Tuesday, May 12, 2009

From the Ordinary, Into the Excitement of the ExtraOrdinary/A Choice

Keeping our focus is really difficult. Coaches and teachers have to be constantly reminding their players and students, to “be focused”, to stay focused. We know the hardest thing we can do is to do what we are actually doing, to be where we are really at without giving away to distractions and mind wandering. Our minds, thoughts, feelings move about so quickly, it is so very difficult to concentrate on what is happening in the here and now. Why is this so important, so necessary? Because without being attentive to where we are at. Without being attentive to what we are doing, who we are present to, we will not be led into a new way of seeing, acting and believing. We will rather say, “our life is boring”, it has no meaning. We will buy into the concept that life is to be survived rather than lived. When we are attentive to where we are at, what we are doing, who we are with, we will be led from the ordinary into the sacred extraordinary. We will be led from seeing life as boring to seeing the hidden reality behind what we are seeing. We are then caught up in the excitement of a life charged with the presence of the divine, God. Yes, God is Emanuel, He is with us forever and ever.

De Chardin, in one of his great quotations tell us, “by reason of creation, and still more reason of the incarnation, there is nothing profane for him/her who knows how to see”. St. Francis of Assisi also tells us, “everything this is, is to be adored”. This leads us to an understanding that all creation is a sacrament. You and I are sacraments. Last week, I wrote of the sacramentality of sexuality, that got some people’s attention! Love obviously is a sacrament, so is a kiss, an embrace. So is light, so is darkness, so is birth, so is death. Shared meals are sacramental, a family vacation, despite the struggles, are sacramental. A sacrament in this sense, is a sacrament with a small “s” as opposed to the Seven Ritual Sacraments, spelled with a capital “S”. I like to think of sacrament with a small “s” as;

Each and every person, place, event, action [all that is real] that brings us in contact with the deeper realities of life, ultimately with Reality itself, that Reality we call God.

This is meant to stir your imagination. Be subversive, seek the person behind the person, do not settle for the profane, the ordinary, when the extraordinary, the mysterious is being offered to you. “What is seen is transitory, what is unseen lasts forever”, so the Scripture says.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation In a World Action writes the following;

“Imagination is the creative task of making simple, joining things together in such a way that they throw new light on each other and on everything around them. The imagination is a discovering faculty, a faculty for seeing relationships, for seeing meanings that are special and even quite new. The imagination is something which enables us to discover unique present meaning in a given moment of our lives. Without imagination…life can be extremely dull and fruitless.” In other words, life is boring.

My Celtic ancestors believed everything charged with a presence of the divine. The ancient Celts, and, also the pre-Christian Celts had a great belief in the spirit of a place. They believed in the spirit of the trees, birds, fish, animals, all of creation. How similar then is this spirituality with the spirituality of the Native Americans? The late Pope, speaking in Phoenix, shocked a good number of people with the statement, “there was nothing in the spirituality of the Native Americans that contradicted Catholic teachings. So then as we reclaim the sense of reverence for all of creation we will see that this reverence is not only necessary for physical survival, but for a healthy spirituality as well. I would like to suggest the opposite of the sacramental view of life, is to be bored, and to see life as boring. We have the awe-full vision, a wonder-full vision, or we have the bored or indifferent sightless, lifeless vision of reality. We completely miss out from the light giving presence of the sacred.

