Tuesday, August 23, 2011 — Week of Proper 16, Year One

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 980)

Psalms 5, 6 (morning) 10, 11 (evening)

1 Kings 1:38 – 2:4

Acts 26:24 – 27:8

Mark 13:28-37

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near… And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” (Mark 13:28, 37)

My dear friend and former spiritual director Macrina Wiederkehr sent one of her “Occasional Blessings” emails yesterday. Macrina is a Benedictine nun who lives nearby. Despite being hyperactive, full of energy and projects, she has a gift for pausing, and for calling others like me — hyperactive and too full of energy and projects — to pause. She likes to offer small prescriptions of awareness and abiding that can be like medicine for the prevalent disease of “hurry sickness.”

In her note yesterday, she urged her friends to give ourselves “the blessing of one evening lived with exceptional awareness.” She said to pick a night when you don’t have other obligations, and give yourself time to see what blessing is waiting on you to have time.

Here is your homework, or more accurately: here is your blessing: You are simply to take a walk or sit at your window and be deeply and penetratingly aware. Whatever you see is God’s offering to you. Whatever you see is a prayer! And you are to listen to what that prayer is saying to you without words. These are your ‘spiritual sightings’.

As you begin this exercise turn to the Creator of Evening and pray these words from the poet, Rilke. [or choose your own words]

You are the tender evening hour that all poets equally love. You are the darkness pressing within them and the treasure each discovers, in surrounding you with endless praise.

As you begin your silent praise, remember that words are unnecessary. Your eyes will pray for you. Be present to your sightings. A few evenings ago when the great heat wave lifted I went for a walk. I am listing a few of my sightings below. These blessing prayers drew me into the self I have sadly been neglecting.

— a crumpled, Sycamore Tree leaf

— a small green shoot growing out of a seemingly dead branch

— a goose with its long, proud neck raised to the heavens, standing motionless, keeping guard

— a rabbit sitting at the entrance to the wooden cave made by a fallen Walnut Tree

— 26 long stemmed mushrooms standing together on a grassy knoll watching the setting sun.

For a time, I kept vigil with them.

Then suddenly the cicada choir began to sing and my silence was only slightly broken. One lone bird joined the chorus and a firefly brought in her lantern. Rilke would say it like this:

A hundred thousand harps lift and swing you out of silence. And your primordial winds are bringing to all things and needs, the breath of your majesty.

(The two stanzas of poetry are taken from A Year with Rilke translated and edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows)

A cat just sauntered by my window. Do I hear some distant thunder? The leaves are paused. I hear a train whistle. Somebody could write a country song about that. I wonder what will be today.

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