Dec 20th to Dec 26th: 4th Week of Advent & Christmas – Living as the Beloved and Epilogue

Reading: Living as the Beloved and Epilogue (p. 129 to 149)

God not only says: “You are my Beloved.” God also asks: “Do you love me?” and offers us countless chances to say “Yes” to our inner truth. That is the
spiritual life: the chance to say “Yes” to our inner truth. (p. 131)

Friends,
In one of my favorite scripture passages, St. Paul urges us to “live in manner worthy of the call you have received.” (c.f. Ephesians 4:1) And what is that call? Throughout our Advent journey, Henri Nouwen showed us that we are called to be God’s Beloved. In these remaining days before Christmas, he offers a heartfelt meditation on living as the Beloved and tells how Fred responded to the book and how it came to be published.

Henri encourages Fred and each one of us to “claim your spiritual truth and to live in the world as someone who doesn’t belong to it.” (p. 130) Henri emphasizes, “If you really want to live in the world, you cannot look to the world itself as the source of that life. . . . the world is not the source even of its own life, let alone yours.” (p. 132) And Henri challenges me to what St. Francis of Assisi (Nouwen’s favorite saint) would call penance and today we call conversion or change, saying, “The change of which I speak is the change from living life as a painful test to prove that you deserve to be loved, to living it as an unceasing “Yes” to the truth of that Belovedness. Put simply, life is a God-given opportunity to become who we are. . . to say “Yes” to the one who calls us the Beloved.” (p. 133) This is my takeaway from our time together: At every moment of every day I have a choice. I can look to the world as the source of life and be disappointed or I can live as the Beloved and become who God created me to be. What will I choose today?

Rather than suggesting questions this week, I encourage you to reflect on the readings and your experience during our time together. To the extent you are comfortable, please share your thoughts and feelings, the ideas you are taking away from our discussion, or changes you would like to make in your life.

Here is something we don’t usually do but I hope you find it as meaningful as I did. I have a friend named Sean who is a long-time friend of L’Arche Daybreak where he came to admire Henri during the last years of his life. An avid reader of Henri’s books, Sean was discussing Henri’s life with a friend of his. He and she were reflecting on Henri’s skill as an exceptional listener and how he helped those around him to experience their own Belovedness–something that Henri had difficulty doing for himself. In a poem he wrote for his friend, Sean captured this probing snapshot of Henri and life as the Beloved. He gave me permission to share it.

I Give You a New Commandment
Cherishing others
Encouraging them to be themselves
To speak their stories simply and truly
We eagerly take in what they have to say
And take away their unspeakable shame

Curiosity
Wonder
Compassion
Admiration
Delight

These are our constant companions
These are the tools we use
To help others re-remember
Who they have always been
Although they did not know it at the time

Feeling the pain
Holding up the joy
Loving the whole thing
Skillfully practising alchemy
That comes easily to us, doesn’t it?

Telling our own stories
Finding out who we have been
Becoming visible ourselves
That’s not so easy for us

But we have to remember
We’re not so different from those whose stories we hear

Actually, I think we may have just stumbled upon
A new commandment

Love yourself as your neighbour

And if we can pull that one off
Well, that would be something

We also have an Advent and Christmas gift from the Henri Nouwen Society. At the bottom of this post is 30 minute recording that Henri made about the same time he was writing this book. I hope you enjoy hearing Henri describe what it means “To Be the Beloved” in his own voice. Some of you may have received this link in your email on Saturday too.

Looking ahead, in 2021 the Henri Nouwen Society will mark the 25th Anniversary of Henri’s untimely death at age 64 with a series of events and activities. For our Lenten book discussion (begins Ash Wednesday, February 17th) we will be reading and discussing Sabbatical Journey, Henri’s journal written during the last year of his life. I hope you will join us.

Finally, I want to thank each of you for what has been an extraordinarily rich discussion. The sharing was open, honest, insightful, inspiring, and deeply moving. Your presence and participation has made this Advent more meaningful for us all.

Wishing you and yours a Blessed and Merry Christmas. With gratitude,
Ray

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44 Responses to Dec 20th to Dec 26th: 4th Week of Advent & Christmas – Living as the Beloved and Epilogue

  1. Melissa M says:

    Thank you for this book discussion. This was the first book of Henri Nouwen that I have read. I have two more I will be reading soon. Thank you for this introduction to his writing!

