No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you--you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today. -Matthew 6: 24-34
About This Week's Prompts for Meditation
When I think of the lilies of the field I think of the brother and sister-in-law of John of the Cross. Impoverished themselves (their brother Luis had died of malnutrition) Francisco and his wife Ana somehow found blankets and clothing to give to those even needier than they. They gathered abandoned babies and brought them to church, confronting people in the congregation to adopt the orphans. Although they did not have enough to eat, they begged on behalf of the sick and people too ashamed to beg for themselves. Francisco and Ana deeply influenced young Juan who grew up to be the great saint of mystical love. In his timeless poem The Dark Night of the Soul John guides the reader to the intimate union with the Divine Presence amongst the lilies.
John of the Cross teaches about detachment and it's easy for us modern consumer-cultural Westerners to misinterpret his meaning. Detachment does not mean hating the flesh, ignoring the blessing of the senses, or beauty, or nature. Detachment means not seeking to possess these things, or trying to control them, or anxiously attaching hopes to narrow outcomes.
The meditations: Jesus calls me to seek what is real behind the anxiety of my desires (meditation one). For example, enjoying a still life painting can teach the art of detachment - a full embracing of beauty without desire or possessiveness (meditation two). If I can pay attention this way, I can live fully into my "one wild precious life" (meditation three).
ever detaching, -Suzanne
Meditation One purified heart
How often we worry anxiously about the future! We suffer needlessly, recalling past pain and fearing repeated hardship to come. Christ admonishes us to give up worrying. Worrying does not solve our problems; rather, it keeps the mind restless and distracted, unable to think of God. In the words of Swami Vivekananda: "Every time we are anxious or depressed we become atheists." But if, instead of worrying about tomorrow, we practice directing the mind to God, our problems will be solved. We will find strength and peace of mind. We will gain poise in the midst of the opposites of life. And we will eventually become spiritually illumined.
The Gita says:
That serene one
Absorbed in the Atman
Masters his will,
He knows no disquiet
In pain or in pleasure,
In honor, dishonor.
This serenity is not what we ordinarily think of as stoic resignation to suffering and misery. Like all embodied beings, the man of God feels heat and cold; he experiences pleasure and pain, praise and blame. But these dualities of life no longer affect him. Once he has become spiritually illumined, he recognizes that body and mind are separate from the Atman, his true Self; and his purified heart experiences the infinite happiness which exists beyond the grasp of the senses.
-Swami Prabhavananda 1893-1976 The Sermon on the Mount according to Vedanta
Do not worry if our harp breaks thousands more will appear. We have fallen in the arms of love where all is music. If all the harps in the world were burned down, still inside the heart there will be hidden music playing. Do not worry if all the candles in the world flicker and die we have the spark that starts the fire. The songs we sing are like foam on the surface of the sea of being while the precious gems lie deep beneath. But the tenderness in our songs is a reflection of what is hidden in the depths. Stop the flow of your words, open the window of your heart and let the spirit speak.
-Rumi trans. Azima Melita Kolin, Maryam Mafi Rumi: Hidden Music
When tea becomes a ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things, that, like everything else, are doomed to die or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?
-Muriel Barbery (the character Renee Michel) The Elegance of the Hedgehog
But when we gaze at a still life, when - even though we did not pursue it - we delight in its beauty, a beauty borne away by the magnified and immobile figuration of things, we find pleasure in the fact that there was no need for longing, we may contemplate something we need not want, may cherish something we need not desire. So this still life, because it embodies a beauty that speaks to our desire but was given birth by someone else's desire, because it cossets our pleasure without in any way being part of our own projects, because it is offered to us without requiring the effort of desiring on our part: this still life incarnates the quintessence of Art, the certainty of timelessness. In the scene before our eyes, - silent, without life or motion - a time exempt of projects is incarnated, perfection purloined from duration and its weary greed - pleasure without desire, existence without duration, beauty without will. For art is emotion without desire.
-Muriel Barbery (the character Renee Michel) The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Meditation Three what do you plan to do?
The Summer Day
Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean-- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do With your one wild and precious life?
The Last Word
In this nakedness the spirit finds its quietude and rest. For in coveting nothing, nothing raises it up and nothing weighs it down, because it is in the center of its humility. When it covets something in this very desire it is wearied.
-John of the Cross 1542-1591 The Ascent of Mount Carmel (last verse of "To reach satisfaction in all")
Be not anxious for your life...Matt.6
Father in Heaven, when spring is come, everything in nature returns in new freshness and beauty, the lilies and the birds have lost nothing of their charm - oh, that we also might return to the instruction of these teachers! Ah, but if in the time that has elapsed we have lost our health, would that we might regain it by learning again from the lilies of the field and the birds of the air!
Soren Kierkegaard The Prayers of Kierkegaard
Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
collect for the 8th Sunday after Epiphany Book of Common Prayer
The Soap Bubble, Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, 1739