We must let our heart go its own way, toward its own deepest desire, which it knows is different from all others. This desire is different from all others not necessarily because it is more strongly felt, but because it comes from farther off, from what is deepest in us. It is not simply an act of our free will, but something which is in our deepest being and which involves all that we are. It is something quite simple but inseparable fundamentally from our self-awareness and open to a limitless beyond. God reveals himself to us in this awareness that we are essentially a cry for him.
Our inner atmosphere is not made up only of what we are clearly conscious of and can be precisely expressed. It is also composed of all that is living in our inmost depths. This is what makes us realize what we fundamentally are. It is always there.
Throughout the day we are a succession of social personalities, sometimes unrecognizable to others or even to ourselves. And when the time comes to pray and we want to present ourselves to God, we often feel lost because we do not know which of these social personalities is the true human person, and have no sense of our own true identity. The several successive persons that we present to God are not ourselves. There is something of us in each of them, but the whole person is missing. And that is why a prayer which could rise powerfully from the heart of the true person cannot find its way between the successive men of straw we offer to God.
It is extremely important that we find our unity, our fundamental identity. Otherwise we cannot encounter the Lord in truth. We should be on the watch all the time to see that none of our words and actions are incompatible with the fundamental integrity we are seeking. We must try to discover the real person we are, the secret person, the core of the person to come, and the only eternal reality which is already in us.
The discovery is difficult because we have to cast aside all the men of straw. From time to time something authentic shows through… Our deep reality may take over in moments we are so carried away by joy that we forget who might be looking at us… or when we are unselfconscious in moments of extreme pain, moments we have a deep sense of sadness or of wonder. At those moments we see something of the true person that we are. But no sooner have we seen, than we often turn away because we do not want to confront this person face to face. We are afraid of him; he put us off. Nevertheless this is the only real person there is in us.
More: 1973 radio interview with Anthony Bloom on suffering “In a way, despair is at the center of things, if only we are prepared to go through it . . . We must be prepared to go to the very bottom of our despair, that I can do nothing about the situation. Not one of my friends can help me in any possible way. Yet there is God.”
Lent is traditionally a season marked by prayer, fasting and alms-giving. This Lent at the GCW, we’ll be offering a special Thursday evening program for those interested in deepening their Lenten experience. On Thursdays, in lieu of our regular Roundtable discussions, anyone who is interested is invited to join us for prayer, reflection, and a common, potluck meal, in preparation for observing Friday as a day of fasting. At 6pm, we’ll gather for centering prayer, an ancient practice of contemplation popularized in recent years by monks like Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating and others. It will include a short reflection followed by 20 minutes of silent meditation. We’ll end our time in silence by sharing, briefly, any thoughts, insights or questions related to our spiritual practice. Following our time in prayer together, we’ll break bread together over a common meal (potluck). For those who wish, this meal can serve as a marker for observing Friday throughout Lent as a day of serious fasting (what type of fast, each individual can determine). We also invite those who participate in this program–or anyone looking for a way of incorporating the tradition of alms-giving into their Lenten practice–to consider committing to one of the GCW’s core projects during Lent. You can find a list of projects here. And the schedule, updated weekly, here. We hope some of you can join us as we take this time for reflection and renewal.
This week, we were visited by two immigrant families and their small children. The children were hungry, and one of the mothers confided that their household was struggling to put food on the table. We offered the children a snack and, as we were slicing bagels and cheese at the tall kitchen table, three little sets of huge, brown eyes – barely high enough to see over the table – watched the food preparation seriously and with longing.
Today, during the meditation portion of morning prayer, I opened my eyes for a moment and saw a friend’s face lifted up, rather than bowed, as she prayed. I thought of those hungry children – their upturned, serious and hopeful faces – and my own deep pleasure in preparing something they needed and were asking for.
I am not sure how prayer works honestly, or if it “works” at all in the way we might think, but this seems like a good posture to take regardless – watching and hopeful, honest in your longing and need.
The prayer this morning was lovely, too – from John O’Donohue:
Somewhere, out at the edges, the night
Is turning and the waves of darkness
Begin to brighten the shore of dawn.
The heavy dark falls back to earth
And the freed air goes wild with light,
The heart fills with fresh, bright breath
And thoughts stir to give birth to colour.
I arise today
In the name of Silence
Womb of the Word,
In the name of Stillness
Home of Belonging,
In the name of the Solitude
Of the Soul and the Earth.
I arise today
Blessed by all things,
Wings of breath,
Delight of eyes,
Wonder of whisper,
Intimacy of touch,
Eternity of soul,
Urgency of thought,
Miracle of health,
Embrace of God.
May I live this day
Compassionate of heart,
Gentle in word,
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.