  2. Ray,

    Every time I engage in our seasonal dicussions I think we all go deeper in faith individually and as a group. The sharings are more personal and interconnectional inviting us all in as one with the Sacred One.

    The questions you pose are excellent, insightful and help me engage the reading more clearly and apply it to my life. Thank you for your gift of giving to us as a group. It is such an honor to engage with such serious seekers. We all are aware more and more that we are taken, broken, blessed and given. God give us grace to draw near with a strong and sincere faith. Amen and thank you all. Beverly

  3. Tim Nelson says:

    Thank you all for your insights and encouragement as we wslked together during Advent. Wishing you a holy Epiphany!

  4. Rodney Page says:

    Thanks to all for a wonderful Advent study! So many rich truths and insights are resonating deep within my soul.

    “Our lives are unique stones in the mosaic of human existence – priceless and irreplaceable.” For me, this speaks to my/our value and worth in God’s eyes. We are the Beloved because of how He sees us, the value He places upon us. What a comfort and assurance!

    As the saying goes, “2 out of 3 ain’t bad.” Among men, I am richly blessed and favored though my life has not been easy. As a 72 yr. old African-American man of color, I have seen, experienced, endured, and transcended much in my American life and journey. My faith foundation has steered me along my path. The struggles, enormous challenges, and brokenness I’ve experienced have ushered me into the life of a “wounded healer” which is a reference to one of Henri Nouwen’s earlier books, “The Wounded Healer.” It is a great book about transforming our wounds, pain, disappointments, and imperfections into agents of healing for others.

    My greatest internal conflict is with the word and concept of being CHOSEN. From a spiritual perspective, I understand clearly. Yet, from a practical reality, the word chosen is often synonymous with privilege, superiority, and better. Because of who I am, and the lens and filter through which I interpret the world (as well as what the world has shown me), here I am. Though certainly not God’s intent, being chosen has often led to genocide, racism, injustice, violence, and so many other distortions of man. I have come to understand that if we are truly CHOSEN, it is for Service rather than Privilege which is seemingly in line with The Life of the Beloved as expressed through Henri Nouwen. I have grown immensely in my acceptance as God’s Beloved. However, deep within I continue to struggle with CHOSEN. Just “keeping it real.”

    A Happy New Year to all! May your 2021 be overflowing with abundant Grace and
    Favor!

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Rodney,
      Thank you for this thought provoking comment. Although I don’t know, it would not surprise me that Henri himself, as privileged a life as he lived and for reasons different than yours, also struggled with the idea that he was CHOSEN–at least until the last few years of his life. Henri spent much of his life searching for home, and it wasn’t until he was invited to L’Arche, suffered and recovered from his emotional breakdown, and grew into his pastorate and ministry that he truly found that home. We have been blessed this Advent to share Henri’s “home-cooked” core spiritual insight that we are the Beloved.
      Be blessed and be well.
      Ray

      • Rodney Page says:

        Ray, thanks for your reply and blessing. Much appreciated! It has been a meaningful experience joining in this Advent experience. Lots to glean and discern from the book and all of the shared insights and responses. Thanks for your expertise in facilitating so wisely.

        Stay safe and well!

    • Helen says:

      I agree with your comment about how the word CHOSEN is often used to imply privilege, superiority, and better than. As a result, I have always felt myself resisting its use and objecting to how often it is casually imbedded into our rituals, prayers, and thinking as a result. I feel myself resisting its negative connotations. Years ago I had a similar problem with the use of the word “fear”, as in “fearing” the Lord. It created so much negative emotion for me when trying to feel loved. When I began to substitute the word “respect” or “awe” it became more acceptable, less dark, less negative. I believe semantics. are important and sometimes the meaning and context get lost in the translation and limits of our language. So, as I read “Life of the Beloved” I searched to find a better word to substitute for the concept of CHOSEN that might avoid the negative qualities you refer to. As Nouwen explored it, I decided that UNIQUE comes close to being a better word to substitute when I feel the resistence and am hoping to carry that through in my inner dialogue. Thanks for keeping it real.

      • Rodney Page says:

        Helen, thanks so much for your wise and thoughtful response. Much appreciated! My spirits have been lifted by your sharing of your thoughts concerning the words “fear” and “CHOSEN.” I concur that semantics are important, extremely so particularly as we bridge cultural and racial lines. Respect, awe, and reverence are words I’ve also learned to use instead of fear particularly related to “fearing the Lord.” And, I love your reference to the word UNIQUE as a substitute for CHOSEN.

