Meeting the sacred in our daily lives...

As I continue to "nurse" my aching back today, my thoughts have turned to prayer and the insights of two "masters" of the art: William Stringfellow and Richard Rohr. Twenty years ago I recall reading about Stringfellow cooking a feast for his friends - spending the better part of the day in preparation - and then, after gathering about a splendidly set table, telling his guests something like: "Dig in and enjoy - no phony blessings offered here - besides if this food hasn't already been blessed by my loving attention all day... it ain't going to happen now!" (To be sure, this is a paraphrase but it gets close to the sacramental nature of his spirituality.)

This particular quote, too, is equally instructive to me as it states so my current experience with what might be called "prayer" and the commitment to living sacramentally: The event of prayer, certain acts called prayer, the very word ‘prayer’ have gathered such ridiculous associations. That is not only the case with the obscene performances, which pass as public prayer, at inaugurations, in locker rooms, before Rotary luncheons, and in many churchly sanctuaries, but also the practice of private prayer is attended by gross profanity, the most primitive superstitions, and sentimentality which is truly asinine…. When I write that my own situation [during my illness] in those months of pain and decision can be described as prayer, I do not only recall that during that time I sometimes read the Psalms and they became my psalms, or that, as I have also mentioned, I occasionally cried ‘Jesus’ and that name was my prayer, but I mean that I also at times would shout ‘Fuck!’ and that was no obscenity, but a most earnest prayerful utterance. (A Second Birthday, pp. 99, 108-9).

Don't get me wrong - I sense there is a place for careful words spoken before some meals and at other occasions, too - Fr. Ed Hays has helped me in this regard throughout the years. But his notion of prayer, borrowed from our ancestors in Israel, is more about "meeting the sacred in our daily lives" rather than proclaiming food or meetings holy simply by our words or awareness. "The blessing of persons or objects," Fr. Hays writes, "is not done for the purpose of making them holy..."

... since all that God has created is already good and holy. Rather, blessings call forth a special grace from God to use an object as its artistic creator intended.... (Thus) the frequent and devout blessing of the people and objects of our day to day life will lead us to meet the Divine at every turn. Our prayer will seek the sacred in all the events that confront us - in all the states of life in which we find ourselves - for that is what God desires.

I also rather like the way Richard Rohr puts it:

For some reason, it is easier to attend church services than quite simply to live and fully accept our reality, to reverence the real—“the practice of the presence of God,” as Brother Lawrence (c. 1614-1691) called it. Making this commitment requires vigilance, desire, and willingness to begin again and again. Living and accepting our own reality will not feel very spiritual. It will feel like we are on the edges rather than dealing with the essence. Thus most run toward more esoteric and more “spiritual” postures instead of bearing the mystery of God’s suffering and joy inside of themselves. But the edges of our lives—fully experienced, suffered, and enjoyed—lead us back to the center and substance of everything “until there is only Christ, when he is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11).

No "sloppy agape" here - no empty holy words spoken because they sound good but mean nothing - and no separation between the holy and the human. Buechner gets it right when he tells us that: "The God of biblical faith is the God who meets us at those moments in which for better or worse we are being most human, most ourselves, and if we lose touch with those moments, if we don't stop from time to time to notice what is happening to us and around us and inside us, we run the tragic risk of losing touch with God, too."

My old friends over in Collective Soul have nailed this type of prayer for me as we move into Epiphany...


Black Pete said…
Amen and amen, brother.

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