“For the world and time are the dance of the Lord in emptiness.”
- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
“If the book of Genesis were rewritten today, how would the story begin? In light of what the new science tells us, it might begin something like this: “In the beginning was God, filled with power and mystery, and God spoke one Word, and the Word exploded into a tiny, hot, dense ball of matter that gave rise to forces and fields, quarks and particles, all joined together like a single strand of thread.”
- Ilia Delio, Christ in Evolution
“God is the prodigal who squanders himself.”
- Karl Rahner, The Theology of Christmas
This week I am sharing two songs, because sometimes illustrations need different angles, shading and texture to paint a fuller Big Picture.
First, we will listen to First Advent (Ex Nihilo), (or perhaps I could call it The Birth of the Universe, Out of Nothing ) in which we hearken back to the mystery of origin. We currently call this the Big Bang, which cosmologists are saying happened close to 14 billion years ago.
For generations, the mystics and the poets and most earth-based traditions have been inadvertently comfortable with big bang cosmology, and would have been quite “at home” with many scientists today.
Normally, “first advent” is seen as the coming of the Christ child. So some folks might take issue with those who are rewinding the narrative so many billions of years back, but likewise, other folks might find it very helpful.
As a point of clarity, in this reflection, when I say “first advent” I’m speaking to the incarnate mystery of origin itself. When I say “second advent” I am referring to the Christ child, Jesus. And when I say “third advent” I am referring to the Christ Omega.
So travel with me if you will, back to the murky area, before that one trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, and before the first sub atomic nuclei formed, approximately three minutes after the Big Bang and before the first stars began to shine about 300 million years after the Big Bang. Then on and on, to the expanding universe in which we find ourselves today.
There is a theory that mystery of origin is a “something from nothing”. Other theories imagine that our Big Bang is the result of another contracting universe preceding this expanding one. Whatever the case, the farther we reach back, there is this humbling vastness to the plot, that is incredibly ancient, but really quite new to us.
Just reading about this vastness requires our imaginations to open up. So, through the lens of ancient mystics and poets and philosophers, I sat with this beautiful concept of “ creatio ex nihilo”, the idea that creation came “out of nothing”.
As a songwriter, what I like about working with “ex nihilo” as a self-emptying, loving, pre-matter energy, is that it simultaneously says that love manifested all of this, but that we cannot destroy love because it precedes existence. And then, as a songwriter, I work with evolution as a complex, trial and error, participatory, incarnate thing.
Here is the song First Advent:
The second song Prophet’s Candle is also a brand new chant, written for today, the first Sunday of Advent in which the first of the Advent candles, (the Prophet’s Candle), is lit in the darkness of expectancy and longing.
We light a candle for the ancient prophets
And sing hymns of longing
for the Fruit of the root
of the Jesse tree
And the Spirit of the Lord rested on him
We light a candle for the ancient prophets
And chant hymns of longing
for the Fruit of the root
of the Jesse tree
May the Spirit of the Lord rest upon us
As we contemplate the humbling vastness of first advent, and the prophecy of conscious incarnation growing in the darkness of Mary’s willing womb, as second advent, and the Christ Omega singing us ever forward as third advent in us… may we plunge into this womb-dark time, with the willingness to be shaped and formed anew. With sober sincerity, offering up our yearning for abundant, verdantly fertile, healing and life.
To yearn for this is not yearning to live a risk-free life! We are a heritage of fire that converged into teeming, ever-converging life. Symbiosis is not without some tooth and claw. We are careening through space and time. Tonight, here in zone 2a, above the 49th parallel, the stars are magnificent, and I can hear their incantations for greater convergence, even as I know they are great burning balls of gas. The fact that they are does not destroy the poetry of star gazing.
Incarnation has to be plunged into the very realities of life and death and risk, and of darkness and light, to be incarnation. This is a seedy, soiled, dripping, hoofed, pawed, finned, fingernailed, pulsating, fleshy business. A lying in a straw bed manger, visible breath of animal nostrils, and a birth blood soaked earthen floor, business.
And it is into this gritty life-filled reality that the great self-emptying Lover has poured.
To download these songs for free, click here
It is true that many of us hail from a demographic that struggles with the pain of fundamentalist energy in our background; but it is also true, that many of us were wonderfully shaped by some aspects of the cultures in which we found ourselves.
