On the Big Island of Hawaii, we live in paradise. It is not so strange that we should find ourselves contemplating paradise more than we used to.
Eden is the original scene of humans living with each other and with God. In that sense, it is the first family, the first society, the earliest Church, and a mysterious past-present-future peering into the deepest human secrets. It is the pattern that God cut for the human lifeworld, and it is alive with spiritual truth. We believe what we have learned from Eden, and we would like to share those learnings with you:
We believe that all humans are permanent. With the advent of CPR, millions and millions of people have discovered that life continues after death. Before then, people throughout all human history had encountered loved ones who had gone to the greater life. Eden's depiction of humans who live forever is reliable and true. The great question of our brief lives on earth is where we will live forever — in harmony with God or eternally separated from God?
We believe that Christ Jesus is fully man having a human will and human energy. He is kin to us, and He understands us and loves us deeply. We believe that He is fully God having a divine will and divine energy. We see that within the scope of His own Person, man and God live in intimate harmony with each other. In this sense He is Eden. He invites us into that eternal fellowship and harmony. In fact, God is relationship.
We believe that harmony among all people is God's will. He asks only that we believe in Him and love Him and love each other for His sake, for He understands each of our lives to be infinitely holy and precious to Him.
We believe that all humans are holy. They were born from God in His Image, and they are journeying toward God. He is literally their beginning and their end. For this reason each person's spiritual path is a holy path (though it is not true that every spot on that path is holy).
An unholy place for humans is our desire always for more — for more than what is good for us, more than what is right for us. In Eden lived the only two people who had everything in the world, even friendship and love shared with God, Whom they knew and saw and spoke with. But they wanted more, more than everything. Today, our most serious problems are rooted in this more: the sick state of our planet, the sick state of our oceans, the sick state of our nation, the sick state of our lives and our souls. God calls us to simplicity (even to intentional poverty for Franciscans and other religious) that we might rely entirely on Him. All of our sicknesses, from our ailing planet to our ailing souls, would have been avoided had we heeded God's will and His plan. We believe that He continues to call us away from our illnesses into wholeness and friendship with Him. There is mirth in Heaven when we let go of more.
From these premises we believe that communion with God and with each other, which is the basis for all Christianity, is this: that we believe in Him, Who is the Holy One; that we sincerely regret the parts of our lives that are unworthy of Him and of ourselves; that we desire to reclaim our birthright with Him amending our lives; and that we be baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Why? .... because that is what He told us while He was here with us .... renewing Eden, which is God's mysterious dwelling with humankind according to His will.
We believe that all humans are exiles from Eden, which is our original and true homeland. Look in your heart! Who does not yearn to recover the wonder and purity of childhood or to feel at-one with the world God created seeing the divine shimmer of its beauty? Those wondrous beauties are the vestiges of paradise, still radiating. In like measure, vestiges of our original wonder, purity, and harmony with all things continue to radiate from within us. In this sense, each of us retains a link with Eden — a paradise within that has been lost but can still be regained. Each of us has a dual citizenship, but we cannot set our hearts on both this world and eternal Eden.
Eden is the original type of being alone with God. The peaceable kingdom aboard the ark of Noah is Eden. The wilderness beyond the Red Sea where a liberated people have joined their Liberator is Eden. The Land of Promise where God's people are welcomed is Eden. These may not seem like paradise to us — least of all cramped quarters aboard a rocking ship or desert wastes devoid of wildlife and water. But these details are not the important part for our God. It is enough that we are alone together. We are His people, and He is our God. For Him this is the hortus conclusus, the enclosed garden of ideal love set in just the right light. For Eden is an affair of the heart and a state of the soul. The Kingdom of Heaven is within. Harmony with God, each other, and the Creation begins and ends in Eden. When our hearts are right, we "get it," and we are right there with Him. When we don't get it, we become outsiders, alienated from God, from others, and eventually from ourselves. Alienation from God is the anti-Eden, or Hell.
Some Christians reading this may wonder what Eden has to do with Jesus, but not the earliest Christians. For in the earliest churches, the ones founded and visited by the Apostles, the word Paradise was written on the wall behind the Altar indicating that Jesus' sacrifice reopened the door to Eden. Receiving Him in the confected Sacrament is to participate in Eden, which is perfect communion between God and humankind. Inscribed upon the hearts of the first Christians was a cherished image: the Son of God hanging on a Cross, which was the great compass facing all nations, pointing every corner of the earth toward Eden. How did they know this for certain? They simply looked at the compass and read it: upon each cardinal point was a Greek letter that simultaneously indicated the cardinal direction yet collectively spelled ADAM, the old man whom He redeemed and the new man Who He is.
Being followers of Jesus Christ, Who is our King, our Lord, our Brother, and our God, we are deeply committed to worship Him the same way the Apostles did, the way the Christian martyrs did, the way all Christians did during the first century and in the centuries following. We attend especially to a divine command: "Do this!" No words are more precisely attested than Jesus' command to eat His Body and to drink His blood. This command is found in all three synoptic Gospels — Mark, Matthew, and Luke — and in the Pauline Correspondence. In the Gospel According to St. John, Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53). In His first miracle He turned water to wine. In His last, He turned wine into His most precious Blood, unlocking the doors to Paradise. Many disciples abandoned Him over His insistence upon this, that He was not speaking symbolically or metaphorically. For on the night He was betrayed, He took bread, and when He broke it He said, "This is my Body." Likewise, after supper He took the cup and said, "This is my Blood." After many of his disciples abandoned Him over this "hard saying" (on which He was willing to stake everything), He asked the Twelve, "Will you also leave me?" "Where else could we go?" Peter says. "You alone have the words of life." At worship every day we attest St. Peter's commitment as our lives revolve around this "life in you," which Jesus has promised. Obediently, we partake of His most holy Body and Blood, and we hear His command continue to ring down the centuries: "Do this!"
We are Christians who renew our vows more than twice a day as we recite the ancient Creeds at worship. We believe in the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, and we are an instance of a Catholic and Apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.
We here at the Hermitage practice the traditional three vows of poverty, chastity (abstinence), and obedience. In fact, we are obedient to two bishops: our Bishop Protector and our Ordinary. We invite people from all of the world to join us in daily prayer and in Franciscan fellowship by becoming Tertiaries, people living in the world, married and single, clerical and lay, who practice a modified version of the traditional vows: simplicity, personal purity, and faithfulness (or fidelity). To learn more about our beliefs and our religious life please read our Credenda and our Rule of Life.
Do you live here in the foothills of Heaven? We welcome you to join us on this journey — to worship with us, to help us in our agricultural work (for the sake of neighbors in need), and to accept our friendship as we seek together the friendship of God. If you do not live here on the Big Island, we hope you will pray for us and make your desires for our prayers known through email.
If you believe that God is calling you to live closer to Him in your daily life through the prayer life and intentions of a Franciscan Tertiary, please feel free to contact us to share this wonderful news: NPLH@pualii.org.
Pax et bonum!
Peace and all good!