solitary work becomes communal

No one can know in advance how one will be used, or when, or what one’s life will count for in the long run. The young Pablo Casals, while pouring his life energy into years of practice on the cello, could not guess that when Franco came to power, he would stop playing for three years, and that the silence would be heard throughout Spain as if the streets were full of demonstrators….

When the need for bread is met we discover that we have other hungers, and none so deep as the hunger to be understood. The artist helps us to interpret, understand and communicate feeling. When the artist is successful we are led into communion with ourselves and with the world, and the solitary work becomes a communal work. For want of this we walk on parched land.                                                    

Elizabeth O’Connor – Servant Leaders, Servant Structures

celebrating women

(This is inspired by the women in the St. Croix Vineyard communion, circa March 2018.  And, a seed from Emily Dickinson):

I celebrate women’s handiwork,
the stitching and the mending,
turning a collar, hemming up trousers,
stitch by stitch… we speak,
speak through the connections we make,
fold of frayed edges, and pin, to mend.

I celebrate the ones who practice listening:
what powerful speech straining-to-hear is.

I celebrate the women who dig into this earth’s soil,
coaxing robust growth

I celebrate the women who carry water
who stop us in our tracks to say
look, this water, this is life. Take care of it.

I celebrate the women who do not scorn
all the hidden stitching that makes life …life.

I celebrate the women who create aromas …
food is communion.

I celebrate the woman who dared to write the line
“my life had stood – a loaded gun”
oh Emily Dickinson: so unladylike!
Writing from your corner,
lobbing silent and sure implosions
as your keen eye views the world around you;
word by precise word, you speak.

These words and ways:
eloquent
as the wind amongst the trees of our lives.
a solid mass gathering under the transience of talk
this gathering of hand work that plays.

I celebrate the women here,
those hands that tickle the ivories
strum the guitar
gathering us
weaving us into a song:

together as lament, as praise, as glory, as cries.

– Agnes Kramer-Hamstra

 

communal contemplation

[a bit of a challenging read – but if you  take the time to work through this I think you’ll see something unique that is often missing in Western contemplative traditions]:

Communal contemplative practices in Africana contexts have been hidden from view by the exigencies of struggle, survival, and sustenance…

The spiritual practices become public theology through acts of shared liturgical discernment. These acts of shared contemplation move individual mystical events from the personal private toward the public and pragmatic. Accordingly the inward journey transcends the private imagination to become an expanded communal testimony.

I am contending that communal contemplation is richer than the immediacy of personal experience because the experience, the story, the event is subjected to the gaze of both the individual and the community. In Africana and other indigenous cultures, this unique orientation toward the sacred elements of life begins at a very young age. Children soon learn that when events surprise, frighten, or mystify them, they can face the unknown with a discerning community. It has only taken a few generations to lose sight of this integral aspect of Africana community life.

Such losses can result from inclusion/integration into dominant cultural paradigms. The price for full acceptance is often cultural and spiritual amnesia…

I am offering an understanding of contemplation that depends upon an intense mutuality, shared religious imagination, and the free flow of interpretation within the context of a vibrant and lived theology.

– Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church

turning again…

[from a back-to-school transition liturgy crafted by Agnes Kramer-Hamstra, and prayed together last night at a small gathering of faculty and staff]:

….We turn again to the little way station that is SSU

We turn to this small happening microcosm where
we try to play out the largeness,
the largesse,
the grand languid move and
the almost invisible quickstep
that is your life in and with our lives,
in and with the life of this world,
Creator and Redeemer.

And, as we turn, we ask for help:

Help us each to accept who we are and what we are able to give right now
Help us to offer what we can, gladly
Help us to hear and see the people students are, see them and hear them as you do
Help us to teach; help us to listen.
Help us to ask for help.
Help us when we feel overwhelmed.

Grant us your peace.

freedom, dignity and the spirit

[a follow-up passage on the freeing work of the Spirit in the individual, in community – in the context of Latin American “base communities”]:

But now a new experience is making itself felt in the Christian communities that have arisen from this context: that of freedom. This is not something that they receive from outside. If freedom were something brought by governments, by revolutionary groups, even by the church, it would not be a true liberation. No one can make anyone else free. The experience of the communities is one of self-liberation. They themselves experience liberation in the act of making themselves free; freedom is won in the struggle for liberation….

Those who become free, become free from sin. They cease collaborating in the social sin [of oppression and domination particularly]. They hold their heads high, feeling their dignity for the first time. This experience of dignity recovered is one of the most visible signs [of the freeing work of the Spirit] in the communities.

  • Jose Comblin, The Holy Spirit and Liberation (1989)