In my case, roots music and story and nature connection are a very big part of what shaped me.
Not only am I a mishmash of denominations and non-denominations, but I am a mishmash of the cultures that went with them. Some of the traditions I was exposed to were keen to encourage great libraries that boasted novels and stories, and quite early on, I could see that there was more going on with stories than at the first telling. As though each one was an iceberg, waiting for me to do the dangerous deep dive under, to explore the shapes, the darkness, the trials, the overcoming.
It wasn’t Christian contemplation that first exposed me to the idea of letting go of an old story, it was really the combination of Eckhart Tolle popularizing “the moment”, and a very good Jungian therapist I used to see (who also happens to be a Rabbi).
Letting go of the old story initially proved to be very hard for me to do, for a lot of reasons. Not the least of which, with my dualistic lens, was because it was difficult for me to work out how I could let go of the attachment I had to my story, without it ruining Story as art form.
I was the kid, with flashlight under quilt, jousting my way across the deck, trusty cutlass raised, joining in the mutiny for justice and change. Identifying with each orphan in every classic, as though it were me in their place, overcoming great odds. On one page I could be Éowyn, riding her way into battle with wee Merry riding in front, on another I looked out from the eyes of Smeagol in his dark cave of despair. Story taught me how to see through the eyes of others, and it taught me about my own interiority as someone who could feel the darkness and the light. I took story out into my wild environment along the national park where I grew up, and much of what might just have been “a tree” or “a pond” or “a wood”, took shape in ways that opened up much deeper dimensions of “thisness”.
When I first encountered the Christian mystics and deep dove into the wisdom teachings, the practices, and the revelations about duality, I began to see very, very clearly how attachment to my story was causing quite a lot of damage. The way in which I identified with it, wasn’t moving my own story forward, for growth and renewal, but was really more about repeating history in such a way that I was held captive. So the irony was that the more I identified with it, the less available I was to the new chapters.
As a songwriter, I hold story in a special place. It really is a unique, wonderful medium to work with. But again, I have found myself wondering… does non-duality even have a place in story? My first thoughts go straight to Cynthia Bourgeault’s fine book, The Wisdom Jesus, in which she captures the telling of the Passion in such a way, that it moves beyond duality. (In hind sight, as it should!)
The best stories should not be used anecdotally or allegorically; and in the best stories, characters have to be complex. A complex character is probably a good a place to begin with, if attempting to include non-duality in storytelling. Another place might be to use two opposing energies and sit right where they clash for a good while. Haven't we all wondered how a hero(in) is going to make their way out of a predicament but still be able to endear themselves to the reader?
This leads me to talk about a series called ReMastered (on Netflix right now). There have been two episodes released so far. The first is a particular angle on the story of Bob Marley and the violently polarized politics in Jamaica. The second is the story of Richard Nixon inviting Johnny Cash to do a concert at the Whitehouse in a violently polarized America. In each of these phenomenal one hour episodes, the itch I've been having about story’s place in the realm of non-duality, got seriously scratched. They really are a must watch.
I’ve long been suspecting that the medium of good story writing/telling is an oft overlooked friend of action/contemplation. Story is not fable or aphorism, nor is it poetry (but those modes also have their place). In the case of both Bob Marley and Johnny Cash, it was their ability to subvert with story in song, that enabled them to reach profoundly non-dual levels of pure truth telling, under immense political pressure to choose a side.
In the episode Tricky Dick and the Man in Black, there is footage of a group of singers coming in to perform for Richard Nixon and one of the singers holds up a banner that says “stop the killing”, and then says “Richard Nixon, stop killing human beings, animals and vegetation. You go to church on Sundays. If Jesus Christ were here tonight you would not dare to drop another bomb.” Now most of you reading this are going to appreciate the courage it took for her to do that. And at a number of levels I do too. But what I’m constantly longing to open up to as an artist, is what Walter Brueggemann calls prophetic imagination. Her statement was met with the expected “get her outta here”, and no one was conflicted or converted. She was right, but at such a blunt level, it was still dualistic in its nature. Or as Krista Tippet says, “The nature of the question, elicits the nature of the answer.”
On the night Johnny Cash performed, something else happened. There was a near-Divine presence in the air, tap-rooted in Johnny Cash’s own suffering - which had turned a corner. See, his own story had become universalized and the pain of the soldiers and his tender care for the youth crying out across the country, were incarnating his performance.
