Monthly Archives: April 2020

Easter Sunday 12th April 2020

This is the final entry for the 2020 Lenten Blog.
Thank you for joining me on this Lenten journey.
I leave you with my sermon for Easter Sunday, and a final poetic reflection,
that I wrote in church during the 3 hour devotions for Good Friday.

Sermon for Easter Sunday

It is the Lord! Exclaimed Jesus’ disciples at various times
when they finally recognised the Risen Christ among them.   It is the Lord!
It often took a while for it to sink in.
They rarely recognised his presence at first glance.
They had to look more than once.
They had to become vigilant in their seeing.
They had to become open to the inner eyes of faith
in order to see the reality of the Resurrection.

He appeared to them time and time and time again
and they often mistook his appearance for someone, or something, else.
Mary thought him to be the gardener.
Those travelling along the road to Emmaus
thought he was merely a fellow traveller.
Some mistook him for a ghostly figure walking across the waters,
or walking through walls.

It took a while for the reality of the Risen Lord to sink in.
It took time to adjust.
When they finally did they exclaimed again and again:
It is the Lord! It is the Lord!

We too, often fail to recognise the Risen Christ in our presence.
Maybe like those early disciples we are looking for the wrong thing
or looking in the wrong way.

The Risen Christ persisted with those first followers
until it finally sunk in,until they finally learned to see,
and to recognise the Risen Holy Presence among them,
and with them, in their daily lives.
And the Risen Christ persists with us in the same way,
slowly working on us,
until we learn to open our inner eyes
and encounter the Holy One among us on our life’s journey.

That is why we need to keep celebrating Easter over and over,
until we finally believe, until we finally see,
and recognise the Risen Christ.
Because the Risen Christ is among us in our daily lives and experiences:
in our joys and our ordeals, in our struggles and in our celebrations;
in life’s big moments, and in life’s little insignificant moments.
The Risen Christ appears to us through so many people,
and so many circumstances, that cross our paths.

The Risen Lord is with us constantly.
And waits patiently for us to clearly see.
And then to rejoice and join those first disciples
in shouting out from our hearts: It is the Lord!

+++++++++++++++++++++

Good Friday 2020

I knelt alone before the crucified Christ on the reredos,
Good Friday 2020. My emotions overflowed. I knelt and wept.
It was then an inner voice sounded:

It was nothing you did that brought me to the cross.
It was something I chose to do;
Love brought me to the cross, not you.
Yes, I died for your sin, but so much more than that.
I took upon the cross the whole fragility of the human race;
its woundedness, its lostness, its vulnerability;
its loneliness, its disconnection, its yearning for meaning.
Sin is only a small part of all that, a mere result of it all in many ways.
Humanity lost touch, that’s all. I came to restore that connection;
and, through love, help you rediscover love;
to know you are loved, to know you are love.

I went to the cross to tear down barriers,
to reopen doors, to remove veils,
to open eyes and help you see;
that in the midst of all the brokenness,
in the midst of sorrow and despair –
is love, pure unadulterated love.
And when you surrender and let go,
you fall into love, you fall into me.

For I did not come from up there, I came from within you.
I Am the deepest part of who you are;
I Am your own soul personified, made flesh.
I Am love. Your truest Self is love.
We originate from the Great Love
and to that Love we shall return, be One and live.

No you did not bring me to the cross.
Love only love did that.
It was too important to remain hidden.
It had to be revealed –
Resurrected.

Holy Saturday 11th April 2020

Silent, cold, winter’s morning.
Early, dark, an empty space
before the rush of the day begins.
I’ve fed the cats, taken the dog out,
made coffee, and now sit
in companionable stillness.
Birds begin to sing outside,
soon other sounds will increase.
But, that is then, this is now.
Holy Quiet. Sweet Sacrament Divine.

