it would be the latter – contemplative, mystical, concerned with personal relationship, direct knowing, personal growth and whose deepest concern is experiencing heaven on earth. In an uncertain world, with an equally uncertain future the only choice we have is to make the best of what we’ve been given and this is what Jesus originally taught. Jesus taught his disciples to actively seek peace in the midst of the only thing that is certain in the human condition – uncertainty. In the human condition we experience it all – love and hate, elation and pain, joy and suffering. Why not turn to tried and true methods for navigating the ever-changing landscape of our human experience, tools that help us find peace in the midst of suffering, comfort in the face of pain, love in the face of hate? This is what Jesus taught and what he intended his disciples to teach after him. If there is any kind of church that Authentic Freedom Academy might be called to emulate, it is this one.

Posted in church, Mary Magdalene, Mystics

Call of the Magdalene

In my email on Sunday in regards to Sunday’s blog, I received the following response from a reader of the masculine persuasion who I have come to know as somewhat of a wise and wonderful wizard:

Greetings Lauri, nicely done. On that morning, the messenger was a woman, sent to awaken the men. 

We should have learned from that story not to be afraid, to be calm and to change the world! 

I could not have said it better myself and in these words, we get a glimpse into what it means to have received the call of the Magdalene!

Yesterday, I wrote about some of the common characteristics of men and women who have received the call of the Magdalene.  Today, I hope to flesh out what the call of the Magdalene looks like and if you have received the Magdalene’s call, what that might mean in your life.

MaryMagdalene

Who Was Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene was a close and intimate disciple of Jesus.  Mary was NOT the adulterous or sinful woman portrayed in scripture – Pope Gregory, something or other, made a mistake when he preached on this, thereby sealing Mary’s fate in the institutional church.  But, the demise of Mary probably didn’t start there!  Canonical scripture (the ones that made the cut) tells us that Mary was healed of seven demons by Jesus.  Modern scholars suggest that the seven demons metaphorically represent a process of spiritual healing and initiation completed by Mary and facilitated by Jesus.  Canonical scripture also tells us that Mary accompanied Jesus in his ministry and supported him and that she bore witness to his death by crucifixion (unlike the male disciples, with the exception of John, who hid in the Upper Room in fear) and that she was the first witness to the resurrection and the one commissioned to bring the news of the crucifixion to the other disciples.  Non-canonical scripture tells us that Mary was much more than even this.  In the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip, along with the Pistis Sophia, Mary was shown to have been kissed by Jesus, suggesting a the possibility of a romantically intimate relationship and that she received secret teachings from Jesus that the other disciples were not privy to.  In the Gospel of Mary, in particular, Mary demonstrates higher levels of receptiveness and understanding, compared to the other disciples, and that Jesus appeared to her for instruction that the other disciples did not have access to.  These writings also reveal that Peter was jealous of Mary and her relationship with Jesus and that he struggled to accept Mary’s words, often refusing outright to do so.

MaryMagdaleneicon

Reading Between the Lines

Reading between the lines, what this conflict between Mary and Peter hints at is the origin of the split between the Mystical and Institutional church – Mary representing the mystical church and Peter the institutional.  The Mystical Church seeks to know God through direct and personal experience, most commonly through contemplative prayer and meditation practices and trusting these direct and personal experiences as authority.  We see glimpses of the Mystical Church within religious orders who have guarded and maintained the ancient traditions of contemplative prayer and in priests and lay people who have heard and adhered to the inner call to contemplation – regardless of their specific religious affiliation, or lack thereof.  In the simplest terms, the Institutional Church seeks to know God through tradition and dogma as handed down by the pope and his bishops.  Here, authority lies in the hands of single, (mostly) white, men.

History of the Mystical Church

There have been no direct histories written about the Mystical Church because the Institutional Church, for the most part, denies its existence.  In order to see the history of the Mystical Church, we have to read between the lines.  In spite of the attempts of popes and bishops to suppress the Mystical Church, it has always lived within the shadow of the Institution  – usually presenting itself strongly in times of grave peril within the Institutional Church when dramatic reform was needed.  The Mystical Church as been seen in the prayers of the Desert Mothers and Fathers, in the radical nature of the Franciscan call as pioneered by Sts. Francis and Clare, in the mystical visions of Hildegard of Bingen and promoted by her spiritual companion Brother Volmar, and through the ecstasies of St. Teresa of Avila and the writings of her spiritual brother, John of the Cross. (Interesting that the Mystical Church often presents itself in pairs!)

MaryMagicon

The Mystical Church Awakens

We have arrived in a time in history when the Mystical Church is trying to rise again, this time, not in order to change the Church, but instead, so that it may change the world (PS Pope Francis might be part of the Mystical Church!)!  As the wise wizard stated above, it is time to awaken, to cast off our fear, to be calm and do the work of changing the world!  It is for this reason that the Magdalene has planted herself within the hearts and minds of so many men and women.  She is calling us to awaken, to do the work Jesus asked us to do, not because some institution told us to, but because we have heard the call directly from Christ (by whatever name you call the inner voice of compassion and love) and because we are choosing to obey the voice in our hearts and in our minds that commands us to:

Love one another.