The same thing happened during a particular concert in Jamaica when Bob Marley held in his own hand, the hands of the white political leaders who were each other's enemy. It was his story of suffering, that had been universalized, that enabled him to tell the story of his people, and to long for peace.
Looking back, this is one of the reasons why I struggled with letting go of my old story... Because I think it is more than just letting go. It is letting go, so that, the seeds of suffering may fall and germinate and bring us to the place, where, when faced with the gridlock of dualism, we have depths to pull from and can find another way to speak the truth.
The song for today is There is a Peace, from the album Sanctuary: Exploring the Healing Path. Although it isn’t a story song, but actually a chant with spoken word, this piece belongs in the story arc of the album as a whole, and is found nearer to the end of the album.
"Contemplative prayer is the world in which God can do anything. To move into that realm is the greatest adventure. It is to be open to the Infinite and hence, to infinite possibilities. Our private, self-made worlds come to an end; a new world appears within and around us and the impossible becomes an everyday experience. Yet the world that prayer reveals is barely noticeable in the ordinary course of events."
- Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart
This week, a memorial service was held for Fr Thomas Keating, a Cistercian monk who many of us have been inspired by through his writings and teachings, particularly on Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer is a style of Christian meditation that Fr Keating dedicated his life to distilling, from the lineage of Contemplative Prayer, held in Biblically sourced texts (Matthew 6:6, Psalm 46:10 etc) and as passed on from the Desert Abbas and Ammas, through to Pseudo-Dionysius, Meister Ekchardt, to the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, to Teresa of Avila/John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux and on... to Thomas Merton (the great bridge between us and this richness!)
In particular, Thomas Keating did so much for us by spending such fine-tuned time with The Cloud of Unknowing, a sacred medieval classic text authored by the anonymous English medieval monk, from the 14th Century.
This week, I chose the song Quia Amore Langueo (Because I Languish For Love), because it so fits the poetry of Thomas Keating's life... and it was written by an anonymous English poet from the 14th Century. Both the Cloud of Unknowing and Quia Amore Langueo were written in Olde English and a translation of particular note, for The Cloud, in recent years, is the one by Carmen Acevedo Butcher. It is so very good.
The Center for Action and Contemplation live streamed Thomas Keating's memorial service, making it possible for the public around the world, to attend online. Practitioners and appreciators from across the world tuned in to mark the passing of this man, who had in his lifetime, surrendered to being overtaken by that which does not die. Or as Cynthia Bourgeault said on the page that invited the public to view the memorial: "I have never witnessed a more triumphant and powerful conscious death, modeling for us all the wingspan of spirit that can dwell in a life courageously and recklessly tossed to the winds of God."
Contemplative Outreach put together an incredible short film that was viewed by those present at the memorial, directly after the mass was brought to a close. While watching and weeping and longing, here in my little studio, thousands of miles away, I knew so many others around the world were too, and afterward, I could see that the people physically present at the memorial were wiping their cheeks dry from authentic tears, too.
To listen with an open heart to someone so surrendered to God, to someone so truly an Elder, and to someone so close to death, is an honour. It is a sacred privilege that this footage was captured near the end of his life. There is transmission there, and you can tell his love for the planet did not diminish in his own diminishment, because his love was One, with the great Lover. He even references in the film that the seed must fall for the work to become even bigger and "that's how things are." And he was very clear about deeper, more and more meaningful interfaith work to be done. My hope is that in dedicating this Sunday Song and Rumination to being attentive to Fr Keating's parting words (I encourage you to watch the film), we will begin to listen more attentively to the sonorous hum at the heart of his delivery, that we might hear the depths from which they flowed forth out of such a willing font.
Perhaps what spoke to me the most, was how Fr. Keating said that God uses imperfect instruments for the work, because those instruments know particularly that it is not them who is doing it. That gave me great consolation! Something else he said, which was more haunting, "From God's perspective, I have great confidence in the future, that God's love will triumph over every obstacle. But it seems God wants to try out every obstacle, or let it happen, so that nobody, in the end, will consider that it came from anyplace else."
