Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Tena's Question

Which then causes me to wonder if I'm just being all too human (what else would I be?) in hoping that I would find acceptance from my creator as opposed to anger. Which in turn makes me wonder if I'm just turning the whole thing back on myself, instead of moving outward, away from my ego.

This never stops, does it?
No, it doesn't stop, actually. Annie Dillard tells the story of Israel in the wilderness, when Moses goes up on the mountain to talk to God. The theophany of God's presence: the thunder, the lightning, the wind, the sheer noise of it, terrifies the people, and they go into their tents. When Moses comes down and asks what they are doing, they tell him they are afraid, and that they've decided Moses should talk to God alone, because the presence of God so near to them is overwhelming. They don't all want to be in touch with God; they'd rather Moses did it. It isn't that God is angry; it is that they are scared.

She ends her essay this way:

At a certain point you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world. Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening. After a time you hear it: there is nothing there. There is nothing but those things only, those created objects, discrete, growing or holding, or swaying, being rained on or raining, held, flooding or ebbing, standing, or spread. You feel the world's word as a tension, a hum, a single chorused note everywhere the same. This is it: the hum is the silence....

The silence is all there is. It is the alpha and the omega. It is God's brooding over the face of the waters; it is the blended note of the ten thousand things, the whine of wings. You take a step in the right direction to pray to this silence, and even address the prayer to "World." Distinctions blur. Quit your tents. Pray without ceasing. Teaching a Stone to Talk, p. 255
Perhaps the exhortation to prayer is still too far to ask you to go. But the clear direction is to go toward the "world," and to go fearlessly. The more you engage others, the less you engage only yourself. The more you see good in others, the less you see only what you like about yourself. The more you ask these questions, and ask them of someone not yourself, the more you empty yourself, and wait. Julian of Norwich, it turns out, was right. All things shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

This is why there has always been, and will always have to be, a "church." Only in the community do we know that we are not pursuing the shadows of our own eyes. Only in the community, do we get the personal voice of the Psalms. Only in the community do we get beyond ourselves, but more wholly become ourselves. Only in community, whatever shape or form or the facts of it are, do we quit our tents. And then the question of prayer, and prayer without ceasing, becomes two simpler questions: What is prayer? and what is not?

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