It is time once more for all of us too rest and take a Sabbath. I know that for many of us contemplative services like this one from St Andrews with Taizé style music become a wonderful focus for refreshing and renewing our spirits. This service for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost does just that for us.
Carrie Grace Littauer, prayer leader, with music by Kester Limner and Andy Myers.
Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from One License with license #A-710-756 with additional notes below.
“‘La Ténèbre” (Our Darkness) and “Nada Te Turbe” – Copyright and all rights reserved by GIA/Les Presses de Taizé.
“Raboni, Beloved,” – By Kester Limner and Andy Myers, shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY).
“Kyrie for September 20th” – Text and music by Kester Limner, shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY).
“On Christ the Solid Rock,” – Public domain hymn, arrangement and additional verse by Kester Limner Shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY)
by Lisa DeRosa
Home. What does that word mean to you? What feelings are elicited from its utterance?
Taking a small step outside, how about neighborhood? Are these feelings different? Maybe more distant? Or maybe community is a synonym for your thoughts about neighborhood?
Continue to extend this thought experiment out to city/town, region, country, continent, world, and universe. How connected do you feel as it broadens and the distance increases?
In thinking about where I currently live and my sense of place, this year has drawn me to really take notice of my surroundings. I left my place of work over two and a half years ago, not knowing what God was going to provide next. After a journey of several months trying this job and that job, I began working for Christine and Tom starting in February this year. It is the shortest commute I could ever imagine because I live in their basement unit. So living where I do and working at home regardless of Covid, I have structured my day to include excursions out into the garden and plenty of walks around the neighborhood. In these walks, I witness the Black Lives Matter posters, the teddy bears in the windows, the vegetables that neighbors are growing, the kiddos that thank the garbage man every Thursday, the empty little free libraries… and I wonder to myself, how am I impacting my neighborhood? Or am I, even?
As the air quality has been particularly unhealthy over the last two weeks here in Seattle, I have not ventured outside much. Feeling the effects of the smoke in the air as well as the lack of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise, I feel as though I am disconnected from my place. Inside, home is still the same, but I haven’t walked around the neighborhood or nearby park, explored the garden to smell the flowers or pick raspberries for two weeks now. And I miss it.
With Covid restrictions and the fires taking over the West coast, I know others are struggling to find their sense of sanity through their normal coping mechanisms of walking outside, grabbing coffee with a friend, hosting a gathering in their home, etc. Others are having to evacuate their place without knowing if they will have anything to return to. That is the reality for so many right now and I pray for all those involved from the victims to the fire fighters.
In reflecting on your sense of place, where you are right now in this moment? Are you present? Do you feel connected to your surroundings?
This idea of place has been radically challenged for me in reading and listening to Dwight Friesen and Tom Sine talk about their newest book, 2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change. A section in the book on reflecting on and knowing your place reads:
“You are not everywhere. You are somewhere. You may have moved many times or lived on the same plot of land your whole life. You are somewhere right now. There is a place you call home. Your place is God’s gift to you and those who share it with you. Your place is your teacher. Your place doesn’t force itself on you; it is the kind of teacher that whispers to you. It invites you to slow down and listen. It woos you to mindful attention to the impact of your foot-prints. It bids you to notice and seek communion with all its inhabitants. Place is the platform to discover the real. The primary thing place teaches, if we will listen, is faithful presence.” (2020s Foresight, 176-177)
The notion of slowing down and listening hit home during the first few months of our “stay home, stay safe” order. It forced me to schedule all plans as possibilities, stop traveling, and stay in my place. So I could really listen. So I could hear the sounds of the birds, not muffled by the sounds of traffic or planes overhead. To listen to the sound of the rain falling on the leaves in the garden. And listen to the sirens of first responders helping those in need.
Listening to, reflecting on, and knowing your place allows the opportunity for God to move not only in your heart and your home, but in your neighborhood as your sense of place extends outside of just your dwelling space.
