Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Empty Bowl

Every Lent I throw a little purple cloth on my personal altar and place there an empty bowl. Sometimes the bowl is wooden, sometimes glass, sometimes clay or pewter. It doesn’t matter what kind of bowl; what matters is that the bowl offers me a vacant space. If there was no available space it would just be a chunk of wood or a lump of clay or metal. It is that inviting free space that enables it to be a receptacle. The emptiness empowers it to receive. Into that unocuppied space I gaze with wistful eyes and longing heart. Desire for God is, after all, one of the primary aspirations of the monastic heart, and so my Lenten Longing almost always, in some form or another, focuses on my desire to become a space for God and others. The empty bowl is symbolic of my desire to be free of the clutter that stands in the way of my love poured out. I put my heart into that empty space and wait for God. I want to be available. And so my Lenten questions are similar from year to year:

What prevents me from being available to those who need my love?

What blocks my heart?

What smothers my love?

What stifles my enthusiasm for life?

What limits my relationship with God, self and others?

Where do I need to loosen my grip and open my heart?


  1. I love the image of that empty bowl as a reminder to be a receptacle for God and others. So much keeps filling me up and I forget to empty it out sometimes. Thank you for the reminder!

  2. ah, macrina - this lenten call reminds me of my past journeys. two years ago i couldn't get enough of "vessels" which your empty bowl represents so well. my questions are similar during this season and i, too, find myself pondering how my heart will be the open vessel i know it was created to be. thank you for this beautiful meditation.

  3. Thank YOU for this meditation. It has HELPED me let of of CLUTTER...within and also in my life and so grateful for the FREEING affect. I have a bowl on my table now too, reminding me of the desire to BECOME a SPACE for God! To be used by God - His Vessel.

  4. Thank-you Macrina!
    Your posts enrich my Lenten season!

  5. A beautiful post, Macrina. My good blogging friend Lila, who is, I understand, a good real life friend of yours, sent me the link to your blog. I had recently written a post about Joyce Rupp's Celtic Lent. Lila told me you had written a book with Rupp. Synchronicity!

  6. Thank you all for your loving words of support. I'm assuming there is no correct way to blog. I am fully aware that some of my dear blogging friends are so generous, they offer personal messages to everyone who comments. Not sure I want to go there. I do well to offer you a post but I'll keep trying. Be Well!