  ++++++++++++++++

 
                                                  Meditation 40
 
One criticism that is sometimes levelled at meditation is that it is a somewhat selfish way of praying. Meditation often is seen as “naval gazing”, looking out for our own spiritual welfare rather than that of others. While I admit there is a danger for any of us, meditators or not, to become too introspective and to be overly individualistic in our spiritual lives, I do not think the problem lies in meditation itself. I think that being part of a wider worship community is important because it guards against that individualism that sometimes creeps into spirituality. I always maintain that celebrating the Eucharist together is the primary Christian prayer, and that is always with the community of faith. All personal prayer, meditation or otherwise, grows from that. But there are two other responses I would want to make in defence of meditation. Firstly, if we do not look after our own spiritual needs how can we possibly be of any help to others on their own spiritual journey? If we are to reach out with love to others we have to first discover it within ourselves. If we are to forgive others, we have to first learn to forgive ourselves, and if we are to see the face of God in others, we have to first discover it within ourselves. Meditation, or any form of reflective prayer, far from being a selfish practise is a necessary foundation for our service to others, although it is often done on our own it is also done on behalf of others.

Secondly, our meditation is not just a benefit to us it is a benefit to all. We are not merely individuals on this planet, we are a part of each other; we are linked by invisible connections. So what one person does affects what everyone does. One act of kindness, even if it is done anonymously, inspires another act of kindness. Likewise an act of aggression will bring out another act of aggression in someone else. What one person does has an effect on all. So if we sincerely meditate to allow ourselves to be drawn into God’s love, mercy, and grace, we also open those pathways for others. That is why being a monk or nun is not an escape from the world, but a deeper entry into it. The daily round of prayer of the monastics, benefit us all and inspire each of us, in unknown ways, into a deeper life of prayer and love.

So true meditation is neither selfish, nor naval gazing; it is a ministry we enter not only for ourselves but for our community and our world. Meditation is not just an individualistic form of prayer we do on behalf of ourselves, it is a calling that we undertake also for others.

Good Friday 10th April 2020

A Gospel Message

You do not know the day or the hour, so:
Stay alert
Keep your lamps trimmed
Seek and you will find
Follow me
Through the narrow gate
Come to your inner chamber
Knock and the door will open
Enter the kingdom of heaven
Be still
Watch and pray
Abide in love.
++++++++++++++++++++++

 Meditation 39

 My first spiritual director, Fr. Richard, used to say to me that he meditated for twenty minutes in order to get two minutes of beautiful silence and stillness with God. He would say that for most of that twenty minutes he would be all over the place, but somewhere in between it all, there might just be that little moment in time when, without realising it, he had gone beneath his thoughts and restlessness and rested in God’s silence and stillness. It may have been only for two minutes, or maybe even less some days, but it was worth every minute spent in the struggle, because that small moment in time sustained him in the onslaught of the day.

Yes, whether we meditate for twenty minutes, ten, or five, somewhere in the midst of that we will be embraced in that precious moment in time. It does not need to be long because  one holy moment with God is a moment that flows into all other moments, and effects them in a most incredible way, whether we are aware of that happening or not.

That wise teaching of Fr. Richard has stayed with me for over 30 years, and I recall it again and again, because over time I have experienced it to be true. Now, no matter how much my meditation feels a struggle on some days, I will never begrudge the time I spend in that struggle. Because out of it will come that one precious moment that infuses all other moments with God’s presence and love, and that is worth any struggle.

Maundy Thursday 9th April 2020

Coronavirus Mantra

 Wash your hands, they keep telling us,
Wash your hands!
Wherever you go – wash your hands.
When returning home – wash your hands.
If you touch anything – wash your hands.
Wash your hands – and wash them properly
You may be 60 but you have never learned!
Like this, thoroughly, don’t skimp, get it right.

Jesus washed the feet of his friends
but it might have been hands,
the principle’s the same.
Wash them with love, he said,
with kindness, with gentleness.
Wash them in prayer.