I am grateful for Tom and Dwight sharing their insights with me as I have worked with them, but also that they share them in their book. The examples given are of real people, living in real places, who have reflected on and know the place God has them in as they seek to positively impact their neighborhood. How are you impacting your neighborhood? Or are you?
If you have thoughts about this, please comment. I am looking for creative ways to love the people in my place, too.
by Lilly Lewin
This got me thinking about praying with these boxes… and inspired my prayer practice this week!
He knows you and sees you and loves you so much!
As I mentioned in a previous post for Godspace written in 2016, I have long been fascinated by and inspired by Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), not least because despite her struggles with persistent ill health, she was a writer, a composer, a scientist, a preacher, a prophetic visionary, and an Abbess of two Benedictine convents; and because, for me, she personifies what I called back in 2016 ‘expressive strength in creative weakness’. Here’s my concluding passage from that post:
It seems to me that it takes a very particular type of strong personality to be able to continue to live a creative, fruitful, flourishing life in the service of God and others; and that such a life-force is only found in those whose strength is based on a recognition of their absolute vulnerability and powerlessness. For Hildegard this life-force came from what she idiosyncratically identified as ‘viriditas’, a ‘greening’ of the spirit that forms the innate connection between God’s goodness in the heart and God’s goodness in the earth; a connection Hildegard personifies as Grace. ‘Greening’ is the epitome of God’s blessing to those God loves… As I struggle to find ways in which I might join every day with the Creator in creating and healing, Hildegard’s expressive, exuberant celebration of the ways in which we may all still be greened continues to echo down the centuries to encourage me this day.
During the COVID-19 Lockdown, I have returned to actively thinking about viriditas as part of my ongoing #projectgreen: an intentional, slow, gradual, mindful multimedia exploration of the colour green, asking what might I learn from its associations and usages (both traditional and modern), and what do I need to notice about the presence and absence of this colour in my life at this time?
Philip Larkin, in a line from his poem ‘The Trees’, wrote, ‘their greenness is a kind of grief’. This pinpoints an association that has been humming through my writings this summer, as I have charted the Sun’s arc, and marked moments of particular turning and potential thresholds of revelation. I realise that, as my attention has shifted through the building of light and its affect on the intensity of greens surrounding and greeting me in my Mum’s garden, that once I was past the zenith of the Summer Solstice, I have been looking at green in a (literally) different light, as darkness begins to make its presence felt round the edges of each day as the peak of the season passes. It sounds so obvious to say green is not a homogeneous entity, a single universally understood colour. Nor, of course, is light. My late Summer light is not the same even across the northern hemisphere, let alone the light experienced on other continents enjoying different seasons. Something of this found its way into ‘blank green’, a poem found from the words of my journaled reflections on this collage I made:
and suddenly there is no such thing as a blank green
see the paper crinkled by blued glue into
precipitous mountain top passes
and plunging crevasses the shape of a missing
plate framing bokehed sun shapes
masking whatever is currently unseen
glimpse rust flakes becoming moss trails over flocked rocks inviting me to clamber into depths of evergreen
rich darkness enfolding me in forest
hear its promise to hold me in pined perfume
setting me down on the winding track into untold lostness
or perhaps only as far as the blue pool
where my yesness continues to echo off sunbaked
clay banks and the Spirit’s hovering ripples water
in a constant play of eddy and still in delight unhesitating I plunge along the ridge of upturned leaf stirring minute hairs freed from dew
parting to reveal a stippled pathway of midgreens leading me on past the comfort of High Windows and Larkin’s words of baptism in light
over the whale’s crustacean enhanced hide
onto the uneven terrain of the seabed itself where murk and shadow disrobe what light may veil
until I am spouted upward propelled into sky
until a rail steadies me
onto a look out over the aura borealis
a swirl of pea green against unimaginable layers of receding blueback purpled at the edges
until returning to present I am pierced again
