Wednesday, February 23, 2011

on prayer. . .

The last few weeks I have come across these verses several times in different contexts, "Come to me all who are weary; take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt 11:29-30)

The literal translation of 'pray always' is 'come to rest'. The Greek word for 'rest' is hesychia. A hesychast is one who seeks solitude and silence as ways to unceasing prayer. The prayer of the hesychast is a prayer of rest - it has little to do with the absence of conflict or pain but rather is a rest in God in the midst of a very intense daily struggle.

Nouwen suggests that this kind of 'prayer of the heart' is not intellectual prayer (speaking to God, expecting answers and when we don't hear anything we begin to think of a monologue); it is also not just thinking about God (meditation) which may lead to new intellectual discoveries about God.

Rather, the prayer of the hesychast is one that takes us from our place of self-absorption to where it penetrates to the very marrow of our soul & leaves nothing untouched. It is prayer that does not allow us to limit our relationship with God to interesting words or pious emotions. (hmm... does this not sound like being careful with what we say & how much we say... perhaps a type of silence?) It opens our eyes to the truth of ourselves as well as to the truth of God. It challenges us to hide absolutely nothing from God and to surrender ourselves unconditionally to His mercy.

At this point, this is now a prayer of truth. No longer are we trying to impress others with our well-worded prayers; no longer are we trying to convince ourselves of our worthiness or our self-righteousness.

I'm not quite sure how all this works but somehow, this kind of purity of heart allows us to see more clearly, not only our own needy, distorted and anxious self, but also the caring face of our compassionate God. Somehow, God's heart has become one with ours. Here we catch sight of the meaning of Jesus' words, "Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle & humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes my yoke is easy and my burden light". Jesus invites us to accept his burden which is the burden of the whole world; a burden that includes human suffering in all times & places. But this divine burden is light and we can carry it when our heart has been transformed into the gentle and humble heart of our Lord". (p. 87)

It is with this kind of vision that it is possible, then to move into the midst of our world with a heart at rest. And, it is this restful heart that becomes a magnet, attracting those who are groping to find their way through life.

"When we have found our rest in God, we can do nothing other than minister." In other words, out of our solitude and silence, our "being" becomes "doing".

This certainly has given me lots to think about these last few days... I know I haven't come to understand all I've encountered with those verses from Matthew - that needs some more 'thinking'...

until next time,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

on silence & solitude

I've been reading Henri Nouwen's book, "The Way of the Heart". The first section focuses on solitude and then he looks at silence. After that he talks about prayer.

I thought it strange at first - and then it hit me.

We need to be comfortable in solitude because it is in solitude that we face ourselves. No longer distracted by "doing", it becomes the place of purification and transformation; a place of great struggle and great encounter. This purifying and transforming process has as its result, great compassion. "In solitude, we realize that nothing human is alien to us, that the roots of all conflict, war, injustice, cruelty, hatred, jealousy, envy are deeply anchored in our own heart. As a result, solitude molds self-righteous people into gentle, caring forgiving persons who are so deeply convinced of their own great sinfulness and so fully aware of God's even greater mercy tat their life itself becomes ministry. In such a ministry there is hardly any difference left between doing & being."

On silence, he writes, "Silence guards the fire within; Silence teaches us to speak." It reminded me of the many times that I have "shared with others" those things that were on my mind only to come away feeling that I wasn't heard or that I lost something that was precious to me. We live in a world where we are afraid of, and uncomfortable with, silence. He suggests that "simply not speaking is a very important practice... it is a good discipline to wonder in each new situation if people wouldn't be better served by our silence than by our words".

Now that we've understood solitude and the importance of silence we turn our thoughts to prayer. Solitude is being alone with God. It is in our silence that we begin to listen to God. It is this context of solitude & silence within which prayer is practiced. More on that tomorrow. . .

Thursday, February 10, 2011

time passes. . .

and yet time seems to stand still.

In some ways the days and months have flown by incredibly quickly and I can hardly believe that it's been 3 months already since Florian passed away. Yet in other ways, it seems like it's been so very long already.

In some ways I still almost can't believe that he's really gone. Yet in other ways... well, I just miss him so much.

I've accomplished quite a few things on my own - working through internet issues - buying a new garage door opener - purchasing stuff from the 'geek' store - navigating my way through unfamiliar areas of the city (thanks to the GPS unit he bought me last fall :) )

Today I realized as I was driving home from the office that the busy-ness of dealing with all the immediate "stuff" is starting to come to an end... I'm a little afraid of this next stage as it means I'll have more time to think - more time to miss him...

I did some grocery shopping today - I still don't enjoy it, but it doesn't seem to be as bad as it was initially. You see, Florian did most of the grocery shopping for us - I would go with him on occasion, but he had a knack of remembering prices & where everything was. I'd sometimes call him at work asking where I would find some item that was eluding me and he could steer me not only to the right aisle, but also to the right location on the right shelf, describing the items that I would find around it...

He sure was quite the guy... I only wish God hadn't called him Home quite so soon...