Friday, September 18, 2015

4 Directions Prayer


FACING EAST… I WELCOME THE COMING DAY, the possibilities, the decisions, the surprises, the risks.

TO THE SOUTH… I WELCOME the warm places, the softness, the congeniality, the fun, the joy that will transpire this day.

TO THE WEST… I WELCOME the deaths, the endings, the losses, the disappointments, the things I cannot change.

TO THE NORTH… I WELCOME THE moments of solitude, the introspection, the silence, the memories, insights, and the recollection of dreams.
GREAT AND HOLY SPIRIT, permit me trespass once again into the sacred precincts. Let me touch my relatives with reverence, humility, and skill. Lord Jesus Christ defend me from demons, idols, and every form of self-deception, and bring me safely to my true home.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

six veils

The Six-Fold Veil

At his feet the six-winged seraph;
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the Presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry,
“Alleluia, Alleluia!
Alleluia, Lord Most High.
The Liturgy of St James

Six veils.

  1. The no-thing of space, emptiness, not-yet-ness, imageless night.
  2. The cataclysm of things in their coming-to-be, their biggest bang, their horrendous pilgrimage, their disappearance into no-thing.
  3. The shape of the earth, sky, and sea- the chemistry of primal life, the evolving biosphere, the dawn of consciousness.
  4. The deeds and histories of men and women, the meals shared, the sudden losses befallen unawares, the unimaginable losses, the long hours of unrelieved regret, the end of hope.
  5. Attempts at worship, exquisite efforts at music fit for God, the awareness of being surrounded, immersed, transfixed, translated, permeated with sacred heaviness.
  6. Endings, closures, finalities, doom and diminishment. The Mass is an ending. The life is a death. I have died. I have risen. I am here.

Six veils over the vision of God. The music stirs each veil in turn, sometimes even rends it in two, exposing the level next beyond, exposing the silence between the notes and phrases, silence soaked in sound, silence baptized in bass notes, veils blown softly aside as if by vibrant wings.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Jezebel Revisited

Few characters in the Bible are presented in as negative a light as Jezebel, wife of King Ahab of Israel and nemesis of the prophet Elijah in First Kings. Jezebel connived with her husband to defraud and murder the solid citizen Naboth. She was an enthusiastic idolater and devotee of the local Canaanite divinities known as Baals. She is even presented as a Freudian-style castrating woman, mocking her husband and shaming him into act
ions totally contrary to Israelite law and tradition. Her collusion with Ahab brought the Israelite monarchy into a nightmare of injustice and folly.
Such unrestrained evil makes Jezebel seem less of a historical figure and more of a prototype or a symbol. As the stories unfold, she takes on the larger-than-life features of a witch-queen, a wicked stepmother, or a manipulative siren. She incarnates the dark side of femininity, the seductive power of pagan nature-religion, and the unconscious fears men project most intently upon powerful women. Is Jezebel too bad to be true?
In the Bible, the prophet Elijah is also larger-than-life, the prototypical spiritual warrior who confronts the evil witch-queen and her whiney consort. Yet even Elijah is susceptible to primal dread of hostile feminine power. Condemned to death by Jezebel, he “…went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.’ (I Kings 19:41)
The God of Israel comes to his rescue, of course, and he ends up in a cave in the same mountain where the Law was revealed to Moses. There Elijah experiences a profound epiphany, the details of which invoke for me images of the birth process common to all human beings. Elijah goes to the entrance of the cave, and there experiences in sequence “a great wind”…an “earthquake”… and “a fire.” Only then is God revealed in “sheer silence”(NRSV) or, alternatively, “a still, small voice.” (KJV). At birth, human beings emerge from a cave-like tunnel and are met with a blast of cold air, propelled out of the safety of the womb by a series of world-shaking contractions, and finally gathered into warm, protective coverings and spoken to in soft, reassuring tones.
Here is the antidote to all misogynistic fear and blame: gratitude for having been nourished, birthed, and protected by our mothers, and by our God. Our salvation lies in the future, where we can become free and mature individuals and form wonderful adult companionships with our mothers. In this story, God is not to be found in the mighty wind, the powerful earthquake, or the consuming fire, but in the “sheer silence.” (I Kings 19:12) Even the macho God of Israel has a soft side. Maybe what God is saying to (at least some of) us here is “guys, get over it!” Except more gently, in a “still, small voice.”
In the Bible, Jezebel comes to a sorry end, thrown down from a city wall by two eunuchs (how’s that for Freudian symbolism!) and eaten (most of her, anyway) by dogs. Under different circumstances perhaps Elijah, transformed by his encounter with the “God of sheer silence,” might have staged an intervention with Jezebel, supported her in dumping the hopelessly codependent Ahab, helped her overcome her addiction to idol-worship, and ultimately collaborated with her in developing a kinder and gentler form of Jahwistic religion.
It is unreasonable to expect that Elijah could (or should) have acted this way. But is it so unreasonable for us?