        Thanks again Helen for your understanding and touching reply! Be well and safe!

  5. Barry Sullivan says:

    Merry Christmas to everyone. Thanks to Ray for being such a good guide on our journey. Let us pray that each of us remember, especially when times are tough, to say “Yes” to the one who calls us the Beloved.
    Barry

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Thanks Barry and all.
      It’s a privilege and a blessing for me to be able to moderate these discussions. We are on this journey together with Henri as our guide. I hope to see many of you for our Lenten discussion of Sabbatical Journey, written the year before Henri’s sudden and unexpected death.
      Ray

  6. Leslie says:

    Merry Christmas everyone. We are the Beloved!

  7. Marta Edwards says:

    Thank you Ray for another beautiful Advent! Loved the book. I am confident that Fred will find his answers. The search is part of the spiritual journey.
    Merry Christmas and God Bless.

  8. Christopher Ciummei says:

    “Maybe the great challenge is to trust so much in God’s love that I don’t have to be afraid to enter fully into the secular world and speak there about faith, hope, and love. Maybe the place where the gap has to be bridged is within me. Maybe the distinction between secular and sacred can be bridged when they have both been identified as aspects of every person’s experience of being human. Maybe I don’t have to become an apologist for God’s existence and the religious meaning of life in order to respond to Fred’s criticism. At this moment I can say no more than that.“

    For me, this passage in the Epilogue was both eye-opening and challenging at first glance. I had to think it over for a bit before responding. As a Christian, I often come at the process of explaining or understanding life strictly from a Christian perspective. Yet, I have many friends who are either much more liberal than I am, or are nonbelievers, and no matter how God is presented to them, the concept of the Beloved seems to leave them cold, sadly. So, perhaps reaching them in that way isn’t in God’s Plan for me. Maybe he will utilize me in my writing and historian/teaching profession to reach others in a way I have not even thought of yet. One of the astounding joys of the Life of the Beloved. What a wonderful Advent reading! Merry Christmas to all!

    • Barry Sullivan says:

      I enjoyed your reflections, Christopher, and a Merry Christmas to you!

    • John P. says:

      Thanks for your take on this. Initially I was disappointed in Fred’s response but then remembered that God is in charge, so decided just to pray for the ‘Freds’ of the world. Merry Christmas to all. Enjoyed the book and your sharings. Thanks all.

      • Christopher Ciummei says:

        Hi John! Yes, I would probably find Fred to be quite demanding in terms of a faith or spiritual path personally, but it’s also comforting to know that, at some point, God takes over. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    • Christopher,

      My experience is the same using “beloved” language with my secular and even many Christian friends. Perhaps (I don’t know) it’s an interior movement that is very individual to each of us to know my need to be beloved. Jesus came to save those who knew they had a need. Not those that thought they were well enough to skirt by on their own self-esteem. But I think you make an deeply insightful comment here: “Maybe the distinction between secular and sacred can be bridged when they have both been identified as aspects of every person’s experience of being human.” Thank you for your very thoughtful and illuminating insights, Christopher.

      • Christopher Ciummei says:

        Hi Beverly! Sorry for my late reply, and I hope that your Christmas season is going well! Yes, you’re absolutely right, I sometimes get a bit of pushback on that from my Christian friends too, particularly in the Calvinist traditions, where suffering is sometimes part and parcel to salvation. Thank you, and as someone who’s been on a particularly tough Advent journey with belovedness this year, I can safely say that it can affect both believers and non alike. 🙂

  9. Helen says:

    I have really enjoyed reading Life of the Beloved and this advent discussion group.
    The following poem is taken from “Circle of Grace. A Book of Blessings for the Seasons” written (2015) by Jan Richardson, a Methodist minister:

    Beloved Is Where We Begin

    If you would enter
    into the wilderness,
    do not begin without a blessing.

    Do not leave
    without hearing
    who you are:
    Beloved,
    named by the One
    who has traveled this path
    before you.

    Do not go
    without letting it echo
    in your ears,
    and if you find
    it is hard
    to let it into your heart,
    do not despair.
    That is what
    this journey is for.

    I cannot promise
    this blessing will free you
    from danger,
    from fear,
    from hunger
    or thirst,
    from the scorching
    of sun
    or the fall
    of the night.

    But I can tell you
    that on this path
    there will be help.

    I can tell you
    that on this way
    there will be rest.

