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Random Musings

An Explanation of the spiritual term Kenosis

For those of you who have asked for a further explanation of Kenosis, these reflections from the Director of the House of Prayer -- the Rev. Ward Bauman -- will elucidate. A reflection from the Kenosis retreat, 2013: "True knowledge of God is that which is known by unknowing." (Cloud of Unknowing) One of the primary practices of all spiritual work is detachment, the learned behavior of "letting go" and not clinging. This is primarily true of wisdom, that is, spiritual knowledge. The great paradox is that we cannot find it by grasping it. In other words, going to another conference, reading another book, or hearing another teaching will not ultimately be the knowledge that we seek and need. This is perhaps one of the hardest lessons of the spiritual life. We in the West do not get it. It is so antithetical to everything we’ve learned. But this is core to coming to spiritual truth. It also points to the heart of our spiritual malady, pride. True wisdom comes only through true humility. Here the crack in our armory creates an entrance for the divine light. Jesus said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This is the beginning and foundation to all spiritual work. The Chinese philosopher, Chuang-tzu said: Consider a window; it is just a hole in the wall, but because of it the whole room is filled with light. Thus, when the mind is open and free of its own thoughts, life unfolds effortlessly, and the whole world is filled with light. (The Second Book of the Tao, Stephen Mitchell) When our hearts are open and free of constructs, we become channels for spiritual light. When we are unburdened with cumbersome and restricting ideas, something new can emerge. When we are emptied of self-focus, we can begin to see the bigger picture. This, then, becomes the practice of prayer; in self-emptying we become free and receptive for "true knowledge." Read More 
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The House of Prayer and a Kenosis Retreat

”Pilgrims are persons in motion – passing through territories not their own – seeking something we might call completion (or perhaps the word “clarity’ will do as well), a goal to which only the spirit’s compass points the way.” -- Richard Niebuhr I've just returned from a territory not my own:. A Kenosis (or self-emptying) retreat at the Episcopal House of Prayer on St. John’s University campus in Collegeville, MN. The House of Prayer is an exquisite retreat house of wood and stone, with Gothic windows, quiet spaces, an oratory with a soaring tiered scallop of panels reaching toward the light. There were twelve retreatants and a retreat master--the Director of the House of Prayer: gentle, erudite, and compassionate Reverend Ward Bauman, who with his brother Lynn Bauman and Cynthia Bourgeault worked to translate The Luminous Gospels: Thomas, Mary Magdalene, and Philip. Bauman is also the author of Sacred Food for Soulful Living, a cookbook of recipes from the House of Prayer kitchen who, besides guiding us and leading all the meditation sessions, also prepared our every meal which was the most delicious vegetarian food I've ever eaten. I entered the retreat, determined that I was going to “make it” this time. I’d empty myself and travel into the fullness of God’s presence. So intent was I on making this retreat the “retreat of all retreats” that I got caught up in trying to force self-emptying even though I knew that all meditation requires is the willingness to participate. . . that the action is God’s. Confronted with myself as full of myself, I was miserable. Perhaps I wasn't meant to achieve divine union, I thought, but if this was so, why the more than 50 years of yearning and search for this grace? Why the desire if God did not mean than I take this journey? There’s nothing quite like smashing into oneself. It’s a humbling and grace-filled encounter with darkness which brought me to the point where all I could do was accept where I was at and be grateful I was anywhere at all. It wasn't until the final two days of this intense silent retreat that I found myself willing to be where I was, as I was, and in that acceptance I fell into God. For a time, at least. As Niebuhr says, Pilgrims are persons in motion, seeking a completion to which only the spirit’s compass points the way. The spirit is always at work even when we’re off track, leading us gently back to where we belong. Read More 
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