Week of 12/19-25: Advent, Apophatic God, Christmas, Glory

December 19, 2022. Advent, Solstice, and the Apophatic Divinity.
Today we explore the Divinity of mystery, that Divinity of which the less we speak and the more we listen, the better. We also explore the opposite energies–for instance, emperors who claimed to be the “son of God” and used that title to rule with power and oppression. Matthew closes with: “The repose and darkness of Advent invite us into the mystery of the Godhead but also into the apophatic Divinity, the holiness of darkness.”

Darkness from which all emerges. Image by Peace,love,happiness from Pixabay

December 20, 2022. Advent, Solstice, Eckhart on the Apophatic God.
We reflect on some of the wisdom Meister Eckhart shares with us about the Apophatic God. God is a being beyond all being; God is a beingless being. And God is neither this thing nor that thing that we can express. And, referring to the verse in John 1:5, The final goal of being is the darkness and the unknowability of the hidden divinity, which is that light which shines ‘but the darkness cannot comprehend it.’

December 21, 2022. Winter Solstice, 2022: The Apophatic and Uncreated God.
If God is uncreated, then we can never really know Divinity. Deepak Chopra puts it this way: “God is uncreated. The universe cannot reveal God, since everything that exists is created.” We also explore the theme of God as “superessential darkness” and “darkness beyond light,” as proposed by 6th century Syrian monk Denis the Areopagite. Perhaps this deep darkness, the mystery that is God, is also the dark matter and dark energy of the Universe.

December 22, 2022. Apophatic Divinity, continued.
Today we reflect on the ineffability and unnameability of God. If God is unnameable, perhaps we can stop projecting on him all the time! Perhaps instead of talking about God, we can learn to experience him. Matthew reminds us that “Words fail us in the face of mystery.” Meanwhile Thich Naht Hanh told us, “we know the Holy Spirit as energy and not as notions and words.”

“Neti, neti–Not this, not this,” a teaching by Nithya Shanti on YouTube

December 23, 2022. Apophatic Divinity: God as Nothingness.
This theme of God as nothingness can be a difficult concept to grasp. But Father Bede Griffiths does well when he refers to Hindu thought. He said, We cannot name Brahman. It is ‘not this, not this.’ Whatever word we use, whatever image, whatever concept, we have always to go beyond…One cannot stop with any name of God….We are all seeing that inexpressible mystery beyond, and that is Brahman, which is neti, neti, ‘not this, not this.‘ We also look to the Kabbalah which has a word called Ayin, meaning “mystical nothingness.” Ayin, Nothingness, is more existent than all the being of the world….

December 24, 2022. From Advent to Christmas Eve & the Birth of the Rebel Jesus.
Today we begin the journey from darkness to light as the days begin to gradually get longer and longer. On this Christmas Eve, we honor the holiness of the dark night which yields to the light of the Christchild. Meanwhile, there is also a more unsentimental depiction of Jesus, that of a rebel committed to justice and compassion. Jackson Browne sings about it in his song, “Rebel Jesus.” From Matthew: We move from expectancy and pregnancy to the birth of something new, from darkness and silence to light and joy.  And promise of much work ahead.

“Nativity, Birth of Jesus” Third of six mosaics on the Life of the Virgin by Pietro Cavallini (1290/91), At Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome. Photo by Slices of Light on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/justaslice/48665260932/

December 25, 2022. Christmas 2022: Doxa and Moxa.
The first word spoken to the poor shepherds by the angels on a cold winter night is: “Glory,” doxa in Greek, the language in which the Gospels were written. And doxa is always about cosmic wisdom, the Cosmic Christ, and the light in all things. Even physicists tell us there are photons or light waves in every atom of the universe. The Gospel of John tells us that “The Word was God” was “a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower….”  And “the Word was made flesh, and lived among us, and we saw its glory, full of grace and truth.” So, on this Christmas day, may we celebrate both the doxa and the moxa. (Matthew’s word for the moxie of the historical prophetic Jesus.