    I can tell you
    that you will know
    the strange graces
    that come to our aid
    only on a road
    such as this,
    that fly to meet us
    bearing comfort
    and strength,
    that come alongside us
    for no other cause
    than to lean themselves
    toward our ear
    and with their
    curious insistence
    whisper our name:

    Beloved.
    Beloved.
    Beloved.

    Peace and blessings to all in 2021!

    • Cindy A. says:

      This is a pertinent and lovely poem that is speaking to the foundation that Henri N. seems to say in this book. Thank you for sharing WITH the author’s name.

    • Rodney Page says:

      Wow! What a powerful and meaningful blessing. So much Grace, Providence, and Protection!

      Thanks so much for sharing! Helen, you are a deep soul.

  10. Ray Glennon says:

    Friends,
    Once again, thanks to all of you that joined us for our Advent journey, those who posted comments and those following along silently. May you and yours have a blessed and joyous Christmas and a happy and fruitful New Year. I will give my last word as moderator to Henri himself in the prayer below. If any of you still have comments, please post them for all.

    Merry Christmas.
    Ray

    A Christmas Prayer Written by Henri Nouwen on December 23, 1985
    This prayer is from Daily Meditation email for December 24th that is drawn from the book You Are the Beloved. It originally appeared in The Road to Daybreak.

    O Lord,

    How hard it is to accept your way. You come to me as a small, powerless child born away from home. You live for me as a stranger in your own land. You die for me as a criminal outside the walls of the city, rejected by your own people, misunderstood by your friends, and feeling abandoned by your God.

    As I prepare to celebrate your birth, I am trying to feel loved, accepted, and at home in this world, and I am trying to overcome the feelings of alienation and separation that continue to assail me. But I wonder now if my deep sense of homelessness does not bring me closer to you than my occasional feelings of belonging. Where do I truly celebrate your birth: in a cozy home or in an unfamiliar house, among welcoming friends or among unknown strangers, with feelings of well-being or with feelings of loneliness?

    I do not have to run away from those experiences that are closest to yours. Just as you do not belong to this world, so I do not belong to this world. Every time I feel this way I have an occasion to be grateful and to embrace you better and taste more fully your joy and peace.
    Come, Lord Jesus, and be with me where I feel poorest. I trust that this is the place where you will find your manger and bring your light. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

    Amen.

    • Fran says:

      His prayer is so perfect for this Christmas. I was feeling somewhat depressed as I thought about spending tonight and tomorrow isolated from my children and grandchildren. It is a choice we made for safety from COVID. And so these words in the prayer give me consolation. No matter what my circumstances, He comes with light and hope.

      Thanks to you and everyone who has posted. It has been a rich experience for me.

  11. L.A. says:

    I have read most of Henri’s books and I was privileged to meet him March 1995 while he was in our city speaking at a local church.
    I think the gift Henri gave us was his vulnerability that let us see his deeper self. Henri said even though he knew he was a beloved child he didn’t always feel like he was. As he said “spiritual life is greater than my heart and greater than my mind and I can’t always feel it”. I am on that journey to feel like I am a beloved child of God. This process is a slow one and this book discussion plus the audio has helped me. I will listen to it many times. Thank you all for your thoughts and a special thanks to you Ray for leading us.
    Looking forward to the next book discussion. Merry Christmas to all.

  12. Marybeth says:

    I really want to thank everyone for all the insight and support this book discussion has provided for me. God’s timing was perfect again in guiding me to such a wonderful opportunity to share in His ongoing Love, on our journeys together 🙂 I enjoyed Henri ‘s
    recordings too. He shares his feelings so openly and honestly, which is rare in our world today. I too am glad that Fred encouraged him to write this book, even if it was for us, the seekers… rather than the secular.

    It does make me sad however, that so many like Fred have interest, yet lack the foundation lost over time. It’s just a thought, maybe even just wishful thinking, but I’ve been trying to talk to more secular people about the “spirit” of things (ie… America, Peace, Solidarity, Christmas…) to reinforce the non material type influences or powers in our world to set a foundation for those essential questions Henri mentioned ?? And at the same time opening a possible notion of a “Holy Spirit” , as I try to live my life as an example of the Beloved. As they say in the 12 Step Programs “its attraction not promotion “

    Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year!!

