I have the utmost respect for tradition, equally so for the solace and celebration which unite people through prayer and faith. The mystery and magic, incense, candles, the way light ethereally streams or diffuses in sacred, ancient and open places or through clouds, frescoes, fonts with holy water, tiles, wood or stone carvings, elaborately patterned floors laid bare or carpeted, needlepoint cushions or prie dieux, or spaces devoid of any and all decoration – all for the glory of God – leaves me breathless in a hundred thousand ways, devoid of speech and often caught in the state of passion and gratitude ever associated with the saint for whom I am named.
“May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.” ― Teresa of Ávila
What is less certain for me is the way that all this beauty and reverence for the permutations of religion of one God, or all of the many attributed to the Divine in whose name our humanity is rent into unnatural fragmentations of our common being… we are all part of the whole, made in God’s image within even as our physical presence on earth is manifest in nuances of blond and brown, black and red and silver hair.
In the universal language we are all capable of ‘speaking’, the prophets (false and otherwise) have no real importance. That which is spoken in love is done in the absence of words and only kindness expressed in a smile, a touch, seen in the mirrors of our souls or anonymously in deed is where our greatest self, in our human experience, reigns in fullness. From conscious choice or intuitive action when we do without doubt or question of ‘what’s in it for me’, where the accounting found in the commercial world has no value and our tender physical ministrations pull us toward transcendence. The appalling corruption of ego which creates mayhem across the breadth of our planet, often in God’s name, disproportionately residing in the male of our species (not to imply that women are entirely without the capacity) seems rooted in something more primal than omniscient. How to recalibrate to our purest essence?
Sometimes, especially in the winter when its barrenness makes the ancient trees seem as ribbed vaults of nature’s Gothic cathedral, I walk in old growth forests. To start these in the pre-dawn gray seems utterly reasonable because the ambient colour reflects the state of my un-cleansed soul, and as reflection and gratitude flood me and dawn breaks (sometimes with bird song) I am, I reside in, the blue and warm gold of the heavens with crystalline clarity. The metaphor is never lost on me. The tuning fork only I can hear is rampant with mysticism found in solitude, a place that despite the perceptions others might have of me is my most comfortable zone.
If we are what we think, as the Buddha wrote, then I am not really of this earth even as I currently am –
No, as C.S. Lewis wrote, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
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