Feed the hungry.

Clothe the naked.

Set captives free.

Heal the sick.

Give sight to the blind.

If you find yourself called to accomplish any of the above, if you consider this drive to love and serve as part of your innate nature, then, regardless of your religious affiliation (or lack thereof) you have received the call of the Magdalene.  You are already awakened, now cast off your fear, cultivate peace and start changing the world!  🙂

Posted in Gifts of Contemplation, Holy Spirit, Inspiration, Raised Catholic

Mystic Manifesto

What does it mean to be a mystic in the modern-world?  What do we have that Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Francis and Clare didn’t have?  How are we called to be mystics in a world that often judges belief and faith to be frivolous and naïve?  As a contemplative, raised Catholic, trying to find my place, I often wonder….

Crue

4:30 wakeup calls

Just for the record, in no way, shape or form, do I boast about Jesus ringing my doorbell at 4:30 in the morning and paying me a little visit (see yesterday’s blog).  In fact, rather than tell the tale, I’d rather run into the darkest corner of the room and hide behind the couch or beneath the dining room table.  For you see, I’m the last person Jesus should be visiting.  I’m not a Jesus Freak.  I’m not a bible thumper.  I will never ask you to change your beliefs or inquire over whether or not you’ve been saved (mostly because I don’t believe there is anyone who is NOT saved).  I’m imperfect and flawed just like everyone else.  Yes, God is my Source, Jesus is my dude and Shekinah (the Holy Spirit) drives my purpose.  But other than that….I’m just plain Lauri.  I color outside the lines.  I listen to heavy metal music.  I have a few tattoos.  And I swear (kind of a lot).  But, for some strange reason, Jesus got planted into my heart and he keeps showing up.  So, what am I supposed to do but pay attention, listen and act…in most cases from a place of incredible insecurity and fear.

Mystics, Tramps and Thieves

Just a little play on words…..and a reminder that mystics (people who talk to God) are a strange and Motley Crue (another play on spelling).  While many are familiar with St. Francis and Clare who talked with God, Joan of Arc who was instructed by angels and saints, Teresa of Avila who had ecstatic experiences of the Divine…no one really talks about the mystics of today.  Who are we?  We are the weirdos who, even in the midst of the post-modern era, the supposed age of reason, with science guiding our steps, still talk to God.  But more than talking….we listen.  And how do we listen?  We listen through a deep dedication to our spiritual practice which may or may not look very traditional.  While my spiritual practice might look pretty traditional (a little scripture, some meditation and contemplation and maybe even some chant), the modern-day mystic is not limited by the trappings of institutions.  While there are mystics within the hallowed halls of sacred institutions….some of us are simply running amok in the street and in YOUR WORLD!  One mystic that I know hears God in nature.  Another in his art.  Another through her music.  Another through his encounters with people.

Being the Body of Christ

But even more important than talking and listening to God, a mystic is known in the way that they serve.  In most cases, you will not see us wearing a collar or a habit, but you might recognize us in the wide-eyed look of generosity shining back at you through our eyes.  What you might not know about mystics, is that we have no choice but to serve.  For service, you see, is the natural result of paying attention to God.  Once you open that door and let the flame of the Spirit in…..she sets you on fire…most especially your hands, heart and feet.  With the fire of God’s love aflame in our hearts, we have no choice but to share that fire in the world.  The mystic’s dream is to embody God and in doing so, to set the world on fire with God’s love…healing, transformation, empowering…and look out if you come anywhere near a mystic….because you can’t help but be compelled to seek your own inner fire and in doing so, finding yourself.

A Mystic’s Prayer

In closing, here is a beautiful poem by Rainer Marie Rilke which speaks to the Mystic’s call to serve…and what I might call the Mystic Manifesto:

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.

I want to free what waits within me

so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear

without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,

but this is what I need to say.

May what I do flow from me like a river,

no forcing and no holding back,

the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,

these deepening tides moving out, returning,

I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels

into the open sea.

Posted in church, Jesus, Mary Magdalene

Resurrecting the church of the Magdalene Part IV

Today’s blog is Part IV of a series exploring the role of Mary Magdalene in the early years of the Jesus movement, its retreat under the shadow of orthodoxy and the invitation to restore her (and her movement) to its rightful place in the light.

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are…..

So, if we are resurrecting the church of the Magdalene…..how did it die and where did it go?  Again, based on 20+ years of research, study, reflection, prayer, meditation, daydreaming and discernment, I have a few theories.  And yet again, don’t ask me to provide proof for the accuracy of these theories because a) good luck finding any    and   b) it quite could just as likely be the working of my overly active and overly romantic imagination.  Nevertheless…..indulge me and see if any of this might resonate as truth with you.