by the stripes of the tongued plant
(though lacking a mother-in-law how can I know
its’ true speech?) I traverse the hinterland of understanding as it dips into hollows of familiar yellow and dances along blazing minty ice cream heat heights
reaching past the softmeadow grass and the friable hayfield into unexplored tropics extended fans and
upside down paintbrush trees mirrored
in jewelled swimming pools transfigured emerald
against a jungled sky
until here in this coolness
here where I am overshadowed by such unfamiliar shapes here may I rest
This kind of welding of written and visual expression is something that speaks intently to me (as the name for my blog imageintoikon suggests). It is the path I wish to explore in future works, even if for the moment I needs must be content with an A4 collage made in bed, doodles made beside scribbles in a journal that is almost never beyond arm’s reach. Again, this brings me back to the tensions that Hildegard lived with: the reach of her earthly ambitions were tempered by persistent ill health, and yet, her trusting perception of viriditas beyond the surface of all things, is what helps me, hundreds of years later, see the ‘greening power of God suffusing all life and creation’:
Viriditas is the force sustaining life each moment, bringing newness to birth. It is a marvellous image of the divine power continuously at work in the world, juicy and fecund … The prophet Isaiah writes that “the wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and
singing” (Is 35.1-2) This abundant blossoming is the provenance of viriditas. We are called to wander through the desert tending to the abundant gifts of viriditas, the creative life-force of everything alive. Hildegard’s wisdom is for living a life that is fruitful and green and overflowing with verdancy. She calls us to look for fecundity in barren places …
(original emphases)(Christine Valters Paintner, Illuminating the Way, 161-2, 164, 170)
In one of her books of visions, the Liber Vitae Meritorum, Hildegard receives a dialogue between two characters: Heavenly Joy and Worldly Sadness. In the opinion of Heavenly Joy, Worldly Sadness is sad because she does not ‘observe the sun and moon and stars and all the decoration of the greenness [viriditas] of the earth and consider how much prosperity God gives man with these things’. By contrast, of herself Heavenly Joy says:
“I possess heaven, since all that God created, and which you call noxious, I observe in its true light. I gently collect the blossoms of roses and lilies and all greenness [viriditas] in my lap since I praise all the works of God, while you attract sorrows to you because you are dolorous in all your works.”
Hildegard’s viriditas reminds me to notice the gifts I am given in the ordinary details of my life around
me. Viriditas reminds me that the Spirit always waits in readiness to ‘green’ my soul’s barren places and our planet’s damaged earth. There is always hope within viriditas. In the action of the Spirit’s ‘greening’ I am becoming who God longs for me to be. In the light that is itself a gift, I am called to notice and collect together the incidents of greening around about me, like where ‘moss trails over flocked rocks/ inviting me to clamber into depths of evergreen’. The Spirit’s ‘greening’ invites me to open my eyes, to see where the Spirit ‘sets me down’ to find even more green, and though at first I may appear surrounded by ‘lostness’, the ongoing ‘greening’ of my soul promises always to lead me into the heart of God’s calling for me.
So perhaps this is the key to both viriditas and #projectgreen: they symbolise the continual flow of emergence and re-emergence of gratefulness in me, which inexorably leads me to pause to praise my Maker the Great Artist, with thanksgiving in my heart, before I move on, powered by viriditas, into the day God lays before me, welcoming whatever it may bring. Today, using Hildegard’s words of praise of the Holy Spirit, I ask that viriditas will bless us this day, and all the days to come:
Out of you clouds
come streaming, winds
take wing from you, dashing
rain against stone;
and ever-fresh springs
well from you, washing
the evergreen globe [terra viriditatem].
(From ‘O ignis Spiritus Paracliti’ (trans Barbara Newman Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations, 148-151))
[an extended version of this post (with more examples of #projectgreen) can be found at imageintoikon.com)
Catherine Lawton shares this poem with us as an encouragement and welcome to discernment today. May we take the time to prayerfully consider and listen to the stirrings of the Spirit today. Allow yourself to settle in your place, be present, take a deep breath and read the poem below once or several times.
prayed like a child
to God above,
talking to Jesus.
the soft wind
were also prayer.
When I learned
to listen with
my prayers became
shorter but more
eye to eye
heart to heart—
When your glory passes by
we have to find a rock cleft.
You are so often seen in the
blink between the eye’s lashes,
the space between words,
the sprouting green from the cracks
on the pavement.
And when your glory passes by
we are not having a party,
but hidden, shielded.
All your goodness is too much for us.
And instead, we think,
‘what was that?’
Like a lightening fork in the dark,
or a touch so brief, hard to discern.
But we stretch it out
in our thoughts, imagination,
that the touch or sliver of light
to illuminate our days,
and our nights –
though they might be spent
in the cleft of a rock.
Ana Lisa de Jong
Living Tree Poetry
‘Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I
will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I
will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.
When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you
with my hand until I have passed by.
Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”’
For more poems for Ana Lisa de Jong, check out the free downloads available in our store:
by Christine Sine
Over the last couple of weeks, I have started my day by lighting a circle of candles around me. Like the Celts of old, I love circles and circling prayers and often incorporate these in my spiritual practices. At this time of year, as we approach the solstice, I often greet the dawn with the soft glow of the sunrise reflected on the Olympic mountains outside my window, and say goodbye to the day with the even more breathtaking colors of the sunset over the mountains. It makes me feel as though I am indeed surrounded by God’s light. God’s embracing presence gives me strength, comfort and security in the midst of the ongoing trauma of our world.
My interest in circles as an expression of faith came from Celtic Christians who lived between the 5th & 8th centuries. They believed that a circle, with no break, created a complete whole, affording no access to the devil.
Monasteries were often surrounded by a circle of crosses declaring that the space within was sacred and different – dedicated to God and claimed as a place where God met people who were offered sanctuary and hospitality.” The Celtic Resource Book Martin Wallace
As I sit in my circle of light, I feel that same sacred presence surrounding and sustaining me. I close my eyes and draw an imaginary circle in front of me as I describe in this exercise adapted from a traditional circling prayer or CAIM. As I did so, I was reminded of a quote by Hermes Trismegistus that I came across recently:
God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”
I interpret this to mean that each of us is centered in the presence of God and that God’s presence moves out from us to embrace everyone and everything. There is no boundary to God’s presence or to God’s love. Nothing can extinguish the light of God. It might be hidden as it is presently behind the blanket of smoke that the winds are sweeping towards us from the fires in California, Oregon and Washington. It might fade into darkness as the sun fades into night, but it is always there. It is always waiting for the right time to reappear. Wow, what a wonderful thought to begin the day with.
As I reflected on this a few days ago, I was reminded of another time I wrote about the emerging light of God and a saying attributed to an ancient monk:
How do we know when the dawn has come? Is it when we can see the mountains clearly? No. Is it when we can see a dog or a cat nearly in the emerging light? No. It is when we can see in another the face of God. That is when the dawn has surely come.”
As I pondered all of this over the last few days, the following prayer bubbled up within me. I have been using it each morning as part of my candle lighting ritual. I have found it to be a wonderful way to start the day, aware that not only do I stand at the centre of God’s love, but that I also provide a centre for God’s love out of which others can be touched and embraced with divine light and love.
Today, we stand in God’s circle of light,
Breathing in, breathing out.
Today we stand in God’s circle of light,
Light before, light behind,
Light on left, light on right,
Light buried deep within.
Today, we stand in God’s circle of light,
With friends and family, neighbours and strangers,
With all the people of the world.
Together we stand in God’s everlasting light.
United into one family,
From every nation and culture and creed.
Let this circle hold us,
Let this circle sustain us,
Let this circle surround us,
With the bright and shiny presence
Of the Eternal One,
Who leads us into light.
© Christine Sine September 2020
P.S. I will be talking about circling prayers at the free webinar on wonder and trauma this week and next week.
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