Gladness and Presence

I have been trying to work myself up to post something here ever since my ordination to the priesthood on Saturday… oh… by the way. I am so glad. I can’t get across in type quite how glad, but I am so very, very -content, happy, ‘glad’ in the Biblical sense – ‘glad’ as in… ‘the risen Jesus came and stood among them and said “peace be with you”, then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord’ . Glad, which can sometimes sound a bit tepid, is in fact a deeply fulfilled happiness isn’t it -when the surgeon comes to speak to us and the cancer has not returned -we are ‘glad’. When the child’s fever has come down and they are sleeping safely, we are ‘glad’. Try saying the word -I am glad… it’s a broad, thankful, expansive sort of word, akin to Alleluia. ‘I am glad, Alleluia!’

Anyway, I haven’t really got a chance to reflect yet beyond deep gladness, but after this morning’s Eucharist, a lady mentioned to me how much she’d appreciated my comment in the church newsletter last month -so back at home I read it to see what I’d written -and then I thought I might share it here… I hope it might be useful. God Bless!

>>>Dear Friends,

I wonder how many of you read this little section in our monthly newsletter, or how many skip straight to the events sections further on?

 We are often like that in life aren’t we –we like to move through our days quite speedily, hopping from one event to another… We skip across the year on stepping stones of birthdays, anniversaries, days-out and holidays; looking forward to them long in advance and then looking back to them for a while until the next event approaches. We are also forced to step on stones we’d rather avoid, marking events such as funerals, hospital appointments, car MOT tests and examinations. In this way we can end up living most of our days either looking ahead with anticipation or fear; or looking back with longing or regret…

But what about the present moment after all, that is all we ever really have…

 ‘Mindfulness’, is a popular concept, commonly associated with Eastern religions, but in actual fact found in Christian monastic traditions from the ancient past to the modern day it is perhaps best described as, ‘the practice of the presence of God’.

‘Be still and know that I am God’

Imagine your spirit is rather like a stringed musical instrument, you resonate with every movement and sound, every time you encounter someone else, you set up more harmonies or discords; even when you are physically still, you may still be ringing with the sounds of your thoughts and worries, or with the noise from the radio and the sights of the TV. Stillness is not easy to find.

Now imagine that you are brave enough to find a quiet place –to make time to be still… (not to put on more music and ‘relax’ whilst you plan the next holiday… that is distraction and looking forward and not being still at all!)… Imagine for example, that you come into church, while its quiet…

‘Be still and know that I am God’

…At first the noises of your busy mind are still echoing around –though you may be sitting still, you are mentally darting back to events just past, conversations had –and darting forward to tasks to achieve and concerns that press upon you. Put them down. They are not for now. Now you are being more still… but there are sounds around you in the present moment: –the distant sounds of a police siren –thoughts wander to someone injured and you say a quick prayer –and is that the door-catch about to open?… will someone enter the room –will you be required to explain your sitting there in silence?… Now you are not still at all!

‘Be still and know that I am God’

Alright –now you try again… you are sitting quite still and fairly comfortable, you are not thinking about the past or the future, you have noticed and accepted the sounds of the present –and they are not going to disturb you… But you are still expecting something –still mentally craning your neck to see where you are going –still not quite ‘being still’.

“Peace I give to you…”

That might be stillness now… This might be the present moment… But now wait. Stay until you are not afraid any more –until you are not afraid of someone coming in or of being seen… Stay until you are not expecting something to happen, nor afraid if it does. Rest yourself  in God’s eternal changelessness and know that long before you were born and long after you are dead –God’s steadfast love was, and is, and will be, and you are held in that eternal love.

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About Jemma

Learning to be both a priest and a human being in the Anglican Church
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