  • Peter (the disciple, later given credit for being “the first pope.”) didn’t like women and certainly didn’t like Mary.  He was jealous of her and refused to hear anything that she had to say (even after some of the other disciples supported her and encouraged Peter to listen to what she had to say.)  Mary was saddened by this.
  • Somewhere, somehow, Mary came to realize that her understandings of the Jesus message would not be accepted by the Jerusalem community, so she left.  (I doubt she waited as long as the fall of Jerusalem in 70 something)  Mary was saddened by this.
  • I have a strong sense (based on very limited supporting information that interestingly now seems to elude me), that from Jerusalem (or Bethany….or somewhere in Israel) that Mary went to Egypt.
  • While in Egypt, a small community of people open to Mary’s views on the Jesus message gathered around her to learn, to take in and to continue the Jesus message (hence, the discovery of the Gospel of Mary in Egypt…..written in Coptic, the language of Egypt during the time of Jesus)
  • Sometime after establishing a community (most likely contemplative) in Egypt, Mary journeyed on to the South of France.
  • Because of the deep and enduring tradition of the Magdalene in Southern France, I sense that Mary spent a great number of years in that area; teaching, preaching, building communities of prayer and contemplation.  Many churches in the area bear her name and her icons.
  • Mary may have spent some time in England as well……Glastonbury claims this tradition to be true as do other communities in England.
  • We do not know where Mary died or where her tomb lies (if there is such a tomb).

But What About the Mary Movement?

Somewhere in the first 300 years of Christianity, the interior, intuitive, contemplative expression of the Jesus message got overshadowed by law, hierarchy, dogma, doctrine, institutionalization.  With Ireneaus anything related to gnosticism (a perspective on religion that favored “direct knowledge” of God over doctrine) got wiped out…and I sense that the Mary Magdalene thread of Christianity got wiped out with it.  It did not really die,however.  Instead, it went underground only to resurface in the various expressions of Christian monasticism…most notably: St. Francis of Assisi, Clare of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, St. Dominic, Hildegard of Bingen, etc.  My sense is that the church of the Magdalene never really died, it only retreated into the contemplative, mystical church, recognized as Western monasticism, waiting for the time that it could once again be brought out into the open for all to appreciate, experience and enjoy.  Albert Nolan reflects on this in his book, Jesus Today:

I have always felt that there were two histories of the Christian Church- the history of the institution with its popes and power struggles, its schisms, conflicts and divisions, its heresy hunting and bureaucracy; and the parallel history of the martyrs, saints, and mystics and their devotion to prayer, humility, and self-sacrifice, their freedom and joy, their boldness and their deep love for everyone and everything.

(Jesus Today; Albert Nolan, pg. 73)

Let Them Eat More Than Cake

The monastic, contemplative communities have done a fabulous job of preserving, maintaining and upholding the intuitive, inner, mystical, expression of the Jesus message.  I believe that this expression of the Christian path is reflective of the work Mary Magdalene accomplished in the first century and that this path is calling to be brought forth into the light so that all (not just the men and women called to religious life) may benefit from its inherent ability to nourish and sustain. In following the path of the mystical church, what I refer to as “the church of the Magdalene” we find our nourishment within in the intimate connection with God…we are sustained, we know peace, love and joy and we find true fulfillment in the knowledge of our gifts and how God is calling us to share these gifts in the world.  Perhaps this is the life giving bread and saving cup to which Jesus so frequently referred and if so, transcends any Institutional limitations on our ability to receive God through the Eucharist(who can or cannot received communion, what it does or doesn’t mean, who can preside over Eucharist or not).  I like to think so anyway.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Inspiration, Spiritual Practices

Happy All Saints’ Day!

As one who was raised Catholic, All Saints’ Day holds a special place in my heart.  All Saints’ Day gives honor to all the men and women who became examples of the Christ message and were honored within the Catholic Church as “Saint”.  For myself, it is the one “holy day of obligation” that I can actually remember and made a point to honor by attending mass and paying my own respect to the saints who have played a special role in my own life.  Since All Saints’ Day falls on a Monday this year, mass will not be offered locally (I know, dumb, right!?), so I will give honor to my favorite saints (canonized and not) in prayer and meditation and through this blog:

Hildegard of Bingen

Joan of Arc

Bernadette Soubirous

Teresa of Avila

Francis and Clare of Assisi

John of the Cross

Dorothy Day

Mother Theresa of Calcutta

Catherine of Siena

Mary, Mother of Jesus

Mary Magdalene (my personal all-time favorite!!!!!)

John the Evangelist

The author of “The Cloud of Unknowing”

Martin Luther

Maria Goretti

Oscar Romero

Mahatma Ghandi

HH Dalai Lama

Edith Stein

Mary Jo Copeland

And I share with you today my FAVORITE litany of the saints that I learned while I was at the Newman Center at UW Oshkosh and that I looked forward to singing on All Saints’ Day and at the Easter Vigil:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2Zyj1PwSfM

All you holy men and women, pray for us!

 

Who are the spiritual men and women who have been a role model and example for you in your own life?

How can you honor and remember them today?

 

 

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries/yourspiritualtruth

http://yourspiritualtruth.com