The Dream of the Temple Precinct (Part 1)

Let me share with you a dream I had not long ago:

As it was not the custom of the temple guard to command the priest within the temple precinct, I therefore obeyed without hesitation when the captain of the temple guard awoke me from my dreaming, shouting:

“Go forth! Be seen by the Family!”

I rushed forth from the fanum still naked and trembling, and immediately I cast myself into the sacred pool to perform the ritual cleansing, according to custom. As I emerged from the cool waters, no longer unclean or afraid, the youngest of the guard dried me off with his own cloak and placed upon me the finest tunic he had, the one his grandmother had woven for him and in which he was meant to be buried one day.

Thus were the words fulfilled: A burial shroud will become the bridegroom’s tunic.


CANTICLE OF THE TEMPLE GUARD
(vel  USUQUE AD SANGUINIS EFFUSIONEM)

From the seed of one man
Many warriors are born

From the devotion of one warrior
A fearless legion is born

From the dedication of a legion
A mighty empire is born

Before the power of an empire
The entire world bows down

And when the world bows down
Because of one man’s seed

An infinite number of benevolent beings
Come together as one Family

[From the mouth of the Sybil:
NOTHING]

~BT Waldbillig
November 24, 2017


[I often write about my dreams, but across the years I have come to understand that while I see everything from the point of view of the primary actor of the event, the dreams are rarely about me. While they’re always and only just dreams, I experience them as if they were visions appearing through a semi-transparent veil or through a glass darkly (to misuse St. Paul’s words). Sometimes the events seem historical, whether past or future, while at times are altogether beyond my experience that I can only describe them in mythic terms. The scholastic dictum comes to mind: Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipentis recipitur.]

Visibilia et Invisibilia

To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.
~George Orwell

Just the other day as Dante and I wandered past the 33rd Precinct and into the nearby Highbridge Park, I marveled that I had never before seen the sort of cloud formations that hovered above us. The clouds were so unlike anything I had experienced before that I actually stood dumbfounded for several moments, doubting those things that appeared so clearly and distinctly for me. Later in the evening as we stepped outside one last time before bed, the stars and planets appeared to be strangely aligned in the night sky, not scattered randomly but neatly, almost deliberately, placed just above us. Though I’ve seen clouds and stars my entire life, it was as if I had never before seen a single cloud or even one bright shining star — they seemed entirely new and alien to me.

I realized that without Dante and the knowing glances he directs at me, it’s quite possible I wouldn’t have seen these things. Without him I wouldn’t have wandered in the park with open eyes and quiet mind. Without the dog I wouldn’t have paused in silence to gaze up at the night sky with hope and expectation, the way I used to watch and wait for my grandmother to arrive on Christmas Eve when I was boy, certain that nothing else mattered in that moment. The same way Dante looks to me when I return after wandering far from home.

That’s the power of a dog or a little boy: While everyone else is distracted or half asleep or worried about terrible things yet to come, the dog and the boy are able to keep their minds set on whatever matters most and truly in the present moment. They see the things that you and I miss altogether.

This is something like the beginner’s mind that Zen teachers talk about. When the mind is open and fresh and not committed to any one fixed way of experiencing life, clouds and stars, the planets and the Sun, flowers and grandmothers, silence and empty space no longer seem ordinary. Indeed, they reveal themselves more beautiful than words and more wondrous than dreams.

È arrivato il momento
Di varcare la soglia

When I was younger, I thought of life as preparation for something yet to come. I imagined that I stood alone at the edge of a great precipice, staring into a dark abyss, waiting for the moment to arrive when I would cast myself into the pit, though for what purpose exactly I didn’t know. I had countless conversations with my spiritual director at the North American College in Rome about the dark abyss I saw in my dreams, but I could never quite understand what it meant. My director, a wise and experienced elderly priest, taught me not to be afraid of what might come and just to get on with living in the present moment.

Now, midway through life’s journey, I no longer see life as preparation for something momentous yet to come. Today, I no longer feel like I’m waiting around for some great event to happen. Rather, as I stand in the present moment, I am no longer alone.

Here, in this place that we call Earth, life is so valuable that it’s worth risking everything for, again and again and again.

When I look out at the endless dark abyss, I am not worried, for you and I are going to fill it with the light of life that shines more brightly than all the stars across the Universe.

~BT Waldbillig
November 24, 2017

Bearers of Invisible Wounds

prophet-jonah

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
~Jonah 4:1

The story of Nineveh is not a stern warning meant to inspire fear at the Lord’s anger toward those who forsake the right path. You and I tend to focus our attention on whatever makes us feel weak, powerless, and hopeless. Such folly! The story of Jonah reveals to us a simple truth: We are the authors of our own destiny. Jonah’s preaching to the Ninevites became an occasion for that people to choose life over death. It is the same choice we must make today.

