A few words on Day One: “God” is not an individual

Before Vatican II, the Catholic Liturgy on January 1st was called the Feast of the Circumcision. It offered midnight revelers the shortest gospel reading of the liturgical year, one verse from Luke: “On the eighth day, Jesus was circumcised.” Period. The priest was supposed to favor the devout revelers, commendable for fulfilling their Holy Day obligation, with an equally short, or nonexistent, sermon.

At this point I ought to quote Bugs Bunny, and say, “That’s all, folks!” But today’s gospel and today’s liturgy suggest we should say a word or two, not about the circumcision, but about Mary, the Mother of God, who originally was, and after Vatican II again is, the real subject of today’s feast.

The simplest topic I could think of is a comparison between God the Trinity and Mary. The Eternal One births the Word and breathes the Spirit; so birthing and breathing are the metaphors of God as love. This love is infinite and absolute, and so God cannot just be a loving individual, someone who loves but is not love itself. The Eternal One transcends us, who are all individuals, loving or not. Mary was an individual, but caught up in love, she transcended her individuality, and so she birthed God from her womb, after breathing in the Spirit.

Speaking of the Spirit, this Holy Breath constantly exhales, which is a funny way of saying that she always breathes life upon us creatures and never takes it away. We live every instant, because she, the Spirit, breathes life. But we creatures are caught in the dualism of inhaling and exhaling. Some people almost never inhale the Holy Breath, and so they miss her subtle fragrance. Because Mary took a deep breath at the Annunciation, she filled her body with the Spirit and she gave an individual human body to the eternal Word.

So what is the conclusion? Let’s all take a deep breath, and be ready like Mary to receive the Spirit, with the Body of her Son, and to give our bodies for the life of the world. If I might suggest a New Year’s resolution, very easy to keep, it would be this: Remember to inhale! Amen!

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Readings on the last Sunday before Christmas

Last Sunday, which was the last one before Christmas, we heard the gospel of the Annunciation to Mary: the Archangel Gabriel comes to her and tells her that, if she consents, she will become the mother of the Son of God. And of course she does consent.

This gospel story is dear to us, but in order to see it in a new light, we might focus on the second reading, from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, especially on his reference to “the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed.” What exactly does he mean? He says something about what “is made known to all the Gentiles… to bring about the obedience of faith.” So the hidden secret is now made known to the Many, to the multitude of peoples who have not been taught by the prophetic writings, the “Law and Prophets,” that is, the Bible. Through these writings, says Paul, the knowledge of the only wise and eternal God was given to the Hebrew people, and now it is extended freely to anyone and everyone.

Question: does Paul affirm or imply that before the coming of Christ, nobody but the people of the Bible knew anything about the wise and eternal, the good and merciful God? First answer: ever since the Romans read the letter Paul sent to them, they, that is, the Christian people, have kept affirming that knowledge of the Ultimate as wise and good has always been available to humans, whatever their religious traditions. This Ultimate Reality communicates to us through nature and through the human spirit; those who contemplate nature and their own soul can know that the Being we call “God” is absolute, eternal, and good.

This is what our own Camaldolese monk Bede Griffiths, whom we remembered on his birthday last Wednesday, called “Universal Wisdom.” The idea goes back to the New Testament itself, and it was developed by Justin Martyr, Basil, Thomas Aquinas, and many others. At the First Vatican Council, it was made into a dogma, in the sense that the council affirmed the mind’s capability of understanding, by contemplating nature as both matter and consciousness, that God is our ultimate end and our highest good. The other dogma of Vatican I, papal infallibility, pales before this affirmation of the reach of the human spirit.

Another question arises when we read the sacred writings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and whatever: do they also reveal the Ultimate Reality? Before these writings were translated into a Western language, that is, before the nineteenth century, the answer was always “no”: it was taken for granted that there was no revelation outside the Bible and church tradition. We can’t take this for granted any more. That is why Bede Griffiths and Jules Monchanin looked forward to an Advent of India in the Church, as well as of the Church in India: advent and incorporation in each other.

The icons and other images of the annunciation to Mary usually show her with a book in her lap. Was she reading the Bible? Maybe, but the symbolism is deeper, and early church writers knew it. She was contemplating the Word in her own spirit, and so the Word was made flesh in her body. Augustine said it in Latin: Prius concepit mente quam ventre: “Mary conceived the incarnate Word in her mind before she did in her womb.” Of course neither Augustine nor anyone else was saying that Mary was a philosopher or an intellectual; what they meant was that her spirit was totally open to the reality of God as present in all things and available to all sentient beings. That is why she could let the Word be made flesh as a child in her womb.

The essential thing is not to restrict the scope of the Word, the divine reality, either in our consciousness or in the cosmos. Philosophers and scientists, intellectuals in general, often restrict their thought to current paradigms; that is, they think freely, but they stay inside the box. Other restrictions exist: David, for instance, had gained power through violence, and this made it impossible for him to build a temple for unrestricted access to God, a house of prayer for all people. Mary gave full access to God in the temple of her mind and the temple of her womb, so that the new temple, the body of the Incarnate Word, might come into our universe.

How do we become temples? One way is when the body of the Word comes to us as transfigured Bread. With Mary we pray that this coming will empower us to shed all our restrictions and to think and live freely in God.

