Stagger onward rejoicing

Tag: prayer (page 1 of 1)

on me

Wyatt Mason on Jon Fosse’s Septology:

The practice of prayer, the practice of painting, the products of prose: all buoy us as we live and as those we love die — as those whom Asle has loved will. Like all members of our species have before him, Asle leaves his own inscrutable lines on the world, “the innermost picture inside me,” he says, “that all the pictures I’ve tried to paint are attempting to look like, this innermost picture, that’s a kind of soul and a kind of body in one, yes, that’s my spirit, what I call spirit.” And with Asle, in this remarkable novel, we pray:

and I hold the brown wooden cross between my thumb and my finger and then I say, again and again, inside myself, as I breathe in deeply Lord and as I breathe out slowly Jesus and as I breathe in deeply Christ and as I breathe out slowly Have mercy and as I breathe in deeply On me. 

I’m gonna have to read this absolutely enormous one-sentenced book, dammit. 

an earnest prayer

Missionary work indeed in heathen countries was being carried on with some energy, but Theobald did not feel any call to be a missionary.  Christina suggested this to him more than once, and assured him of the unspeakable happiness it would be to her to be the wife of a missionary, and to share his dangers; she and Theobald might even be martyred; of course they would be martyred simultaneously, and martyrdom many years hence as regarded from the arbour in the Rectory garden was not painful, it would ensure them a glorious future in the next world, and at any rate posthumous renown in this—even if they were not miraculously restored to life again—and such things had happened ere now in the case of martyrs.  Theobald, however, had not been kindled by Christina’s enthusiasm, so she fell back upon the Church of Rome—an enemy more dangerous, if possible, than paganism itself.  A combat with Romanism might even yet win for her and Theobald the crown of martyrdom.  True, the Church of Rome was tolerably quiet just then, but it was the calm before the storm, of this she was assured, with a conviction deeper than she could have attained by any argument founded upon mere reason.

“We, dearest Theobald,” she exclaimed, “will be ever faithful.  We will stand firm and support one another even in the hour of death itself.  God in his mercy may spare us from being burnt alive.  He may or may not do so.  Oh Lord” (and she turned her eyes prayerfully to Heaven), “spare my Theobald, or grant that he may be beheaded.”

— Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh 

The real question, John [of the Cross] suggests, is about what you are really after: Do you want ‘spirituality’, mystical experience, inner peace, or do you want God? If you want God, then you must be prepared to let go all, absolutely all, substitute satisfactions, intellectual and emotional. You must recognize that God is so unlike whatever can be thought or pictured that, when you have got beyond the stage of self-indulgent religiosity, there will be nothing you can securely know or feel. You face a blank: and any attempt to avoid that or shy away from it is a return to playing comfortable religious games. The dark night is God’s attack on religion. If you genuinely desire union with the unspeakable love of God, then you must be prepared to have your own religious world shattered. If you think devotional practices, theological insights, even charitable actions give you some sort of purchase on God, you are still playing games. On the other hand, if you can face and accept and even rejoice in the experience of darkness, if you accept God is more than an idea which keeps your religion or philosophy or politics tidy – then you may find a way back to religion, philosophy or politics, to an engagement with them that is more creative because you are more aware of the oddity, the uncontrollable quality of the truth at the heart of all things. This is what ‘detachment’ means – not being ‘above the battle’, but being involved in such a way that you can honestly confront whatever comes to you without fear of the unknown; it is a kind of readiness for the unexpected, if that is not too much of a paradox.

— Rowan Williams, “The Dark Night”

But I come here, and follow the Christian monastic day laid out like a garden plot by Benedict at the close of the Roman era. I am Western; I like my silence sung.

In any case, the day itself is silent. The only words are the chanted ones in the chapel, unless I call home. My thin voice sounds odd, insubstantial. My husband carefully recites all the messages from my office answering machine. I ask if he’s OK. He is. You OK? I tell him I am. I love you. Me too — I love you. Touching base. The telephone receiver clicks back into its cradle, and the mirage of news and endearments melts. It doesn’t disappear exactly — I leave the telephone room, a little booth by the monastery bookstore, smiling, his voice still in my ear. It’s just that conversation has become a bare tissue of meaning, a funny human foible, but not something to take seriously for once. The mid-day bell is ringing, and there is something I’m trying to remember.

That’s wrong. I am not trying “to remember” something. I want to get this right, this odd experience of praying all day. More like this: I am being remembered. Being remembered into a memory — beyond historic to the inchoate, still intense trace of feeling that first laid down this pattern. It is a memory which puts all personal memory in the shade, and with it, all other language. In my experience, it is unique, this sensation of being drawn out of language by language which the Divine Office occasions. Praying, chanting the Psalms, draws me out of whatever I might be thinking or remembering (for so much thinking is remembering, revisiting, rehearsing). I am launched by the Psalms into a memory to which I belong but which is not mine. I don’t possess it; it possesses me. Possession understood not as ownership, but as embrace. The embrace of habitation. Hermitage of the word.

Patricia Hampl

prayer as bird-watching

The true disciple is an expectant person, always taking it for granted that there is something about to break through from the master, something about to burst through the ordinary and uncover a new light on the landscape. The master is going to speak or show something; reality is going to open up when you’re in the master’s company and so your awareness (as has often been said by people writing about contemplative prayer) is a little bit like that of a bird-watcher, the experienced bird-watcher, who is sitting still, poised, alert, not tense or fussy, knowing that this is the kind of place where something extraordinary suddenly bursts into view.

I’ve always rather liked that image of prayer as bird-watching. You sit very still because something is liable to burst into view, and sometimes of course it means a long day sitting in the rain with nothing very much happening, and I suspect that most of us know that a lot of our experience of prayer is precisely that. But the odd occasions when you do see what T. S. Eliot called ‘the kingfisher’s wing flashing light to light’ make it all worthwhile. And I think that living in expectancy – living in awareness, your eyes sufficiently open and your mind sufficiently both slack and attentive to see that when it happens – has a great deal to do with discipleship, indeed with discipleship as the gospels present it to us. Interesting (isn’t it?) that in the gospels the disciples don’t just listen, they’re expected to look as well. They’re people who are picking up clues all the way through.

— Rowan Williams