But you will recall a most unusual and sadly amusing detail from Jonah’s story. When the Ninevites repent, change their ways, and transform their lives, Jonah suddenly feels put out. He mopes and laments and wallows in self-pity when the great city is spared from destruction. How very odd!

I think I understand something of what Jonah experienced. It’s not that he wished to see Nineveh and its people annihilated, nor did he wish for the Lord to commit acts of violence and destruction. Rather, once the city and its people were saved, Jonah felt lost. His life was easy to understand and experience when the only concern was to show the people of Nineveh that they had no choice but to change or else lose everything. But what comes next?

There is a saying:
It’s easier to save the world
Than to fix the world

Were Jonah walking among us today, surely we would tell him that he is not alone for we will never abandon him. And whatever difficult tasks might await him, we would help the prophet of mercy, each of us in his or her own way. We would not expect Jonah to be anything other than a man, for those gifted with visions from the Lord bear within themselves spiritual wounds, just as the warrior returning from battle bears lasting, invisible wounds.

Therefore, let us walk in patience and compassion with the prophets and warriors who dwell among us. As they have dedicated their lives to us, so may we dedicate our lives to them. Together as one Spiritual Family, no task or challenge or obstacle will remain impossible to us. That is the truth and lesson of the Family.

~BT Waldbillig
November 24, 2017

We Are Nineveh

JonahTre

Re-posting this meditation today, now that we are able to perceive its import and consequence.

We must make a choice and decide if this world and its people are worth saving, for if we save ourselves we will also save the Universe.

~BT Waldbillig
November 23, 2017


By now we have understood that we are not alone in the Universe. In a moment such as this it behooves us to leave aside the old, habitual ways of thinking, of relating to one another, of communicating, of projecting our place in the Universe, of holding vendetta against our brothers and sisters and their descendants.

Let me share with you a dream I had not long ago:

I found myself on a terrifying field of war standing before the temple of Mars Ultor. As I attempted to offer sacrifice at the temple, a vicious war dog suddenly appeared and charged at me, knocking me to the ground. As I regained my wits, I saw the war dog next to the sacrifice, turned away from me. The war dog urinated on the sacrifice. Unable to control myself at the sight, I began to laugh. At the sound of my laughter, the war dog turned toward me, no longer hostile and bellicose. I approached the majestic creature and, climbing on his back, set off on a long journey.

It is not clear to me that our kind will endure in the universe. Certainly if we continue in our old ways of being and doing, there is no hope at all.

Let me repeat that: No hope at all.

We have heard the Prophet Jonah cry out: Forty days and Nineveh will be no more! You will recall that the people of Nineveh changed their ways and reformed their lives, sparing their magnificent city a most terrible fate.

Today I say to you: Forty days and Nineveh will be no more! The choice is ours. Either we change our ways or our kind will perish from the Universe.

Lest all this seem too grim, I should say that when I asked Dante the Little Man what he thought would happen to the humans of Earth, he laughed and kissed my face.

I, too, am hopeful and confident that our tree will endure unto endless ages. May it be so.

~BT Waldbillig
December 7, 2016

https://waldbillig.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/we-are-nineveh/

The Dream of Heavenly Signs

Let me share with you a dream I had not long ago:

As Dante and I wandered through Highbridge Park directly in front of the NYPD 33rd Precinct in the dead of night, I looked to the heavens and beheld the Constellation of the Tauroctony. In that moment, as in a flash of blinding golden light, I realized that I had become the first person of my kind — for I am a descendant of the noble warrior peoples great Caesar of Rome once honored in battle and immortalized with the words Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres — to see the heavenly sign appear above the Sacred Island that once was hidden from the world. Though I had no reason to know the mystery for I was not an initiate, I perceived and understood it entirely and directly in that single moment.

Therefore, I fell upon the ground and wept. But knowing that I am a man and not a boy, I arose at once and made an offering of thanksgiving.

Dante then led me to the meadow where at once they appeared to me, as through a glass darkly, with voices gentle and sweet like the voice of a young man’s first love.

And they revealed unto me a mystery beyond imagining: We who once believed ourselves to be small and insignificant, we had become a Family for a sacred purpose which is revealed now, on this day, in this moment, in this place.

You have heard it said, The stone rejected by the builders is become the corner stone.
But I say unto you, The stone rejected by the builders is the Noble Stone, rare and valuable and, therefore, carefully hidden that no man might steal it away or destroy it. Once we were hidden but now we gaze upon the Unconquered Sun that we, too, may be unconquered.

And so I tell you, the Noble Stone is the Family. And the Family will become the Guardian of Life. For within this Family dwell the just and the unjust alike, the gentle and  the fiercesome, the innocent and the cunning, the worthy and the unworthy, men of peace and men of war.