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Incubus 1966 [Movie Script in Esperanto]

Part of human ageing is the rediscovery of youthful passions, but without the passion.

One of my passions was Esperanto, an “art-language” (Eo: artlingvo) composed and published in 1887 by Ludoviko Zamenhof, a Jewish-Polish physician. In 1957, at age 17, I discovered a book on the language by a British musician, Montagu Butler. After two weeks I could read the language and I even wrote a letter in Esperanto to my girl friend. The rapidity of my learning Esperanto is less a reason to boast about my linguistic talents than it is a reason to praise Zamenhof’s skill in creating a consistent grammar (no irregular verbs) and a vocabulary that networks verb and noun roots from most European languages (and a Hebrew root here or there) into a melodious dialect that sounds Italian to Germans and Germanic to Italians.

Today people usually class Esperanto as a “constructed language,” a metaphorical building or palace of the mind. Others call it an “artificial” language, and this would be correct, if we were to say that a great painting or a great symphony was artificial. No, “art” is the better term, and my verb (Zamenhof “composed” Esperanto) suggests that it is something closer to an opera than an apartment block.

Does anyone speak Esperanto? Thousands certainly do, from those who say a few phrases (like the Polish phrases I picked up from my father and grandmother as a child), to those who converse and give lectures in the language. Hardly anyone speaks Esperanto from the cradle, and those who do so either speak it very poorly as adults or simply give it up (like George Soros, whose Jewish father in Nazi-occupied Austria had very good reasons for speaking only Zamenhof’s language to his sons). Esperanto was intended from the first as an auxiliary language, whereby people who couldn’t understand one another’s language could communicate on a level playing field.

If you want to hear it spoken, there are three movies viewable on YouTube which have Esperanto as their total dialogue: in reverse-chronological order, “Gerda Malaperis”, “Incubus”, and “Angoroj”. The middle one was filmed in Big Sur when I was a novice monk at New Camaldoli Hermitage (1966); the scenery was identical to what I could see on occasional hikes in the hills above the hermitage. Several scenes were shot in the chapel of San Antonio Mission just over the hill from us.

As my Esperanta pasio reawakened, I started transcribing the dialogue, which is sometimes incomprehensible on account of the flawed pronunciation (William Shatner spoke his lines with a Montreal-French accent). I deliberately disregarded both subtitles (the French and the English) and patiently listened and relistened to phrase after phrase, often reading lips, to get it right (or almost). I append the script to this blog post.

Disclaimer: like the reason for uploading movies and such to YouTube, this is purely for informational and educational use. A commercial DVD of the film is available, and that is the one I have. To see it for free, go here: http://youtu.be/LHUfHj2lTaM . The original script was apparently destroyed by Leslie Stevens, the director, when the film was panned by the critics and flopped at the box office. If anyone claims I have violated their copyright, I’ll take the text of my transcription off this page. If, on the other hand, you think I deserve some recognition for my toil, you are welcome to make a donation to New Camaldoli Hermitage, Big Sur CA 93920. Or just say a prayer — in Esperanto, if you wish!


[Forscena vocxo] En la vilagxo de Nomen Tuum, antikva cxervfontano estas supozata enhavi kuracpovojn. En certaj okazoj personoj estis risanigitaj, sed pliofte ili akiris certan belecon. Tial la loko altiris la vanajn kaj koruptitajn, same kiel la kriplajn kaj malsanajn personojn. Kiel loko de mallumaj mirakloj, la vilagxo farigxis sin cxasloko pro demonoj aperantaj kiel junaj virinoj, kiuj altiras malpulitajn animojn en profundan malnoblecon, postulante ilin en la fino por la dio de la mallumo.

[Gustumante akvon el cxervfontano, Olin] Sala!

[Olin al Kaja] Cxu miaj variolmarkoj malaperas? Cxu mi estas juna? Belega? Cxu vi deziras min?

[Kaja] Mi deziras vin. Kio okazas al virino kiu trinkas tro da vino en la mezo de la tago?

[Olin] Sxi estas kaptita!

[Kaja] Kiu mia estas nomo?

[Olin] Mi ne memoras ecx mian propran nomon.

[Kaja] Kiel vi scias, mi estas pura?

[Olin] Vi estas?

[Kaja] Ne.

[Olin] Vi mensogetas.

[Kaja al Olin] Cxu vi estas grave vundita?

[Olin] Mia frunto…

[Kaja] Lavu gxin… en la maro.

[Olin] Mi ne povas marsxi.

[Kaja] Mi helpos vin. Mi nagxos, nuda.

[Kaja al Amael] Li estis tre ricxa, fratino, ricxa kaj abomena kaj avida je puno.

[Amael] Diru al mi, pri lia animo.

[Kaja] Lia animo, fratino? Animo estis malpulita, kruela, vejnita por negraj fibroj.

[Amael] Kiom da ili vi kaptis hodiaux?

[Kaja] Tri. [Mi kaptis] malbelan infanon mortantan per malamo; vidvinon abomenan kaj cxagrenan; kaj tiun cxi maniulon.

[Amael] Vi estas malgaja, Kaja.

[Kaja] Mi estas malgaja.

[Amael] La dio de l’ mallumo amas vin.

[Kaja] Do kial li min farigas kapti koruptitajn animojn? Kial mi devas malbone uzi miajn povojn pasxtante porkacxojn? Mi estas laca altiri malbonacxajn animojn al l’infero. Kial mi devigxas tenti ilin, gvidi ilin? Ili trovos propran vojon al la kloaka de l’infero!

