Sunday, November 29, 2015
And so we begin again, end again, collapse time and space into a single point that lasts for the four weeks of Advent.
Nothing could be further from the orgiastic celebrations of consumerism and overindulgence that lead up to Christmas these days. One promising note this year is that so-called Black Friday was a complete flop as far as the high street shops were concerned—the chaotic and horrifying scenes from last year were not repeated in the UK. Even if the shopping went ahead online, there is something positive in people’s rejection of the sort of degrading behaviour that went on last year.
This morning I went to the Eucharist at St Benet’s. It wasn’t just the foul weather that made me reluctant to walk all the way to Christ Church. Rather, it was a longing for the inherent silence that is the heart of the energy that animates Benedictine liturgy, and that, it is devoutly to be wished, should animate every Eucharist, no matter how joyous and celebratory.
Advent is the night office within the night office, as it were. There is the long liturgical arc that begins with All Saints day on November 1, and ends with Purification on February 2 that lights us through the darkness of winter. But within that arc is another: the four eschatological weeks that end with the coming of the light after the solstice. The solstice used to fall on St Lucy’s day, but with the change in calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian, beginning in the 16th century, St Lucy arrives ten or eleven days earlier than the solstice, and Christmas comes hard on its heels.
In Scandinavia—in addition to its famous celebrations of St Lucy—there is a lovely custom of having lighted candles attached to windows during the darkest days of the year. To walk down the street of a strange city far to the north where the nights begin to draw in as early as mid-afternoon is to experience a quiet sense of welcome from those one will never otherwise meet.
Light and silence: may these be ours this Advent and Christmastide.
* * *
Some words of Rowan Williams (thank you, Matthew):
Our problem in prayer is 99 times out of 100 it is not the absence of God but the absence of me. I am anywhere and everywhere but here. God, as it were, sits patiently in my here while I’m there.
George Herbert – ‘God is more there than thou’
St Augustine – ‘We have a home that does not fall down when we are away.’
Contemplation is less an activity we get better at – we never get better at prayer – it’s a place we are invited to which is always there.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Wisdom from Eagle Rock
Spirit of Eagle Rock: A Native American Cultural and Geologic Interpretation of Eagle Rock by Coyote Short (Professional Geologist of the Paiute and Modoc Tribes); No Copyright info. Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology, Eagle Rock/Boise Idaho
p. 16 “Having no written language, the Boise Valley tribes used and extensive and highly developed language of stone t store and communicate the information necessary to support a sophisticated culture for many thousands of years.
“In their versatility, stones can represent any type of knowledge: a memory, an event, a duty, a metaphor, a picture, a purpose, or a prayer. A language based on stone is economical while profoundly articulate as it allows knowledge to remain larger than words, keeping the idea and the object as one.
“Native Americans possess the drive to clarify ideas and keep them pure, direct, and consistent. A language of stone supports this by accommodating the storage of concentrated knowledge—knowledge undiluted by words and interpretation. And, by involving the individual directly, through tactile feedback to retrieve the stored information, high fidelity of the original idea is contained.
“A language of stone perfectly addresses the responsibility and obligation felt my Native Americans to be free to speak to The Creator and the unknown, and to acknowledge, trust, and know that all is not contained in human power.”
p. 28 “A raven is a coyote with wings. Since they can fly, the raven can see the big picture. Making a stone in the shape of a raven is a request for insigiht and powers of seeing beyond visual sense.”
p. 30 “To Native Americans, ceremony is kinaesthetic prayer—prayer in motion. It is well understood by Native Americans that the body can absorb an event and remember better than can the mind, which explains the active, physical nature of ceremony."
p. 31 “Ceremony is a way to resonate with The Creator—to connect with spiritual ideals and make them real in our lives. it is a way to take time to process events, to remember, to see principles in real time, to recapture the subtle essence of existence in a pure state.
"Ceremonies mark time and significant events in the lives of the people and acknowledge that our identity is linked to the land we live on.”