….When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
Cause everything is holy now….
– Peter Mayer, Holy Now
When remorse is real and not a whip, it has the possibility of giving us a whole new attitude. Actually, confession is made for the revealing of our light–gifts of love, faith and creativity. Understanding this, however, will not always make the resistance to confession less. If we exercise love, we become vulnerable. If we confess our gifts, we are apt to be asked to use them. In the end, the sin we must all come to look at is the sin of withholding ourselves. This is the sin that keeps us beggars in life.
: Elizabeth O’Connor, Search for Silence
[Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Red Brocade,” was part of an early service I recently attended. Given the current climate of immigration in Canada and abroad, I think this poem is worth sharing.]
The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking him who he is,
where he’s from,
where he’s headed.
That way he’ll have enough strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.
Let’s go back to that.
Rice? Pine Nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.
No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armour everyone puts on
to pretend they have a purpose
in the world.
I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.
– “Red Brocade” by Naomi Shihab Nye, from 19 Varieties of Gazelle
[We’ve had some important insights here at SSU through the first public lectures in our First Nations Voices and Themes series. We’ve also been challenged to make ourselves aware of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s “Calls to Action.” Here is one section relevant for us:]
We call upon leaders of the church parties to the
Settlement Agreement and all other faiths, in
collaboration with Indigenous spiritual leaders,
Survivors, schools of theology, seminaries, and other
religious training centres, to develop and teach
curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and
staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need
to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the
history and legacy of residential schools and the roles
of the church parties in that system, the history and
legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and
communities, and the responsibility that churches have
to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence.
– TRC’s “Calls to Action” – article 60
[This is an excerpt from a look at the Ladakh people of northern Himalayan India whose recent “development” has led to the loss of much of their traditionally rich way of life.]
Perhaps the most tragic of all the vicious circles I have observed in Ladakh is the way in which individual insecurity contributes to a weakening of family and community ties, which in turn further shakes individual self-esteem. Consumerism plays a central role in this whole process, since emotional insecurity contributes to a hunger for material status symbols. The need for recognition and acceptance fuels the drive to acquire possessions – possessions that will make you somebody. Ultimately this is a far more important motivation that fascination for the things themselves. It is heart-breaking to see people buying things to be admired, respected, and ultimately loved, when in fact it almost inevitably has the opposite effect. The individual with the new shiny car is set apart, and this furthers the need to be accepted. A cycle is set in motion in which people become more and more divided from themselves and from one another.
– Helena Norberg-Hodge, in Ancient Futures: Lessons from the Ladakh for a Globalizing World (2009).