Proud Houses and the Widow’s Boundaries

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 — Week of Proper 3, Year Two

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 969)

Psalms 26, 28 (morning) // 36, 39 (evening)

Proverbs 15:16-33

1 Timothy 1:18 – 2:8

Matthew 12:33-42

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

The LORD tears down the house of the proud,

but maintains the widow’s boundaries. (Proverbs 15:25)

It does seem that when we rely on our own powers and seek control to bring about our self-directed ends that things tend to unravel.

Sometimes they unravel through circumstance and failure. We meet our limits. We wear out in frustration or find we can’t maintain control of all that we feel responsible for. We mess up. We don’t live up to our intentions. The proud house cracks and crumbles.

Sometimes they unravel through success and accomplishment. We meet our goals and gain our ends, but they prove ultimately unsatisfying. They are like cotton candy, big and beautiful with a burst of instant sweetness, but once consumed, they melt into air and do not sustain. We look for the next big thing, like a restless addict. The big, proud house feels empty and cold.

The widow is a model of vulnerable trust. With no status and power of her own, she trusts God alone for her simple needs. Within her modest boundaries the Spirit maintains her essential needs with gentle grace.

Centering Prayer is a widow’s prayer. When we practice Centering, we gently let go of all of our distracting thoughts and plans and worries. We narrow our boundaries to a willing consent to the presence and activity of God, within and without. When the false self tries to erect it’s proud houses, we let them go, returning to the gentle poverty of a sacred word. Instead of assailing heaven with our possessive thoughts and personal agendas, we let the Spirit pray from within our silence. The indwelling Spirit prays faithfully and continually.

When the Spirit dwells within a person, from the moment that person has become prayer, the Spirit never leaves them. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray within us. Whether we are asleep or awake, from then on prayer never departs from our soul. Whether we are eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else we may be doing, even if we are in the deepest of sleeps, the incense of prayer is rising without effort in our heart. Prayer never again deserts us. In every moment of our life, even when it appears to have ceased, prayer is secretly at work within is continuously.

One of the Fathers, the bearers of Christ, teaches that prayer is the silence of the pure in heart; for their very thoughts are the movements of God. The movements of the heart and the intellect that have been purified become voices full of sweetness with which such people never cease to sing in secret to the hidden God.

(Isaac of Nineveh, from The Ascetical Treatises; quoted by Robert Atwell, Celebrating the Seasons, Canterbury Press, 1999, p.296.)

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