So yes, let’s keep washing our hands
– like the experts tells us:
Plenty of soap, plenty of water,
plenty of rubbing, plenty of scrubbing.
But, more importantly, like Jesus advises:
with love, with intention,
as an offering of prayer for our world.
++++++++++++++

Meditation 38

I write this on Maundy Thursday, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, a daily task of servants at the time, an everyday occurrence. In our church we do the modern day equivalent at our Maundy Thursday worship, we wash hands. How appropriate in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. What Jesus did with his disciples in washing their feet was to make an ordinary, everyday, activity deeply significant. They could never wash feet in the same way again. That is what prayer does. That is what our daily commitment to meditation does. It makes ordinary everyday tasks we do in life more significant, or more correctly, it makes us aware of their true significance. That is why I encourage you to meditate, even for just 5 minutes a day, it gives meaning to everything else in life. It helps make each moment, a moment of communion with God and with others.

Holy Wednesday 8th April 2020

Meditation 37

Praying with a Pup

 I waited
a little impatiently
as the pup settled on my lap.
I waited
for him to fall asleep
so I could put him on his bed
and then meditate
– commune with God.

Then it struck me:
God is not in the next moment
but this one.
It is here
I will commune,
or not at all.

So
the pup snuggled into me
I snuggled into God
God snuggled into the pup
the pup snuggled into God
God snuggled into me
I snuggled into the pup
and we all snuggled together
into a time of blessed communion.

After a while
I placed the sleeping pup
into his basket
and reached for
my prayer stool and beads.
But the pup clambered out
settled on my lap
and snuggled in again.

I came to the conclusion
that this
was the prayer
God desired.

~

Sometimes in meditation you just have to go with the flow,
and pray what the moment brings!

Holy Tuesday 7th April 2020

The Narrow Path
 
Just keep following the narrow path,
I was told,
beyond the narrow gate.
Do not look right or left.
Do not look up or down.
Do not look for signs,
or flashes of light,
nor listen for heavenly voices.

This is the path of inner poverty.
You leave behind what is known,
and learn to trust what is unknown.
You leave behind all expectations,
and learn to be open to the unexpected.
You leave behind all notions of God,
and allow God to be what God is.
You leave behind all notions of self,
and see what happens.

++++++++++++++++++

Meditation 36

The explorer and writer, Erling Kagge, wrote that the secret of walking to the South Pole was to simply put one foot in front of the other, and to do this enough times! For me that is what meditation is about. We are not trying to achieve anything dramatic, we are simply on a journey to God, to our truest self, and we do that step by step, along the narrow path. It is simply about saying the mantra, moving the bead, and breathing in and out. And to just keep doing that for the whole journey of the time of prayer. Erling Kagge also writes that once on the journey to South Pole, he made the mistake of calculating how much time he had to go before getting there; then, instead of enjoying the journey, he just began to stress about how long it was going to take to get there. He lost the enjoyment of what he was doing, just getting there became all important. It was not until he managed to refocus on simply taking the next step, and then the next, that the pleasure of his journey returned.

In meditation it is very easy to obsess with how much longer we have to go, we keep looking at our watch, or wonder when our timer will sound, instead of just focussing upon the mantra and the prayer. We also can begin to obsess with whether or not we are getting any better at meditating, or if we are any closer to God, or if it is making us more holy, or peaceful, or calm. We should take Kagge’s advice, and not worry about how long we have been meditating for, or the effect it is having, but simply learn to enjoy the journey, step by step. Just focus on the next recitation of the mantra, the next bead, the next breath. That is all we have to do. It’s a narrow path. Where it all leads to is in God’s hands.

Holy Monday 6th April 2020

She knelt in the ancient stone church,
and offered her daily prayer
as she did each day, and had done so
for many a year gone.
She never missed, though she wondered,
sometimes, why she continued, and if
God heard, or even cared;
and if there was any point
to her faithful vigil and devotion.

He entered quietly through the oak door,
and his eyes slowly adjusted
to the dimness of the small building.
When they did, he saw her kneeling
in front of the altar, and he was suddenly
captured by a waking dream or vision:
When he looked at the old woman praying,
he was convinced he saw the whole world
revolving around her prayer, infused by divine love.