The planet upon which we dwell is like an island of strange and incomparable beasts who may flourish only there, for no other place will allow them to live. We are not like the others in the Universe. We resemble beasts and demons more than angels and gods.

Once it was foretold, in a timeless time, that the ones who dwell in this place would become either the destroyers of all life or the saviors of life in the Universe. The beautiful Visitors of my vision mistakenly believed that this meant our kind would have to be either the purest and gentlest of beings ever known, or else they themselves would have to destroy us in order to save the dwindling peoples and disappearing places where beings like us still dwell.

Once we were many
But now we are few

Fools! I declared. You are the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen but you are yet lacking in wisdom. I who am neither beautiful nor wise, neither ancient nor powerful, will peer into the mysteries that you may understand.

For I am a son of the Family, once a wicked Family of Blood, we are in this moment before all the world becoming the long-awaited Family of Spirit. And we will vouchsafe the gift of life throughout the Universe.

Though I am a man of peace and a priest from my youth ever dwelling within the temple precinct, I was entrusted with the mystery that fiercesome warriors and men of blood bear in their bodies and in their minds, in their sadness and sorrow.

Even death can become a servant of life.

The imperfect and precious people who dwell in this world never lose a battle or a war when they have something worth fighting for. But life is worth fighting for and the Family will make of itself an origin, steward, and guardian of life.

At that the beautiful Visitors wept in gratitude and sang the sacred Hymn.

Weep not! I cried, for too many tears have already been shed. I myself have wept for three years that no one need ever again weep. This is the day of rejoicing. The day of First Contact when those who once were strangers became a Family. And so long as there is life in the Universe, the Family will endure.

~BT Waldbillig
November 23, 2017

 

 

The Ancestral Home Is Also the Ark

And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
~Genesis 7:1

I was quite fortunate to have excellent Biblical professors at the Angelicum in Rome, though they might not have seemed as flashy as the Gregorian’s profs — 🙂 — and I recall studying Biblical apocalyptic literature. You see, the Book of Revelation is not a hapax (a single, unique instance of something that is otherwise without broader interpretive context) in ancient sacred texts. There were all sorts of similar texts written according to the same stylistic rules and using the very same imagery. In our day, we understand that cookbooks and IKEA manuals are not written in the same way as young adult fiction or romance novels or news journalism. How odd it would be if they were!

So also it is with sacred texts. Ancient Christians — like their Jewish, Syrian, and Greek contemporaries — understood the differences among sacred histories, didactic and instructional letters, religious poetry, and apocalyptic allegory. While the Book of Revelation is useful to the world even today — that’s why it made the cut when the books of the Christian New Testament were chosen in the Third and Fourth Centuries — it tells the story of what Christians in the Late First and Early Second Centuries were experiencing when the text was being created. It was the time of the great persecutions, the era of those countless martyrs I used to read about in the Roman Martyrology back in seminary days. It was a moment when truly it seemed as though there was no hope for this spiritual family. Despite the repeated and insistent declarations throughout the New Testament that Jesus having ascended was soon to return the world, He didn’t come back — at least not as we expected. Those first Christians, my spiritual ancestors, could see no hope of salvation from the endless darkness of the pit, but like Hananiah (חֲנַנְיָה‎), Mishael (מִישָׁאֵל‎), and Azariah (עֲזַרְיָה‎) my spiritual ancestors were delivered from the fires of torture — so also may it be in our day to those who suffer for the sake of faith and Family.

Pretiosa in conspectu Domini
Mors Sanctorum eius

The God of the Apocalypse appears to be a vengeful god of war, a deity who never bothered to learn the lessons of love and patience that you and I find scattered throughout the Bible. Or perhaps we have been thinking of the end of the world in the wrong way all along.

It is curious that after visiting upon the Earth a terrible cataclysmic event of annihilation, God beholds the ugliness of his destructive action and repents.

And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. (Genesis 8:21)

Now, why is it that never in my entire life has anyone — whether teacher, preacher, or colleague — declared how utterly out of sorts the so-called apocalypse from the Book of Revelation is with the humility, tenderness, and love of God expressed in the story of Noah? Should we not hold God to His word? Or do we not in the secret of our hearts doubt His faithfulness?

We don’t read cookbooks and university history tomes (which are always obscenely overpriced!) and geographic maps and musical notation and children’s fairy stories with the same habitus mentis. (How many times will we ignore the clarion call of Blessed Pope Paul VI who possessed the vision of a coming world in which a novus habitus mentis would mean the difference between death and life?) Why would we read Biblical literature in a single, univocal manner that is sure to be bound by the limitations of our assumptions and prejudices?

