Today has already turned out different than I had imagined: snow canceled a morning practice, a noontime appointment for tomorrow demands washing the floor, new and unanticipated errands take hold in what was to be a day of music. While washing the kitchen floor, I recalled a book of poems my lover gave me earlier this year. Jennifer Wallace writes, "The Wind of God," and somehow it resonates within:
... moved over the face of the waters. And after reading this, the awareness that, more than once,
God has turned my head in the right direction,
yet I haven't seen the gesture for what it is.
The world charges and is charged with a white-hot-flame.
I might turn away, but each morning my head is turned for me
toward a crow's flight, a squirrel passages, or a person
with whom I share an ever-present reaching toward.
I let myself be turned sometimes. sometimes
I get into my car and drive away.
Today I picture God's hand cupped atop my head ~
a quiet turning and then receding.
We are "fine" with each others. This god has all the time in the world.
(Jennifer Wallace, Almost Entirely, Paraclete Press, 2017)
Yesterday evening, after an absence of more than 20 years, I returned to the practice of Centering Prayer. I've thought about it for a decade. And talked about it on and off for a few years, too. But I sometimes think I am the god who has all the time in the world. And I don't. Like everyone else, I have anxieties and shame, addictions and compulsions that may have once served me well, but now have clearly lost their usefulness. Listening to a few artists over this past month who are equally happy/sad, wounded healers has helped me own the fact that now is the time to return to living from the center of God's grace.
That is how Cynthia Bourgeault speaks of it: "As your practice becomes more stable and you imprint deeply onto your heart the know-how that the way to get there is to let go of what you're clinging to so that your attention relaxes from its default subject/ object trajectory, then bit by bit you'll discover that this inner spaciousness is no longer 'a place you go to' but a 'place you come from.' It begins to offer itself as a new home for your deepest sense of selfhood." (The Heart of Centering Prayer, p.27) This corresponds to Vanier's assertion that communion and unity precede creation. "From a primary unity comes the unity of all creation... (as the Gospel of John) says: In the beginning, before all things were, there was unity and communion." (Jean Vanier, The Gospel of John - the Gospel of Relationship, p. 1))
Vanier is equally insistent that if God's cosmic unity and wisdom became flesh and lived among us in truth and grace, we too must take our own flesh and blood every bit as seriously as God. This is how we live from within the center of our creation: by honoring and accepting our fragile, tender, broken, and loving flesh. John's gospel points to "the vulnerability of Jesus, the Word who became flesh. It (offers us) an emerging understanding that in his fragility, he is giving us life. At the same time, through this Gospel, we will better understand who we are, with our fragility, our vulnerability, our fears, and our prejudices. We will come to understand our own need to be transformed" by the creative love that embraces the cosmos in a unifying grace.
The day began in snow. Now it is gone. What other surprising invitations await me as "God cups my head with a quiet turning and receding?"
Thursday, April 19, 2018
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