Presume that God’s revelation is happening all along the way, not just in “sacred” moments but in every moment, every day. Practice attentiveness. Saint Columba said, “God is everywhere in his immensity, and everywhere close at hand.”
Prayer, to be genuine, must be real. God is not interested in how “spiritual” we can look and sound. Prayer is meant to be grounded in the reality of our daily lives; it is meant to touch every part of us. To be genuine and effective, it must be honest and real.
We continue tonight our Lenten preaching series Living Prayer. Last week Brother David began by speaking of the prayer of the imagination, also called Ignation Prayer. Next week Brother Geoffrey will consider the challenge of praying in the present moment. Tonight we turn our gaze to icons and praying with icons and images.
Until recently most Western Christians were completely unfamiliar with icons. Icons were foreign, strange, outside of our spiritual vocabulary. Probably the single most important book that first introduced many of us to the mystical language of icons was Henri Nouwen’s marvelous little book Behold the Beauty of the Lord[i]. Since then literally dozens of books have flooded the market, but I always return to Nouwen as one does to an old friend. Continue reading →
Perhaps we could think of cheerfulness, a gentle good cheer as a spiritual practice, or, at least, as a spiritual good—as a way of being compassionate to those we live with. A way of bringing the light of Christ, the gracious light of Christ into the lives of others.
Coming into church many people take holy water on their forefinger to remind them of their baptism, make the sign of the cross, or bow, or simply pause on the threshold, aware of entering a holy place. “This is the gate of heaven” – a place of encounter. So come with expectancy.
I was away recently on my annual personal retreat. Initially I slept a lot. I slowed down, tried doing one thing at a time. I gazed at beauty. I was more aware of being with God as my best friend. Jesus and I went on walks together . We wrote our initials (JC + LD) on a sandy beach and in snow-covered woods. We sat quietly, enjoying hot chocolate by the fireplace. Then Jesus gently asked a question. I said: “Oh, please, I don’t want to go there. We’ve been having such a nice time. I don’t want to talk about that.” I pushed back and ran. Continue reading →
Especially during moments of space, you might find it inviting to breathe the name of Jesus: to breathe in the name of Jesus; to breathe out the name of Jesus. You might even find it inviting to pray the ancient “Jesus Prayer” as you breathe: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God: Have mercy upon me.
Anthony de Mello, the late Jesuit priest and spiritual writer, describes the nature of true love in this way: “Take a look at a rose. Is it possible for the rose to say, ‘I shall offer my fragrance to good people and withhold it from bad people?’ Or can you imagine a lamp that withholds its rays from a wicked person who seeks its light? It could only do that by ceasing to be a lamp. And observe how helplessly and indiscriminately a tree gives its shade to everyone, good and bad, young and old, high and low; to animals and humans and every living creature – even to the one who seeks to cut it down.” (The Way to Love, p.77) Continue reading →
Jesus comes among us, as one of us, to reveal to us a greater love than we have ever known, and to invite us into an intimacy deeper than we could ever have imagined with the God whose very being is Love.
As God’s people we have been here before. We have been in this place of longing for what once was and hoping for it again. And it is a good place to be! It helps to remind us about that for which we truly long, and that for which we truly hope.
In the part of the Sermon on the Mount read as today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that perseverance in prayer is important. Keep on asking, keep on searching, and keep on knocking. Keep asking and that for which you seek will become clearer. Keep searching and the way to find what you seek will be understood. Keep knocking and the door through which you can find the goal of your search will be opened for you.
Lent is a very appropriate time for each of us to ask ourselves, “How is God working out his purposes in my life? How do I cooperate with God in this? And how am I blocking or thwarting God’s purposes?” When we stop to consider our spiritual lives, and take stock, as we traditionally do in Lent, it is better, I think, not to focus on ourselves but on God.
Many of us experience prayer as a dialogue which we initiate. We set aside time and go to a specific place and begin the dialogue. We wait to see if God will respond, if God will answer our prayers. But in fact it is always God who initiates the dialogue.
In the audio for this sermon, we’ve retained the pauses during which the congregation tried out the techniques Br. David Vryhof describes. We hope you’ll follow along and try them too.
This evening we begin a five-part preaching series entitled “Living Prayer.” Each Tuesday night during Lent, one of the brothers will speak about a particular approach to prayer. Our goal is teach these traditional ways of prayer, not only by explaining them but also by demonstrating them. We hope, each week, to offer a short exercise that will engage you with one of these forms of prayer.
It’s the noisiness of life that draws us to spiritual practice: silence, solitude, meditation, retreat. In silence we can once again hear more clearly the still, small voice of love that surrounds us—the silent music of love we inhabit.
So we hear, just after Jesus’ baptism, he is driven by the Spirit into the desert where he’s alone and tempted. The image of desert recurs repeatedly in the Scriptures, and I would say the desert experience recurs repeatedly in our own lives. We know the desert of barren senselessness when we have trouble seeing our way through the chaos and confusion which surrounds us… when we have a sense of being lost or abandoned or desiccated, feeling like we’re trudging on the surface of sinking sand, unable to find our own way out. In those desert times of our lives, life may seem like a vicious circle, as senseless as a dog chasing its tail. That is a sense of the desert, even if you happen to be living in or visiting New England.
If I were to show you a drawing of a person with a tiny angel perched on one shoulder and a tiny devil perched on the other, I’m sure would recognize immediately what the picture was trying to convey. Temptation is a universal phenomenon, isn’t it? All of us know what it is to be tempted. There isn’t a single one of us who hasn’t had the experience of being torn between the desire to do good and the desire to do evil, between the impulse to help and the impulse to harm, between the wish to speak and act kindly, and the urge to be hurtful and cruel. We know what it is to have the devil whispering in one ear and an angel whispering in the other.
I believe that God wants our prayers so that we may be aware of the needs of the Church and the world, and be aware of the role of every one of us to help guide, nurture, and encourage those whom we know who are responding to God’s call.
We may be afraid to be totally and unconditionally loved by God. What would it mean for us to begin to see ourselves – and to live – as beloved children of God? What image of myself might I have to let go of in order to embrace this new identity?