[Amaeil] Kiam la greno maturigis, iu devas rikolti gxin.

[Kaja] Sed kial ni devigxas fari tiun filaboron? Kial la inkuboj ne levigxas el l’infero kaj bucxas ilin kiel sxafojn?

[Amael] Animo ne povas devigate aligxi al l’infero. Al cxiu el ili estas ofertita elekto. Kiam ili decidas veni al nia renkonto, ni bonvenigas ilin.

[Kaja] Fratino, mi deziras pli ol tio! Certe, la dio de mallumo estus pli felicxa por la kapto de bona animo — pura kaj bona, sen ombro de peko.

[Amael] Fratino! Estu zorga!

[Kaja] Mi havas povojn, Amael — povoj estas alprovindaj!

[Amael] Vi estas juna, Kaja. Vi ne scias kion estas boneco.

[Kaja] Mi volas scii. Mi volas provi sanktulon kaj detrui lin, kaj dispremigi lin, kaj meti mian piedon sur sankta nuko…

[Amael] Kaja, ne!

[Kaja] …igi lin furioza kaj fari lin suferi kaj poste pusxfaligi lin en la profundecon de l’infero.

[Amael] Kaja, ne!

[Kaja] Tiam mi estus demona kaj la filino preferata de l’ dio!

[Amael] Mi avertas vin, Kaja: forestu el bonuloj! Ili posedas povon kiu detruas korojn — grandan povon, misteran, profundan, pri kiu vi ne komprenas.

[Kaja] Povon? Kiun povon?

[Amael] Oni nomas tion: Amo. [Signante malbenon] Dio de mallumo, pardonu vian perditan infanon.

[Gustumante akvon el cxervfontano, Marko] Gxi estas dolcxa. [Marko al Arndis] Mi miras, se estas vera, ke tiu cxi fonto havas kuracpovojn?

[Arndis] Via aspekto estas pli bona.

[Marko] Fresxa, pura aero revivigas min.

[Arndis] Viaj okuloj estas klaraj.

[Marko] Dum lastaj tri noktoj mi estis ebla dormi — sen audi tondrojn, sen songxi pri bataloj.

[Arndis] Vi estas ebla marsxi; viaj vundoj kuracigxas. Ne estas longe antaux vi povos kuri.

[Ili ridas, Arndis] Ni plantos vian vergon, Marko, kaj lilioj kreskos.

[Marko] Jene, Marko, vi decidis vivi, finfine.

[Arndis] Marko, rigardu niajn vizagxojn: cxu vi pensas same, ke ni ne aspektas same? Mi devas konfesi ke, escepte pro nia nomo, neniam oni scius, ni estas frato kaj fratino.

[Marko] Cxiuj scias! Ili sentas gxin: la sam’ sango, sam’ koro, sama animo.

[Amael] Fratino, por la lasta fojo, mi petegas vin, ne klopodu preni lin — li estas vere bona.

[Kaja] Pio? Dion timanta? Kio estas tiel dangxera en tio?

[Amael] Li konfrontis la morton, Kaja.

[Kaja] Ciuj ili konfrontos la morton iam.

[Amael] Li estis sentima.

[Kaja] Cxu tio estas tiel bona kaj nobla? La bestoj en la kampo havas kuragxon. La plej malgranda birdo bategas siajn flugilojn por forsxiri mustelon el sia nesto.

[Amael] Sed lia kuragxo iris krom memprotekto. Kiam morto ekaperis en fajrstormo, li ne turnis sian dorson sur siajn falintajn kameratojn. Li eniris kaj elportis cxiun el ili kaj revivigis ilin. Mi avertas vin, Kaja. Cxi tiu modesta viro, ki’ ne deziris honoron, tiu viro estas heroo!

[Kaja] Li estas mortema viro.

[Amael] Brava heroo, brava kaj bona!

[Kaja] Tial, li havas animon ki’ meritas batalon. Ne ekzistas herooj brulantaj en la fajro de l’infero! Neniuj el martiroj, nek sanktuloj. Ne provu haltigi min, Amael — mi avertas vin! Estu zorga! Protektu vin, gardu vin de bedauxro aux compato. Gardu vin de larmoj!

[Kaja al Marko] Cxu tio estas via lando?

[Marko] Mi logxas tie ci.

[Kaja] Cxu vi konas la sxoseojn?

[Marko] Mi konas la sxoseon de la muelo kaj de la rivero.

[Kaja] Helpu min — cxu estas sxoseo por la rikolto? L’avertilo de la vojkrucigxo estas rompita de la vento.

[Marko] Cxu vi perdigxis?

[Kaja] Jes.

[Marko] Kiam vi laste mangxis?

[Kaja] Mi ne memoras…

[Marko] Venu. Venu! Sidigxu. Mia fratino bakis panon. [Al Arndis] Arndis! [Al Kaja] Ni havas fromagxon kaj vinon… [Al Arndis] Alportu iom da mangxajxon. Ni havas vojagxanton perditan kaj malsatantan. [Al Kaja] Mi alportos al vi akvon.

[Kaja] Ne — mi sentas bona nun, dankon. Mi trinkis el la fontano malantauxite.

