holy now

….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

practicing attention

[one final passage from Barbara Brown Taylor}:

Reverence may take all kinds of forms, depending on what it is that awakens awe in you by reminding you of your true size. As I learned on that night of falling stars in Ohio, nature is a good place to start. Nature is full of things bigger and more powerful than human beings, including but not limited to night skies, oceans, thunderstorms, deserts, grizzly bears, earthquakes, and rain-swollen rivers. But size is not everything. Properly attended to, even a saltmarsh mosquito is capable of evoking reverence. See those white and black striped stockings on legs thinner than a needle? Where in those legs is there room for knees? And yet see how they bend, as the bug lowers herself to your flesh. Soon you and she will be blood kin. Your itch is the price of her life. Swat her if you must but not without telling her she is beautiful first.

The easiest practice of reverence I know is simply to sit down somewhere outside, preferably near a body of water, and pay attention for at least twenty minutes. It is not necessary to take on the whole world at first. Just take the three square feet of earth on which you are sitting, paying close attention to everything that lives within that small estate….

With any luck, you will soon begin to see….You may begin to hear… to smell… to notice and feel the textures of….

You may even feel the beating of your own heart, that miracle of ingenuity that does its work with no thought or instruction from you. You did not make your heart, any more than you made a tree. You are a guest here. You have been given a free pass to this modest domain and everything in it….

The practice of paying attention really does take time. Most of us move so quickly that our surroundings become no more than a blurred scenery we fly past on our way to somewhere else. We pay attention to the speedometer, the wristwatch, the cell phone, the list of things to do, all of which feed our illusion that life is manageable. Meanwhile, none of them meets the first criterion for reverence, which is to remind us that we are not gods. If anything, these devices sustain the illusion that we might yet be gods – if only we could find some way to do more faster.

Reverence requires a certain pace.

– Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

attention and reverence

[more from Barbara Brown Taylor]:

According to the classical philosopher Paul Woodruff, reverence is the virtue that keeps people from trying to act like gods. “To forget that you are only human,” he says, “to think you can act like a god – this is the opposite of reverence.” While most of us live in a culture that reveres money, reveres power, reveres education and religion, Woodruff argues that true reverence cannot be for anything that human beings can make or manage by ourselves.

By definition, he says, reverence is the recognition of something greater than the self – something that is beyond human creation or control, that transcends full human understanding. God certainly meets those criteria, but so do birth, death, sex, nature, truth, justice, wisdom. A Native American elder I know says that he begins teaching people reverence by steering them over to the nearest tree.

“Do you know that you didn’t make this tree?” he asks them. If they say yes, then he knows that they are on their way.

Reverence stands in awe of something – something that dwarfs the self, that allows human beings to sense the full extent of our limits – so that we can begin to see one another more reverently as well.

– Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

paying attention

On the night I am remembering, [my father] told me to pull the pale blue blanket off my bed and bring it to the deck. The air was sweet and cool. The sky bristled with stars. After my father had folded the blanket in half, he lay down on it with his hands folded behind his head. …. If he explained what we were looking for, I do not remember….All I remember is lying there beside him looking into a sky I had never really looked into before, or at least never for so long….

More and more stars fell as the night deepened. Some of them made clean arcs across the sky, while others disappeared before they had gone halfway….

I learned reverence from my father. For him, it had nothing to do with religion and very little to do with God. I think it may have had something to do with his having been a soldier, since the exercise of reverence generally includes knowing your rank in the overall scheme of things. From him I learned by example that reverence was the proper attitude of a small and curious human being in a vast and fascinating world of experience. This world included people and places as well as things. Full appreciation of it required frequent adventures, grand projects, honed skills, and feats of daring. Above all, it required close attention to the way things worked, including one’s own participation in their working or not working.

– Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

[thanks to Agnes for this passage which will be the first of a few from Taylor]

everything is a caress of God

Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God. The history of our friendship with God is always linked to particular places which take on an intensely personal meaning; we all remember places, and revisiting those memories does us much good. Anyone who has grown up in the hills or used to sit by the spring to drink, or played outdoors in the neighbourhood square; going back to these places is a chance to recover something of their true selves.

– Pope Francis, Laudate Si