  13. Irene says:

    Thank you for this opportunity to read Nouwen’s “Life of the Beloved” together. Reading and reflecting together in this online community has been good. Thank you also for the wonderful gift of hearing Nouwen’s reflections in the audio recording. It was special. I know I will listen to it over and over again, and I plan to share it with my loved ones. @Rev. Dr. Robert O. Brown, my spiritual life is also a “work in progress.” Appreciate having this online community to walk this journey with these past few weeks. Merry Christmas to all.

    • Christopher Ciummei says:

      Irene, I agree! It’s very hard to find decent, respectful, and fun online discussions for Advent and Lent. Henri always hits the proverbial nail on the proverbial head! ❤️

  14. Amanda Taylor says:

    Apart from a brief introduction, I too have been silent on this journey so far and I am deeply grateful that in this kind company, as in God’s, silence is not taken as absence. Thank you all.

    I am moved now to share a simple prayer I heard yesterday morning (on Lectio 365 https://www.24-7prayer.com/dailydevotional) which seems to speak into the grapple at the heart of Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved and ours. It comes after a reading of the Magnificat:

    ‘Mary rejoices because she knows how highly God thinks of her.

    God, I name before You now those I know who don’t know Jesus or the love He has for them.

    I also name before You those who do know You but – for whatever reason – struggle to both accept and receive Your love the way Mary did.’

    In Jesus name, Amen

    I love the all-inclusive nature of this prayer – all humanity is, of course, ‘chosen’ – but, even as I thank God for those I know who, like Mary, reflect how captivating it is to know God thinks highly of them, I smile wryly at the task before me of mentioning by name everyone I know who fall into the other two categories (even with most of our plans for Christmas cancelled here in the UK!) Perhaps like God’s first commandment to us, it sounds simple but… it isn’t. And so, by its very nature, I suggest this prayer reminds us that we are built to be in relationship with God; He knows our weakness and loves us and does not expect us to pray this alone. Reminded, I turn to him again, with thanksgiving that He first loved us and with this prayer from Common Prayer which, in His beautiful timing I read yesterday:

    ‘Lord, it sounds so easy to follow you because you only call us to love. But love is too much for us! Overwhelm us with your love so that our song of praise might continue in patient kindness and generous support of our neighbours throughout this day.’ Amen

    Thank you for being my neighbours through this Advent and beyond.

    I too pray that we might continue our journey together in Lent.

    Amen

    Credit for prayer: Common Prayer (Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro):

  15. Sharon K. Hall says:

    As another person reflected upon, I also have been reflecting upon the sentence (on page 106 of my book) “Everything changes radically from the moment you know yourself as being sent into this world. Times and spaces, people and events, art and literature, history and science, they all cease to be opaque and become transparent, pointing far beyond themselves to the place from where you come and to where you will return. It is very hard for me to explain to you this radical change because it is a change that cannot be described in ordinary terms, nor can it be taught or practiced as a new discipline of self-knowledge……I believe Henri Nouwen is writing about a conversion experience and I also wonder whether he might have used more language to describe the experience but was reticent on the subject. I think we are living in a time where it seems like either conversion experiences are somehow exploited in some way and so authentic religion seems trivialized or else people have become so rational, scientific and skeptical that anyone could have trepidation that their experience would be accepted. Due to the pandemic this year and the necessity for all the virtual worships and virtual communion practices, I’ve felt compelled to try to read books on the subject and understand how my spirituality is being impacted upon. The latest book speaks to communion as being always in some sense “virtual” and that it is both about “presence” and “absence” which makes sense to me. All through Henri Nouwen’s book I feel he is addressing very well feeling God’s Presence but also the pain of feeling God’s absence. That I think is why his writing has been resonating so strongly with me. But also what he shared in his book about this radical change he experienced resonates with me too. I’ve only been able to share my experience with very, very limited people and have had experience of trying to “sort it out” by sharing with someone whom I actually felt humiliated by. Henri Nouwen writes so easily and comfortably by all the experiences of God but I wonder if the conversion experience is too personal, unless he writes about that in another book I haven’t read yet. And maybe that is what is involved in Fred’s reception of the book though as I read through that chapter did appreciate that Fred was very sincere and honest and kind in trying to explain to Henri Nouwen why there is still that great distance between them. Maybe the difference between both men lies in the perceptions of “presence” and “absence” and why Henri Nouwen finds peace in the Church, the faith community, and Fred as yet finds his bearing in the secular world. Maybe both are experiencing pain and the absence of pain but one’s pain can only be resolved in Christian faith and Eucharistic communion, the other’s pain by secular means. It’s a wonderful book and I’m thankful that other people affirmed Henri Nouwen in his writing and publishing it so that numerous others of us can also have access to it because it’s really difficult to be authentic at this time, maybe it always has been difficult, we can just have nostalgia for imaginary simpler times or something. Very thought-provoking book, thank you for providing opportunity to read in a group and Merry Christmas to all.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Sharon,
      Thank you for your perceptive comment reflecting on whether Henri is writing about a “conversion experience.” I’m not a Nouwen expert, but I am familiar with his writing and his life and, in my view, the answer is “Yes.” Under difficult circumstances Henri turned away from his own self-rejection and placed his trust in God, his life changed, and his core insight about our belovedness took root.