This poem Quia Amore Langueo fits almost perfectly with the message from Fr. Keating, that "the spiritual life is about doing what we all have to do anyway... death... but doing it sooner, because it will enable our actions to be much more effective." When the anonymous poet says: "thy reward is fixed, if you but die... quia amore langueo" it leads into some of the last parting words in the film when Fr Keating says: "and that's all we have to do ultimately... is accept God's love."
Humbled and grateful and emptied and brimming. Amen.
Here is the poem Because I Languish for Love, in Olde English, and in all its fullness (I worked with a few different translations for the song and tried to include slight amounts of Olde English that still had a hue a familiarity, and also didn't include each verse, as it is a long poem! But SO beautiful.)
In a valey of this restles mynde,
I soughte in mounteyne and in mede,
Trustynge a trewelove for to fynde.
Upon an hil than Y took hede:
A voice Y herde, and neer Y yede,
In huge dolour complaynynge tho:
"Se, dere Soule, how my sidis blede,
Quia amore langueo."
[In a valley of this restless mind, I sought in mountain and in meadow, hoping to find a true-love (a flower, but also love itself). Upon a hill I then took notice; I heard a voice - and I drew closer - lamenting in great sorrow: "See, dear Soul, how my sides bleed, because I languish for love."]
Upon this hil Y fond a tree,
Undir the tree a man sittynge,
From heed to foot woundid was he,
His herte blood Y sigh bledinge:
A semeli man to ben a king,
A graciouse face to loken unto.
I askide whi he had peynynge,
He seide, "Quia amore langueo.
[Upon this hill I found a tree, under the tree a man sitting; from head to foot wounded was he, and I saw his heart's blood bleeding. He was a man fit to be a king, with a gracious face to look at. I asked why he was suffering; he said, "Because I languish for love."]
"I am Truelove that fals was nevere.
My sistyr, mannis soule, Y loved hir thus:
Bicause we wolde in no wise discevere,
I lefte my kyngdom glorious.
I purveide for hir a paleis precious;
Sche fleyth; Y folowe. Y soughte hir so,
I suffride this peyne piteuous,
Quia amore langueo.
["I am True-love who never was false. My sister, man's soul, I loved thus: because we would not in any way be parted, I left my glorious kingdom, I prepared for her a precious palace. She flees; I follow; I sought her in such a way that I came to suffer this terrible pain, because I languish for love.]
"My fair spouse and my love bright,
I saved hir fro betynge, and sche hath me bet!
I clothid hir in grace and hevenli light,
This bloodi scherte sche hath on me sette!
For longynge of love yit wolde Y not lette --
Swete strokis are these, lo!
I have loved hir evere, as Y hir het,
Quia amore langueo.
["My fair spouse and my love bright! I saved her from beating, and she has beaten me. I clothed her in grace and heavenly light; she set this bloody shirt upon me. For longing of love I will not cease - these are sweet strokes, lo! I have loved her always, as I promised her, because I languish for love.]
"I crowned hir with blis, and sche me with thorn;
I ledde hir to chaumbir, and sche me to die;
I broughte hir to worschipe, and sche me to scorn;
I dide hir reverence, and she me vilonye.
To love that loveth is no maistrie;
Hir hate made nevere my love hir foo.
Axe me no questioun whi --
Quia amore langueo.
["I crowned her with bliss, and she crowned me with thorns; I led her to a chamber, and she led me to die. I brought her to worship, and she brought me to scorn; I did her worship, and she did me villainy. To love one who loves you is no hard task; her hate never made my love her foe. Do not ask me questions why; because I languish for love.]
"Loke unto myn hondis, man:
These gloves were yove me whan Y hir soughte.
Thei ben not white, but rede and wan,
Onbroudrid with blood. My spouse hem broughte.
Thei wole not of; Y loose hem noughte.
I wowe hir with hem whereevere sche go --
These hondis for hir so freendli foughte,
Quia amore langueo.
["Look at my hands, man: these gloves were given me when I sought her. They are not white, but red and pale, embroidered with blood. My spouse brought them. They cannot come off; I will not undo them. I woo her with them wherever she may go. These hands fought for her so lovingly, because I languish for love.]
"Merveille noughte, man, though Y sitte stille:
Se, love hath schod me wondir streite,
Boclid my feet, as was hir wille,
With scharp naile, lo! Thou maiste waitenails;
In my love was nevere desaite.