[Marko] La cxervfontano? Gxi estas supozata havi kuracpovon, sed sxajne tio ne estas vera. Vi ne devus iri tra la arbaro sola.

[Kaja] Mi ne havas elekton.

[Marko] De kie vi venis?

[Kaja] Avernus, apud lago — ne estas agrabla loko.

[Marko] Kial ne?

[Kaja] Vaporoj eliras el la lago kaj mortigas birdojn.

[Marko, dum Arndis alportas panon] Aha!

[Arndis] Forigxas la lumo. Same kiel antaux stormo, sed mi ne vidas nubojn.

[Marko] Estas eklipso!

[Arndis] Mi neniam vidis unu.

[Marko] Ne rigardu gxin. Alie la pupiloj malfermigxos, kaj la flagro brulos viajn okulojn.

[Kaja] Cxu estas signo?

[Marko] Kion vi signifas?

[Kaja] Cxu gxi estas sekuro de bono aux de malbono?

[Marko ridas] Kelkaj personoj vidas dracon englutante la sunon, sed nur estas la luno pasante inter la tero kaj la suno, la luno lasante ombron.

[Arndis] Igxas malvarme.

[Marko] Nur dum momento.

[Arndis] La bestoj eniras.

[Marko] Ili pensas ke estas nokto.

[Audante sonorilon, Marko] Vesproj a la tagmezo!

[Arndis] La kokinoj ripozigxas. Mi esperas ke tio ne malhelpu ilin ovmetante; ja ni bezonas la ovojn.

[Marko al Kaja] Cxu vi timas?

[Kaja] Ne. Ne nun.

[Marko] Kie estas Arndis?

[Kaja] Sekura. Interne.

[Eklipso finante, Marko] Jen, gxi estas finita. [Al Kaja] Cxu vi sentas la lumon revenante? Estas matene. Ni pasigxis la nokton kune.

[Kaja] Estas tempo foriri.

[Marko] Vi estas bonvena resti.

[Kaja, citante Amael] “Kiam la greno maturigis, iu devas rikolti gxin.”

[Marko] Sed vi ne povas dauxrigi tutsole, ne tra la arbaro.

[Kaja] Mi povas sekvi la marbordon, lauxlonge la klifoj.

[Marko] Restu tie cxi, mi petas! Diru al mi vian nomon!

[Kaja] Mia nomo estas Kaja.

[Marko] Kaja! Lasu min iri kun vi, por unu mejlo, almenaux gxis vi trovos la vojon.

[Kaja] Kaj via fratino?

[Ridante, Marko] Sxi esta sekura.

[Arndis] Marko! Marko… Mi ne povas vidi! Helpu min, Marko! Marko, mi ne povas vidi! Marko… Helpu min, Marko!
[Nevedebla cxeestigxas Amael, kaj Arndis kriegas] Aaaah!

[Marko] Mi portus vin trans, sed mi dubas cxu mi havas la forton.

[Kaja] Gxi ne estas profunda — ni povos vadi.

[Marko] Estas vojeto sur alia flanko.

[Kaja] Ni povos sekvi gxin gxis la maro.

[Marko] Cxu vi sxatas la maron? [Ili vadas trans rivereton] Atendu min, militiston protektanton! Kiamaniere mi povos gardi vin sekure de dangxero?

[Kaja] Kiu volus endangxerigi min en mezo de la tago?

[Marko] Kelka demono povus salti sur vin kaj blagi vin.

[Kaja] Demonoj kiujn mi konas estas kiel katoj: ili ne sxatas akvon.

[Marko, falita en akvon, ridas] Kaja, atendu! Unu kaptis min!

[Kaja] Cxu vi estas sin kontuzita?

[Marko] Neniuj rompitaj osoj, sed mia animo estas trasorbigita.

[Kaja] Kia protektanto vi estas! Estas bone ke mi ne lasis min porti de vi.

[Marko] Mi ne povas ecx stari!

[Ili kisas, Kaja] Marko…

[Marko] Kiel vi scias mian nomon?

[Kaja] Via fratino nomis vin “Marko”.

[Marko] Ni devas fari fajron.

[Kaja] La suno sekigos vin. La sablaj dunoj estas varmegaj kiel la dezerto.

[Marko] Kiel vi scias…?

[Kaja] Ni havas sablajn dunojn kie mi naskigxis. Vi demandas min…?

[Marko] Mi volas ke cxio estu… akurata.

[Kaja] Cxu io gxenas vin?

[Marko] Mia koro estas bateganta.

[Kaja] Prenu min al la sablaj dunoj.

[Marko] Kaja, revenu kun mi, ree al la vilagxo; restu kun mi, al la dometo.

[Kaja] Ni povus ripozi je la suno, nudaj…

[Marko] Kaja…

[Kaja] …kune.

[Marko] Mi deziras ke ni estu kune, ke ni restu kune, kiel viro kaj virino. Mi volas havi infanon.

[Kaja] Mi deziras ripozi je la suno…

[Marko] Kaja…

[Kaja] …apud la maro, je la fino de la tero, je la fino de la mondo.

[Marko] Kaja, neniu iam diros al vi kiel fari, kaj neniam iu malpermesos vin ion aux diros al vi… ne. Mi deziras vin, Kaja. Vi scias ke mi deziras vin. Sed estas pli ol nur kusxigi je la suno nudaj. Mi deziras ke ni estu kune, sed gravas tre malmulte se niaj animoj ne estas unuigitaj.

