Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category

Whore of the Mundane (2)

February 11, 2013

Please See
Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Lent 1 (year C), February 17, 2012
“until an opportune time”
http://www.edgeofenclosure.org

 The following is the blog for Lent 1 re-posted from last year.  It’s inspired by a quote from Karl Rahner which can be found below.

It’s a good thing that in meditation it’s important to gently bring yourself back to the Beloved, “without judgment or recrimination.” For one as passionate as I think I am, the humbling fact that the time I set aside solely for Divine Love fills up with mundane trivialities, makes me laugh at myself day after day. I usually end meditation with another cluster of laughs, saying aloud, “I REALLY DO love you, you know!”

David Roberts, St. Katherine's from the plain, detail

David Roberts, St. Katherine’s from the plain, detail

So goes my daily dose of desert.

After escaping from Egypt and before entering the land of their ancestors, the people of Israel sojourned in the desert for forty years. Here, once again, they became God’s people. Centuries later, Israel looked back at that time poetically as a honeymoon:

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. … And there she hall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. And in that day, says the Lord, you will call me ‘My husband.’ …And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord. Hosea2:14, 15b-16a, 19-20

I’m like Hosea’s prostitute wife, Gomer, in my meditation. From time to time it’s interesting to watch the sort of thoughts I try to let go of. All of them trivial, silly, non-sequiturs. Not even a profound idea here or a poetic phrase there that I’d want to cling to if one should come up. I’m a whore to the mundane. Nevertheless, may God reckon my distractions to me as righteousness!

It’s comforting to read the book of Exodus. The forty years in the wilderness was anything but a honeymoon. But I know from decades of serious praying that the experience of Presence is often perceived in retrospect and not in the moment. Perhaps, someday, I’ll look upon this Lent as a turning point; an intimate dedication to “the one thing necessary.” In the meantime, I’ll keep praying, meditation, and probably laughing.

Here’s the Rahner quote:

Therefore Jesus goes into the desert, therefore he fasts; therefore he leaves behind everything else that a man needs even for bare existence, so that for this once not just in the depths of his heart bu in the whole range of his being he can do and say what is the first and last duty of humankind – to find God, to see God, to belong to God to the exclusion of everything else that makes up human life. And therefore he fasts. Therefore through this cruelly hard act, this denial of all comfort, this refusal of food and drink, through the solitude and abandonment of the desert, through everything else that involves a rejection, a self-denial of the world and all earthly company, through all these he proclaims this fact: one thing only is necessary, that I be with God, that I find God, and everything else, no matter how great or beautiful, is secondary and subordinate and must be sacrificed, if needs be, to this ultimate movement of heart and spirit.

-Karl Rahner 1904-1984
The Great Church Year

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To whom can I go?

August 20, 2012

See Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Proper 16 (year B), August 26, 2012
“to whom can we go?”
http://www.edgeofenclosure.org

“How long will you go limping with two different opinions?” Elijah asks the crowd on Mount Carmel. Maybe he even hopped around in a circle to illustrate how an uneven loyalty brings you nowhere but back to where you started from.

“If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. I suppose they were waiting for a spectacular outcome. They got one.

But first Jezebel’s 450 prophets of Baal prayed as “they limped around the altar they had made.” At noon Elijah mocked them. “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” One of the sharpest satires on paganism ever penned. He has gone aside is probably a euphemism for attending to natural needs, says the footnote in my Oxford Annotated Bible.

And now in a gesture of prophetic showmanship Elijah pours so much water on his bull and altar that it runs into the trenches around the sacrifice. Yahweh zaps the soaked offering. And the 450 prophets of Baal who eat at the table of Jezebel must die.

detail from Scenes rom the Life of the Prophet Elijah, Jorg Ratgeb, 1517

Jezebel’s soldiers chase Elijah into the desert where, alone, he complains to God that “I, even I only, am left” to help the people turn their hearts again to God. And gives up.

I love this story. I love Elijah, the dejected, lonely prophet curling up under a broom shrub to die of despair. I love the practical angel who brings him a pancake and a jar of water and says without a hint of condescension, “You have to eat for the journey to the mountain of God.” I love that Elijah gets up and continues his journey forty days and nights to Horeb and squeezes himself into the very cleft of the rock where, in midrashic tradition, Moses saw the backside of God. (Exodus 33:17-23).

And I love that Elijah did not hear God in the wind breaking the rocks in pieces, nor in the earthquake and fire. But Elijah perceived the Divine Presence in a silence so profound it was like gauze touched by the most gentle breeze.