Banner image: Madonna and Child, Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset England. Scuptor: Eric Gill. Flickr

Recommended Reading

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God …Including the Unnameable God

Too often, notions of God have been used as a means to control and to promote a narrow worldview. In Naming the Unnameable, renowned theologian and author Matthew Fox ignites our imaginations by offering a colorful range of Divine Names gathered from scientists and poets and mystics past and present, inviting us to always begin where true spirituality begins: from experience.
“This book is timely, important and admirably brief; it is also open ended—there are always more names to come, and none can exhaust God’s nature.” -Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, author of Science Set Free and The Presence of the Past

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8 thoughts on “Week of 12/19-25: Advent, Apophatic God, Christmas, Glory”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    DM for December 21, 2022. Winter Solstice: I wanted to share a tribute to Matthew and the Winter Solstice—In ancient times when pre-Christians people celebrated the Winter Solstice, they, in a sense, were attempting to encourage the Great Mother to give birth once more to the Sun King, for the Winter Solstice marked the longest period of darkness in the yearly cycle, and they longed for the return of the sun with its light and warmth.
    Later, however, in the years which followed the conversion of Constantine, it seemed only natural for Christians to reinterpret the meaning of the birth of the Sun King by the Great Mother, in terms of the birth of the “Son of God” by the Virgin Mother—even though there was no evidence in scripture that Jesus was born at this time of the year. It just so happens that December 25 was the date of the Winter Solstice according to the old Julian calendar–”Julian” referring to Julius Caesar, the Roman Emperor.
    While this move served the Church in its program of evangelism, it also aided in disconnecting Western culture from the earth, for no longer would its people celebrate the rebirth of the sun—rather they would celebrate only those events in the life of Christ and the Church—and which the Church chose and sanctioned.
    In the liturgy which follows we are attempting to celebrate the original intent of this holiday—that is to celebrate the rebirth of the sun and the coming of light and warmth, after winter’s time of cold and darkness. In doing this we are encouraged to express our gratitude for the gift of the sun, as well as to bring our lives into harmony with “the way of the earth”–to live in sync with its changes. More than this, looking at the earth through the eyes of liturgy, we see the earth as it was meant to be seen—a sacred gift from God. [Liturgies of the Earth]

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      Isn’t the date also the time of Saturnalia and the birth of Mithras, whose story is remarkably similar to that of Jesus? Christianity just adopted and adapted and in too many cases perverted the meaning and connection to all of creation. The excesses of partying and overspending may harken back to the Saturnalia?

      1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
        Richard Reich-Kuykendall

        Sue, You ask today (but I think you already know): “Isn’t the date also the time of Saturnalia and the birth of Mithras, whose story is remarkably similar to that of Jesus?” You are absolutely right. Above I wrote in connection that the Church chose Dec. 25 for the birth of Christ BECAUSE that is when the “pagans” were doing their celebrations, so the Church deliberately chose it because: “this move served the Church in its program of evangelism”–they did this also by building Churches on the sites of “pagan” worship, and by Christianizing “pagan” holidays–like the Winter Solstice, etc. Thanks for your comment!

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    In the summary of December, male pronouns are used. Is this not a projection on God as a male being. I would encourage you to avoid all pronouns in reference to the Divine reality or Being.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      John, You write: “In the summary of December, male pronouns are used. Is this not a projection on God as a male being?” I’m certain, completely certain, that no one on our staff, including Matthew himself, believe that God is a male or female, for that matter. We see that God is beyond all forms–that is a part of the meaning of the “apophatic God.” But when quoting things from history, where masculine language is used, we sometimes use the language of the time the comment was made, rather than change their words, and what the writer at the time understood. However, I must also say that Matthew at times does play with pronouns as can easily be seen in his book, MEDITATIONS WITH MEISTER ECKHART. And Matthew also often talks about the Divine Feminine and the Sacred Masculine as in his book: THE HIDDEN SPIRITUALITY OF MEN…

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    Blessed Birth of Christ~Divine Love to All humanity within our hearts and lives with one another, and All ongoing co-Creation, including Sacred Mother Earth, throughout the New Year!

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    An added note: As Richard mentioned this week, mysticism has been accused of being “anti-intellectual” because it is invariably presented in metaphors and stories. This is just a whiny temper tantrum, trying to demand mysticism be framed in ideas that intellectuals understand and debate.
    The Mystical Revelation, along with the holistic, mystical Path of embedded, flowing transformation, integration, and expression, is nuanced, complex, and relational. At its “peak,” it flows into a mind-bending type of awareness that abolishes all categories (“transcends”, “nondualism”). Intellect is the creation OF categories, an imposed structure of limitation and definition. As such, it is incapable of conveying both the mystical experience and its larger journey and context, which are also an absolutely essential aspect of this mysticism.
    Intellectualism is the wrong language to use for mysticism, just as in mathematics, one doesn’t convey complex mathematical equations in poetry.

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