++++++++++++++

 Meditation 35

 The above poem is based a lovely story I read years ago in the readings from one of the mystics, but I have never been able to find it again since, which is very frustrating! So I don’t know where the story comes from, or if I have remembered it properly, but from my recollection they were describing a vision they had when once entering a church. They saw an old peasant woman kneeling down praying, and in their vision they saw the whole world revolving around this old woman’s prayer. She may have thought that her prayer was insignificant; she may have thought it was distracted and poor; but, in fact, it was having an enormous and powerful effect upon the world, and she did not know it.

I think that is a beautiful story. It sums up all our struggles with prayer and meditation. How often do we feel our prayer to be poor and insignificant? How often do we feel that we are wasting our time, wasting God’s time? When, in fact, God is using it to great effect, and the world is greatly influenced by that prayer. That is how important and vital our prayer is. That is why we should not despair at our attempts to meditate, because no prayer is ever wasted. God takes it, honours it, embraces it, delights in it, and uses it to great effect, though we remain oblivious to any of this.

Don’t despair, don’t give up, don’t be discouraged. God welcomes your prayer, no matter how feeble you may feel it to be; God delights in it, and uses it in ways we could never imagine.

Sunday 5th April 2020

Day 40   Grace

Everything is gift. Prayer is gift. The 13th Century spiritual teacher, Meister Eckhart, said that if the only prayer we ever said was “Thank You” it would suffice. Prayer is a gift that flows through our lives, through our world; we don’t improve it with elegant words or prayer techniques, neither do we damage it by neglect or our struggles to pray. It is a gift given in our lives, all we need to do is say “thank you.” I read recently in a book on prayer that God’s gift of prayer is freely given and all that God asks in return is for us to embrace that gift as best we can. Actually, I don’t believe that is quite right, God’s gift is freely given and asks nothing in return. That is what grace is. I have no doubt that God longs for us to embrace the gift and become more deeply aware of its flow in our lives, but does not demand it, and thinks nothing less of us if we don’t.

God gently pursues us like a lover. Some of the greatest writers on prayer in the Christian tradition regularly describe God as a lover that flirts with us, lavishes us with gifts, and woos us. That is a God I can relate to. For far too long we have had a strange image of God as a stern father or head teacher making demands upon us, marking our efforts, keeping a log. Such a God is one that you tend to try and obey, and maybe please, rather than a God you grow to love and long for. God as lover is a God we can have a relationship with, based not upon demands and rules, but on love. Jesus also summed up our relationship with God in one word. Love.

Prayer is a gift of love from the Lover of the Universe. It is a gift freely given again and again and again. It is a gift that makes no demands of us, a gift that asks nothing in return; but a gift that sets out to woo us and invite us into its flow, into a beautiful relationship with God, with each other, with life.

There are many ways to respond to God’s grace, and God does not have a grading system for how eloquent or how long that response is. Prayer is not an exam we have to pass, simply a stream of love to delight in. Praying a mantra is a simple way to respond to God’s wooing in life, and to become more and more aware of the Immense Loving Presence in everything we are, and everything we do and experience.

………………………………

You are God’s Prayer.
You are being Prayed,
Continuously,
Into each moment;
Each second, each minute, each hour.
Into days, weeks, months, years.

You are God’s Prayer.
You are being Prayed,
Through all of life’s circumstances:
Joys, hurts, hopes, fears.
You will be Prayed into death
And beyond
Into all that will be

You are God’s Prayer
God’s Mantra,
God’s Chant;
Arising from, returning to,
The depths of Eternal Love.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Meditation 34

Ah, grace. It is all grace. If only we could just let go and truly leave it all with God. It is a lovely thought, but another part of us resists it, because we like to be in control when it comes down to it. It is why perhaps the most important examples of prayer come right at the beginning and at the end of Jesus’ life. At its beginning, at its conception, there is the prayer of Mary “Be it unto me according to thy word”; and at its end is Jesus’ own prayer in Gethsemane “Not my will, but thy will be done.” These prayers are both prayers of total submission to the grace of God; they are prayers of complete trust.

