Moving slowly...

The rains have ended and the sun is bright in the Berkshires today: stunning and crisp! At the same time, I am moving slowly today (for a variety of reasons) which may be why I have even noticed the majesty of this day in the first place. Two inter-related although very different thoughts about contemplation have been swimming around my head all day as the beaty washes over me.

The first, from Franciscan Richard Rohr, in his reflection on vision for the 21st century: One increasing consensus among scholars and spiritual observers is that conversion or enlightenment moves forward step by step from almost totally dualistic thinking to non-dual thinking at the highest levels. We call that higher way of seeing and being present contemplation. If this ancient gift could be clarified and recovered for Western Christians, Muslims, and Jews, religion would experience a monumental leap forward. We could start being present to one another. We could live in the naked now instead of hiding in the past or worrying about the future, as we mentally rehearse resentments and make our case for why we are right and someone else is wrong.

Good religion is always about seeing rightly: “The lamp of the body is the eye; if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light,” as Jesus says in Matthew 6:22. How you see is what you see. And to see rightly is to be able to be fully present—without fear, without bias, and without judgment. It is such hard work for the ego, for the emotions, and for the body, that I think most of us would simply prefer to go to church services.

The second from Frederick Buechner also cuts to the chase in a whole different way: English-speaking tourists abroad are inclined to believe that if only they speak English loudly and distinctly and slowly enough, the natives will know what's being said even though they don't understand a single word of the language. Preachers often make the same mistake. They believe that if only they speak the ancient verities loudly and distinctly and slowly enough, their congregations will understand them. Unfortunately, the only language people really understand is their own language, and unless preachers are prepared to translate the ancient verities into it, they might as well save their breath.

No wonder the wisdom teachers speak of contemplation as "a long, loving look at the real." It takes time - and silence - and lots of discernment to know how to see and speak about what is real. This Sunday I am NOT going to be preaching - four members of the congregation will share a story about how God has been real to them - which will not only give me a chance to listen/experience the language of this faith community, but will also give the people a chance to speak and listen to themselves. The band will sing the song I wrote two years ago, "Grace Is Rising Now at Last," as an introduction to this time of congregational story telling - and then we will all sit back quietly and take a long, loving look at what is real within and among us.

I rather like the way the late John O'Donohue put it in his book of blessings: To Bless the Space Between Us. One entry entitled, "The Inner History of a Day," gets it right:

No one knew the name of this day;
Born quietly from deepest night,
It hid its face in light,
Demanded nothing for itself,
Opened out to offer each of us
A field of brightness that traveled ahead,
Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps
And the light of thought to show the way.

The mind of the day draws no attention;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.

Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
The fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.

So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And the wisdom of the soul become one.
credits: Dianne De Mott


RJ said…
Isn't that incredible? Glad you resonated with it Peter.

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