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Absence

“Come,” my heart says, “seek God’s face!”
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me.
(Psalm 27:8)

Dark Window Sunset

O Absence,
almost perceived in stillness,
like the space between heartbeats,
almost but not quite palpable
but intimated in the longing —
this is what I most fear, O Absence,
that you will still be absence
when I call out from the void,
when my heart is empty,
when comfort withdraws,
when friends are powerless,
when life recedes,
when I most need a word, a gaze, strong arms,
when I most need you
to be Presence.

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“Dark Window Sunset” photo by Rose Hoover, rc

National Vocation Awareness Week is November 2-8, 2014.

Chicago Cenacle chapel

Here are a few resources you might enjoy checking out:

Red button Resources from the USCCB
Red button We Come to Seek God
Red button Witness to Wildness
Red button The Best Time to Be a Sister

“That, surely, is what we mean by consecrated life:
the daily intention and effort to live for God alone
and not at all for ourselves.”
(Ruth Burrows, “Essence of Prayer“)

Prayer for Peace

Dona nobis pacem

 

Blessed are you, Prince of Peace,
you call us to be peacemakers in you.
But sometimes we become disheartened,
because evil seems so strong,
and while our resources suffice
for making strife,
we lack the implements of peace.

Blessed are you, Crucified One,
we find our peace in your cross,
and there we lay our hoarded treasures —
the burden of needing to be right,
the fear that holds us hostage,
the cry of vengeance
that racks our heart.

Blessed are you, Giver of Peace:
in your love mold us into Christ,
that through us may flow the blessed peace
you long to pour over the world —
peace as fortifying as bread and wine
shared with friends,
as healing as the balm of sunset
after a day of toil,
as restful as finding ourselves
home at last.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven…
(Matthew 5:43-45)

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“Cracked Earth” photo by Rose Hoover, rc

The Lord’s Prayer

I’ve been pondering the Our Father again.  It is well-named the Lord’s Prayer, as there are parts of it that can be prayed whole-heartedly only by Christ himself—or by a person who has taken on the mind and heart of Christ.

When the disciples beg, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1), Jesus’ response is less pedagogical than it is an invitation into his own life. The question, however, is whether or not we really want what we are asking. To consider just one of the petitions: how many of us, if we look deeply into our hearts, can honestly pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”?

 Forgive us our debts

With this petition we enter into God’s longing for us to share in the divine life with the entirely forgiving Son. But when Simone Weil describes the ordinary human condition vis-à-vis our debtors, she is brutally blunt:

The effort involved in suffering an offense makes us expect punishment or an apology on the part of the offender; the effort involved in doing good makes us expect the gratitude of the one obliged to us; but these are only particular cases of a universal law of our soul. Every time something goes out from us, we absolutely need at least the equivalent to return to us, and because we need it, we believe we have the right to it. Our debtors: everyone, everything, the entire universe.

(Attente de Dieu, my translation)

The expectations we generally have regarding what life owes us, set alongside the godly expectations God has for us, make the forgiveness requested in this petition virtually impossible on a human level. We are talking about handing over, as Weil says, “all that we are expecting from people and things, all that we believe to be our due”: all of life’s unfairness; all the injustices inflicted on us; all our sorrows in life where there should have been joy.

How supremely difficult, but how freeing!

The Our Father is a prayer of total surrender to the intentions of God both on the individual and the cosmic levels (see especially the first half of the prayer for the cosmic level). Can I truly pray the prayer with my whole being, with an undivided heart? Do I desire what the words say? If so, I am being united with the divine life of Christ. And if I cannot pray it with my whole heart, what then? Shall I stop praying it altogether—this prayer which only Christ can pray?

We do what we can for now with the grace we are given. If we cannot yet pray these petitions with unqualified, flawless sincerity, we pray them as we can, and trust that God accepts our incomplete offering of self, even to the extent of transforming us and the world as we pray, persistently, mindfully, and humbly, the words Jesus gave us.

(See also “The Lord’s Prayer: the Prayer of Prayers.“)

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Image: “Fractal Forgiveness” by Rose Hoover, rc (with the help of Apophysis)

Fire Alarm!

I have always thought that in case of an emergency evacuation, the first things I would grab would be my laptop and portable hard drive. So the other day the fire alarm went off while I was upstairs in my fourth-floor office, and what did I take with me down the stairs (heeding the warning not to use the elevator), and out the front door?

My cup of tea.Teacup in sunlight

That was all. I carried with me a partially-drunk cup of tea. Which only goes to show… what? Failure of presence of mind in a crisis? Or that in the morning a cup of tea is more important to me than prized documents and photos? Or perhaps simply that I don’t always keep in mind what is truly of worth?

What then do I want to take with me, not just when the fire alarm goes off, but throughout the day, every day? How do I carry—not just my cup of tea, or worries about work or health, or petty everyday distractions—but awareness of God?

One helpful practice can be a “walking prayer.” (This is not quite the same as “prayer walking,” which often indicates a form of intercessory prayer.) Here are some examples of this simple repetitive prayer:

  • The Jesus Prayer.
  • Quiet and simple repetition of the holy name of Jesus.
  • A psalm verse or other brief scripture passage that is personally meaningful.

In this way we can pray while taking out the garbage or washing the dishes or shopping for groceries. It may not guarantee that when the fire alarm sounds we will remember the laptop, but it can help us be mindful of what we always want to carry with us, what we know in our heart of hearts is most important to us: the presence of God.

(In case you were wondering, there was no fire, just a very burnt piece of toast.)

Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

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See also “Contemplative Practices” for more ways to cultivate mindfulness.”

Photo: “Teacup in Sunlight” by Rose Hoover, rc

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