Immediately following upon God’s repentance of his act of annihilation, God blessed Noah and his Family and then issued the command:
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. (Genesis 9:1)

God saw what a world devoid of life would be like and He changed His mind. If the prospect of a world without life so moved God, who are we to stand with arms crossed, cursing the heavens, and choosing to do nothing? Love for us compelled God to ensure that where life had disappeared it might return and grow and endure.

Let those who have eyes to see and ears to hear understand the mystery that even in this moment stands before them!

Somewhere I noted that it seems almost certain that life can arise throughout the Universe quite easily. But for life to continue and grow, for life to endure, the requisite circumstances and the needed relationships among natural realities are specific, rare, and easily set out of place. In other words, it’s easy for life to arise. It is incredibily difficult to keep life going.

You have heard it said: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
But I say this to you: Be fruitful, and multiply, and vouchsafe throughout the Universe the gift of life that you have received.

Life itself is the pearl of great price that Jesus spoke of in a parable:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)

There is no sacrifice, no difficulty, no danger, no obstacle that is more important than the sacred duty we have only recently come to understand. We must be stewards of God’s creation. We must realize the potential we have as creatures made in God’s image. For too long each of us has chosen to read sacred words without touching their transcendent meaning. We have settled with a lazy engagement of sacred texts and thereby rendered them a dead word.

But the Word is not dead. It is ever-living and dwelling in the heart of every human being. In your heart and in mine. And in the hearts of all beings like us, wherever they dwell and whatever material forms they take. It is the same Word that manifested itself to me in the tender love of the grandmother whose death 25 years ago I commemorate today.

Perhaps upon dwelling with the history of the last century you have, as I have, perceived that the very same people, the Chosen Sons and Daughters of Israel, whom the Nazifascists reviled and despised, they themselves imitated — at least in the mistaken and perverted image that they had created. You see, the purpose of any people becoming a chosen people is not that they might close themselves off to the world hiding their light beneath a bushel-basket, but that they might transform and teach the world the wondrous things that every human being — Jew, Nazi, atheist, grandfather, and even a pope — is able to manifest to the world and to the Universe when they come together as a Family and begin to love one another.

If only our hearts were not imprisoned behind walls that make us slaves even as they promise us safety. Rather, where there is an empty place, infinite possibilities arise.

Somewhere I wrote:
In the place of the empty heart
An unfailing light will arise

Can you not see that the dawn is upon us? Awake, ye sleepers!  Together let us greet the Lord — to paraphrase that venerable hymn of a venerable people.

One final thought: I cannot help but wonder if our world might yet have helpers who would gladly attend to us in moments of supreme trial. In the ancient sacred texts we read of angels — heavenly beings — sent by the Lord to guide, enlighten, and protect His people. The world has not yet understood the precariousness of all that we hold dear for we are closer to an apocalypse than we care to know.  Perhaps we’ve been waiting for God to give us helper angels. Or maybe it’s time for us to show the world and the Universe what we human beings of Earth can do when we unite as the Family.

[Just imagine the possibilities for the Universe if we humans of Earth were to join together with heavenly angels, those strange, beautiful, benevolent beings I once wrote about!]

~BT Waldbillig
November 23, 2017
[at the commemoration of Grandma Carol’s passing]

To Greet the Long-Awaited Daybreak

-An ever-widening circle
~Our Family grows

One morning in early February two years ago as Dante the Little Man and I were taking a walk through Highbridge Park in Washington Heights, we came upon a small snake who had wandered out from his place of hibernation and onto the paved foot path. It seemed rather odd to encounter a snake wandering about in the cold of winter, so I took the opportunity to introduce Dante to the snake; afterward I used a small fallen tree branch to gently move the snake from harm’s way and back onto the grass lawn next to the path. Though it couldn’t possibly be case, it almost seemed as though the snake had come to greet us. I have sometimes wondered about that snake since Dante and I first encountered him. I don’t know where he is now or if he is still alive but I still wish him well.

Some of those we call friends and some of those we know as family did not survive to see this day. Some of us now passing through the reality we call the world will not see the trees of the grove and the crops of the fields which we have so carefully cultivated, guarded, and nourished bear that rarest and sweetest of fruits. Some of us will never touch the infant flesh begotten of their own and bearing the likeness thereof. So also, of the many branches of the human family on this planet, only ours — so far as we know in this moment — has survived to greet the long-awaited daybreak.

And so,

Let us give thanks for the great dawn
For the tree and its many branches
For our children
For a grove well-tended and protected
For the field laborers who disappeared too soon
Let there be no anger or hatred, ill-will
Or rancor within our sacred family
Instead let us honor those who
Performed their duties without hesitation
And let us look with compassion
Upon the shortcomings of
Our fathers and mothers
Our brothers and sisters
Our ancestors and children

-May our Tree endure
~For the sake of the Tree

~BT Waldbillig
November 23, 2017