      As you may be aware, Henri experienced a serious emotional breakdown about a year after arriving at L’Arche. He mentions this in The Return of the Prodigal Son writing, “A few years ago, I, myself, was very concretely confronted with the choice: to return or not return. A friendship that at first seemed promising and life-giving, gradually pulled me farther and farther away from home. . . I kept being drawn by my love-hungry heart to deceptive ways of gaining a sense of self-worth. . . . Finally, I chose for containment instead of more dissipation and went to a place where I could be alone. (Ray note: With two counselors.) There, in my solitude, I started to walk home slowly and hesitantly, hearing ever more clearly the voice that says: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.’” Henri refers to this experience on page 19 in our book saying, “we both had to deal with pains of rejection and separation.”

      The Return of the Prodigal Son and Life of the Beloved were both published in 1992, about four years after Henri returned to L’Arche after his treatment. As part of his recovery Henri kept a journal during his time away. He refers to this journal in The Return. . . saying “The words are too raw, too noisy, too ‘bloody,’ and too naked.” After encouragement by his friends, in 1995 Henri published this “secret journal” as The Inner Voice of Love. This is the “other book” you asked about in your comment, and it is well worth your time.

      Merry Christmas.
      Ray

      • Sharon K. Hall says:

        Thanks, Ray. Your guidance towards reading The Inner Voice of Love is much appreciated!!!!!! Sometimes it is hard getting integrated and a lot of us Christians are drawn to Henri Nouwen’s Priestly wisdom on the journey. It’s sort of shocking still to me that it’s more complicated getting mature faith than just Sunday School. Thanks for your kindness here.

  16. Cindy says:

    It has taken me a lifetime to feel as if I am Beloved and to live in a life of peace and joy, in spite of the turmoil of the world around me. I cannot tell you how comforted I was to hear that Henri was unable to articulate in words what the mystery of God is. At times I so want to give this gift to my family using words, but words always fail to describe this gift. Living my life as Beloved by God is the best I can do in this life and in my death. Henri’s words “We are sent into this world for a short time to say the Great ‘Yes” to the love that has been given to us and in so doing return to the One who sent us with that “yes” engraved on our hearts” helps me put perspective on life and its many challenges. “I think of it as a mission that is very exhilarating and even exciting, mostly because the One who sent me on the mission is waiting for me to come home and tell he story of what I have learned” takes the sting from death, even makes me wait in anticipation. I have so enjoyed this book study and reading others musings on Henri’s writings.

  17. Barry Sullivan says:

    Reading Henri’s candid admission that he “had not been able to do what he [Fred] had hoped for” (p. 142) reminds us of the profound complexities in speaking to a secular world. A world, frankly, that all of us occupy at varying degrees (even Henri, as he notes on p. 147). In the end, we all have to admit our limits. Henri states this quite well:

    “I became increasingly aware that I can speak and write only about ideas and visions that are anchored in my own daily experiences. And these experiences are completely pervaded with the knowledge of God’s presence…I can only say: ‘for me, God is the one who calls me the Beloved, and I have a desire to express to others how I try to become more fully who I already am.’ But beyond that I feel very poor and powerless” (pp. 146-147).

    In many ways this quote captures what I have liked about Henri through his books and speeches (such as the podcast Ray posted above from Henri’s taped remarks). He was able to capture so well in words what it meant to him to experience God’s presence. Reflecting on his words has helped me to consider how I might apply his experiences to my life.

    However, if a powerful spiritual thinker and writer like Henri Nouwen had to admit human limits in speaking to a secular world, the rest of us should humbly consider our own limitations. Leave room for the Holy Spirit! God may reveal himself even to those who did not ask or seek.

