Taken from the Philokalia,
Put the mind in the heart
Put the mind in the heart
Stand before the Lord
And put the mind in the heart
On this day of the Feast of the Transfiguration, I invite you into this quote from Belden Lane's brilliant book The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. The chapter is called Sinai and Tabor, where Lane goes into incredible detail, marking pilgrims to these mountains, like the late 4th century woman Egarius, and the Armenian pilgrim Elisaeus, but also points out the eastern orthodox tradition's way of seeing the mountains as apophatic and kataphatic symbols.
"Central in all of this is the conviction that the sudden, blinding light of divine radiance, as it momentarily appears in human experience, must ever be framed within a context of the utterly mundane, with all the harsh, prosaic discipline it demands. When the desert-mountain tradition does not patently reject ecstatic experience as untrustworthy, it stringently insists that "moments of splendor" serve the purposes of justice and responsibility in the ordinary life."
- Belden Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes
Icon of the Transfiguration - Theophanes the Greek
“As I learn to be the adult with God’s grace, who’s there for myself, I begin to discover that the very wounded part of me that used to cause me so much pain, that I used to attack with shaming attacks, like: “there I go again” and “why am I like this” I start feeling a kind of warmth towards it. I start feeling a tender regard towards it. When we risk sharing what hurts the most, in the presence of someone who will not invade us or abandon us, we unexpectedly come upon the pearl of great price.
The suffering itself is the field in which the precious pearl is hidden.”
- James Finley
"To be alive, is to be vulnerable."
- Madeleine L'Engle
Firstly, because we're now at the half-way mark of this series on Sanctuary, I want to echo my first reflection for this series, entitled “Grief Deferral - the Hidden Shadow Behind Crises”. In which I suggested that the deferral of our grief and healing, has global repercussions. That we need to begin seeing our own healing path as just the beginning… and that as we continue forward with it, we must see our own healing as a courageous symbol of Holistic Reality. That what we discover through our healing, is a sort of brokenness that is whole, and out of that, we can truly live the heroine’s or the hero’s journey, which is about being in loving service, to our community, human and other-than-human.
When I embarked on the task of creating an album about healing, I knew I would need to make it with someone who was going to tenderly acknowledge the hurts, to help us name the pain, but also not lead us down a path toward narcissism. There is a danger in furthering our own pathology when we make our own story of pain, more special, but very tenderly, it needs to be acknowledged, almost before our story can continue with vibrancy and life. In other words, I knew James Finley would, in a childlike way, help us to grow up. (Please hear this in the context of part 4 in this series, Seeing With the Eyes of a Child).
Today’s song is really about becoming an adult, that finds their way out of old patterns and back into life. Through our journey, we can get stuck, repeating the same shaming self-talk that often, in turn, perpetuates a very insidious violence beyond ourselves. This getting stuck can last for our whole life if we don’t find a way to move beyond the patterns.
What does it mean, to be fully alive?
Today’s gospel reading is about you and me, being the salt of the earth.
It is about you and me, being the light of the world.
You may have seen the beautiful series on Netflix called Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, with the marvellous cook and writer Samin Nosrat. In the Salt episode, she takes us to Japan where we discover that there are over 4000 different types of salt. Japan shows us that we can really become a connoisseur of salt tasting, similar to wine.
Samin Nosrat uncovers the delicate mystery to seasoning food with salt and really demonstrates its importance in cooking, and how it can bring a richer experience to the taste of food.
You are the salt of the earth... you bring a richer taste to the earth.
We often think to call someone the ‘salt of the earth’ means that they are down to earth, as in, a super practical person. And that is part of it, especially if that super practical person is also sincere. But there is a danger in these verses, especially in the part that talks about people seeing our good works, in thinking that salt of the earth and light of the world is just about good deed doing.
To be fully alive, I think, is to be creative, inspired, filled with vigour, and a love for beauty in the ordinary. To be fully alive is to risk really being a creature of this earth.
Celtic Christianity had a very beautiful way of seeing the illuminated nature of all things. You glow with the light of God. But sometimes in our story, we become afraid to shine, because we might stand out. We build up barriers around ourselves, because shining is too vulnerable. What if we shine, and people try to snuff us out? So more often than not, we learn to snuff ourselves out, to avoid ridicule.
And why did Jesus say salt AND light? Why not just light... or... why not just salt?
This might seem like a farfetched association, but an interesting historical event comes to mind.
In 2500 BC, there was a comet event in isles of Britain/Scotland/Wales and Ireland, that was so disruptive, causing so much damage, that the indigenous people of that region changed their spiritual expression. Prior to this event, the gods were in the fertility of the ground. Ritual happened in caves. Heaven was 'down there', and often in the ocean herself, with ritual burials that implied a 'returning' to that which sustained your life.
After the comet struck, there was an evolution toward sky gods, with lightening bolts, and the standing stones were built to the new heavens and new rituals developed.
Ever since I heard this story, I keep wondering if we are in an age where the depth and the fertility below, and the lateral diversity of the earth, and the cosmic majesty of the stars, are going to come together in our heart comprehension … that even science now can explain, it is all one great expression of Connection... and I would add, one great expression of God.
I just wonder, if Jesus was speaking as a cosmic earth-dweller when he put salt and light together.
We also know now, scientifically, that we are made of the stuff of earth… but that the earth herself, comes from the dust of an exploding star.
The salt of the earth,
the light of the world.
As Joni Mitchell sang, “we are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden”.
You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world.
Shame keeps us from this truth.
When we habitually “perpetuate violence against the parts of ourselves that need to be loved the most”, we have not yet realized that, as James Finley says, “for God, there’s nothing missing in the midst of all the missing pieces inside of me”. To accept that, for God, there’s nothing missing, and to really embody that truth, leads us to aliveness. But as Madeleine L’Engle said, “to be alive is to be vulnerable”, which may very well be the reason we let fear keep us in our patterns.
But I say today...
And shine... anyway.
PS- 10 years ago, I found myself in a "dark night of the soul", a descent of austere magnitude. After what felt like endless unravelling, there was one night, where I took a solo walk on the beach of Lake Winnipeg (I was fixing up a little old cabin in exchange for staying there). With the full, orange moon rising, I knew internally... that there was nothing missing amidst all the loss. Utter infinitude as one with the Lover was my Reality, and I beamed with no falseness for one glimmering moment. Being in the age of always having a camera, I was able to capture that moment. Here it is... it was a moment where I gave myself permission to shine anyway. To be salty and really live, in the reality of suffering and joy.
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on a regenerative farm on the Canadian prairies.