Alle myn humours Y have opened hir to,
There my bodi hath maad hir hertis baite,
Quia amore langueo.
["Marvel not, man, though I sit still: see, love has shod me very tightly, and buckled my feet, by her choice, with sharp nails, look! You may know by these nails, there was never any deceit in my love. I have opened all my blood to her and made my body her heart's bait, because I languish for love.]
"In my side Y have made hir neste.
Loke in: how weet a wounde is heere!
This is hir chaumbir. Heere schal sche reste,
That sche and Y may slepe in fere.
Heere may she waische if ony filthe were;
Heere is sete for al hir woo.
Come whanne sche wole, sche schal have chere,
Quia amore langueo.
["In my side I have made her nest. Look in, how wet a wound is here! This is her chamber; here she shall rest, and she and I shall sleep in company. Here she may wash away anything that befouls her; here is shelter for all her sorrow. Come whenever she will, she shall have good cheer, because I languish for love.]
"I wole abide til sche be redy,
I wole hir sue if sche seie nay;
If sche be richilees, Y wole be gredi,
And if sche be daungerus, Y wole hir praie.
If sche wepe, than hide Y ne may --
Myn armes her highed to clippe hir me to:
Crie oonys! Y come. Now, Soule, asay!
Quia amore langueo.
["I will wait until she be ready; I will seek her if she say nay. If she be careless, I will be insistent; if she be disdainful, I will beseech her. If she weep, then I cannot conceal myself - my arms are outstretched to clasp her to me. Cry once, I come! Now, soul, try me! Because I languish for love.]
"I sitte on this hil for to se fer,
I loke into the valey my spouse to se:
Now renneth sche awayward, yit come sche me neer,
For out of my sighte may sche not be.
Summe wayte hir prai to make hir to flee,
I renne bifore and fleme hir foo.
Returne, my spouse, ayen to me!
Quia amore langueo.
["I sit on this hill to see far: I look into the valley to see my spouse. Now she runs away, now she comes closer, but she cannot be out of my sight. Some others lurk to make her their prey, to make her flee to them, but I run before them and drive away her foes. Return, my spouse, again to me! Because I languish for love.]
"Fair love, lete us go pleye!
Applis ben ripe in my gardayne;
I schal thee clothe in a newe aray,
Thi mete schal be mylk, hony, and wiyn.
Fair love, lete us go digne;
Thi sustynaunce is in my crippe, lo!
Tarie thou not, my fair spouse myne!
Quia amore langueo.
["Fair love, let us go play: apples are ripe in my garden. I shall clothe thee in new array, thy food shall be milk, honey, and wine. Fair love, let us go dine; thy sustenance is in my bag, lo! Tarry not, my own fair spouse, because I languish for love.]
"Iff thou be foul, Y schal thee make clene,
If thou be siik, Y schal thee hele;
If thou moorne ought, Y schal thee meene.
Whi wolt thou not, fair love, with me dele?
Foundist thou evere love so leel?
What woldist thou, spouse, that Y schulde do?
I may not unkyndeli thee appele,
Quia amore langueo.
["If thou be dirty, I shall make thee clean; if thou be sick, I shall heal thee. If thou mourn for anything, I shall comfort thee. Why wilt thou not, fair love, have dealings with me? Hast thou ever found such loyal love? What wouldest thou, spouse, that I should do? I cannot accuse thee of unkindness, because I languish for love.]
"What schal Y do with my fair spouse
But abide hir, of my gentilnes,
Til that sche loke out of hir house
Of fleischli affeccioun? Love myn sche is!
Hir bed is maade, hir bolstir is blis;
Hir chaumbir is chosen, is ther non moo.
Loke out on me at the wyndow of kyndenes,
Quia amore langueo.
["What shall I do with my fair spouse, but wait for her, in my courtesy, until she look out of her house of fleshly affecton? She is my love! Her bed is made, her pillow is prepared in bliss, her chamber is chosen - there is none other such. Look out on me at the window of kindness, because I languish for love.]
"My love is in hir chaumbir. Holde youre pees!
Make ye no noise, but lete hir slepe.
My babe Y wolde not were in disese;
I may not heere my dere child wepe;
With my pap Y schal hir kepe.
Ne merveille ye not though Y tende hir to:
This hole in my side had nevere be so depe,
But Quia amore langueo.
