Tuesday, July 20, 2010

There is so much grace in waiting

If possible
open your eyes
without assistance
from an alarm clock.
If possible
smile softly
while getting out of bed.

You have survived the night.
Draw back the curtain
to the yet black night
outside your window.
Stand by the window
and wait for dawn,
then, morning.
There is so much grace
in waiting.
If your eyes are sleepy,
pretend they are two planets
in the galaxy of your being
and they are responsible
for keeping the day lit.
Go forth, kindler of the day
Fill the world with light.
Your mission is sacramental.
-Macrina Wiederkehr

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Canticle after Vespers

One evening, after Vespers, about two Augusts, ago I sat on the porch of my hermitage at Hesychia House of Prayer and beheld the evening moving slowly into night. It was a beautiful beholding! No journal or bible in sight, I did Lectio with the Twilight Hour. After I went into my hermitage I sat down and wrote what I remembered. I named it Canticle after Vespers: progressive view from a country porch swing.

Day is done
Three cows in the pond
One cow thinking about going into the pond
Fifteen cows grazing in the green shadowed grass
One cow mournfully mooing
as though our world will never be healed
Three calves joyfully frolicking
as though there is no need for mouning at all
four layers of blue green hills as a back drop
Three humming birds hovering over my head
Two mocking birds sitting on the fence
One glowing sun descending in the west
One August moon rising in the east
Three lazy purple clouds saying their night prayers
Only God knows how many locusts singing from the trees
A sweet summer breeze coming in from the east
One August moon growing larger
One lone firefly looking for a mate
One August moon growing bright as a harvest moon
Three stars coming out to look at the moon
One mooing cow (finally) lying down to rest
A great star family growing in number
The choir of locusts ending their song
Three more fireflies joining the loner
The canopy of night sky remembering the earth
A great silence falling upon me
A small joy spreading through me
A large wish for world peace washing over me
Fifty-five wordless prayers dwelling within me
Day is done.
_Macrina Wiederkehr, taken from The Circle of Life
[written at Hesychia House of Prayer,
founding site of St. Scholastica Monastery]
This is a wonderful exercise for the soul. Go outside or just sit by a window. Your homework is to spend time beholding. After about a half hour, go away from the sight you were beholding and in poetry form, record what you remember.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Feast of St. Benedict

Happy Feast of St. Benedict to all who love the Benedictine Way! I love feasts! Although there are special days and occasions when we celebrate in a more elaborate way, it is possible to turn very ordinary moments into feasts. That is my speciality in life. I've always had the ability to turn unexpected moments of beauty into a feast. This morning for awhile I feasted on the light coming through the trees. When we feast we often think of creative dinners and beautiful plates of food. This morning I feasted on the scriptures. While praying my Lectio Divina using the first reading from mass (for the feast of St. Benedict) I decided to read very slowly and just gather insights....The reading was Proverbs 2: 1-11. For this special feast I would like to share, with you, some of my gathered thoughts and prayers:
  • receive and treasure
  • turn ear, incline heart
  • ear to wisdom
  • heart to understanding
  • hidden treasures of wisdom
  • seek her like silver
  • soon you will understand
  • from the mouth of the Holy One
  • God is a shield
  • guarding the path
  • every good path
  • strewn with justice and honesty
  • your heart will be a guest for wisdom
  • discretion will watch over you
  • understanding will guard you
When you open the pages of your scripture, remember that these words can become a feast. All that is required is your presence with an open mind and an open heart. In honor of St. Benedict find a little cave today, a space to rest awhile and think about the things that truly matter.

When you eat your next meal, look at your plate and know that the feast does not consist solely in eating the food before you; but also in enjoying the precious gift of the ones who are around your table--and should you be eating alone, try to remember all who have sat at your table from your childhood to the present moment. Your table is crowded with guests.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Let the Light Fall

In my prayer this morning St. Benedict's words from the rule kept moving through my mind:

Keep death daily before your eyes.
I have lost a number of friends to cancer recently and so my meditation turned into a question, "How do I feel about the impermanence of life?" In a world that makes such a god of time, how do I feel about this fleeting god? As I continued to meditate on the reality of death I knew immediately that I would like for death to be as much of a friend as possible. And so I turned to thoughts on "daily dying." Every little death brings life. The image that came to me in my prayer is that of little bits of light falling on me at every moment, at every death. All death, even the daily dyings, involve some kind of surrender. If I live with my eyes wide open that surrender can be life giving.
Use the picture above for your own reflection. It was taken on the beautiful grounds of Mt St. Francis Spiritual Center in Ringwood, New Jersey where I just led a 5-day silent retreat. It is a sunset picture and notice how the light is falling so gently on the dying day. As I prayed in joyful and painful remembrance about the friends I have lost through death, especially death to cancer, a poem by Mary Bradish O'Connor came to my mind. I found it in my poetry archives marked, "favorites" and decided to share it here in my post on thoughts about dying.
Get over it. there's a tear in the fabric
of forever and it's just the way
it is. God didn't tap you on the back
because you were a bad girl and today
you pay for it. You did nothing wrong.
It wasn't all the walks you didn't take
or Irish luck that tossed you headlong
into cancer. Consider this a wake-up
call and live your gift of days with joy.
Walk the edge where air is thin and clear,
where fear can take you further.
It's just another country.
Chin up. Step through the door.
Each breath in, a miracle.
Each breath out, a letting go.
--Taken from "Say Yes Quickly"
by Mary Bradish
-Pot Shard Press 1997
When I first read this poem it was an ouch-poem. I didn't quite know what to do with it. I wasn't sure I could ever read it to a friend who had cancer; but then I thought that I would very much like for someone to read it to me if I had cancer. Knowing that the author wrote it after her diagnoses of ovarian cancer moves me deeply. The words, "It's just another country," have remained with me as have the words: "Each breath in, a miracle and each breath out, a letting go." That is something I can begin to practice right now. I, who, try daily to keep death before my eyes choose impermanence as my daily companion. The comforting part of my meditation today is a vision of the light falling around me at every moment. There is always something/someone dying. Let the light fall on all our daily dyings.
Oh! Let the Light fall!