Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year

From Mary Oliver

Stanley Kunitz

I used to imagine him
coming from his house, like Merlin
strolling with important gestures
through the garden
where everything grows so thickly, 
where birds sing, little snakes lie
on the boughs, thinking of nothing
but their own good lives, 
where petals float upward, 
their colors exploding, 
and trees open their moist
pages of thunder -
it has happened every summer for years.

But now I know more
about the great wheel of growth, 
and decay, and rebirth, 
and know my vision for a falsehood.
Now I see him coming from the house -
I see him on his knees, 
cutting away the diseased, the superfluous, 
coaxing the new, 
know that the hour of fulfillment
is buried in years of patience -
yet willing to labor like that
on the mortal wheel.

Oh, what good it does the heart
to know it isn’t magic! 
Like the human child I am
I rush to imitate -
I watch him as he bends
among the leaves and vines
to hook some weed or other; 
I think of him there
raking and trimming, stirring up
those sheets of fire
between the smothering weights of earth, 
the wild and shapeless air.

May we all engage fully in the "great wheel of growth, and decay, and rebirth" as we enter the new year.

Happy 2018! May it be full of blessing.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

What Else?!

I mean, really, what else would I blog about right now?

If you visited Lake Erie on Friday afternoon, this is what you would have seen.

If you visited Lake Erie today, this is what you would have seen.

Yes, it's true we are setting records. This was just the beginning out my bedroom window: Christmas morning, 10:35am.

And, this was the latest adventure: A walk right before evening prayer today, 4:30pm.

Here is a true community effort: cleaning off the cars the first time. (Tomorrow will come.)

And, having some fun while doing so.

We ventured out for a late afternoon walk. See the depth!

Here are some sights along the way.

Then, we arrived at the lake. Reminiscent of last year's adventure!

We had to stop for a break on the way back due to exhaustion.

Stay warm everyone!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Or, as Erin says, "Let us trudge through banks of snow in the holy presence."

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Where Am I?!

If you were to visit our chapel here at the Mount today, you would find many different scenes.

The chapel is one of the most essential places in the monastery where we practice our vow of stability, but with the fourth week of Advent and Christmas Eve falling on the same day, today's a bit unique. Take a look:




Kudos to the team who made this all happen! Great work! Tonight's Liturgy will certainly be unique, too! And note our lovely Christmas tree (quite unique), with arms extended upward, welcoming all who come to celebrate Christ incarnate.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Experiencing Incarnation

Last night I was sitting at the front desk on "Bells," as we call them, while in the chapel the handbell choir very audibly practiced Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, one of my favorite Christmas songs.

Glory to the newborn king!

Yes, we aren't there quite yet, but we are so, so close. You know how at some point during the final days of Advent...all of can feel Christmas? I felt that feeling while listening to that song being practiced.

Hail the Flesh, the God Head see;
Hail the incarnate Deity!

On Monday morning, one line from the gospel reflection in Give Us This Day read:

"What is worth beholding is astonishment at what God can draw out of each experience."

I shouldn't be surprised by how much I loved these words; they are truth. But, I am still quite stuck on this contemplative line; God packs each experience with the potential for sacred awe. Benedict, too, reminds us that all time is holy. In particular, by marking the hours of the day in prayer.

We believe that the divine presence is everywhere...beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine office. (RB 19)

May we pay attention, even during those "little hours," to the ways God marks all of life as holy. May we hear the music.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Someone started decorating the tree early!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

JOY to the World

It is Gaudete Sunday.

Joy abounds!

I began reflecting on so many small moments of joy throughout my day, and suddenly overwhelm overcame me.

Blessings abound.

  • Someone brought me sweet treats when she came to Liturgy today.
  • We stood in our places and practiced songs for Christmas liturgies during Schola; as we were told that we would sing Adeste Fideles next in the liturgy, we walked back to our seats singing the song to ourselves.
  • My dear friend told me a story about a welcoming parish community.
  • There were beautiful duets during prayer and Liturgy this morning: organ/piano for O Come, O Come Emmanuel and piano/flute for People Look East.
  • I sat next to someone who was wearing the same shoes that I was, which gave us a laugh.
  • It is week 3 in the psalter, which means it is the week that we sing "Let us walk in the holy presence" during the Isaiah canticle.
  • The O Antiphons have begun.
  • It didn't snow.

The list is longer...that's the thing; I am usually moving too fast to stop and pay attention. Mary Oliver reminds us, though: Attention is the beginning of devotion. (Which I just referenced a few weeks ago, but we also referenced during Advent sharing today...another joyful experience.)

Let us walk in the holy presence.

The accumulation has begun.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Being and Doing

Ah, the great challenge...balancing being and doing within one self.

