I have tiptoed across a dark courtyard at 2AM to spy on Greek Orthodox monks floating in black wool cassocks and high hats through a fragrant fog of amber incense. Chanting Vespers in the candlelit chapel of an Arizona oasis, voices carried to God on white smoke through a starry desert sky. My own soul seeming to rise closer to heaven on every note.
Posts tagged ‘religion’
I understand. All of us are a bundle of contradictions between what we practice and what we preach. But occasionally I run across folks who, when they believe they’ve mastered a higher rung on the metaphysical ladder, use said rung to clobber anyone coming up “below” them.
“I close my eyes as my daughter leans in to concentrate on making the stroke of eyeliner she is applying to my lid straight and clean. I feel the warm puff of her breath on my cheek each time she exhales. This beautiful, suspended moment is enough. I am so very, very happy.”
After listening to the shepherds tell of their experience with the angels in the fields, it is said in Luke 2: 19: that “Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often.” I love this passage because of its wonderfully genuine and personal portrayal of Mary as a young, heretofore ordinary woman, living an extraordinary experience. There is such an intimate truth in this passage about the overwhelming quality of grace. It can be too much to take in when it is happening, a heart overflowing.
I have been given brief glimpses into the miracle of my own ordinary life. It can happen in moments of great joy, or in seemingly mundane moments like the one I described above with my daughter. Sometimes they happen in a still, quiet experience in nature when I am suddenly struck by the overwhelming beauty that is this delicate, fragile planet. Or it can come without warning in moments of deep despair when a small ray of hope glimmers in the distance, like love looking for me, lantern waiving on the dark horizon.
Whatever it may be that moves me so deeply, after these miraculous moments pass, I still have to get up and go to work, do the laundry, make the lunches or take out the trash. I know I am not alone here. These luminous insights into the great mystery are all around us, and you and I feel them most often when we are truly present in the moment. We do not have to be like Mary, or a Christian to fully understand this passage in Luke 2:19. Many of us have experienced miraculous moments, and know what it means to quietly treasure them away in our hearts, taking them out from time to time, like a smooth, worn touchstone from our pocket. A practice that brings me great comfort and joy. I imagine it does you, too.
Blessings to you in this season of miracles. May we treasure them always in our hearts and ponder them often.
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
Recently I was with a group of serious spiritual seekers who were devoted followers of the instructor leading our week-long retreat–an expert on the practice of contemplative prayer. In the middle of every sacred tourist attraction in Assisi we practiced our meditative prayer in pursuit of a personal experience of oneness with the big “G.”
Later, back in the meeting room, much grousing ensued about all the “tourists” invading our meditative space (read: our group plopping down on floors in front of the main attractions or monopolizing a beautiful view for our personal use while crowds tried not to step on us). Seriously, how is one supposed to experience oneness with all, with all those pesky people in the way? Can you imagine the nerve of those tourists, at the height of vacation season in Europe, trying to enjoy the sites and gettin’ all up in our spiritual grill? Jesus!
By day three of the retreat, I was referring to our public displays of spiritual entitlement as OCD, “Obsessive Contemplative Disorder.” It didn’t take long for me to be labeled “unenlightened” by my brethren. Many a pitying eyebrow was raised in my direction followed by a dismissive shoulder shrug. “What are ya’ gonna do . . ?” they seemed to say to each other, “. . . obviously metaphysically challenged, poor thing.” I had misjudged the self-deprecating humor level of the group. I was blind, but now I see. Hallelujah.
I must confess, I have been all the people in this story at one time or another. I have at times taken myself and my spiritual journey way too seriously. I have experienced feelings of both spiritual superiority and inferiority. I have worshiped teachers I believed to be wiser than me and I have judged myself “further along the path” than others. All valuable observations of my ego jockeying for position in an imaginary race to enlightenment–nothing more, nothing less.
What I did learn at my retreat was that a lot of humility and a little irreverence can take you far on any journey of spirit. As a matter of fact, I’ve found my most holy moments often happen in shared laughter—usually at myself—when I just enlighten up a little! I think the big “G” enjoys the laughter as much as I do. Can I get an Amen?
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