    Isaiah 65:1
    “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me;
    I was found by those who did not seek me.
    To a nation that did not call on my name,
    I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’”

    Barry

  18. Ynes says:

    Good morning everyone!

    I’m behind with the lectures, I haven’t participated as much as I would like to.

    I’m so pleased , feeling happy , blessed, thankful for what I’ve read so far and for being part of this group discussion.

    I feel a new power inside me guiding me to recognized the beloved creature I am in GOD. I realized I’ve been the beloved but I tend to forget it from time to time.

    What a blessing to remind it again , I’ll do my best to become the beloved child of GOD , I’ve always been. And best of all to proclaim it to everyone around me specially my family members.

    God is good, God is merciful … God Love is all I need!

  19. Michael Day says:

    What a great Christmas gift. Thank you. TBH I cried because of the intimate setting. Thank you for doing this with us.

  20. Patricia Hesse says:

    …on “Living as the Beloved” –the perfect ending.

    Henri: “I still believe deeply that our few years on this earth are part of a much larger event that stretches out far beyond the boundaries of our birth and death.”

    Years ago, I heard the idea that we live both in eternity and time simultaneously. At first this seemed bizarre to me, but after thinking, it indeed seemed possible. Is anything impossible with God? I understand time. There is yesterday, today, and tomorrow. There is the past from thousands of years ago, hundreds of years ago, twenty years ago, an hour ago –there is now, and there is the near future and the distant future. I understand life as it exists in time. However, heaven is eternal. God is eternal. The Trinity is eternal –and NOT in time. I know eternity has no past, no today, no tomorrow. It is. Yet, I have a tendency to make my notion of eternity fit what I understand and find myself foolishly wondering, “Is eternity like a zillion years?”

    My concept of time –of life itself, is much like an ant crawling across a lengthy string suspended in the air. The ant began his long journey in the past; NOW is where he is, and further down the string is where he eventually will end up in the near future and then, the distant future and perhaps beyond. I wonder if perhaps eternity is taking hold of the beginning and the end of the extended string and simply bringing the two ends together until they meet.

    Is it possible that I am already there? Oh, I still have a life to live IN time that molds me and sanctifies me as God’s beloved child –a life filled with lessons to be learned and loving and testing and failing and tears and joy, but is it possible I am also already there at the Throne of Grace, celebrating the Lamb with all the saints?

    While all this may be bizarre, I find warmth and strength and purpose and belonging and belovedness in imagining it as true. I find encouragement and confirmation in shifting my vision to the eternal from this section of the book. I return to Henri’s sharing: “There is such confusion about the idea of a life ‘hereafter,’ or ‘the eternal life.’ Personally, I do believe deeply in the eternal life, but not simply as a life after our physical death” and then on another page …”I think of it as a mission into time, a mission that is very exhilarating and even exciting, mostly because the One who sent me on the mission is waiting for me to come home and tell the story of what I learned.”

    And he is doing just that.

    Merry Christmas to you all.

    • Barry Sullivan says:

      Hello Patricia,
      I just finished the final pages and focused my pencil markups in the book especially on Henri’s comments about “clock time” and his penetrating remarks about the nature of “eternal life.” Then I opened my computer and took a look at your responses here. I haven’t thought about this enough yet; however, your insightful reflections on time and eternity is very helpful. As you noted, this section of the book does aid in shifting our vision to the eternal.
      Thanks so much for the thoughtful reflections above and in previous weeks!
      Merry Christmas.
      Barry

    • Irene says:

      Thank you Patricia for this thoughtful reflection. I’ve not given much thought to the “time” we live in versus God’s eternal time. It gives me much to ponder.

  21. Rev. Dr. Robert O. Brown says:

    Thank you, Ray, and all participants who shared openly their journeys of struggles and growth. For me, it is a prod to continue walking the road toward the junction point where 2 other roads branch off—one at which the radiant Christ and loving Father welcome me to journey on together (reference Robert Frost’s road that “….made all the difference”). The spiritual life is, for me (even at age 79) a “work in progress”. Thank you all and this book for supplying some of the “ spiritual fuel” for carrying forth. Looking forth to joining you in Lent.

  22. Ray Glennon says:

    From Beverly Weinhold (Copied from Advent Week 3)

    Despite the fact I am a day late for this post, I had to write about our reading because it was profound. It struck a deep personal cord as I have been struggling with Covid for 3 weeks now. Even if no one reads this posting I felt called to write it for myself to see.

