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Retreat Conference. Openess

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Hosted by Prior Raniero Hoffmann, 


It is certainly always good to have you here with us. Brothers will be gathering each morning, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, at this time, with Ivan for his presentations. Ivan brought with him some recent cards that have been made at the Hermitage of Knovely of two of the artworks that are there. One is the large Della Rovia that is in the chapel at the Hermitage, made into a card. And then also is a picture of Romulo teaching the brothers on that. It's a huge, almost as big, not as wide as that wall, but almost as tall as that wall. And when you see it, the light is just extraordinary on it. It was done, what, in 1915, I think, and it's really, really lovely. So I have them here, I'll put them out on the table underneath the bulletin board, should


anybody care to take copies of the cards. Thanks, Ivan, for bringing them. Ivan's conferences will, in fact, be meditations, and meditations that he has offered to various religious and lay groups in and throughout Italy. So only on Friday will we have an opportunity for discussions and questions that Ivan has asked us, that we receive what he offers us as meditations, and that we hear it, that we take the meditations with us, that we ponder over them and build on them, because they build on each other successively, and then we can have time for discussion on Friday, as Ivan's requests. And since we're having these conferences and meditations throughout this week, on Saturday,


rather, we won't have community-ongoing information, just a simple Saturday chapter. So again, welcome, Ivan. So the first word we inaugurate our day at dawn is an opening invocation. Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise. And I feel that the bet, the challenge of our existence resides in this invocation to the other that opens us. And the relationship we entertain with things and world's beings doesn't suffice, and


there is always something, some other, that we may call openness, that is, the possibility that I be, that we are, a possibility to be opened, not only lips but limbs, to more than being in the world, more than holding or consuming, more than moving, thinking, or working. We invoke the other. We are infinitely more than simple beings. And to be faithful to the openness, to be channels and media of the openness, that is all I will try to express, to evoke, to stammer in the course of these meditations that I


am glad to share with you. And what I ask is your boundless benevolence to welcome my tottering English and the insight that have visited my soul and I simply desire to offer. So I have called this first meditation in praise of openness, and I would like to share with you an experience of opening, unfolding three events, artistic, monastic, and evangelical. So this is the step. So we plunge into the first disclosure through the work of an artist, Anish Kapoor, who aims


to move us from the perception of a closed and settled universe and awaken us to a multiverse opening. He offers us the experience of a breakout from the objectivity of beings and of matter that means not an abstract desire for purity or disembodiment, but making contact with a fluctuant reality that cannot be forced into a form. How, for example, can you express the surge of passions, the ups and downs of trust, the multifaceted aspects of experience, the perceptions of love, pain, or grace?


So born in Bombay in 1954 of an Indian father and a Jewish mother, Anish Kapoor is English by adoption and by vocation a universal pilgrim. I saw his works in Rome and Naples. From 1981 to 1985, he works at an installation he calls 1000 Naves, and I give now a piece of this work so that you realize what is it. So


here is a piece of the work, and there are other details of the work. It is a sort, we could say, of work in progress, a creation in the process of growing, revolving around the concept of evoking in an enclosed space the energy of the sacred in all its countless denominations, shapes, and manifestations. The living reality taking on a thousand appearances and a thousand names. And as you can see, the installation takes place in a large room, an environment that


is at the same time physical, spiritual, individual, social, and cosmic. So it is this room, it is we, it is the cosmic. On the floor are scattered three-dimensional objects, multiple forms of different colored chromatic powder, blue, red, white, yellow, black, that constitute a non-geometric whole, open and free. Figures rise from the floor and bulge out of the walls, expressing energetic expansion of material, their potential for proliferation and tendency to overflow towards an inside


or an outside. Thousands names expresses the experience that living beings are not stable and isolated bodies, but particles of a much bigger and boundless whole, in which they are incorporated, they move, and they interconnect. An archipelago of forms and colors creating an energy field of life forces. An unstable multiverse of powers, presences, and symbols that doesn't represent a clear identity, enclosed in the comforting shell of a definition, but the multiformity of life


in her polychromy, vibration, connection, breathing, and pulsation. The divine, which manifests itself in thousands names, enveloping and accompanying us at every step and with each breath, is sublime. Like the primary colors, it is a creative energy that bursts out from the abysses of the earth, from the walls, from the events of our everyday life, and from artifacts and images that surround us. And yet it is ephemeral, unstable, weak, undefined, close to decomposition,


