advent apertures 2019 day 9

… with our faces so close to the love mirror,

we must not breathe, but rather change

to a cleared place where a building was

and feel the treasure hiding in us …

from ‘A story they know’

Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)

 

How would I feel if on this everyday Monday morning an Archangel greeted me like this:

Good morning!

You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,

Beautiful inside and out!

God be with you.

This translation of Luke 1.28 from The Message then continues with Mary’s reaction:

She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that.

Yes, I can imagine that I too would be shaken up:

One, believing myself to be beautiful is a stretch too far most days; 

two, I’m never gracefully grateful about taking compliments, always on the look-out for loop-holes and bias;

three, I have known many times when it is utterly impossible for me to believe that God is with me, so this angel’s blessing might be all too easily dismissed this time as well. (The perception that one is abandoned and completely eternally alone is what I name as ‘the Great Lie of depression’).

My automatic reflex filters out all I can from the words until nothing remains; then nothing can be demanded of me.

Yet what if …

what if this time, I actually allowed Wonder to greet me and bless me?

what if …

 

Loss creates an unbelievable amount of space for life to enter in. What you feel as emptiness is life’s new home, and what you feel as loneliness is the urge to hold life’s hand again.

from Second Firsts,

Christina Rasmussen

hole vs whole (bl)hole vs whole. iPhone image. (with grateful thanks to Bekah and Debi.)

advent apertures 2019: Sunday 2

Awe imbues people with a different sense of themselves, one that is smaller, more humble, and part of something larger.  Our research finds that even brief experiences of awe, such as being amid beautiful tall trees, lead people to feel less narcissistic and entitled and more attuned to the common humanity people share with one another.  In the great balancing act of our social lives, between the gratification of self interest and a concern for others, fleeting experiences of awe redefine the self in terms of the collective, and orient our actions towards the needs of those around us.

Paul Kiff and Dacher Keltner, ‘Why Do We Experience Awe?’

 

‘How can this be?’

After an Archangel appears in my living room, exactly how am I asking that question?  (If at least I have found enough voice to ask it, and not backed away petrified into silence.)  But am I expressing my amazement?  Am I querying a scientific impossibility?  Am I asking for the timetable?

So, where in this sentence do I need to put my focus today?  What emphasis does my heart need to voice?  Anne Dillard wrote, ‘I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.’  Alright, then: over to You.  Where will the Light beam this instant?  Where can I gaze?  (What can I bear to look at?)

Mostly today I feel cowed.  God may be arraying a smorgasbord of creative directions before my eyes, but as my vision darts from starting-point to starting-point, all I can hear myself say is “Yes, but…”, before moving onto another, better, easier, option.

I am overawed.  The practicalities surrounding the changes that God is offering me, demanding of me, feel too much.  It all feels impossible.  I fear I am just not up to it, any of it.

In the light of these feelings, perhaps all the emphasis I need to select today is: ‘be’.

 

Even when you cannot see where you are going and no one answers when you call, this is not sufficient proof that you are alone.  There is a divine presence that transcends all your ideas about it, along with all your language for calling it to your aid, which is not above using darkness as the wrecking ball that brings all your false gods down – but whether you decide to trust the witness of those who have gone before you, or you decide to do whatever it takes to become a witness yourself, here is the testimony of faith: darkness is not dark to God; the night is as bright as the day.

from Learning to walk in the Dark, p16

Barbara Brown Taylor

darkness is not dark I & II (2019). iPhone images

advent apertures 2019: day 7

Mercy, there have been revelations.

Grace, there has been realisation.  Still, you must

travel the path of time and circumstance.

 

The further you go, the more it comes back to paying attention.

The rough skin of the tallowwood, the trade routes of the lorikeets, a sky lifting

behind afternoon clouds.  Staying close to the texture of things.

 

People can go before you and talk all they want,

but only one thing makes sense: the way the world enters

and finds its voice in you: the place you are free.

 

‘The further you go’

Andrew Colliver

 

The sixth morning after an encounter that might change my life, if I let it. 

What if I let an encounter with the Holy change me, affect my marrow so deeply that I understand in my mind and feel a conviction in my heart that there is a new path emerging, one made especially for me to follow?

Do I have a clear enough head today to recollect all those past experiences of Grace which, even when I didn’t realise it at the time, reminded me I am not alone, that God is with me in my present delight and in my present struggle?

How closely am I prepared to scrutinise my life, past as well as current, to find and protect the places where trusting God bore unexpected fruit out of my meagre, stale offerings?