[Kaja] Mi ne havas animon.

[Marko] Ne diru tion!

[Kaja] Ne diru ion! Ne parolu — mia spirito estas trempita, mia koro estas bateganta. Mi sentas doloron kiel tajdon, la suno kaj la luno proksimigxantaj kaj unuigxantaj.

[Marko] Kaja, venu kun mi! Kaj lasu min montri al vi kiel ni povas unuigxi. Venu kun mi!

[Marko] Mi amas vin, Kaja. Dormu, Kaja, dormu. Mi portos vin hejmen.

[Amael, ne videbla, al Arndis] Reiru! Haltigu ilin! Haltigu ilin! Reiru al la katedralo. Sekvu la sonon de la sonorilego. Marko estas tie — iru al li!

[Arndis] Marko? Marko!

[Amael] Iru al li! [Fronte al la katedralo] Haltigu lin! Alvoku lin! Voku lin! Haltigu lin!

[Kaja kuras el la katedralo en la kampon, falas teren, Amael] Fratino, kion li faris al vi?

[Kaja] Li portis min…antaux l’altaro.

[Amael] Li malpurigis vin, koruptis vin per amo!

[Kaja] Jes. Li deziras min, li amas min.

[Amael] Li detruis vin. Fratino! Vi devas vengxi tiun sanktan abomenajxon. Kracxu sur lian kapon. Vengxegu, fratino, vengxegu!

[Kaja] Min perfortis, tro forte por mi!

[Amael] Mi ne signifas vin, Kaja. Disigu la surfacon de la tero, malfermu la inferon, kaj malligu la Incubus!

[Kaja] Incubus?… Ho, Incubus!

[Enirante katedralon, Arndis] Marko? Mi povas vidi vin! Estas mallume, sed ja mi povas vidi la kandelojn kaj la Crucon. Marko! Dankon al Dio!

[Marko] Arndis, kio okazis? Diru al mi.

[Arndis] Mi estis blinda de kiam estis eklipso. Mi vokis kaj vokis. Mi sercxis vin — estis kiel inkubo.

[Marko] Vi estas sekura nun.

[Arndis, vidante vangvundon de Marko] Via vizagxo, Marco…?

[Marco] Ne demandu min! Mi ne scias, mi ne comprenas…

[Arndis] Kie sxi estas?

[Marko] Mi ne scias. Mi vidis timon kaj teroron en sxiaj okuloj. Kriegis kaj ekbatis kun mi. Poste sxi forkuris.

[Arndis] Kien sxi iris?

[Marko] Malproksimen. Tien.

[Arndis] Cxu vi amas sxin? [Marko kapjesas] Vi ne konas sxin!

[Marko] Mi konas sxin, en mia tuta vivo. Mi rekonas sxin kiel iun ki’n mi amis dum mil jaroj.

[Arndis] Tiam vi estis… Ni reiru. Igxas mallume — ja mi povas vidi dum nokto.

[Amael kaj Kaja marsxas gxis la templo de nigraj mesoj; pregxante mallumulon, Amael] Dio de mallumo, unu el viaj filinoj estis pervertita. Mortemulo kortusxis sxin, koruptis sxin per ago de amo. Dio de mallumo, sxi estas tie cxi, antaux vi, ploregante kun malamo, envenenigite, petegante vengxon.

[Aperante Incubus, Kaja] Incubus, mia frato, vengxu min!

[Incubus] Morte!

[Amael] Ne, ne mortigu lin. Li estas in stato de graco — li mortus benita.

[Kaja] Mi deziras lian animon.

[Amael] Prenu lin okulon por okulo.

[Nokte, cxe la dometo, portante mangxajxon al sia frato, Arndis] Estas malfrue — vi devas enlitigxi.

[Marko] Cxu vi vidas plibone?

[Arndis] Jes, mi vidas perfekte dum la nokto. La mallumo sxajnas pacigi min.

[Marko] Mi kondukos vin a la kuracisto en la mateno.

[Arndis] Ne vere vi legas, cxu ne?

[Marko] Ne. Mi ne povas.

[Arndis] Pensu pri sxi, Marko. Se vi sentas por io plori, mi ne auxdos vin.

[Marko] Ne gravas, se vi auxdas min. Mi estas vivanta, nun.

[Arndis] Gxi estas bone, ke oni havas por kiu plori.

[Marko] Mi amas vin, fratino.

[Arndis] Mi pregxos por sxi, Marko, kaj por vi — ambaux vi.

[Marko] Pregxu multe. Bonan nokton.

[Arndis] Bonan nokton.

[Songxe Kaja alvokas] Marko! Marko!

[Marko, al Arndis] Arndis, cxu vi auxdis iun voki min?

[Arndis] Mi auxdis hundon…

[Marko] Mi ne povas ripozi.

[Arndis] Mi akompanos vin gxis la kampo.

[Marko] Vi estas duondormanta — restu tie cxi. Mi rigardados cxirkauxe.

[Arndis] Ne iru tro malproksimen.

[Kaja, lontane] Marko!

[Sercxante, Marko] Kaja? Kaja? [Vidante sxin] Kaja!

