Fr. Thomas Keating’s Message of Encouragement for Epiphany and 2017
Transcript: A Blessing for the Coming Year
December 21, 2016
This is Fr. Thomas wishing you all, on this wonderful season, the graces of peace and deeper understanding of the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, but most of all into our lives.
Let's take just a quick look at a way of trying to understand what the gift of Christmas really is, in other words what is the primary grace of the feast of Christmas? I think the answer is in a somewhat unexpected place and that's in the story of the Magi, these three kings who showed up in Jerusalem a year or two after Jesus was born and asked Herod, if you recall the story, "Where is the king of the Jews being born?" These were people who had a special anointing from the Holy Spirit. The very name "Magi" in Hebrew mysticism means someone who has been anointed as the kings of Judea used to be.
And so what prompted the Magi to come from virtually nowhere (coming from the east in the Hebrew is another little hint that this refers to a spiritual experience), and so I think we can say that the Magi had within them as a gift this anointing of the Spirit that we receive through the graces of this time and especially in the sacraments but also in contemplative prayer. Centering Prayer is designed to bring us into this state gradually in which we realize inwardly that we're looking for something more than ourselves or more than this world can offer, more than this world can even hinder, and that is the conviction of faith and experience that God dwells within us, and when that awareness grows, then we awaken to the presence of God within us, and it gives the capacity to perceive God present in others.
So the Magi, they got the inspiration that the king of the Jews was coming into the world and that he was a divine person, and the source of their own interior experience of the divine, so it was that awakening of their consciousness to the spiritual level of their being and of their true nature as the children of God and of sharing in the grace of the Messiah or as we would call it, sharing in the grace of Christ or being one with him or identified with him.
And so it was the divine presence in them, in the Magi, that was able to recognize the divine presence in him and to connect with it and to enable them to fall down in worship in front of this helpless infant, because of their moving beyond all the appearances in this life, they resonated, you might say, with the divine presence in all its fullness that was in him, however underdeveloped in the human way because of his infancy.
So the grace of Christmas then, it seems to me, is the awakening within us, the realization or the deepening of faith, that the presence that we experience at times, and sometimes a lot of the time, if we're advancing in the Centering Prayer practice, which is cultivating silence and interior freedom, we recognize like the Magi did of the infant in spite of our fragility, our weaknesses and even our sins, we recognize the power of the divine presence in us that is come to heal us and to manifest the divine love by the ultimate service of the sacrifice of one's life in the service of others.
It's that presence in us that is in Christ that also deserves to receive gold, frankincense and myrrh in the degree that we're opening and advancing in the experience of the divine presence, that Centering Prayer -- and especially when it becomes completely contemplative prayer -- it anoints us, so to speak, especially at the time of these great feasts that symbolize these various spiritual experiences.
And so it's that grace that I pray that each of us might experience an enormous increase in, so that we may then perceive in others this divine presence even where it's completely unexpected and hidden and secret.
This secrecy then is gradually unveiled as we activate the gift of myrrh, that is the selfless service of others, welcoming and embracing the sacrifice or humility that it sometimes takes to serve those in need. As Jesus said, "In whatever need, everyone is our neighbor. Everyone is in need of help," and our own limitations are gradually being dissolved and taken away through the practice and action of service, rooted in a daily practice and penetration of our whole lives by the Holy Spirit and what is referred to in Scripture as the anointing. In other words, the Spirit is like oil that is poured over our heads and that flows all throughout our body and that pushes out all the obstacles to the clarity of our perception of the divine presence
So, I wish you then this grace and you already have it! So I send you whatever spiritual energy I have and thank you for pursuing this journey.
So, in this spirit, then, let us face the difficulties of the coming year with great confidence and hope. Like the Magi, you may go through a lot of troubles in traveling and getting where you want to but once you're there, then the joy that they experienced, it will also be us, no matter what the difficulties and hazards or how many Herods there are that want to do away with us and our brothers and sisters, or in our time, when we recognize more and more that the whole human family is our brothers and sisters and that we're more united at the deepest level than any superficial, merely human levels of controversy and opposition and that the power of the Spirit through our love will be able to heal the lack of love or the wounds in other people that we're called upon to love as best we can.
I'll always be thinking of you and inviting you into the presence of the Spirit that comes to each of us as a free gift and a true security and the true love and the true freedom, so I'll end there and hope that the new year will be filled with blessings for all of us.
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