I love that God is revealed in silence. Silence has carried me these 39 years of my desert journey. Silence. The beginning, the ending, the middle, the center, the perimeter and beyond the perimeter – silence within, silence without when I rise, when I sleep. Deeper and deeper silence. Deeper and deeper love in darkness. Where can I go then from your Presence? (Psalm 139).

To whom else can I go?

Dislocation

July 2, 2012

See Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Proper 9 (year B) July 8, 2012
“sent out in weakness”
http://www.edgeofenclosure.org

He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff;
no bread, no bag, no money in their belts;
but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.
  – Mark 6:8-9

The Hermit, Rider Tarot Deck

I love being settled. I love familiar sounds, scents, sensations, birdsong, the growing cycles of seeds:  sprouting, stem, bud, blossom and seed pod, the withering and dying and regeneration. As a gardener I want to know what happily blooms in one corner and not another. I like to know from which direction thunderstorms come and where the sun sets in winter. I love the instinctive knowing of the progression of seasons so that every year I sink into a deepening sense of place.

I love knowing I have several pairs of very warm wool socks for winter. I love knowing I have some light cotton flowing dresses for summer. I love knowing I’ll eat sun-ripened strawberries in June, warm tomatoes right off the vine in July, and figs in August.

I love sitting in familiar, cozy chairs, worn to my shape. I love beloved childhood books that still come alive as they did when I was nine or ten years old, books that belonged to my mother when she was a little girl, with her tear stains and then mine, bindings crackling, pages that almost dissolve like ash. I love the ordering of my bookcase, so that I can intuitively find a quote I want or need from some wise person whose name I can’t remember – paperback, little, burgundy colored, I read it in Advent, it’s on the right hand shelf in the middle, here it is, ah, yes, Johannes Metz…

I love to be able to find things in my cabinets. A rare tea, an Asian spice I use a few times a year, a favorite but fragile cup.

My first book ends with the sentence, “Every time I have ever moved I have had to learn to pray all over again.” And my second book begins with the sentence, “Every time I have ever moved I have had to learn to pray all over again.”

I moved a lot because of marriage and the military, and then ministry. Each time I moved I felt disrupted, disoriented. I remember, though, that every move brought me new, dear, life-long friends, important sensations, a bit of much-needed cultural shock and widening of perspective. I’m grateful. But I do love being settled.

I don’t like the thought of being sent out again. Especially as the disciples were sent – without anything extra for comfort, no bread, no bag, no money, not even an extra tunic for warmth. I can’t imagine being utterly dependent again upon the hospitality of strangers or subject to their hostility.

I don’t like being dislocated.

I also know that’s what you get as a lover of God. I tell myself I won’t be “sent out” again. But I also know that age is no excuse. In the meantime I can encourage other people sent to “the ends of the earth” or even into local but difficult situations.

I hope I will never have to move again. It’s a lovely fantasy. After all, this house is not ours, and the dampness will prove too much a challenge if we live long enough to grow old. Even if I never have to move again, if I am to love God my inner life will welcome disruption, going to barren deserts and strange mountains and dark caves. Even if I stay here surrounded by gardens and the steady progression of seasons and my old books.

If I love God, I will have to learn to pray all over again. And again.
-Suzanne

My own meditation this week is The Journey, by Mary Oliver.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

-Mary Oliver

Three More Thoughts Regarding the Trinity

May 28, 2012

See Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Trinity Sunday (year B), June 3, 2012
“a communion of subjects”
http://www.edgeofenclosure.org

Three More Thoughts on the Trinity:

One:

I love that the collects of the prayerbook guide the devotee to pray to God, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. That shaping of prayer imprints early in childhood, and liturgically imbeds in us that deeply rooted relationality, the continuous motion, that perpetually open system, and an intimacy with both transcendence and immanence even when we’re not particularly paying attention. But when you do get around to paying attention – oh, the impact!

Two:

Julian’s ginger cat, Norwich Cathedral

The “Showings” of Julian of Norwich is the one book I know of besides the Gospel of John that reflects the multi-layered Reality of the Resurrection throughout the whole manuscript. Not only that, but who makes the Trinity so available, so easy, so intimate? Although my own copy (copies!) are falling apart and overly marked up, some Eastertide/ Ascensiontide/ Pentecost/ Trinity I’d love to go away someplace and just read her again for the first time. I never quite get through Eastertide without her. And Trinity Sunday? How can I manage without “And the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother, in whom we are enclosed. And the high goodness of the Trinity is our Lord, and in him we are enclosed and he in us. We are enclosed in the Father, and we are enclosed in the Son, and we are enclosed in the Holy Spirit. And the Father is enclosed in us, the Son is enclosed in us, and the Holy Spirit is enclosed in us, almighty, all wisdom and all goodness, one God, one Lord.” ?

