Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Easter Meditations

Father John J. Lombardi

Bliss is His Risen Presence: keep saying this phrase, within-whether you are active (washing dishes, walking) or passive (resting, enjoying time alone). That is what Easter is about-Christ's riseness for us today--not just long ago.

This prayer it is called an aspiration-which means for our spirit to rise above-to make an offering of our deepest self to God. Try to cultivate a mindful presence of Christ thru this aspiration, reminding you what this Sacred Season Easter is about, and that continual practice of Faith and prayer is required. Here's another aspiration: Breathing one with the Son: based on St John 20:22, when the risen Jesus breathes on the Apostles and gives them the Holy Spirit-a kinda "gritty Divinity". The Risen Jesus loves us He gives us Himself , as He breathes you when you practice this aspiration. While I like the Bible accounts about Easter and spirituality and art and historical practice of our Faith, I also know I need to practice it, live it, breathe it. Along these lines a pilgrim recently asked me what I thought about yoga. Hmmm-a good question: so many are encountering eastern spiritualities, taking mindfulness courses at jobs and seeing yoga offered just about everywhere. In college I was blessed to study Indian philosophy and I learned about this ancient practice of spiritual-physiological training, and of its practice in the West. And so, with Easter Faith, here is a response:

1-Three P's-you may proceed prudently and purify some elements. Some yoga is obviously non-sectarian (like your local YMCA calisthenics class) and stripped of any Hinduistic elements from which it originated, while other forms yoga offered come directly from this religion and culture implicitly or explicitly. You need discern what form of yoga is offered and the instructor and background. If it is "safe" and non-religious you may proceed and "Christianize" it yourself (under your breath-pardon the pun!-like using one of the aspirations above in your movements of practice). However, note: the US Bishops just issued a statement on Reiki, the eastern technique of exercise, and stated some harmful elements of it which are counter to the faith -such as the "channeling" of spirits, etc. If you want to utilize yoga in any way: avoid any overt non- Christian elements; purify what is harmful or contrary to Christianity and bring your own faith into it as best you can.

2. Avoid extremes--from "A to Z". A is for the extreme of Anything goes in a modern practice of spirituality. For instance some may think Hinduism's polytheism and channeling spirits is ok w/ Christianity; obviously it is not. The other extreme is: Zero tolerance and helps from other cultures or systems; everything's forbidden. Somewhere we modern Catholics and Christians must discern this continuum and "find the radical middle". This "centrist position avoids sliding on the continuum's extreme towards the "A" of anything goes-such as syncretism--meddling with elements not applicable to Christian discipleship. Oppositely, another form of extremism errs on the continuum towards the "Z" of zero tolerance-- as in legalism (Law becomes a god) and literalism (only view of creation and lack of mystical helps in bible and faith matters). Catholicism has always sought this middle in both integrating new, "friendly" customs while also purifying out others. For instance some of our churches are modeled on Classical Rome's courtrooms; St Thomas Aquinas adopted the Pagan Aristotle for philosophical help which affected most of the Western world; and the Blessed Virgin Mary in apparitions often appears in the native dress of local cultures-think of Guadalupe and her Indian-esque apparel). Meanwhile Christians have rejected communism and extreme forms of capitalism as contrary to the Faith along with necromancy and horoscopes.

3-We have some truths like yoga already in our Religion. Like mindfulness; healthy St Paul says: "Are you not aware that your body is a temple of God and the Holy Spirit dwells within you?" I Cor. 6:17), and: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Jesus Christ" (Phil. 2:5). These passages-and many others in the New Testament-testify that we persons are tripartite-body, mind and soul/spirit, and that we need cultivate all three aspects of ourselves. Obviously, sometimes we and our Christian practice neglects one or the other of these aspects. And yet today many Christians are longing to develop all three holistically and the contemporary practice of valid forms of yoga is a manifestation of this. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit language meaning "union" And that is what serious Christians are about: oneness with God. After all Jesus says, "Abide in Me and I in you" (Jn. 15:4). Yoga is an ancient practice incorporating body, mind and soul (or spirit as they say) into a spiritual discipline. When we fill our bodies and minds with toxins, excess processed and junk foods, mental pollutants like violence and sensuality from the world and media, we are impacting our Temples with contrary, harmful strangulating elements which lodge within us and need purification. Asceticism is the ancient, lost art of de-toxifying the body mind and soul and, unfortunately in the West we have neglected or rejected this discipline and yoga, new age and eastern spiritualities are filling the void.

To wit: let's look at the three aspects of our personhood and possibility of yoga disinclines. Body: most yoga practices can harness the body in a non-sectarian-or even a Christian way-by gentle stretches of the body to heal muscles and joints and bones. Simply put: exercising the body is obviously not harmful to our Faith and will only enhance it! St Paul says: "I train my body and discipline it" (I Cor 9: 23) Mind: is applied within , during physical stretches in the form of an aspiration (or as they say: mantra). Once again this is ok if it is non-sectarian or Christian in manner. " Let this mind be in you which was also in Jesus Christ" (Phil 2:5) and "Whatever you do for the glory of God". Christians using valid yoga disciplines are simply executing these biblical principles-being mind-full of Jesus and the Trinity while working out-who can be against that?! Spirit: here's the rub. If yoga practice incorporates anti-Christian elements (like a Hindu god or otherwise alien spirit-as in reiki) then it should be avoided absolutely. However, it is possible to integrate the Holy Spirit into your practice and allow Him to flow thru your body to ease discomforts, integrate you and so you truly become a Temple of Him. Jesus describes not only a unity but vital intimacy with disciples "I Am the Vine and you are the branches" (Jn.15: ) indicating He is our harmony within, and when we are cut off from Him, we are deadened. Remember the point of Christianity (and using a viable form of "neutral-yoga") is Union-and when either sin or physical ailments block this we should strive to alleviate them.

Blessings from Mary's Mountain-Fr Jack Lombardi

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi