A Final Irish Blessing for the Day – Beannacht by John O’Donohue
I have a lot of friends who are part of formal liturgical traditions that practice Lent. Even in some of the churches in the Yearly Meeting I am a part of there are discussions of Lent, and some even celebrate it to one degree or another. Before we continue here is a brief description of Lent given by Christine Sine on the GodSpace blog.
Lent is a 40 day period before Easter that commemorates the time Jesus spent in the wilderness. In the early church this was a time of preparation for those about to be baptized. Today it is more often regarded as a season of soul searching and repentance for all Christians when we prepare for the joy and celebration of Easter by giving ourselves an annual spiritual check up. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday. (The Thursday before Easter) If you are a good mathematician you probably realize that there are more than 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday. That is because early Christians never fasted on Sundays. They are excluded from the days of Lent because they are always celebrations of Christ’s resurrection.I am quite frequently invited to participate in Lenten observances or reflections, and this blog post is my attempt to explain why I struggle with how to participate in this conversation, not only as a Quaker, but as the person God created me to be. Introspection is an ongoing process that is an integral part of a close relationship. My wife and I regularly discuss how things are going in our marriage relationship; we don’t just talk about how things are for a brief season every year. In the same way my relationship with God has times of introspection that occur on a regular basis in order for us to hear how we each perceive the other and ourselves to be doing in the relationship. These times are sometimes daily and sometimes weekly, but that is about as long as I can go without holding my life in the light of the Holy Spirit. When I get formal and address things in a formal manner that is my way of putting distance between me and others, including God. This is definitely not a universal thing and I realize it, but this is the way my mind operates. This desire for intimacy in my daily walk is one of the main reasons that the Quaker church has been so helpful for my journey with God. I am a Myers-Briggs type ESFP. My focus is on the immediate and I desire to live fully into the now. If there is cause to celebrate I am not going to care about what the calendar says, I am going to throw a party. If there is cause to grieve, I will mourn with my whole heart even if the calendar says it is party time. Life never has been neat enough for me to be able to assign times of mourning or rejoicing however, there always seems to be sorrow alongside the joy and joy alongside the sorrow. In many ways it has become impossible for me to separate the two, every day is Lent and Easter. I wait for Christ to come and redeem me and Christ has already come. I feel the death embodied in my brokenness and I am resurrected every day. In the liturgical traditions a majority of the year (33-34 weeks) is spent in what is called “Ordinary Time”, and this is where I live. I have a deep love and appreciation for the insights and openings that come from the faithful practices of mundane life. From preparing meals and washing dishes to the daily “Dear God time” prayers as I tuck my daughter in to bed I find my connection to God and life deepen. As I fold the warm clothes after pulling them out of the drier and drape towels over my daughter’s head or have a “sock fight” in which we throw socks at each other I feel the love and presence of God. I occasionally wake up as tired as when I went to bed, and on most days I look in the mirror and wonder if I am ever going to be able to lose the weight. When the bumps, bruises, fears and crises of everyday life come, those are ministers of the ordinary as well, drawing me daily into the arms of the Spirit who I cling to as a Mama. She wraps her arms around me and daily mourns my deepest wounds with sighs that reach the deepest, darkest corners of my being, bringing light and healing. May your Lenten season be blessed and may you find Christ in the ordinary.
Saturday is St Patrick's Day. As I have posted a responsive prayer and some links to Patrick's Breastplate and other prayers in the past as well, a post with his Prayer for the Faithful, I thought that this year I would post his creeds instead. I have found two that are attributed to Patrick - both very compelling and worth a read.
Creeds of St. Patrick
There is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be, than God the Father unbegotten, without beginning, from whom is all beginning, the Lord of the universe, as we have been taught; and His son Jesus Christ, whom we declare to have always been with the Father, spiritually and ineffably begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world, before all beginning; and by Him are made all things visible and invisible. He was made man, and, having defeated death, was received into heaven by the Father;and He hath given Him all power over all names in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe, and whose advent we expect soon to be, judge of the living and of the dead, who will render to every man according to his deeds; and He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit, the gift and pledge of immortality, who makes those who believe and obey sons of God and joint heirs with Christ; and Him do we confess and adore, one God in the Trinity of the Holy Name. --Another Creed by St Patrick Our God, God of all men, God of heaven and earth, sea and rivers, God of sun and moon, of all the stars, God of high mountains and of lowly valleys, God over heaven, and in heaven, and under heaven. He has a dwelling in heaven and earth and sea and in all things that arc in them. He inspires all things, He quickens all things, He is over all things, He supports all things. He makes the light of the sun to shine, He surrounds the moon and stars, and He has made wells in the arid earth, placed dry islands in the sea and stars for the service of the greater luminaries. He has a Son coeternal with Himself, like to Himself; not junior is Son to Father, nor Father senior to the Son. And the Holy Spirit breathes in them; not separate are Father and Son and Holy Spirit.
--Intimacy with God enables us to maintain a passion for justice and a commitment to living in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in poverty. Intimacy with God opens up the door to intimacy with others. But what is intimacy? Is it emotional? Spiritual? Sexual? Experiential? And is intimacy taught or is it simply a part of what It is to be human? Many of us share this passion for justice, though it may not always look the same. If you were to ask my friends and colleagues what I have a great passion for, what lights a fire in my spirit, makes me sit up straighter, and speak a little louder, they would tell you- Human Trafficking. For others it may be a desire to see equality for the LGBT community, another might seek to improve the quality of life for the Sudanese refugees living here in Omaha, and so on and so forth. No matter what the cause, our ability to impact issues of injustice is directly connected to our ability to experience healthy intimacy and our ability to experience healthy intimacy is directly connected to our sense of identity. How do we tell a woman trapped in Kolkata’s sex trafficking industry that she is valuable and beautiful if we do not believe this about ourselves? How do we encourage a child living on the streets of Peru that God AND others want to know them and want to share a life with them when we don’t know the depths of that type of relationship ourselves? Hear me when I say that this is not about perfecting self before you can serve others. Identity, Intimacy, Impact… this is a continuous cycle… not a hierarchy of achievements. If you have an incredible sense of self-worth and identity but never look beyond yourself than you have missed the point. And if you are celebrated for your acts of service and your fervor for justice but cannot even be vulnerable about who you are with those who love you, than you have cheated yourself. God is a God of intimacy AND of action. She desires for us to know her, each other, AND ourselves…. and then to use that knowledge to bring about peace and justice. But, most of us do not even know what it is to be intimate with our self and yet, how we relate to the world is a reflection of how we relate to our self. When you consider that, it is easy to understand why we are rarely truly intimate with others. How often are you alone with yourself? How often do you spend time studying who you are and working on your sense of self?
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