[Amael al Incubus] Sxi kondukos lin al la maro. Lia fratino estas tutsola, atendante lin. Aperu antaux sxi kiel juna viro — konduku sxin tie cxi al la Edzincxambro.

[Aperante antaux dometo kie atendas Arndis, Incubus] Psst!

[Arndis] Kiu vi estas? Kion vi volas? Kiu vi estas?

[Incubus] Via frato bezonas vin. Li petis min veni vin sercxi.

[Arndis] Kie li estas?

[Incubus] En la malnova domo, tien. Li entris por sercxi iun. La planko malfermigxis…

[Arndis] Cxu li estas vundita?

[Incubus] Li estas prenita, implikita.

[Arndis] Mi metos miajn vestajxojn.

[Incubus] Ne! Montru al mi vian robon. Gxi estas… blanka por pureco.

[Arndis] Mi ne povas spiri.

[Incubus] Ne fermu viajn okulojn. Rigardu min. Venu kun mi. Venu! Venu kun mi.

[Enirante la malnovan domon, Arndis kriegas] Aaaah!

[Incubus] Diru la meson!

[Amael] Li venas hejmen. Fermu sxian busxon. Mutigu sxin!

[Incubus] Sxi ne havas langon.

[Trovante nur sxian robon, Marko] Arndis!

[De Incubus jxetita Arndis teren, Marko] Arndis! Ho Dio! Arndis!

[Per lasta spiro, Arndis] Marko, savu vin, en nomo de Dio.

[Marko signante Crucon sur korpo de la fratino, Incubus] Sxia animo ekbrulu en infero!

[Marko luktas kontraux Incubus, Amael al Incubus] Ne mortigu lin! Ne lasu lin transiri — lasu lin sxmiri sian animon… per murdo! [Marko vundas Incubus, Amael al Kaja] Via nun — lia animo estas makulita per sango.

[Kaja al Marko] Venu fora, venu kun mi! Mi vin kasxos en la marcxoj apud la maro.

[Marko] Cxu li estas… mortigxis?

[Kaja] Rigardu.

[Marko] Cxu vi vidis min fari gxin?

[Kaja] Vi mortigis lin pro vengxo.

[Marko] Vengxo?

[Kaja] Vi kasxos la kadavron — neniu scios gxin. Ni povos forkuri kune.

[Marko] Mi sentas mian animon mortigxi, subeniri… mi vidas nubojn mallumajn.

[Kaja] Marko, Marko, venu kun mi! Marko, venu kun mi.

[Marko] La fajro estas antaux nin — cxu vi vidas gxin? La tero estas kiel glacio… aux folio de glaco. Rigardu la brilon — kampoj de fajro! Pluvoj kaj tempestoj turmentaj. Mi sentas spiron brulantan mian vizagxon. Miaj manoj… rigardu ilin! Truojn kaj cindrojn! Kaja, estas figuroj batalantaj en la fajra aero! Sunaj eksplodoj! Lumuloj! Viro kaj virino! Patrino! L’okulo de la nokto. Mi vidas la koron de l’ mallumo, l’universon envolvigante, altirante mian spiron, mian sangon, mian vivon… malsupren, malsupren, malsupren…

[Kaja] Venu fora! Venu kun mi! [Auxdante sonorilegon] Ne auxskultu! Marko, ne!

[Marko] Mi volas savi mian animon.

[Kaja] Via animo estas mia!

[Marko] Ne, Kaja. Mia animo apartenas al Dio!

[Kaja] Mi amas vin, Marko!

[Marko] Helpu min, Kaja. [Malproksimigxante] Helpu min, Kaja.

[Kaja] Mi amas vin! [Al Amael] Li estas mortanta.

[Amael] Fratino, alkonduku vian heroon malsupren, al la abismo. [La du luktas, Kaja fugxas kaj Amael fortiras trancxilon el korpo de Incubus, kiu levigxas]

[Cxe la katedralo, aperante al Kaja, Incubus] Vi apartenas al dio de l’ mallumo. [Incubus sxangxas sian aspekton al tiun de kaprego kaj batalas kontraux Kaja, kiu finfine diras] Mi apartenas al Dio de la Lumo!

[Marko savas Kaja, altirante sxin trans la sojlo de la katedralo]

Posted in Arts and culture, Big Sur, California, Esperanto | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Spending more time at New Camaldoli Hermitage

I have been feeling more strongly drawn back to the Hermitage in Big Sur, where I originally made monastic vows. I have continued with the Order, by God’s grace, and on June 19, 2014, I celebrated there, together with fellow novice Brother Gabriel Kirby, fifty years of life under the vows as a Camaldolese monk. Of course, as I said elsewhere, I spent many years in Italy, at our mother-house of Camaldoli in the Tuscan Apennines, and from there traveled many times to India. So grateful for all this! I have no words.

While at the Hermitage this summer, ten days after the anniversary of vows, I gave the following talk: it was the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, but the gospel reading was the same as that which we heard last Sunday (August 31).