Jesus tells us He has come, “That we have life and have it to the fullest.” So what has happened to our life of excitement? What has happened to the excitement? What has happened that has caused us to lose our zest for life? Why then do our Eucharist celebrations lack vigor and vitality? What has caused us to see life, and our relationships, through the eyes of indifference and boredom? Why then do we go about with feelings of boredom, masking anger? “Anam Cara” page 64 says, “To the indifferent eye, nothing calls or awakens. Indifference is one of the hallmarks of our times. It is said that indifference is necessary for power; to hold control one has to be successfully indifferent to the needs and vulnerabilities of those under control. Thus indifference calls for a great commitment to non-vision. To ignore things demands incredible mental energy. Without even knowing it, indifference can place you beyond the frontiers of compassion, healing, and love. When you become indifferent, you give all your power away. Your imagination becomes fixated in the limbo of cynicism and despair.”
To help us get a handle on this, we need to stop and develop an understanding of time and the sacrament of the present moment. There is “chronos time” and “kairos time.” Chronos time is clock time. Kairos time are those moments which our God uses to break into our lives as we stop, are still, and listen (a real difficult thing to do). Kairos time is the time when Reality, God, breaks through into our understanding and change is brought about. We are no longer blind, we are beginning to see. Kairos time is actually each and every moment of our daily lives.
We need then the gift of faithful sight. We need the gifts of faith and wonder to see in each and every moment of our existence, the presence of God. The scriptures tell us, “Now is the acceptable time.” There is No Other Way (N-O-W) except in the wonder of this “now” moment to encounter, to meet our God. This Kairos time is a time of intensity. It is a time of mystery. Our full participation in the church’s liturgical calendar and the celebration of its season offers us an opportunity to celebrate, and so intensify, the God presence in each one of us and in every moment of our lives. This participation allows us to celebrate the sacredness of time.
It allows us to celebrate our own individual sacred journey through time even as we celebrate within a community of faith. This is the opposite of being bored.
The paradox is, we always need our individual spiritual journey to be celebrated within the communities journey. Our lives are only boring then when we fail to stop, see, and experience in each moment, each event, each person, as the place of our encounter with the living God. Our whole life then becomes sacramental, our whole life becomes a sacrament. Where there is life, there is God. Where there is love of life, there is God. Let us take the advice of John of the Cross, “Where there is no love, so love, and you will find love,” and life. Where there is no love, no life, no wonder, no awe, no mystery, no wonder, we say there is no God because there is no zest for life. Saint Irenaeus says, “The Glory of God is the human person, man and woman fully alive.”

We have to constantly ask for an ever deepening faith to see all creation as the reality of God. “Heldegard of Bingen” says, “Good People, most royal greening verdancy, rooted in the sun, you shine with radiant light. In this circle of earthly existence you shine so finely, it surpasses understanding. God hugs you. You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God...and as human persons view creation with compassion, in trust, they see the Lord. It is God which humankind is then able to recognize in every living thing. Does not humanity know that God is the world’s creator? Just as it occurred to God to create humankind, so it occurs to God to save those that trust in him.” We ask for the deepening faith so we can meet God in all the moments of our lives, not just the moment we choose. We ask for the deep faith, see our God not only in happy and joyous moments, but also in the sacramental moments of pain, suffering, and loss. We can pray with the blind man, “Lord that I may see.”
John O’Donohue, in “Anam Cara“ has these challenging thoughts. When we become bored with life, in all of its forms, I hope the following will enable you to come to a deeper understanding of who you are and the mystery unfolding in each and every moment of your life.
“The awakening of the human spirit is a homecoming. Yet ironically our sense of familiarity often militates against our homecoming. When we are familiar with something, we lose the energy, edge, and excitement of it.” Hegel said, ‘”Das Bekannte uberhaupt ist darum, weil es bekannt ist, nicht erkannt”- that is, “Generally, the familiar, precisely because it is familiar, is not known.” This is a powerful sentence. Behind the façade of the familiar, strange things await us. This is true of our homes, the place where we live, and, indeed, of those with whom we live. Friendships and relationships suffer immense numbing through the mechanism of familiarization. We reduce the wildness and mystery of person and landscape to the external, familiar image. Yet, the familiar is merely a façade. Familiarity enables us to tame, control, and ultimately forget the mystery. We reduce the wildness and mystery of person and landscape to the external, familiar image. Yet, the familiar is merely a façade. Familiarity enables us to tame, control, and ultimately forget the mystery. We make our peace with the surface as image and we stay away from the Otherness and fecund turbulence of the unknown that it masks. Familiarity is one of the most subtle and pervasive forms of human alienation.

Oh God, help me to use your gift of imagination, to seek beyond the familiar, the so-called ordinary.
Open the eyes of my heart to your wonder-full presence in each and every person I meet.
In each and every place I will visit.
In each and every action of my day.
I will never be alone, even though, my thoughts and feelings want to tell me so.
You are Emanuel-You are God with us,
As you are always with all of your creation.