How might I see these things, anew or again, physically and metaphorically, emotionally and spiritually? The poet Kathleen Raine found her imagination opened by studying biochemistry: ’In the little lighted circle of the microscope I was in the great universe, not the small suburbs.  The stars in the great sky and the smallest particles bear a resemblance often observed; as the sky extends into infinite spaces without, so the microscope is the way by which we may enter spaces within, no less vast.  Both are ways to freedom…’ (‘Farewell Happy Fields’, Autobiographies p74)

I am free to envision that God is, and has always been, in my details, in every colour of every pathway I followed.

I stay to hear that God will be in every cell, vein and branch of my life to come.

This is Advent’s whispered trumpeted promise: Emmanuel. I AM is the God who is with us.

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way… What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you  with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.

Pedro Arrupe, SJ

blotched beauty (bl)blotched beauty. iPhone image.

advent apertures 2019: day 6

Here’s the thing, say Shug.  The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else.  You come into the world with God.  But only them that search for it inside find it.  And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you’re looking for.  Trouble do it for most folks, I think.  Sorrow, Lord.

from The Colour Purple

Alice Walker

 

The fifth morning after an encounter that might change my life, if I let it. 

If I let myself believe the source of that light was an angel… 

if I left myself believe that I heard words…

if I let myself believe than an actual angel would want to bother having words with an ordinary me…

what if I have no idea how to be holy enough? (for what? my heart whispers)…

what if I struggle to believe I could be a vessel with God inside me?…

what if I have barely nodding acquaintance with this thing called God anyway?

 

How can I possibly catch at the wonder that God is within as well as without?  Can I look on God with the mind of a child?  Dare I look at God with the mind of a lover?

I reflect for a moment on God’s presence around me and in me.
Creator of the universe, the sun and the moon, the earth,
every molecule, every atom, everything that is:
God is in every beat of my heart. God is with me, now.

(presence prayer from Sacred Space)

O, let me not always feel I am just on the outside of God trying to look in.

 

God cannot be thought, but God can be met. Through awe and wonder we experience God and there, as mystics have always stated, we understand more by not understanding than by understanding. In that posture we let God be God. In such a posture, too, we live in contemplation.

from The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering a Felt Presence of God (New York: Crossroad, 2001), 117

Ronald Rolheiser

outside looking in (bl)outside looking in. iPhone image.

advent apertures 2019: day 5

Between waves, under the moon’s light,

after the passing of your smile into memory

when the last silence falls and your voice

is no longer heard over the shadows

of the earth, when even the rain has stopped

and my memory and my words and my arms

and my hands that held you have fallen away

with the tide of time, retreating forever

into the beckoning everlasting dark;

when everything we know has gone,

when my heart has stopped and yours

no longer calls to mine through the distance

of our time together – others will live in this life

and this love and this light, that we have set

in motion, so that underneath that far off,

yet to arrive and sheltering darkness,

underneath the deep and almost touchable nearness

of all things, underneath the breath of our words

joining together for this privileged time of times,

they will see in the distant pinprick stars

the returning light of the dawn we made together,

as we live in the light and the love of those

who came before us, and who helped us to see

and celebrate and recognize ourselves

and who brought us here and whose light

we now pass on, so that even at the end

of time, even in what looks like silence,

even in the quietest sense of disappearance,

even in the far distance of times beyond

our present understanding, we will be remembered

in the way others still live, and still live on, in our love.

‘Everlasting’

David Whyte

From The Bell and the Blackbird (Many Rivers Press, 2018). 

 

The fourth morning after an encounter that might change my life, if I let it. 

“How can this be?”  How can I be a part of God’s story?  Am I truly a part of this narrative that stretches back to the dawn of time and space?  Can it really be that I am a uniquely gifted, uniquely loved and loving part of what God longs to do on earth; on earth, in my time, in my place?

Just as I’m thinking about the way time and space have created our planet in striations and accretions, I remember that one of my favourite words is palimpsest: ‘a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing; something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form’. 

Is it possible that every encounter I have with God writes and rewrites its traces on me, so that I am made up of layers upon layers of God’s revelations to me?  Surely, most of this will never be visible to anyone else? 

And yet, is it possible that revelation by revelation, encounter by encounter, I am painted into becoming that character whom only I am meant to be in all eternity; I become intrinsic to God’s story, with a vital part to play? 

