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.)

a prayer for women

[I won’t be posting daily readings this week, but I will continue with the voices of women for at least the rest of March. This prayer and the creative contributions of the next few posts are all from a service led by women yesterday at St. Croix Vineyard]:

Here we go, sister, let’s do this right from the start: I pray that Love will rise in you and through you. I pray for you to know Love deeply and intimately, that you will have a hunger and a thirst for the More of God. I pray that you would be satisfied by Love, that you would make your home in Love, that you would make Love your discipline, your resting place, your practice, your doctrine, your plumb line, and your identity….

I pray for spiritual midwives in your life, women who will breathe alongside of you as you are giving birth to the new you over and over again. I pray for friends and for mentors, for authors and leaders, for preachers and policy makers, for mothers and a few saucy aunties, for the daughters of your body or of your heart, may you join hands in the rising. May you be alongside of women who invite you to go deeper, who make you more real, more honest, who know who you are without make-up or masks….

We call out the sins of violence, rape, abuse, torture, against all women. No more. May you be a woman who is safe, a woman who does not fear, a woman who builds safety and security for other women, too. We call out the economic injustices, the educational inequalities, the maternal mortality, patriarchy, movements designed to baptize inequality in sacred language, the forced prostitution, the sex trafficking, all of the countless ways that the image of God in women is abused and mistreated and broken or diminished. We call it out and name it for what it is – sin! powers! principalities! systemic evil! injustice! – and we cast it down, in the name of Jesus. I pray that you would continue casting it down with your whole life. We pray that they will be weakened in the world, cast away, broken, and dismantled forever. May we work to call these things out and to dismantle them from our world … and from our own hearts.

I pray that the places where this world has broken you, where evil has left its mark, where you have felt abandoned and broken and hurt, where you are in pain would become a wellspring of healing and wholeness for you. I pray for the desert to bloom with flowers….

– Sarah Bessey – see the whole prayer.

missing

[here is a poem from SSU ministry student, Jessica Williams; for an audio version and her further reflection on the poem see here]:

MISSING: GOD OUR MOTHER

Mother God,

How did you become another missing Woman?
Lost amongst the multitude of men making meaning for us all.

You are the Substance holding all things together,
and in Your likeness I have been made.

In feminine form,
I embody,
an image of the living God.

(I need to say it again.)

In feminine form,
I embody,
an image of the living God.

(We need to say it again.)

Is it any wonder that Your daughters have lived in exile?
That we are lost and missing too?

But–
some of us,
some of us,
some of us
have noticed.

We ache at Your absence,
our tongues dry
and thirsty
for Your name on our lips.

We are waiting.
We were waiting.
We are waiting no more.

Now, we are searching.
We’ve gathered a team. (We’ll take anyone!)
The more the better for work like this.

With arms linked together
and lanterns lifted high,
we’re walking through the tall dark grass of ancient texts
to find You.

God our Maker,
God our Mother,
God our Father,
God our Friend,

Teach us.

Like children coming of age,
we are starting to see
how much we didn’t see.

Show us.

How You’ve longed to gather us,
our Holy Mother Hen,
and there beneath Your Wings of Love,
to comfort us again.

Feed us.

Like an Eagle or a Mother Bear,
nourish those in need.
And then,
like all Good Mothers. . .

Set us free.

– Jessica Williams

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

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