    First I want to summarize what Henri said in his chapter entitled ‘Broken:’ (85-103). I see two movements in this chapter. One describes brokenness (85-92) and the second sums up how to deal with brokenness (92-103).

    Describing it he says straightforwarly all of us are uniquely broken. The uniqueness of it informs the gifts we give others so we are to ‘claim’ brokenness. Beyond the brokenness of poverty, behavioral health issues and a dearth of basic resources is a unversal “broken heart” (89). This isolation can lead to false intimacy (sexuality) and self rejection in our longing for community.

    Dealing with our brokenness invites us to two movements: befriending it (92) and putting it under the blessing rather than the curse (95). To befriend it we must face brokkenss squarely rather than run away: “the first step to healing is not to step away from the pain but step toward it…” (93). This movement allows us to accept our humanity and be our true self, offering “real care” to others helping them see suffering as a “gateway to joy” (96).

    This gateway opens the door to see brokenness as a blessing rather than a curse. To perpetuate negative self talk that says “I aways suspected I was useless or worthless…” (96) is to yield to self’-rejection that (my words) makes us a victim not the Beloved. “The powers of darkness around this thinking is strong (97), so its critical to stand against it.

    Summing this up I was sitting across from my copy of Rembrandt’s “The Prodigal Son.” Looking at the painting I saw something deep and profound for the first time. I saw the older brother as the self-righteous who believe themselves better, the standing shadowy figure as the world watching in judgement and the kneeling figure as the false self of the Prodigal poised in self-rejection in his brokenness. Making the Father’s embrace a much more bold Blessing tented over the Prodigal’s shoulder protecting his Belovedness from the onslaught of other voices.

    Only in this place can I say with Leonard Bernstein ” I never recognized how broken glass could shine so brightly” (102). Thank you for having a space to write this down.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Beverly,
      Thank you for this sharing and your regular participation in these discussions. May the God send the healing power of his Holy Spirit to strengthen you in your battle with COVID and to restore you to complete health. And as St. Francis said to those he met along the way, “May the Lord give you peace.”
      Blessings,
      Ray

    • Irene says:

      Thank you for bringing our attention to this post, Ray. Beverly, wanted to let you know I read your post. Thank you for that thoughtful summary. Praying for the Holy Spirit to embrace and infuse you with healing and peace.

  23. Elaine M says:

    I am so impressed with Henri’s humble admission that he did not fully succeed in reassuring Fred and in moving him more fully out of secular preoccupations. Still Fred moved into a much better place with a happy marriage and publication of young adult books with important messages, Surely Henri planted the seeds. And believers do benefit greatly from Henri’s encouragement to view ourselves as the beloved even as we assume roles in secular world where we might be barraged by contrary messages.
    My less “secular” career path as a teacher of English and social justice classes and as a community service coordinator was probably easier than Fred’s, but I watched my husband struggle in his role as a business executive who worked hard to get some of his employees in middle management to buy into ethical business practices and to eschew a cut-throat culture but rather to adopt a team-oriented approach.
    I like Henri’s discussion question at the end: “Have you ever met someone who lived life ‘from above’?” In my retirement, I see this every day in the members of my St. Vincent de Paul conference, who devote much of their lives not only to helping neighbors with financial and material needs but also affirming their human dignity and belovedness. I need to give a special shout-out to Joe, a highly successful entrepreneur who worked with us years ago. Joe always asked that we identify him only as an anonymous donor, but he supported the toughest cases that came our way at our St. Vincent de Paul conference. When we thought there was no hope of keeping a family from homelessness based on our limited funds, Joe came through. When we needed extra funds for Christmas gifts, elders’ medical needs, or kids’ clothing or school supplies, Joe came through. All Joe asked was a little information about the recipient so that he could include the person in his daily prayers. Joe even donated a kidney to one of his neighbors! No holier-than-thou attitude in this man, just gentleness, humility, self-deprecating humor, and affirmation of the philosophy that “to whom much has been given, much is required”—and not just from a sense of obligation but from an abiding love.
    What I have loved most about Henri and about the participants in this book discussion is a similar kind of attitude. You have shared your failings, your brokenness, your struggles to find wholeness, your aspirations, your various roles as workers in the Lord’s vineyard, and the ways you have come to discover your own belovedness and that of others. Still we all need daily reminders. I am grateful to find such reminders in this space.

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