Another of my favourite saints, (I seem to have so many!) is Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard lived in the 12th Century and she was a Benedictine Abbess but also a composer of sublime music, a writer, a healer, and visionary. I love the music she composed, and one of my favourite cd’s is called: “A Feather on the Breath of God” and is named after one of her sayings. She wrote that we should seek to become that which we are, which is a feather on the breath of God. What a beautiful image! And how apt when it comes to meditation. In meditative prayer we are seeking to become a feather on the breath of God; to let go of everything and float as light as a feather on God’s breath, God’s love and grace. It is all about learning to let go, and let God. My O my, that is a long process! But that’s ok. God is patient, and asks us to be patient with ourselves; and to slowly but surely allow ourselves to become a feather on God’s breath.

We can begin by repeating our mantra gently, as if it is a feather on our own breath; and, as we breathe in and out, slowly allow it to become a feather on God’s breath. To allow our breathing to merge into God’s breathing and become one.

Saturday 4th April 2020

Day 39   A God-Shaped Hole

I am currently reading a book of daily reflections by the Franciscan, Richard Rohr. In one of those reflections he writes about a “God-Shaped hole” that is inside each and every one of us that can only be satisfied by God, but that we try to fill, unsuccessfully, in so many different ways. We have an inner thirst that we try and quench in a variety of ways that will simply not satisfy it. “Thou hast made us for Thyself”, wrote St. Augustine, “and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”

The Cistercian monk, Thomas Merton, also wrote of this hole, which he often called a void, that we have to find the strength and courage to enter or leap into and trust that God will catch us. It is impossible to define or truly comprehend God, and to fully enter into God’s Presence is literally a leap of faith; a leap into the unknown, into holy mystery. Rather than do that it is very tempting to try and fill the hole, the yearning, with other material things.

I imagine that we will all have our own unique personal experience of this “God-Shaped hole”, this yearning, this part of us that will always feel unfulfilled. But it is an important part of our life, it is what keeps us longing for a true experience of God, of love, of the holy. The 17th century priest and poet, George Herbert, in his poem “The Pulley” called it “a repining restlessness”; a yearning planted in us by God so that we would never be wholly satisfied with the gifts themselves, but only by the Giver of gifts.

I feel this yearning in life regularly, but I am never sure quite how I am to enter this “God-Shaped hole” or how to allow God to fill it. It is, of course, this longing that calls us to go on seeking union with God’s Presence and not to feel smug by thinking we have made it. The longing calls us to continually open ourselves to God, and to trust God with the process of our lives.

For me, praying my mantra, and trusting God’s Presence in whatever life brings my way seems to be about the best that I can do. The mantra itself is not the answer, but it is a means to keep the door of the heart open, and waiting patiently on God; on God’s grace and love to gradually draw us in.

………………………………..

There’s this hole thing
In my life
I’ve never been able to fill
No matter how hard I try.

It’s not that I’m unhappy
Or feel unfulfilled
I’m content with my lot
Ecstatic to tell the truth.

It’s just that the gaping hole
Is still there
Still not filled.

Maybe I’m not supposed to fill it
But enter it.
Do I dare?

++++++++++++++++++++

Meditation 33

In meditation we spend a little time each day sitting in this God-shaped hole. It is not always an easy hole to sit in, and we find ourselves filling this hole with daydreams, thinking, current emotions, planning, regretting, and imagination. We fill it with so much, we lose sight of the fact that we are sitting in a hole at all! But that is ok, all this thought, emotion, and imagination is all just in our head; the hole remains, it cannot be filled by such things. So, bit by bit, meditation by meditation, we gently learn to sit as quietly in the hole as we possibly can, to sit as still as we possibly can, slowly letting go of all that is going through our head. If we stick with it, we eventually begin to realise that it is not an empty hole at all, but a well of living water within us. How do we draw water from this well? We don’t, we just sit there, and allow the water to come to us, to draw us to its source. We simply sit as still and as quietly as we can, pray our mantra, move our beads, breathe gently in and out.

