school of contemplation

[At SSU today, we started a new experiment that we’re calling the “School of Contemplation.” Here are two quotes that were discussed at our first gathering:]

  • All that we can do with any spiritual discipline is produce within ourselves something of the silence, the humility, the detachment, the purity of heart, and the indifference which are required if the inner self is to make some shy, unpredictable manifestation of his presence.

– Thomas Merton, The Inner Being

  • For a religion is known from the inside. Catholics say this of Catholicism, but it is true of every religion. Religion is a form of nourishment. It is difficult to appreciate just through a look the flavor and dietary value of a food that one has never eaten.

– Simone Weil, Awaiting God

(Thanks to Peter Fitch for including the second quote in a sermon at the St. Croix Vineyard yesterday.)

how we respond

How we respond to [our children’s] stories carries more weight than any other form of moral instruction, and that is why we need to realize that the formal scope of “narrative theology” or “narrative ethics” necessarily includes the stories our kids tell us over dinner….

Ultimately, children develop the capacity for morally mature intimacy through our capacity or our willingness to offer such intimacy to them, such due regard, such kind but firm or clear-eyed critical respect. We offer that to them in part by the quality of our responses to the stories they tell.
– Catherine Wallace, For Fidelity

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

 

openness as stillness, silence and simplicity

[more from John Main:]

….[F]aith is not a matter of exertion but of openness.

We need to see faith in this way as openness, and to see it as a positive, creative, sensitive way of being – miles apart from mere passivity or quietism. The effectiveness of all doing depends on the quality of being we enjoy. And to be open implies certain other qualities: such as being still, because we cannot be open to what is here if we are always running after what we think is there; such as being silent, because we cannot listen or receive unless we give our whole attention; such as being simple, because  what we are being open to is the wholeness, the integrity of God. This condition of openness as the blend of stillness, silence, and simplicity is the condition of prayer, our nature and our being in wholesome harmony with the being and nature of God in Jesus.

  • John Main, Selected Writings

being useless and silent

We need quiet time in the presence of God. Although we want to make all our time time for God, we will never succeed if we do not reserve a minute, an hour, a morning, a day, a week, a month, or whatever period of time, for God and God alone.

This asks for much discipline and risk taking because we always seem to have something more urgent to do and “just sitting there” and “doing nothing” often disturbs us more than it helps. But there is no way around this. Being useless and silent in the presence of our God belongs to the core of all prayer.

In the beginning we often hear our own unruly inner noises more loudly than God’s voice. This is at times very hard to tolerate. But slowly, very slowly, we discover that the silent time makes us quiet and deepens our awareness of ourselves and God.

Then, very soon, we start missing these moments when we are deprived of them, and before we are fully aware of it an inner momentum has developed that draws us more and more into silence and closer to that still point where God speaks to us.

Henri J. M. Nouwen, Reaching Out