Monday, January 10, 2011

Wintery Thoughts.

The winter is upon us and it’s slowing me down. The gray sky is here and it’s not new anymore; it’s been here for months. I actually think the weather has affected my vision; it’s hard to stare at the sky without being bored and my legs are cold and so I bought flannel-lined pants. My elderly neighbor Angie has harassed me for wearing shoes that aren’t warm enough and customers at the café are often trying to order through fogged up glasses. Winter is here and it’s lost whatever sex appeal it had, if it ever had any.

This weather seems to toss us to our couches for movie watching and keep us buried in our morning sheets. But I think the slowness of our bodies that comes with this season is an opportunity for our minds to get out and exercise a bit. I affirm Thoreau’s comment on this season: “Winter, with its inwardness is upon us. A man is constrained to sit down, and to think.”

Consider the following poem…

On Slow Learning
by Scott Cairns

If you have ever owned
a tortoise, you already know
how terribly difficult
paper training can be
for some pets.

Even if you get so far
as to instill in your tortoise
the value of achieving the paper,
there remains one obstacle--
your tortoise’s intrinsic sloth.

Even a well-intentioned tortoise
may find himself, in his journeys,
to be painfully far from the mark.

Failing, your tortoise may shy away
for weeks within his shell, utterly
ashamed, or looking up with tiny,
wet eyes might offer an honest shrug.
Forgive him.

The tortoises of the WCD program are slow learners, both on purpose and because of our “intrinsic sloth”. Our current readings of Saint Symeon the New Theologian and Gregory of Nazianzus have been tough mid-winter assignments. However, as we slowly seek to follow these good and knowledgeable men of old, with our sluggishness of mind and body, we are being challenged to contemplate who God is. And this type of contemplation has often led us to a state of wonder and mystery. Not the type of mystery that gives up in despair, but rather, the mystery that includes awe and reverence. We tortoises are slowly learning how to be in awe.

Saint Symeon the New Theologian was a Christian monk during the 10th and 11th centuries and I would like to share with you all a prayer that is meant to be offered by the blind who are struggling to see the light, a group of which I am often a part.

Have mercy on me, Son of David, and open the eyes of my soul, so that I may see the light of the world, even You, Who are God, and may become, even I, a son of the day; and so that you may not abandon me, O Good One, as unworthy and without a share in Your divinity. Lord, manifest Yourself to me, so that I may know that You have loved me as one who has kept, Master, Your divine commandments. O Merciful One, send the Comforter even to me, so that He may teach me the things concerning You; and, O God of all, declare what is yours to me. Illumine me with the true light, O Compassionate One, so that I may see the glory which You had with Your Father before the world was made. Abide even in me, as You have said, so that I, too, may become worthy of abiding in You, and may then consciously enter into You and consciously possess You within myself. O Invisible One, take form in me so that, beholding Your impossible beauty, I may be clothed, O Heavenly One, with Your image and forget all things visible. Compassionate One, give me that glory which the Father gave You, so that I may, as all of your servants, become god by grace and be ever with You, now and always and for ages without end. Amen.

May we, during this winter season, be gracious with ourselves and accept the gift of slowness in order to more fully know who God is.

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