almost disappearing in the shapes. And the work asks the viewer not only to contemplate as object, but also to be traversed, touched. We can slowly move through the space of the installation with attention, continuously distracted and surprised by the mutability of manifested objects in their perpetual transformation, transit, and passage through different dimensions. Between housing and suspension, descent and ascent, spiritual and physical, divine and human,


sacred and profane, volatile and stable, order and anarchy, fullness and emptiness. Figures as cones suggesting mountains, heights, journeys, summits of life, craters evoking the edges of a precipice, an immense void or dark abyss, the magnetic forces of the unknown or domes like holy inner sanctums or caves, locus of the feminine and of the great mother, the pregnant maternal womb,


the primary element of creation, source and origin of all birth, becoming and evolution, the dawn of life, or stairs indicating ascension and descent, the male dynamics, the desire for flight and fight, aspiration to conquer skies. So color, divine form, but at the same time they comfort an aura which gives the object a vibrational pulsing existence, evoking something beyond its self-representation. A porous and permeable epidermis,


sculptures of passion and emotion that a light breeze can modify, like sand dunes in the desert, temporary solidification, mental landscapes and brain frames, soul's journey, energies from outside that flow passionately in the inside, life that coagulates in unstable beings and discurses expounding itself in new vivifying breaths. So being formed by the purest of powder, the contours of each element become porous, their mixing of earth and air allows each form to


situate itself at the juncture between the physical or sensual and the spiritual, the measurable and the immeasurable, matter and spirit, personal and universal. And Kapoor says, I began to evolve the idea which had to do with things partially revered. The objects on the floor appear to be partially submerged like icebergs. Every body temporarily defined by the pigment implies that there is something more hidden by the revealed shape. It shares a secret,


an inexhaustible flux of life. It is a softening of the established boundaries of every figure and name, of every human pretension to calibrate things or to reduce everything to an object we can control. Neither painter nor sculptor, Kapoor says of himself, I do not want, I do not want to make sculpture about form. I wish to make sculpture about belief, about passion, about experience that is outside of material concern. And to go outside of material concern doesn't


mean the denegation of the physical, but opening to the reality of passion, of faith, of experience that can't be forced or constrained by a form or a representation. So art offers an experience of threshold, of an unreachable other where there is something more than what I am able to perceive. And the body becomes a vehicle of the unknown, and the material loses its fixity, finding a new connection with the unseeable that reawakens our senses for the beyond.


And just a last word around the succeeding works of Kapoor that intensifies the desire to offer pure extension in a dynamic change. So he accentuates the passage from the visible object to transforming extensions through the use of excessive and expounded sizes. Huge, sunken hemispheres red or blue bulging out of the world like enveloping wombs. Plastic, gigantic auricular organs like attractive or unfathomable cavities of listening


you can almost enter in them. Or immense mirroring parabolas with their concave surfaces that throw off altered reflections of you in front of the parabolas. Screens that capture and liquefy the outside world as the parabolas of our sensitive mind. Or disengulfs opening in the floor recalling your own intimate and unfillable abysses. For example, like that on the floor this abyss that like absorbs or attracts you. So we shift to the second aspect


of opening and it refers to the story told us in the second book of dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great at chapter 33. So another experience of opening. It is the well-known meeting of Benedict with his sister Scholastica that happens once in a year not far from his monastery. I call it the story of Marocamo, crisis and opening and Marocamo stay for male Roman Catholic monks. Okay. So having spent all the day long in conversation and with a strong desire to continue


the fascinating discussion till the morning, Scholastica begs her brother to stay. But he is absolutely deaf to the voice of his sister. Appealing to the dictate of the monastic rule, Benedict answers he cannot on any account stay outside the monastery for the night. But in response, so the discussion could be closed, definitely closed, but in response to the definite refusal, she immediately intertwines her hands, lowers her head and accompanies her petition to God who is love with such passion and tears to provoke a torrential rain,


a sort of El NiƱo, preventing her brother from leaving and flooding water accompanying an overflow of love. At that moment, she is able even to be ironic, inviting him to go out and return to the monastery. And the tale ends with a praise of the prayer that gushed from the heart and caused the rain to flood from the sky. More is possible for the one who loves more. So Scholastica seizes the crisis, the negativity, the impasse with her brother and overcomes


the block in communication, initiating a relationship with the source of openness, breaking the stone tables of prescription to inaugurate the flowing of a new spirit, the promotion of affection, hospitality, kindness, appreciation of the other. So the wise brother surrendered control and self-mastery, being at the mercy of something unknown. He is, in a certain way, forced to open his senses to discern in the transgression