I just finished reading Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber. (Yes, it took a while, but it was worth the lingering. It felt like I was reading just the words I needed just as I was reading them.) Being/doing is a major theme in the book, an account of Ken Wilber's walk with his wife through cancer.

His wife, Treya, comes to learn the balance, to appreciate the being that is so difficult in our world, to share with others the wisdom she gains from being, to live "both/and."

That summarizes her entire life. Grace and grit. Being and doing. Equanimity and passion. Surrender and will. Total acceptance and fierce determination. Those two sides of her soul, the two sides she had wrestled with all her life, the two sides that she had finally brought together into one harmonious whole.

So, I have been thinking about this being and doing a lot lately.

On Monday we began a transition at daycare, my ministry. As the season ended for families in the East Coast Migrant Head Start Program, classrooms were joined together. My group of 18-24 month-olds came together with the infants, babies between 6 months and 12 months. Well, there is a big difference between those two groups. Today I was able to identify it: being and doing.

The infants just are. The toddlers just do; they have entered the world of exploring, running, jumping, and playing. The infants will simply and peacefully sit with a toy just so long as they don't get hungry or sleepy. No wonder it can get a bit challenging with both age groups; I can barely manage the balance myself!

Then, because everything connects, someone sent me an email with a quote and a reflection today. The quote is from Pablo Picasso:

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

And the accompanying reflection:

Sometimes life seems like a never-ending battle between doing and being. If I wish to be present, I need to turn my attention toward myself, but most of us lose our connection with ourselves as soon as we go into movement. Yet as we watch great dancers, great athletes and great actors move, we can't help but see how deeply connected they are with themselves, seemingly listening to themselves while giving a superlative performance. What's their secret? It clearly has to do with attention, with focus. They offer hope that it's possible to do and be at the same time.

Clearly there is a call to sit more deeply with this balance in my life!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Lingering signs from yesterday's vigil in support of the children and DACA.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Loco(a) for Coco

This really is the time of year to go to the movies. Because the race for the Academy Awards begins, all the best movies premiere around this close to the qualifying deadline as possible so that they will be fresh in the memory of the voting body.

Such as it is, I used to spend a lot of time at the movies around this time of year. Seeing two movies in one month is a lot for me now. I saw Lady Bird over Thanksgiving weekend, and I was supposed to see Coco on Thursday night. But, with a measurement of 10.3 inches of "the white stuff," we held off until yesterday instead.

I would see anything that had the names Disney and Pixar attached to it, and on top of positive reviews, I was quite excited to see Coco.

While there was definitely quite a bit of darkness in the storyline for a children's film, like Lady Bird, this is another one that I'd highly recommend. With themes such as family, vocation, life, and death explored through the story of Miguel, a young boy whose greatest passion is music, the creators focused on the interconnected spirit celebrated during Día de los Muertos as a context for that exploration.

But perhaps my favorite part of the film was the "Spirit animals" of the strong, passionate women in the movie! For a thoughtful piece about women, our broken sexual culture, and all the reports of sexual abuse, read what Courtney Martin has to say on the On Being blog.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Already dreaming of warmer weather!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Pondering Nature

I remember being told how critical I was by my seventh grade teacher. I had just rendered my judgment on some project, and I most definitely had my opinions that needed to be vocalized. I have been told that this critical nature of mine will be with me, like a dear friend, most likely for the course of my lifetime.

That isn't to say that I cannot and do not take this part of myself to prayer, or that I haven't learned to keep my mouth shut a bit more frequently than I could when I was 12, but it's part of my nature, and I might as well embrace it.

I was struck by today's gospel and the reflection in Give Us This Day. I started to think about how Jesus's nature was bearing witness to the fullness of God in humanity--the unlimited potential of what the Divine can do through flesh and bones and emotions and earthly life.

So, what does it mean when...
Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee, goes up on the mountain, and sits down there.

Great crowds come to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others.

Jesus summons his disciples and says, "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way."

He takes the seven loaves and the fish, gives thanks, breaks the loaves, and gives them to the disciples, who in turn give them to the crowds. 

They all eat and are satisfied.

They pick up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.

Pondering this passage is part of my preparing during these Advent weeks. In the reflection, written by Chris Anderson, he reminds us that we too easily write off the miracles of Jesus as metaphors, but it is these miracles which we must find in the ordinary.

Being a critical person often makes doing this quite a challenge for me. I hear a story of "Spirit at work," and I hesitate to believe. I hesitate to believe in the fullness of God's possibility.

May my Advent journey open me up to the Divine ordinary and the Divine possibility, to the miracle found in the abundance of enough, to Jesus sitting down with us in the daily. May your journey do the same for you.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

The sea says...

I'd been planning to post this particular Mary Oliver poem on the blog for a week or two, and it showed up in my inbox yesterday morning...