It takes a lifetime to truly discover that nothing we put into the hole can satisfy – but we will keep pouring stuff in anyway! That’s ok. God understands. As long as we realise that what we put in is of no substance, and slowly allow God to sift through it, we will find God’s grace always finds a way. Eventually, as St Augustine discovered after many years, our restless hearts will find their rest in God.

Friday 3rd April 2020

Day 38   Being Prayed.

 Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself………..

So begins a poem called “Prayer” by Carol Ann Duffy. She goes on in the poem to describe how daily activities, sounds, and experiences are like prayers uttering themselves on our behalf; like a song coming from a tree, or the nostalgic sound of grade 1 piano, the rhythmic chant of a passing train, even something on the radio. Prayers that come as a gift.

The prayer of Christ utters itself in life, and even if we struggle to join in, it often entices us quite unexpectedly, helping us realise that God is present with us in life. We may at times forget God’s presence in our daily round, but God does not forget us and often leaves little reminders around the place. The spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran calls these reminders “love letters” from God; and these love letters are found in so many different places.

We are often prayed, rather than the one doing the praying. I feel that in the Lady Chapel in church where I sit for a while each day. It often feels like the chapel is doing the praying, it’s what it is there for, and I am carried along in its prayerful flow and vibration.

The Eucharist does that also, it prays for us. We are not praying the Eucharist it is praying us; carrying us in its rhythm, its liturgy, its music, its ritual. That is why we should be faithful to our worship even if we do not feel like it, or feel worthy of it, or simply fancy an extra hour in bed; it prays us in an unseen way and leaves a little love note from God.

But, as Carol Ann Duffy points out in her poem, it is not just in church or during formal worship that we are prayed, that a prayer utters itself, but in ordinary, mundane, everyday living.

This is why I love my mantra. I don’t have to stop to pray it, or be prayed by it; it is a prayer for the road, for the journey through the day. It often utters itself, even when I am not consciously thinking about it. It prays me. It reminds me God is there, it helps me be aware of those divine little love notes left for me in the course of the day.

…………………………………..

The Lady Chapel

Come   Sit   Breathe   Pray.
Can’t pray?
Sit   Breathe
I will pray for you.
I have prayed for many
Embraced their hopes     Embraced their fears
Embraced their pain   Embraced their tears.
Come   Sit   Breathe   Pray
With me.
Let me enfold you in Holy Love
Let me enfold you in Holy Peace.
Surrender to the moment
To the Holy Presence
In this space
And I will pray your prayer
With a silence too deep for words
And with,
ah,
Love so tender

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Meditation 32

 Meditation is much more about what happens to us, than something we do. Yes it is something we do: we sit, we pray our mantra, we move our prayer beads, we breathe in, we breathe out; but more importantly it is something that happens to us. We are being prayed. It is so important to keep this in mind. When we meditate we stop, keep as still and as quiet as we possibly can; not so we can pray, but so we can be prayed. We open ourselves to God’s presence, to God’s grace, to God’s love, so God can pray us; so God can once again form us gently with divine hands and breathe new life within us – as God did at our conception and birth. Each time we meditate we begin again, we are born again; we surrender to God’s holy life flowing through our veins, our cells, our bodies, our minds, our spirits, our very souls.

Life can so very often become about what we do, or what we think we do. We put such burdens upon ourselves, make demands upon ourselves, and then judge ourselves when we cannot carry those burdens, or meet those demands. It is a pattern that many will recognise. And, sadly, it is easy to make meditation and prayer into that same ordeal, but it is not about that at all. It is quite the opposite in fact, it is about what God does within us and through us. We are being prayed, it is that simple, it is that beautiful. All we have to do is surrender to the breath and life of God that is flowing through us; and trust that our, so called, incompetence at prayer does not stop that happening. God takes great delight in praying us day by day, and invites us to take delight in it as well.