Three:

Augustine goes inside himself to try to uncover the mystery of the Trinity. This quote is from the last chapter of the Confessions (Maria Boulding’s translation):

The Holy Trinity, Andre Rublev, early 15th century

Can anyone comprehend the almighty Trinity? Everyone talks about it- but is it really the Trinity of which they talk? Rare indeed is the person who understands the subject of his discourse, when he speaks of that. People argue and wrangle over it, yet no one sees that vision unless he is at peace.

I wish they would turn their attention to the triad they have within themselves. It is, to be sure, a triad far distant from the Trinity, but I propose it as a topic on which they may exercise their minds, by way of experiment and in order to make clear to themselves how great the difference is. The triad I mean is being, knowledge and will. I am, and I know, and I will. Knowingly and willingly I exist; I know that I am and that I will; I will be be and to know. Let anyone with the wit to see it observe how in these three there is one inseparable life: there is one life, one mind and one essence. How inseparable they are in their distinctness! Yet distinction there is. Everyone has himself readily available for inspection; let each, then, scrutinize himself, and see what he can find, and tell me.

But when he has verified this unity between his powers, he must not suppose that what he has discovered is that which exists immutably above our creaturely minds, that which unchangeably is and unchangeably knows and unchangeably wills. Do these three coexistent acts constitute the Trinity? Or are all three found in each Person, so that each is this triple reality? Or are all three found in each Person, so that each is this triple reality? Or are both these propositions true, the simplicity and the complexity being reconciled in some way beyond our comprehension, since the Persons are defined by their mutual relationships yet infinite in themselves? Thus the Godhead exists and is known to itself and is its own all-sufficient joy without variation for ever, Being-Itself in the manifold greatness of its unity. Who can find any way to express this truth? Who dare make any assertion about it? (Chapter 13:11-12)

Of course we know that Augustine himself takes the project on in De Trinitate.

Well that’s enough fun for one day.

-Suzanne

a prayer from the crypt

March 19, 2012

see:
Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Lent 5 (year B), March 25, 2012
“but if it dies…”
http://www.edgeofenclosure.org

I’m praying in the crypt at Holy Cross Monastery. A womb-like place to begin again. And again and again.

I used to write in my adolescent and early adult journals, “What shall I take with me into the new life?” Nothing particular on the exterior was in the process of changing, but I often felt the need for an interior shift. As I do now. What shall I take with me into the new life?

Let me take
what compassion
I have accrued to my credit.
Let my low and stagnant reserve
meet Compassion’s vibrant ocean.
Let me take
what shards of love
I’ve gathered.
Let me offer my broken pieces
to the magnitude of Love’s fulfillment.

Help me to save my life … by losing it in Thee.

-Suzanne

Thou, Whom I do not know, but Whose I am…

February 27, 2012

See Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Lent 2 (year B), March 4, 2012
http://www.edgeofenclosure.org

Rooting around in his book Markings early last week, I found this prayer by the beloved United Nations Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld. He wrote it eight weeks before he died in a plane crash in 1961.  It’s been my prayer these first days of Lent. It is “meditation three” on the website.  It’s worth repeating here. I hope you love it, too …

 

Have mercy

Upon us.
Have mercy
Upon our efforts,
That we
Before Thee,
In love and in faith,
Righteousness and humillity,
May follow Thee,
With self-denial, steadfastness, and courage,
And meet Thee
In the silence.

Give us
A pure heart
That we may see Thee,
A humble heart
That we may hear Thee,
A heart of love
That we may serve Thee,
A heart of faith
That we may live Thee,

Thou
Whom I do not know
But Whose I am.

Thou
Whom I do not comprehend
But Who hast dedicated me
To my fate.
Thou –

 

 

 
– Dag Hammarskjöld 1905-1961
Markings

Whore of the Mundane

February 20, 2012

See Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Lent 1 (year B), February 26, 2012
“the devil and temptation”
http://www.edgeofenclosure.org

St. Katherine's from the plain, David Roberts, detail

It’s a good thing that in meditation it’s important to gently bring yourself back to the Beloved, “without judgment or recrimination.” For one as passionate as I think I am, the humbling fact that the time I set aside solely for Divine Love fills up with mundane trivialities, makes me laugh at myself day after day. I usually end meditation with another cluster of laughs, saying aloud, “I REALLY DO love You, ya’ know!”

So goes my daily dose of desert.

