Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Epiphany 3 (year C), January 27, 2013
“The Light of the Spirit’s Initiation”
There is no radiance greater than the light
of the spirit’s initiation;
no wisdom on earth possesses comparable power.
It cannot be measured on the scales
against pearls or precious gems;
no priceless thing can be compared to it;
nothing approaches its inner beauty;
all other beautiful things fail in comparison.
It is more desirable than anything on earth,
and its beauty can even lead the world
captive in desire,
seducing angels and humans alike.
-Narsai of Edessa *
How many [insert your denomination/ parish/ organization/ or your own name HERE] does it take to change a light bulb? Five. One to change it, and four to stand around talking about how much better the old one was.
One temptation of a life of prayer is to enshrine the “soul’s initiation.” Instead of realizing the experience of conversion nudges you into the long, deep, wide journey of the soul, you want to access that one energy over and over like grabbing brass rings on a carousel. So you go in circles instead of moving forward. And you wonder why God has “abandoned” you! The Spirit has moved on, waiting for you to move on, too. (I go before you to prepare a place for you… so that where I am, you may be also. -John 14:2-3)
Church folks cling to decaying buildings, the arrangement of pews bolted to the floor, even broken metal chairs rusting in the parish hall closet. So it is with the soul. How much spiritual debris can I cling to? What do I want with those rusty chairs and brass rings?
A spiritual experience can gain clarity in retrospect. Time offers a perspective that reveals the miraculous behind the mundane in the moment. Israel wakens to the luminous holy time in the desert generations after the actual event. Gratitude sanctifies memory. But, after all, Israel left Mount Sinai and entered Canaan. God says to David,”DON’T build me a house!” (In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have not not built me a house of cedar? -2 Sam7:7)
One of the functions of the season of Epiphany is to push the initiate onward toward Lent – the next place of purgation, a cleansing ‘night of the soul’. Lent purifies the initiate for the Easter mysteries – requiring careful preparation. The Easter mysteries unfold the reason why we are initiates in the first place. The initiate must leave this light and into the next darkness to enter the next and purer light.
So let’s GO. We can help each other on the journey toward New Life and union with the Beloved.
God is always coming to you the the Sacrament of the Present Moment. Meet and receive Him there with gratitude in that sacrament. – Evelyn Underhill.
* -Narsai of Edessa ca.399-ca.502 from The Book of Mystical Chapters translated and introduced by John Anthony McGuckin