In classical ethics — think of Plato and Aristotle — virtue is like Goldilock’s porridge: neither too hot nor too cold, but just right. The Latin maxim is Virtus stat in medio — “Virtue’s place is in the middle,” that is, between the extremes of excess and defect. Christianity is ambivalent about this. Most early and medieval writers acknowledge Plato’s maxim, but they also teach us that there is a whole series of virtues that do not stand in the middle. These are virtues that have an infinite potentiality, because they point us toward an ultimate end that is itself extreme, like God. If you are as old as I am, you must remember a novelty song of the 1940s based on an African-American preacher’s sermon: “You’ve got to ACcentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, but don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”

There is also the way of “both-and,” which is another kind of middle way that deals with ideas and opinions. “There are two sides to every question,” of course: we know that, but maybe we would know more if we tried to think outside the box defined by the two sides. The wisdom of India does not speak of two sides, like Western philosophy; India prefers a triad, like three colors or three flavors that imply a fourth transcending the three. Reading Plato and Aristotle, together with the gospel, can help us make sense of the moral teaching of Jesus, but it can also lead to the loss of the transcendent flavor or color in him, whom Paul and Peter preached and lived.

The liturgy of Peter and Paul celebrates the Roman Church, the people of God in Rome who hark back to these two apostles, and here is where we need the both-and. We want our church to be not only the church of Peter but also the church of Paul, because we need not only an apostle who holds the center together but also an apostle who pushes the boundaries outward.

Today we heard the gospel reading from Matthew chapter 16, which focuses the feast more on Peter than on Paul. Moreover, today’s reading is only half the story. We need the both-and if we want to understand the real Peter. In the full text of Matthew, Simon son of John is given two nicknames: Jesus calls him not only the Rock but also Satan. First Simon said words of faith that were given to him by the Abba of Jesus, and for this he became Blessèd Peter. Then he said words that came from his own human reasoning, and he became an accuser, which is what Satan means in Hebrew. Peter did not accept what Jesus said: that the source of Peter’s blessing was to be the death of the Messiah in whom he had believed. “This cannot be,” says Peter; “This shall not be!”

In the complete text of Matthew, Peter shows himself to be both an extreme believer and a man of little faith, like all other extremists. Once again he tries to walk on water and then he starts to sink. Ultimately he hits bottom when he denies his Master and Friend. At that very moment, Jesus looks at him from a distance, and Peter, seeing the forgiveness in his gaze, goes out and weeps bitterly.

Here is the whole Peter, who was complete only when he had been completely forgiven. The same was true of Paul, who, when his name was Saul, began his relationship with Jesus by denying that he was the Messiah and by persecuting those who followed him. Saul, thrown off his stride, fell to the ground and saw a light that at first made him blind. When a disciple of the Messiah restored his sight and baptized him, he began to be Paul. The name is an omen: from Saul, the name of a king, he became Paul, which in Greek and Latin means “little one.” Maybe Paul was short of stature, but his stride was long enough to take him to Rome and beyond. Peter may have been taller, but Paul stood up to the chief of the twelve apostles, when Peter was being hypocritical.

At the end, they were both in Rome and both attained the full stature of their faith in Jesus, when they witnessed to him by their blood. Paul, the Roman citizen, was decapitated; Peter was crucified, but legend has it, head downward. Is this the full story? Or, we could ask, is it enough if we have both Peter and Paul? Maybe the sages of India are right, and we need a third. Of course, we do have a third disciple, the other one of whom Jesus speaks at the end of the gospel according to John. He is the beloved disciple who outlives the apostles of Rome, and who has no name. Was he John the evangelist? Was he a she? No matter; all three are with us at the banquet of the Messiah, the fullness that includes the three and transcends them.

Posted in Berkeley, Bible, Big Sur, faith as hope, India, Jesus, monastic life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Scenario of the Gita

We stand with Krishna and Arjuna between two armies, in the Field of Truth, Dharma-kshetre. Dialogue genre, disciple and guru, following a typically Indian (Asian) pedagogy of reiterated themes, viewed differently at different levels of reality and understanding: as it were, an ascending spiral that progresses from partial to fuller knowledge. The “I am” words of Krishna in the early chapters are not yet a revelation of unique divinity, since any teacher is divine in virtue of the dharma (truth…) he conveys, by speech and by presence. What is dharma?

The literary structure of the Gita. The arguments from internal criticism in favor of, or against, the literary unity of the work (I prefer to affirm the literary unity and single authorship of the Gita). Structure of the chapters; the recapitulation of the whole Gita in a string of verses of the eighteenth chapter. Is the return to less significant and more traditional themes in the later chapters (after the theophany of the eleventh) a sort of letdown (cf. Stephen Mitchell)?

The first chapter: Arjuna’s despair as his necessary yoga. Violence and caste-duty, action and renunciation as basic themes. The Bhagavad Gita as allegory and spiritual metaphor (imminent war as the symbolic context of the spiritual life: see both Gandhi and Yogananda). For Bede Griffiths, the battlefield is human nature.

Read the first three chapters in the commentary of Gandhi. Compare the dilemma of Arjuna with Gandhi’s clear choice of non-violence. “We know only one simple thing: God is, nothing else is.” Action/work and its fruits; yoga is “skill in work” especially when the skill is the renunciation of the fruits of work. The examples of fasting and desire for God in Mohammed and Jesus.

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Translating the Gita

The first translation of a Hindu sacred text into a European language — Charles Wilkins’ English version of the Gita, 1785 — marks the beginning of the inter-religious dialogue in its modern sense. Hindus as well as Christians and, of course, secular scholars, made the reading of this and other translated texts the basis for understanding both the differences among religions and their possible points of convergence.

