Walking through Wonders

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh

It’s strange how easily utilitarian our seeing can become: we walk through wonders, searching for the next sandwich. Of course we need to eat, God knows we do (Matthew 6.31-33) – but there are plenty of sandwiches without turning away from the shores of glory to look for them.

Sometimes I’m appalled by my own emptiness of heart, my impatience and covetousness, and the ease with which I make excuses for them. William Blake saw that

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.

That the doors of perception are clotted with cultural preconceptions, half-learned assumptions and pre-packaged descriptions became a staple of the times I grew up in, and much of the exploration of other systems of religion and thought, and tinkerings with brain chemistry, were aimed at doing something about it. (The best explanation of this quest I know is Aldous Huxley’s own book The Doors of Perception.) But it is only in the stillness of prayer that I have found them to clear, almost of themselves. The Spirit can speak in silence beyond all words or thoughts, and to remain in silence allows everything to appear as it is, without effort or mental gymnastics or chemical interference.

But how? Paula Gooder speaks of a waiting that “does not demand passivity but the utmost activity: active internal waiting that knits together new life.” Contemplative stillness, the openness of the heart’s own doors to “God, who searches the heart, [and] knows what is the mind of the Spirit” (Romans 8.27), is the simplest and the hardest thing. (For me, the Jesus Prayer seems to be the way, but there are many others.)

Prayer is opening oneself to the effective, invisible power of God. One can never leave the presence of God without being transformed and renewed in his being, for this is what Christ promised. The thing that can only be granted by prayer belongs to God (Luke 11.13). However such a transformation does not take the form of a sudden leap. It takes time. Whoever persists in surrendering himself to God in prayer receives more than he desires or deserves. Whoever lives by prayer gains an immense trust in God, so powerful and certain, it can almost be touched. He comes to perceive God in a most vivid way. Without ever forgetting our weakness, we become something other than we are.

Mary David Totah OSB, Deepening Prayer: Life Defined by Prayer

[Also published on The Mercy Blog]

2 thoughts on “Walking through Wonders

  1. Melanie Groseta

    Autumn
    BY SUSAN WHELEHAN
    Autumn.
    What is that silent “n” all about anyway?
    It should be dropped
    quietly, like a leaf.
    And the “m” should be doubled
    or tripled or more—
    so it becomes a hum:
    a comforting, steady mantra of trust and change.
    Autummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    Miracle
    Maybe
    the burning bush
    was just
    autumn
    it would have been
    enough
    –Kathe Davis

    I took some pictures of a lone Sawtooth maple while on a trail near my home in Payson. I took off my shoes. I integrated these discovered poems with a couple of in a collage I made. (I am not having luck with pasting the photos with my comments. Thank you, Mike, for your insightful treasures.

    Melanie Groseta

    Reply
    1. Mike Farley Post author

      Thank you, Melanie – and especially for the poems. The autumn hum will stay with me – do you know Matt Borghi’s beautiful music? His Great Lakes sequence came to mind immediately I read that.. (PS I don’t think you can put photos in WordPress comments. You might be able to link to ones hosted elsewhere – but I’ve never tried.)

      Reply

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