Reading and Listening to the Spiritual
Have had this post sitting in my drafts for a while. I keep thinking about posting it, then backing off, saving the draft, thinking it belongs in a journal, not shared. But I feel like I want to put it out there.
Been thinking about things like faith, spiritual practice, religion, religious practice, inherited tradition and newly created. And the texts that evoke those themes, whether intended to act as scripture, or riffs on the relevant themes.
Yes, also, personal relationship to all of the above. For me, that is easiest to express by collecting words. And I know these words are personal to my own spiritual experience and journey. Feels a bit weirdly intimate to blog about it, better if I construct it as a collection of quotes and riffs that have resonated, from other people. As it’s a bit of a collection, it’s a long post. Skews Christian, which I am eager to remedy by learning about other faith traditions.
Behind the cut, if you like.
Something that’s been going through my head since… let’s just say late night Tuesday so I don’t have to name any names. St. Francis’s Prayer.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
Started going back to church recently. (Episcopal, which is a departure from Catholic upbringing.) While, in my upbringing, it didn’t feel like attending church fit (and I went to Catholic school!)… I’m finding that both the act of a faith practice, and the particular churches and people I’m getting to know, are becoming a welcome part of my life right now.
One of the things I’m enjoying the most is approaching spiritual text, whether that’s in the church readings, learning about people who write about the spiritual, or engaging/interpreting secular texts in a spiritual way.
Also: there are tons of prayers written down, and I find them fascinating to explore. Because they’re connected to people and history, and they’re like poems.
Eleven Addresses to the Lord: John Berryman’s sometimes cantankerous, always oddly rhythmic lines with a scruffy beauty.
Master of beauty, craftsman of the snowflake,inimitable contriver,endower of Earth so gorgeous & different from the boring Moon,thank you for such as it is my gift.I have made up a morning prayer to youcontaining with precision everything that most matters.‘According to Thy will’ the thing begins.It took me off & on two days. It does not aim at eloquence.
Meltwater, a short story by science fiction writer Benjamin C. Kinney. Elegiac and lovely, it begins like this:
My lover waits for me in the flooded church. She’s died one time too many, and I can’t get her back without her help. At least, at last, it gives me a reason to see her again.
One I remember from a college class in Old English (one of the best decisions I ever made, taking that class.)
The story of St. Caedmon, the first Anglo-Saxon saint and also a poet. The basic overview here though I wish you could travel back in time to hear Professor Amodio explain it to the Old English class. Caedmon, not a saint yet, just a guy coming home from a party where he’d been too shy to sing (and possibly aiming for liquid courage with a pint or several), stopping to sleep off his night in a barn, woken by an imperious voice that told him to sing something. A full translation of the story from Bede is here.
Humbly let us honour heaven-kingdom’s Guardian,
the might of the Architect and his mind-plans
Walking to and from church one weekend, iPod (on random) served up Gary Clark Jr “The Healing.”
I can’t help feeling that fits in somewhere, too.
All of the lyrics, I think, could go toe-to-toe with any psalm for divinity, for reminding me of the unknowable. As much as I have been enjoying recent questioning and ritualizing in the Episcopal church tradition (I like their spoken words), the organ/choral music isn’t getting it done for me. Gary Clark Jr. is. It’s the bassline? Base-line? Not sure. Either way: this. Both the words and the sounds of it.
I got something in motion
Something you can’t see
It requires devotion
From those who truly believe
This is something you can’t touch
This is something you feel, yeah
For some people it’s too much
For some people it heals
This music is my healing
This music is my healing
Lord knows I need some healing, Lord
Cause when this world upsets me
This music sets me free, yeah
One of the reasons I like reading and watching Sidney Chambers is because Canon Chambers is shown to be a questioning, seeking human, sometimes uneasy with his position as a religious advisor figure. It’s easier to see that in the books, where the third person narration will show his interior life. I find myself reading and thinking about the way the words work outside their mystery stories.
“Here Sidney sat… and let thoughts come to him. It was a form of prayer, he decided. It was not asking or talking, but waiting and listening.” Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Night
“Introspection and self-awareness were the enemies of contentment” – A Question of Trust
“…a familiar Sunday evening experience for those involved in regular employment. The anxiety of Monday morning always seemed to cast a retrospective shadow.” – A Question of Trust
“Love can be about more than attraction. I sometimes think it is more a question of sanctuary, a case of unassailable friendship.” – First, Do No Harm.
On jazz: “It was the opposite of stillness, prayer and penitence, he thought; full of life, mood and swing.” – A Matter of Time
“He prayed in certain hope of an answer. Prayer was an act of will, Sidney thought; a discipline that had to be learned and practice.”- The Lost Holbein
I’m rediscovering the Bible, and enjoying sermons and discussions where I get to learn more about the cultural context of imagery in how the Bible was written down, how scholars have dealt with it since.
Matthew 6:25-34New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Do Not Worry
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[a] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[b] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[c] and his[d]righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.