 

The essence of Christianity is neither more nor less than a belief in the unification of the world in God by the Incarnation … To be the alpha and omega, Christ must, without losing his precise humanity, become co-extensive with the physical expanse of time and space.  In order to reign on earth, He must ‘super-animate’ the world.  In Him henceforth, by the whole logic of Christianity, personality expands (or rather centres itself) till it becomes universal.  Is this not exactly the God we are waiting for?

from ‘Sketch of a Personalistic Universe’, Human Energy (p91)

Teilhard de Chardin

distant touchable nearness (bl)distant touchable nearness. iPhone image.

advent apertures 2019: day 4

“Light is electromagnetic energy, one of the primary penetrating forces. Once cast from the sun, light streams onto planet earth like liquid. It freely enters us as both photon and wave. In daylight, we ingest billions of photons during every open-eyed moment. As waves, light vibrates into us. It is transduced, within several layers of retinal tissue, into electrobiochemical pulses surging deeply into the tissue within the mammalian brain. It shifts from wavelength to color, from photons to pulse – and from pulses to hormonal flushes. It is light coursing down a direct neural line from the retina to the pineal gland. We call the pineal gland the master gland, not realizing that it’s reception of light has everything to do with the unfettered creative energy we feel in springtime. When stimulated by light, the pineal gland releases a cascade of hormones, drenching the body in hunger, thirst, or great desire. In this way the pineal is truly an interface between the visible world, the mind, and the body. In the end, we are light bodies, so deeply touched and stimulated by light running through the body.”

from Sight and Sensibility

Laura Sewall

 

The third morning after an encounter that might change my life, if I let it. 

What exactly happened?  I had an encounter with light.  Can it be possible that the experience of this light coursing through me has utterly changed my perception? 

Initially, I think I had to force myself to let the blazing in.  But, even in the midst of my questioning “how can this be?”, I allowed that light to touch me.  Did I somehow comprehend that this light was the light emitting from my Source, a light that I had never experienced before?

I do not know.  But I want to understand that light and the nature of Light. 

“How can this be?”  I’m curious about how I might be able to find out.  What could be waiting to reveal itself to me in today’s light?

 

You were within, but I was without.  You were with me, but I was not with you.  So you called, you shouted, you broke through my deafness, you flared, blazed and banished my blindness, you lavished your fragrance, and I gasped.

from Confessions

St. Augustine

partially revealed (bl)partially revealed. iPhone image

advent apertures 2019: day 3

One morning

we will wake up

and forget to build

that wall we’ve been building,

the one between us

the one we’ve been building

for years, perhaps

out of some sense

of right and boundary,

perhaps out of habit.

 

One morning

we will wake up

and let our empty hands

hang empty at our sides.

Perhaps they will rise,

as empty things

sometimes do

when blown

by the wind.

Perhaps they simply

will not remember

how to grasp, how to rage.

 

We will wake up

that morning

and we will have

misplaced all our theories

about why and how

and who did what

to whom, we will have mislaid

all our timelines

of when and plans of what

and we will not scramble

to write the plans and theories anew.

 

On that morning,

not much else

will have changed.

Whatever is blooming

will still be in bloom.

Whatever is wilting

will wilt. There will be fields

to plow and trains

to load and children

to feed and work to do.

And in every moment,

in every action, we will

feel the urge to say thank you,

we will follow the urge to bow.

 

‘One Morning’

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

(This poem is part of a poem-a-day practice found at A Hundred Falling Veils.)

 

 

The second morning after an encounter that might change my life, if I let it. 

Where do I start?

I go back to basics.  What did I learn as a child? I say “thank You”.  Even if a bit of me whispers quietly, “thank You, but …”; what is most important to me right now is to recognise that all around me is gift from the Giver. 

I want to say “this can be”; yet a “but” still hovers at the end of that sentence too.

What did I learn as a child? I say “Please”. 

“Please be with me.” 

“Please help me.”

“Please show me what I’m supposed to be doing now.”

 

 

The popular image of a mystic is of someone who spends a lot of time alone in solitary prayer, cut off from the distracting world. The mysticism of nature, however, is a gift for everyone in the audience!

The Pope says:
To sense each creature singing the hymn of its existence is to live joyfully in God’s love and hope. This contemplation of creation allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us, since for the believer; to contemplate creation is to hear a message, to listen to a paradoxical and silent voice (85, Laudato Si’)

To be a mystic, then you don’t have to be a person whose knees are wearing out – though God draws some hearts to that silent intimacy. All you have to do is to look long and lovingly at creation, and let it speak to your heart. Do this for a while today, and you will experience what it is like ‘to live joyfully in God’s love and hope’. Every garden is a divine schoolroom.

from Finding God in a Leaf :The Mysticism of Laudato Si (pp 23-24)

Brian Grogan SJ

look long and lovingly (bl)

look long and lovingly.  Canon 7D. f5.6. 1/41. ISO 3200.

adventapertures 2019: day 2

My findings are clear. From Greece to the Netherlands to California to China to India, wonder matters. Wonder is the beginning of all wisdom. Wonder is the first of all passions. Wonder is the beginning of all writing. Wisdom, emotions, and creativity – all borne from wonder.