of his sister an unprecedented passage or visitation of God, where, first, a once-and-for-all written law prescribed to my consciousness, an undifferentiated way of doing, I now find myself advancing on a virgin soil, in a non-written and not-programmed space, where my listening is sharpened, opened to the transcendence of the voice of the other person. Furthermore, the event recounted to us is an invitation to combine our professional


fidei with the affectus fidei, the faith's profession with the faith's affection. The brotherly-sisterly scene invites us to re-inhabit the sphere of our emotions and senses. At the heart of our monastic tradition, there is a tendency to immunize feelings that evaporates emotional sensitivity and the spiritual tone of persons. Evangelical sensitivity challenges the human to bloom through touch, the shedding of tears, empathy, caring, listening, mutual promotion, enlarging the customary laws and rules.


It invites each of us to be open to the unpredictable surprises of love. And now, a third shift. The third induction of opening concerns an evangelical scene. The healing of a deaf and dumb person, Mark 7.31. So, Jesus returns from, arrives at, crosses through, makes for elsewhere. His journey doesn't know an end or boundary. He has no country, temple, or rule that keeps him,


except the doors of the human heart, at which he doesn't cease to knock, to be welcomed, and to transform. He walks across the petrified areas of our senses, brains, or souls, of our dogmatic and ethic architectures. He is the pilgrim, clothed with 1,000 names, the virgin born, the company of the sinners, the criminal's scaffold, the stranger met along the way. He continually challenges our senses to recognize and welcome his passages. Crossing, he can cause turbulence, perhaps he must cause turbulences,


in our accustomed past's measurable presents, predictable futures. They bring him a deaf and dumb person, begging him to lay his hands on him. So, a creative background permeates the scene. The Bible tells us that our humanity is a matter of fingers and of breath. Hence, creation happens through the touch of a potter. Your hands have shaped and molded me. A passionate artist takes the malleable clay and begins to sensitize with the careful pressure of his fingers.


The creative energy flows through the hands. God's mystery is touching. We know very well that the hand is gifted with vision. It knows. Sometimes the language is not enough to soothe the wounds or to celebrate the joy. We have to accompany the words with a gesture, out, stretching out our hands to intensify the contact. Jesus' hands are full of tact. He is tactful, able to foster a contact. His hands convey trust, blessing, care, affection, recovery, forgiveness, sharing of bread and of


grace. Hands and breath. The living being shares its breath so that something of the rhythm of its music may resound in the body of its creatures. Every inspiration renews that breath, that infinite fire that enkindles existence. He says to him, be opened. The word that he never ceases to utter, stimulating the outbursts of creation. Word and tongue, ear and listening. The word of a person grows and is enriched


in portions of his or her listening. Our body bursts out into life with a cry, and the course of our life will be a slow modulation of that pristine primordial cry with which we came to light. A cry gradually becoming a genesis of voice, language, singing, moaning, every time a new birth of ourself and of that of the others. Intimate maternities more and more subtle, wide, abundant. A listening beginning in the fetal life


when a mother begins to swaddle and to caress with words her baby, necessary to vivify its fragile life. Sounds that begin to open the emotional worlds of the hidden creature. So, the voice is always for an ear, is always relational. Each one of us is revealed by his, her, our unique voice in the interplay with the voice of the other. There are deep parts of ourselves that we don't hear, or that we suffocate,


wrecked voices of our past. There are iced knots in the language of our emotions. There are prisms in our brains in which we are captured and try also to enclose others. We often cut off with hasty judgments or prejudices, instead of offering spaces and time to unfold, to resonate, to welcome the intimate hidden truth of a person. So, we offer ourselves as a subtle matter in the hands of the loving potter,


exposed to the event that opens us to the beyond every day. And this is an invitation of openness. So, I conclude with a prayer, a tese prayer. Make of me a bowl. Spirit of love, make of me a bowl, open to receive, open to give, open to be given, open to be stolen. Spirit of love, make of me a bowl for you, from whom you take something,


in which you may put something. Maybe you will find something in me to take, or maybe am I precious enough so that you might put in it something. Spirit of love, make of me a bowl for my neighbor, open for love, for the beauty we desire to give, open for their concerns and their needs, open to their sad and fearful eyes that are asking something of me. Spirit of love, make a bowl of me. Thank you.