Thursday, December 19, 2013

Present to The Presence

"What we’re doing in contemplation is learning, quite simply, how to be present. That is the only way to encounter any other presence, including God in prayer, Jesus in the Eucharist, and Jesus in others. The change is all and always on our side. God is present everywhere all the time. There really is not much point in arguing about IF and HOW Jesus is present in the bread and wine; simply be present yourself and you will know all that you need to know. It is an exercise in surrender and presence from your side alone.
"...God is always given from God’s side, but we have to learn how to receive such total givenness, which is a very vulnerable position for humans. So Jesus said 'Eat it' and did not say 'think about it,' which is our defensive control tower. The Christian strategy seems to be this: struggle with divine presence in one focused, determined, and assured place (bread and wine, which is just about as universal a symbol as you can get)—and from that moment of space and time move to all space and all time..." -Richard Rohr, adapted from CAC Foundation Set: Gospel Call to Compassionate Action (Bias from the Bottom) and Contemplative Prayer
I love this piece by Father Rohr. It speaks to me because everything in our world moves so fast, and is now full of mental - as well as audible - noise. The internet, our mobile devices, WIFI, telephone, TV, parties, news...words abound, delivered through voices everywhere, and what are they saying? Is it something we need to hear, something of blessing, or is it just noise?

It is easy to become addicted to the noisy input and constant contact. I would never have guessed that it could be addictive, because I love silence, but it is - studies are showing this to be true, in a Pavlov's-dogs sort of way. The phone/device emits a "ding," and we are so addicted to the "rush" which it elicits that we have to  - we cannot NOT - respond to it. Why else would people take risks such as typing (not watching where they are going) while operating a motor vehicle at speed?

Fr. Rohr's words point to a reality which is vital in human relationships: presence. I recently spoke about healing presence in my graduation speech at the Academy. Healing presence is something which each of us possesses, to varying degrees, and the primary element in it is our presence - we must first show up, not just in body, but in mind, heart and spirit. Our genuine presence has the potential to bring healing to any situation.

Practicing true, full presence is much more challenging than it sounds in this busy, noisy world - a world where we engage in multiple activities at the same time - but it is truly worth the effort. Meditation and contemplative prayer teach us to practice presence. Sitting in silence for even one minute is not easy, but it is powerfully revealing.

Taking a position about who is allowed to receive the Eucharist, and what it means, is thinking about, rather than entering into, presence. "So Jesus said 'Eat it' and did not say 'think about it,' which is our defensive control tower." These words are simple genius. "Our defensive control tower" could also be noise, busyness, entertainment and ceaseless action, or response to the "ringtones" in our lives.

When I receive the Eucharist and "Do this in remembrance" of Jesus, somehow, I am gently opened. He comes into my offered presence as nourishment, food and drink, and is taken into my being on a cellular level. He is invited and received into my body, heart and mind. Eating the bread and drinking the wine is a way in which I can offer humility, openness, need, and gratitude. It is one of the reasons I love to participate in worship: the Presence meeting my presence - our collective presence - as gift.

This poem by Lynn Ungar was read in worship service on Sunday:
By what are you saved: And how?
Saved like a bit of string,
tucked away in a drawer?
Saved like a child rushed from
a burning building, already
singed and coughing smoke?
Or are you salvaged
like a car part - the one good door
when the rest is wrecked?

Do you believe me when I say
you are neither salvaged nor saved,
but salved, anointed by gentle hands
where you are most tender?
Haven't you seen
the way snow curls down
like a fresh sheet, how it
covers everything,
makes everything
beautiful, without exception?
May our days be filled with moments of true presence to the One who is always present to us.


Carrie Link said...

I love Richard Rohr, too, and that particular meditation also struck me. I love that he calls people out for getting caught up in the hows.

Elizabeth said...

I often think that YOU have been called to not so much "preach" but to teach. I know you do it here, but reading this beautiful writing makes me wish that more could do so -- learn from you and be present with you. Thank you, Karen.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, what a wonderful post. I love the Richard Rohr quote - so much to think about: thinking as the "defensive control tower". Also love the poem by Lynn Ungar. Thank you for sharing.

Karen B.

Busy Bee Suz said...

Having days filled with presence is a gift….a real gift.
YOU are doing wonderful things with your time.