HOLY IN-BETWEEN

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: “Entering the silence” is based on a practice of the Seneca (First People) Nation. The imagery is adapted from the words of Twylah Nitsch:

Close your eyes. Breathe out three times.
Listen and hear the Silence…Listen and see the Silence.
Listen and taste the Silence…Listen and smell the Silence.
Breathe out one time. Listen and embrace the Silence.
When you are finished, open your eyes.

Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

This is the in-between time- when no promise of resurrection can ease the grief and fear rising as swells within the soul. This is the time for feeling, really feeling, the disbelief, the anguish, as you walk away from the tomb where all your hope has been laid. This is the time for keeping vigil, for waiting… for what?

This is the time between death and resurrection where some hallowed space in us is opening a way for something new that we cannot yet see or even imagine.

Joan Chittister suggests that this in-between time is exactly where we are called to be, and that it is also holy.

“The spirituality of religious life today is neither the spirituality of the cross nor the spirituality of the resurrection. The spirituality of our time is the spirituality of Holy Saturday: a spirituality of confusion and consternation, of ineffectiveness and powerlessness, of faith in darkness and the power of hope. It is a spirituality that carries on when carrying on seems most futile.” P.41, The Fire In These Ashes

These may be the moments when we experience most profoundly the counter-cultural nature of discipleship, the ineffective way of love that is transforming our lives with this perplexing downward motion. God-with-us crucified.

I cannot even begin to imagine the heart-wrenching agony of the disciples who had literally left everything to follow the One they just watched die a violent and infuriatingly unjust death. I don’t want to speculate on the details of the mystery that occurred between losing hope and finding it again- but it feels like this holy day has something to say to us now about the power of life in God’s spirit that continues even when we feel like everything is ending.

Sister Chittister challenges us to discover the full meaning of this time: “This isn’t a time for quitting simply because the past is past and the present is unclear. This is not a time for not beginning just because the journey is uncharted. In fact, what an older generation promised a lifetime ago may only now be beginning to come to pass, to make its demands, to reveal its meaning.” P.41, The Fire In These Ashes

What if what we try so hard to avoid and escape actually contains the future we have been longing for? What if in this ending is a new beginning already unfolding within us, around us? What if the point of the past was to prepare us for this time, not to cling to what was and make an idol of it? What if we are invited to be fully present in this in-between space so that our hearts will be ready to live with Christ the resurrection life?

On Holy Saturday, we are confronted with the depth of our commitment to Christ even when what feels good and familiar about the life of faith appears to be gone. “The question, of course, is for what did we hope when we committed ourselves to such a way as this? For certainty? For approval? For clarity? Surely the answer is far deeper than that.” Joan Chittister, P.178, The Fire In These Ashes

It is this deeper answer in each of us that sustains in the dark, uncertain moments of our faith. The Lenten wilderness has been preparing us for this day. We have been slowly releasing our attachments to success, security, and power for the downward love way to wind into our hearts resurrection potential.

This is the time between death and resurrection where some hallowed space in us is opening a way for something new that we cannot yet see or even imagine.

Keep vigil. Be expectant. Mourn if you must. Unlock these fear doors in the heart.

In the darkness of the tomb is mystery, a continuing.

This in-between space is also holy.

BREAD OF LIFE

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Incorporate times of silence into your daily routine. Before beginning work, eating a meal, or beginning any daily task, observe a minute of silence.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

We began this Lenten journey with this material reminder of our humanness. Smudge of ash marked us with humility. With repentant hearts we started this walk to make up some distance in the great divide between who we are and who we are called, in love, to become.

I don’t think it is an accident that everything we have to teach us about life in God comes from the earth. Earth is our language. We can include the cosmos too- starry nights of wonder and phases of moon. It is what we can see, what we can touch, what we can taste that helps us make just enough sense of the One we cannot see, cannot touch, cannot taste.

Jesus is known for using the physical stuff of earth to help us to see- mud and spit, for example, in the blind man’s eyes.

This night he uses water in basin for washing road-weary feet. So it is in the kingdom of God.

He breaks bread as symbol of broken body. Disciples consume glimpsing what oneness might mean. Texture of bread saturating on tongue- lingering in the mystery of the moment.

Wine, symbol of blood, poured out. Life-giving substance pulsing in the veins of those who received it- of us right now. The bitter sweetness enters their bodies and they can taste what he is saying as he is saying it. A love lesson engrained in their hearts, alive within them.

I don’t know exactly what this means, only that it has meaning. I wonder if this is how the disciples felt too. Sometimes to simply recognize the presence of meaning is reverence enough.

Throughout the years we have interpreted this sacred meal as inclusion, invitation, hospitality. It has meant remembrance and reconciliation and recommitment. We have labored over its truth in theological debate.

In a faith that is so often mystery, the physical elements contain a holy immediacy. I hold it in my hands. I taste. I eat. What I long for is before me, in physical form and it becomes a part of me in some nourishing way. It is a reminder that what I long for is actually more accessible than I ever thought. This earth-cosmos-language is speaking continuously about God. “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Luke 19:40)

The table reminds me of the kingdom of God call to add another leaf, set up some more chairs, and invite the whole world to the feast. This is for hungry hearts, yes, but also hungry bodies that Jesus calls us to love and serve. Sometimes the good news is literally bread.

Every table can become the altar for a sacred meal, for reconciliation, for invitation.
This sacred meal is waiting for you in the world. The body of the One you follow- the blood of the One you love. Take. Eat. Live.

“Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day say again the words: This is my Body. And over every death-force which waits in readiness to corrode, to wither, to cut down, speak again your commanding words which express the supreme mystery of faith: This is my Blood.” –Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

SILENT BEFORE THE MYSTERY

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Practice Silence.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

From the Community of Christ Guide for Lent: 

Practicing silence reminds us that relationship with God is a mutual, reciprocal act. In silence, we take the time to listen intently and be present with God without words. Often, our most profound spiritual experiences cannot be fully described. We know that in times of distress (Romans 8) the Spirit prays for us hearing the groans of our hearts that are too deep for words.

Intentional time in silence allows us to be fully present with God without the confines of language. As we enter Holy Week, the full implication of life as a disciple brings with it a weighted hush. There are moments when words are inadequate and our most faithful response is to stand humbly before the mystery.

Practicing silence may be difficult at first. The mind may run wild, and centering in God’s presence could take some spiritual effort! Allow yourself grace in this practice and the ability to slowly ease into longer periods of silent reflection.

Perhaps you begin in silence for 5–10 minutes and then write in a journal or pray about your experience. Breathe deeply. Focusing on each breath in and out can help quiet the mind and center you in God’s Spirit.

Become aware of your surroundings; notice how the air feels on your skin; trust that you are in the presence of the holy—fully surrounding and embracing you. Don’t expect that God will speak to you in a certain way. Just open yourself to what is.

Allow your inner conversations to stop for a while, being fully present with the one who is fully present with you.

After being silent for a while, offer a prayer of gratitude for God’s constant presence whether you are fully aware of it or not. Pray that you may continue to draw closer to God and discover what God is saying and doing within you.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 

Romans 8:26, NRSV