It’s led me to confirm what one Western thinker said of wonder in the 17th century – it is the first of all human emotions. Before curiosity is wonder. Before compassion is wonder. Before the creative impulse is wonder.

Wonder is the window to our original genius.

More than any other intellectual, spiritual, or emotional experience we humans have, wonder opens us to what is real, true, and beautiful – and on the smallest, most ordinary scale.

We’re talking about beetles, snails, and baby toe nails. Not the Grand Canyon.

The Lakota people have a word itonpa. It means “to wonder.” It also means “to care.” And “to thank.”

Jeffrey Davis (@trackingwonder)

 

The morning after an encounter that might change my life, if I let it. 

This morning’s light of day might appear so pale, so washed out and insubstantial after yesterday’s glimpse of what eternal light might look like.

This morning might bring a sudden rush of self-doubt.

This morning might bring such busyness there is simply neither the time nor headspace to do anything other than obey the immediate complex demands.

This morning might bring a sudden surge of overwhelm, the sky looks so vast, and my life so small and insignificant, despite what I have been told.

This morning might bring a lump in my throat, a gulping anxiety; how do I tell the story of what happened?  What might it mean for those who care for me?

This morning might bring such awe; an open-mouthed gaping at how the impossible might possibly happen to me.

This morning might bring a smile for all to see.

 

What a person desires in life

is a properly boiled egg.

This isn’t as easy as it seems.

There must be gas and a stove,

the gas requires pipelines, mastodon drills,

banks that dispense the lozenge of capital.

There must be a pot, the product of mines

and furnaces and factories,

of dim early mornings and night-owl shifts,

of women in kerchiefs and men with

sweat-soaked hair.

Then water, the stuff of clouds and skies

and God knows what causes it to happen.

There seems always too much or too little

of it and more pipelines, meters, pumping

stations, towers, tanks.

And salt-a miracle of the first order,

the ace in any argument for God.

Only God could have imagined from

nothingness the pang of salt.

Political peace too. It should be quiet

when one eats an egg. No political hoodlums

knocking down doors, no lieutenants who are

ticked off at their scheming girlfriends and

take it out on you, no dictators

posing as tribunes.

It should be quiet, so quiet you can hear

the chicken, a creature usually mocked as a type

of fool, a cluck chained to the chore of her body.

Listen, she is there, pecking at a bit of grain

that came from nowhere.

‘A Quiet Life’

Baron Wormser

From Scattered Chapters

alone under the sky (bl)alone under the sky. Canon 7D. f11. 1/500. ISO 400.

adventapertures2019: Sunday 1

I was passionate,

filled with longing,

I searched

far and wide.

But the day

that the Truthful One

found me,

I was at home.

Lal Ded

(a 14th century Kashmiri, translated by Jane Hirshfield)

 

‘How can this be?’

If an Archangel appears in my living room speaking of me as the fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy, this is probably just one of the questions I would be asking.  Yet, depending on what sort of mood I was in, the tone of voice with which I set about questioning an angel would vary considerably.

I might be scoffing or scornful, angry at a ridiculous suggestion.

I might be forceful and matter of fact, already jumping ahead to the consequences.

I might be sad, grieving my barrenness, resignedly stating the obvious.

I might be ill, with barely enough energy to whisper my inability to imagine a future so different from my current experience.

I might be depressed, unable to lift my head from its grey fog, the angel’s presence barely impacting on me, able to ask a question only with disinterest.

I might just feel unready, so lacking in self-confidence, that fear and anxiety makes my voice shake, or disappear entirely.

Or, the messenger of Light might arrive at the most unlikely of moments, a moment when I am at peace, bringing to the forefront of my mind all the ways God is being present in my day. 

The angel’s words might speak into a sudden silence within, each word dropping with a sense of rightness. 

I might actually be alert enough to listen intently to the amazing prophecy, and immediately respond with an inner leap of excitement, with curiosity colouring my voice.

My eyes might still ask of my mind, ‘what is it I am seeing?’.

Yet my heart might respond with wondrous acceptance, waiting to see who God wanted me to become.

 

If we meet life with wonder, it’s always new, always fresh. We don’t need experiences – just encounters.

Sister Maggie Ross

light broke in (bl)Light broke in. iPhone photo.