Monday, July 9, 2012

Tracing the Outlines of Grace

From somewhere I copied this spiritual advice:
Just to continue
To express our nature and sincerity
in the simplest, most adequate way
And to appreciate it in the smallest existence. 
This is our task.  This is exactly what I was getting at in the previous post with this quote:
The Mystery of Christ
              is at work in
     however humble
                  or humdrum
Julian of Norwich, a medieval mystic, had a series of visions during a grave illness in her 30th year.  In one of them she beheld something tiny and precarious, about the size of a hazelnut in the palm of her hand.  So tiny, she sensed, it could fade into nothing.   She was given to understand that this tiny thing was all of creation, held in being through God's tender, loving care. 

A zen master described zen in this brief aphorism:
Zen is dried dung.
Gerard Manley Hopkins summed it up this way in Gods Grandeur:
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
None of this means that life is a bowl of cherries.  The zen saying makes that clear.  Julian's illness nearly killed her.  Hopkin's brief poem also references the seamy side of life.

But wisdom crystalizes one's attention.  As pressure and time turn coal into diamonds.

What is the meaning of the zen saying?  I can think of two things.  The first is that dung is what remains after one has digested whatever is consumed.   Often, people disparage wisdom or a path, as they might disparage dung.  But the task is to take the leavings and trace them back to the digestive process or the meal eaten or the seeds planted.  Alternatively, one can carry dried dung on a journey and use it for fuel.  Set alight, what seems worthless, is suddenly revealed as a source of heat and light.  It becomes useful.

Like what I'm trying to do here. 

Addendum IDo not miss this exquisite gift from an Islamic scholar:

hearts ablaze:  releasing the divine potential inside

Addendum II:  Thanks to a comment below, here is a brief quote from a website dedicated to a saintly Orthodox Bishop:
  "The Jesus Prayer is for moments of repentance. But in between these moments one is in the atmosphere of the Spirit, wordless and motionless - in the silence of deep hesychia which penetrates everything, including daily work. It is constant, never hindering earthly activities of any kind, but rather sanctifying them..."

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Awakened by Grace

Two picture books fascinated me in childhood.  One held photographs illustrating religions of the world.  The other, drawings of every type of musical instrument.  In the unfinished attic, across from our bedroom, was a mostly empty room.  I recall perusing Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman in a lovely large volume.  Of course I didn't read it all or even understand a lot.  But those waves of verse, first hints of mysticism and oneness (I've only just realized) were part of a unity.   At one with the woods and the church of my childhood Places where a child could be alone, a soul awakened.  Along with books which fed the soul and linked it to all that is and might be

Childhood has all too many straight-jackets.  Holy Mystery is a welcome reprieve.  Even if one doesn't really recognize it till much later.

Recently someone asked me a question.  Based upon a book I'd loaned.  The question related to the concept of the elemental - a term translated from French, best explained by these quotes from the book:
"Elemental," as I understand it, means "reduced to the essential." ... The elemental refers to the origins, the ground, the constitutive qualities of something. ... The elemental becomes a "carrier" or an epiphany of the essential.  ... The essential, in its turn, designates the primary, the vital, the indispensable, and the necessary.  The essential is the irreducible truth of a reality; its authentic identity and raison d'ĂȘtre.
One illustration, suggested by the author, is the Virgin of the Sign (icon).  I paired it here with a numinous scene from nature which extends and amplifies it, setting up a kind of resonance within ourselves and the natural world, which points at the same time to the beyond in our midst.   My first paragraph and my next point to the same relationship.

Like a musical theme that runs through our lives.  The simplest events of daily living.  As in this calligraphy quote I have before me:  The Mystery of Christ is at work in everything however humble or humdrum.  Like whatever it is that bids the quanta leap at once but in direction free.  So pondering the question asked the elemental has revealed itself in inconsequential moments.  The making and the drinking of my morning tea.  Chopping vegetables for dinner.  The ritual of breakfast.  The ritual of dinner.  Watering the garden or writing this.  Streaming the theme of hidden celestial music.

All creation vibrates.  Is tuned.  Each single note is sacred.