After escaping from Egypt and before entering the land of their ancestors, the people of Israel sojourned in the desert for forty years. Here, once again, they became God’s people. Centuries later, Israel looked back at that time poetically as a honeymoon:

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. … And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. And in that day, says the Lord, you will call me ‘My husband.’ …And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord. -Hosea 2:14, 15b-16a, 19-20

In meditation I’m like Hosea’s prostitute wife, Gomer. From time to time it’s interesting to watch the sort of thoughts I try to let go of. All of them trivial, silly, non-sequiturs. Not even a profound idea here or a poetic phrase there that I’d want to cling to. Not a thought over starvation in Somalia or rape in the Congo or even of friends in distress. I’m a whore of the mundane. Of what I forgot at the drug store. Of the phone call I forgot to put on my “to do” list. Nevertheless, may God reckon my distractions to me as righteousness! May God transfigure my inanities!

It’s comforting to read the book of Exodus. The forty years in the wilderness was anything but a honeymoon. But I know from decades of serious praying that the experience of Presence is often perceived in retrospect and not in the moment. Perhaps, someday, I’ll look upon this Lent as a turning point; an intimate dedication to “the one thing necessary.” In the meantime, I’ll keep praying, meditating, and probably laughing.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *         *

Here’s the quote which inspired this meditation:

Therefore Jesus goes into the desert, therefore he fasts; therefore he leaves behind everything else that a man needs even for bare existence, so that for this once not just in the depths of his heart bu in the whole range of his being he can do and say what is the first and last duty of humankind – to find God, to see God, to belong to God to the exclusion of everything else that makes up human life. And therefore he fasts. Therefore through this cruelly hard act, this denial of all comfort, this refusal of food and drink, through the solitude and abandonment of the desert, through everything else that involves a rejection, a self-denial of the world and all earthly company, through all these he proclaims this fact: one thing only is necessary, that I be with God, that I find God, and everything else, no matter how great or beautiful, is secondary and subordinate and must be sacrificed, if needs be, to this ultimate movement of heart and spirit.

-Karl Rahner 1904-1984
The Great Church Year

Holy Embrace

December 26, 2011

Simeon and Jesus, detail of Presentation, Fra Angelico 1433-34

see Christmas 1 (year B)
http://www.edgeofenclosure.org

When we have Christmastime at the monastery (as we did this year) I love to rise early on Christmas Day and go to the creche and hold the baby Jesus in my arms. Sometimes I dance with him, like John of the Cross did so many years ago. But yesterday I just held him, kissed him, and sang to him softly while I sat on the floor against the hay. I’m not worshiping the block of wood, of course, but Something beyond, Something behind that piece of folk art from the ’60’s. Something resonating deep within usually inaccessible places in my soul. Something responding to my love. Something loving me to which I respond in this foolish manner.  And once again, I know I have seen my salvation.

While exploring images of The Presentation I found one in which the baby leans toward Simeon’s arms rather than shrink away from them (which is the usual template). So, for your meditation, here are two paintings of intimacy in which the Holy leans toward Simeon, longing for his (our) embrace as much as he(we) long for the Holy…

The Presentation, Unknown Illustrator of Petrus Comestor's Bible Historiale, 1372

More Spacious than the Heavens

December 12, 2011
see Post for Advent 4 (year B)
December 18, 2011
http://www.edgeofenclosure
“find in us a mansion”This is a poem/prayer I wrote a few years ago while meditating on the icon The Virgin of the Sign, or Panagia, as it is also known.  The “sign” refers to Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Emmanuel.  This type of icon is also called Platytera ton aouranon, or, “more spacious than the heavens.”

Platytera ton ouranon, Kiev School c. 1114, Our Lady of the Sign

She looks upon you,

She looks beyond you

She looks through your soul

and into the eternity

behind your soul.

But suddenly, she is a mirror

For you are looking at yourself

Eternity

dwelling

in your own

fragile flesh.

Portents in the Sky

November 21, 2011

See Advent 1, (Year B)
“watching and longing”
http://www.edgeofenclosure.org

Angel unfolds the world to reveal the golden New Jerusalem, Giotto, The Last Judgement, 1306, detail

At the turn of the new year the church offers scenes of chaos: portents and signs in the heavens, roiling clouds, floods, hail, fire. The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken,  And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. (Mark 13:24-26)

The Church gives these apocalyptic warnings as a gift, to shake away complacency, to shock into second sight, to awake to the immediacy of salvation wrapped in breathtaking clouds of doom.  Watch therefore – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning – lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: Watch. (Mark 13:35-7)

The soul’s journey begins in apocalypse. Cataclysm dims the safe filters of ordinary sight to heighten the view of Reality.  Shock, fear, grief, courage, and then, perhaps, curiosity, opens the door to the mystical life. Once you pass through the threshold of doom, ultimately, you’ll awake to and recognize the beauty of holiness.

-Suzanne