Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Feeds Your Soul?

At dinner last Christmas I was having a great conversation with our niece and nephew about the different churches in the area and what appealed to them and what did not. For me it was not only great conversation, but some insight into the thinking of the young professionals that surround us. The key in the conversation was not so much the following question, but rather the answer. "What feeds your soul?" This was the question, and the answer?  Absolute silence, followed by a reply, "I have no idea." It was an honest answer, but I was even more surprised, when in 3 weeks time included in a thank you note I read the following: "I am still thinking about your question!" I believe it could be said that many are seeking the answer to that question.

Thomas Merton wrote once of a Japanese story where a renowned teacher of archery goes to a mountaintop to find the greatest archer in the world. He's astonished to discover that this accomplished master doesn't use a bow and arrow. Yet, when the master aims his empty arms, formed as though to shoot, into the sky, and then releases the invisible arrow, a bird falls to the earth.

Merton went on to say: "What I envision ... is the recovery of sacred language without a church in which to use it, an education in the soul that takes place outside of school, the creation of an artful world accomplished by persons who are not artists, the emergency of a psychological sensibility once the discipline of psychology has been forgotten, a life of intense community with no organization to belong to, and achieving a life of soul without having made any progress toward it."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What is Prayer

Prayer it seems to me is but a conversation with God, with a Higher Power, with the Mystery of the Universe. Maybe it is a way of acknowledging that the sun doesn't rise or set because of us, perhaps a way of stepping out of the ego that constantly wants to take credit for success. Or perhaps it is the awareness of the connectedness of all things and people, a search for clarity, a place to calm the mind.

The conversation doesn't require particular stance or a particular place. In the Celtic world the people seemed to have a prayer or a blessing for everything. There was a reverence and respect for the entirety of creation. "Everything they touched, every tool that they handled was done with respect and reverence; every activity performed with a sense of the presence of God, indeed done in partnership." Eleanor Hull wrote: "These were the prayers of a people who have so much to do from dawn to dusk from dark to dark that they had little time for long, formal prayers. Instead throughout the day they made each activity in turn the occasion for prayer, doing what has to be done carefully for its own sake but simultaneousy making it into the occasion for prayer.  Each thing in turn, however humble, however mundane, could be handed over to God, or performed in partnership with the cooperation of the Trinity, saints and angels."