Of great importance in the American context was the profound influence of the translated Gita on the New England Transcendentalists: Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, together with Walt Whitman. This history of the Gita in the West is especially important in our meeting with religious/spiritual persons from India or grounded in the vast, spiritual culture of India, ancient and contemporary. We are also challenged to understand the motives of those who speak of themselves as “spiritual but not religious” (motives for which I have the deepest respect). Keep in mind that Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke of his own inner life in almost the same terms as our spiritual-not-religious contemporaries.

Charles Wilkins was a printer and a designer of type fonts for Asian languages (Persian, Bengali etc.); he also resided for a time in India and exercised his considerable linguistic skills in a one-year study of Sanskrit. This apprenticeship to the Hindu sacred language was enough to make him attempt a translation of the Mahabharata, the massive epic of which the Gita traditionally forms a part. Wilkins never completed his Mahabharata project, and consequently the appearance of the Bhagavad-Gita as a single volume made it a sort of Hindu Gospel, and so it is called to this day.

Wilkins’ translation is flawed, and the text is sometimes incomprehensible, but enough of the original came through to deeply move and influence its readers. It is our purpose in this course to offer the students a chance to experience this intellectual and spiritual influence of the Gita. Our advantage, of course, is the embarrassment of riches in choosing a current translation, and each student is free to choose the one (or more) that you find most appealing. Personally, I am a bit partial to the Juan Mascaró translation, fruit of the translator’s vast linguistic learning (born in Spain, he was a professor of English Literature at Cambridge University); I am fascinated by his intentional echoing of the solemn tone of the Authorized Version of the Bible. Western readers will inevitably want to compare the Gita to the Bible, and Mascaró’s dynamic-equivalence method speaks effectively to us.

If one is put off by Mascaró’s imitative archaisms, we now have the Stephen Mitchell translation (available as a Kindle eBook). Mitchell, a poet in his own right, has won deserved praise for his translations of Rilke, Buddhist sutras, and Bible texts. The translations given by Gandhi, Yogananda, and Prabhupada are slanted toward the interpretations they propose. Bede Griffiths uses Mascaró, while frequently offering alternative readings from R. C. Zaehner and other translators.

The commentaries of Mahatma Gandhi, Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Prabhupada: who were these men, and which of the many “Hinduisms” do they represent? How did Bede Griffiths contribute to the advent or incorporation of India in the Church and vice-versa? Read the respective introduction/preface of the four commentators.

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January course in Berkeley: “The Bhagavad-Gita today”

Again this January, if any students sign up, I’ll be teaching a course on Hinduism. The theme this year is about the Bhagavad-Gita, India’s favorite scripture, as understood by four twentieth-century commentators.

Here is the summary from the course syllabus:

In the West, Hinduism has usually been characterized as the religion grounded in the Vedas and related texts, based on a cyclic/cosmic world-view, and aimed at the liberation of the human spirit from these cycles. This understanding of the vast religious and spiritual culture of India is more superficial than untrue. Both “religion” and the name “Hinduism” are terms invented in the ethnocentric context of Europe and Christianity and in the historical phase of European colonialism. The great vitality of India’s many ways of worshiping the Absolute and understanding/remedying the human condition can be seen in the presence and influence of the most beloved sacred text of India, the Bhagavad-Gita, in the spiritual self-understanding and practice of Westerners during the last two centuries. This intensive course will give students the opportunity to read the 18 chapters of the Gita, examine some scholarly reflection on its historical roots and influence, and reflect on four modern commentaries: those of Mahatma Gandhi, Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Prabhupada, and the Christian monk Bede Griffiths.

One principle I wish to emphasize (as I did in my course last year) is the dialogical nature of the Church’s relationship with other religions. For the Second Vatican Council, the Church indeed relates to the religions as socio-cultural realities, and not only as individuals, either to be evangelized or to be tolerated as ‘invincibly ignorant’ of the truth of the Church’s teachings. Some Catholic thinkers seem to have returned to this conceptual isolation of other-faith persons from their socio-cultural context, but this concept contradicts a theological principle: the inseparability of an individual’s faith from her/his faith community. It is not true, as I once heard a cardinal affirm, that only Muslims, as individuals, are part of God’s plan for humanity, and not Islam itself. It should be obvious that there would be no Muslims without Islam and no Hindus without Hinduism, etc. Hence Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and all the rest are in a certain sense positively willed by God.

Another part of the ‘reform of the reform’ in act today is the return to a diplomatic paradigm in the Church’s approach to other faiths. Since (as a certain esteemed theologian has repeatedly affirmed) there can be no inter-religious dialogue in a theological sense, the chief use for our conversations with Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims et al. is to protect Catholic interests in those countries where the others are the majority and the Church represents a minority (often in single-digit percentages). My objection to this reduction of dialogue to diplomacy is that it ultimately secularizes the inter-faith relations of Christians with others; it also implies that the goal of the conversations is to reach some sort of compromise amenable to the interests of all concerned. The risk I see here is to hide the authentically spiritual dimensions of our own faith and the support that our faith itself (faith as spirituality) offers to our dialogic relationship with others. My question is this: do persons of other faiths want to meet with us as diplomats? And: do they not rather have every right to expect us to engage in the conversation as spiritual persons, that is, as persons who practice and intimately experience what they believe in?

Posted in Berkeley, dialogue, Hinduism, India, inter-spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments