Monday, April 28, 2008

The Space of Prayer

[Originally published in "Weavings", July/August 2007]

Once upon a time there was a terrible drought. The crops failed, the livestock died, the people were in misery. As the drought grew worse, they tried increasingly desperate measures. The shamans danced and banged pots, the priests made offerings to the gods, and the children went on pilgrimage to the mountains. A few individuals even shot arrows at a stray cloud, hoping to pierce the membrane that held back the water, or so they thought. Any charlatan who came along claiming to be able to make rain fall was hired to try. Always the outcome was the same: he would take the money and run.

One day the villagers spied a beggar trudging down the road, leaning on his stick. “Go away old man,” they said. “We don’t have any food and water for ourselves, much less for the likes of you. And we’re not hiring any more so-called rainmakers.”

Unperturbed, the old man said, “Keep your food and drink, and your money. But if you will loan me a hut for three days and leave me in peace, who knows, something good may come of it.”

So the villagers showed the beggar to a spacious if somewhat smelly chicken shed, whose clucking inhabitants had long since succumbed in the pounding heat, and the old man shut himself in. The villagers thought him mad and went their separate ways, muttering about the drought making people crazy, and who was going to pull the corpse out when the three days were over, and whether they should just burn the shed without opening it. But the novelty soon wore off, and one by one the villagers sank into the lassitude and despair that are the foretaste of death.

Two more stifling days passed. No one gave a thought to the old man; there was not even enough energy to curse with the curses of those who have been disappointed one too many times.

But on the third morning everyone awoke at almost the same moment. Something was different. The people came slowly out of their houses, wondering. A breeze so slight as to be barely perceptible caressed their faces. As they stood there, stunned with disbelief, the air itself began to change, becoming thick with humidity. Clouds piled up. Energy gathered until the atmosphere crackled with lightning. The people covered their ears, laughing at the tremendous booms of thunder and the rain pouring down in just the right quantity.

“But where is the old beggar?” asked a small boy who had been intrigued that anyone would want to be shut in a chicken shed whose stench never quite left him after he cleaned it each month. Everyone ran to the shed. The door was open, the beggar gone.

“There!” cried the boy, running after a speck limping toward the horizon. Everyone pelted after him.

“Old man!” the village headman called, gasping with exertion when the crowd finally caught up, “Don’t leave us! We will make you king; we will feed and house you and give you such treasures as we have.”

“Thank you,” said the beggar, “but as you can see I have no use for kingship or treasures. As for food and drink, the fields and creatures supply me, and water falls from heaven.”

“But if you won’t stay with us,” the headman wheedled, “please tell us your magic so that we can make it rain when there is another drought.”

“There is no magic,” replied the beggar, “and I am no sorcerer. The rain is always with you. But if you fill your world with too much activity and too much noise, if you cut all the trees and plough your fields relentlessly, the rain cannot gather itself from its hiding places to make a storm. All I did was to inhabit an empty space where the rain could find its focus and fall on its own terms.”

[To be continued]


Blogger learning2listen said...

This resonates with me as I understand we learn to see more clearly when we create space to do so. If life is too crowded there is no space to grow.

12:24 am, April 29, 2008  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

J. Frazer Crocker writes:

Quibble, Quibble, Quibble--that's me. But I cannot resist
pointing out that the 1928 BCP DID have a lectionary for the
Daily Office, both Sundays and weekdays, as well as the fixed
Holy Days. In my 1928 BCP (certified in 1953) the 'Psalms and
Lessons for the Christian Year' begin on page x and continue through
page xlv. Massey Shepherd says that the original 1928 lectionary
duplicated much of the Sunday readings at Holy Communion, and so,
in 1943 (after a period of trial use) the lectionary was adopted by
General Convention. That lectionary was not part of the canonical
BCP, and hence could be amended by only 1 General Convention.

All that said, I certainly agree with you that the plethora of translations,
versions, foreign prayerbooks etc make it very difficult for the texts
to wear themselves into our very being--whether neurological or pneumatological.

I also need to note that the 1928 Psalter is NOT Coverdale's translation, but
a modernised version of Coverdale. Here is a link to Psalm 23 in Coverdale.
Note that 'rod and staff' are 'staffe and shepehoke'

J. A. Frazer Crocker, Jr.

4:44 am, June 16, 2010  

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