Praying is a slow dying.In prayer you give up something of yourself and appropriate something of the sphere of the Divine in a continuous cycle of dying and resurrection. In prayer the growing soul leans toward the Light as a seedling leans toward the sun’s path. Plant a bean in soil, and soon it puts forth roots and a stem and the seed itself is lifted up upon the stem, broken, transforming into the nourishing cotyledon.This skeletal shell gives itself to the new green leaves which then begin the process of photosynthesis. The cotyledon, the old bean in withered form, falls off, spent, like the human body in death, having birthed and nurtured something new. This week’s prompts encourage you to enter a meditation upon the cycle of death (one), the promise of new life (two), and to contemplate life’s cyclical imitation of the Eucharistic Universe (three).
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?Isaiah 43:18-19a
Pinto bean seedling with cotyledon
[Jesus said] Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.John 12:24
Bosch, Death of the Miser, Detail
Meditation One Death
Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire.Day by day remind yourself that you are going to dieRule of Saint Benedict 4:46-47
In soul One who is learning further details concerning any office or art always proceeds in darkness, and receives no guidance from his early knowledge, for if he left not that behind he would get no further nor make any progress; and in the same way when the soul is making most progress, it is traveling in darkness, knowing naught …. … For the nearer the soul approaches Him, the blacker is the darkness which it feels …. So immense is the spiritual light of God, and so greatly does it transcend our natural understanding, that the nearer we approach it, the more it blinds and darkens us. - St. John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel in body Ah! Beloved prison in which I have been bound, I thank thee for all in which thou hast followed me.Though I have often been troubled by thee, yet didst thou come often to my aid.All thy need wil yet be taken from thee at the last Day.Therefore we will lament no more, but will be filled with gladness for all that God has done to us both.Now let us only stand fast in sweet hope! -Mechtild of Magdeburg
in soul and body True philosophers are always occupied in the practice of dying.-Plato, Phaedo
Christ Pantocrator, Cefalù Cathedral, Polermo, Italy, 12th century. Proportion of Christ to the surrounded by gold: divine life within the cosmos. Porphyry gold tunic: divinity. Blue mantle: humanity. Halo crown is also a cross. Arms open as sign of salvation.
Meditation Two My End Is My Beginning
Rubble is the future.Because everything that is, passes.There is a wonderful chapter in Isaiah that says: ‘Grass will grow over your cities.’ This sentence has always fascinated me, even as a child.This poetry, the fact that you see both things at the same time.Isaiah sees the city and the different layers over it, the grass, and then another city, the grass and then another city again.-Anselm Kiefer
Love is most nearly itself When here and now cease to matter. Old men ought to be explorers Here or there does not matter We must be still and still moving Into another intensity For a further union, a deeper communion Through the dark cold and the empty desolation, The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
-T.S.Eliot, East Coker (last lines)
Stellar Nursery, Trifid Nebula, 9000 light years from earth, NASA
Meditation Three Eucharistic Universe Our Universe is Eucharistic in its nature. Since the “great flaring forth” 13.7 billion years ago, all beings have been engaged in the exchange of energy. Everything arises, has its manifest time, and then surrenders itself to become food for another to arise into being. Each of us enters into a sacred trust upon receiving the energy given us; if wise, we use that energy for the furthering of the Universe adventure, then relinquish our life so that others may come into being. From stars to mites, everything eventually becomes good food so that life might continue. We might describe the miracle and mystery of photosynthesis with curiously familiar language: a prokaryotic cell learned to eat the sun, storing that life energy to later release it to another so that life might continue. Is that not what we do in our liturgical ritual: eat of the Son that we might remember life was given in order to give us life? -Sister Catherine Grace CHS
The Last Word
We know that all our mothers bear us for pain and for death.O, what is that?But our true Mother Jesus, he alone bears us for joy and for endless life, blessed may he be. -Julian of Norwich (ch.60)
Fifth Sunday in Lent Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.