["My love is in her chamber, hold your peace! Make ye no noise, but let her sleep. I would not have my babe troubled; I cannot hear my dear child weep. With my breast I shall feed her. Do not marvel that I tend to her so! This hole in my side would never have been so deep, but that I languish for love.]
"Longe thou for love nevere so high,
My love is more than thin may be:
Thou wepist, thou gladist, Y sitte thee bi,
Yit woldist thou oonys, leef, loke unto me?
Schulde I alwey fede thee
With children mete? Nay, love, not so! --
I wole preve thi love with adversitè,
Quia amore langueo.
["Long thou for love never so much, my love is more than thine can be. Thou weepest, thou rejoicest, I sit beside thee; but wouldest thou once, love, look to me? Should I always feed thee with children's food? No, love, it cannot be so! I wish to test thy love through adversity, because I languish for love.]
"Wexe not wery, myn owne wiif.
What mede is it to lyve evere in coumfort?
In tribulacioun I regne moore riif,
Oftetymes, than in disport --
In wele and in woo Y am ay to supporte!
Than, dere Soule, go not me fro!
Thi meede is markid whan thou art mort,
Quia amore langueo."
["Wax not weary, my own wife; what reward is there to live in comfort for ever? In tribulation I often reign more fully than in pleasure. In weal and woe I am ever there to help! Then, dear soul, do not go from me. Thy reward is fixed after thy death, because I languish for love.]
Watching the memorial online.
"God and the suffering of the world are inseparably interwoven." - James Finley
"The feeling remains, God is on the journey too." - Teresa of Avila
"In stillness nailed. To hold all time, all change, all circumstances in and to, Love's embrace." - Anonymous nun, as found on page 124 in The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault
I noticed this week that so many people from outside the Christian tradition have been confused about how folks who claim to follow Jesus could be attracted to, or appreciative of, blatant power-driven bullying. I have been in dialogue with folks about the philosophical roots of this immense problem, and of course, that gets us asking questions about human nature and God nature and presses us to these places where our shaken faith leads us to regions we've never been before. Sometimes very dark places that doubt the existence of benevolence.
In the West, we've all been conditioned to see things dualistically, and this is not easily unlearned. We want there to be good and bad people. We want an obvious light over and against darkness. We want God to be different than God is... more accentuated in how justice is served out, right now. We think that looking at events and actions in any sort of non-dual way is either not naming something or seen as backing down from speaking truth to power. But true non-duality is quite possibly doing far more in the long run, than either denial, or quick, dramatic reaction. What non-duality should be doing, if it is true, is to find a way to both name things, and set things within a process that makes them new.
False peace is not wanting shit to come to the surface. But real peace finds a way to stir the shit up in such a creative way, that it makes real change, that harnesses collective energy toward the common good.
There is a scene in Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain, where he looks across at his little brother John Paul, who is about to go to serve in World War II. There is a divide between them, like his brother is unreachable, but you get the sense that Merton almost wants to reach out and have his brother stay and that he would take his place. John Paul dies in the war making young Thomas Merton the last surviving member of his immediate family.
Merton wrote a beautiful poem about his brother which I put to music, along with James Finley's spoken word. It grieves. And then it begins to articulate that part of the way toward holding something very difficult in the radical arms of love, is to get closer to it at the quantum level, even if we can't be physically close to it. There are relationships that can be so broken, due to any number of circumstances, (in the case of Merton, his relationship with his brother was severed by death), that sometimes the only safe way to heal, or to heal the wound that was made, is to touch it at the level where it has been held in love already by Christ, the great Mystery, holding all things together.
This comprehension laid the groundwork for Merton moving toward the world... from this place of solitude, where he touched the love that holds all things together. There is a point in the poem where Merton refers to the cross he wears as a monk or priest, and the cross of his brother's soldier's grave, saying "Christ died on each for both of us". The first time I read that, I openly wept. At the comprehension of my own dualism that a mystical monk could ever be held in common with a soldier. I was assaulted by two soldiers once, with only a narrow escape. But I know someone who was assaulted by a monk, too.
As we look at ways to be creative and innovative, and even as we long for things to be different, let's remember that there is energy to be found in forgiving the events that are half-forgiven, in healing the wounds that are half-healed. It is by now a cliche to say that forgiving is not excusing or sending the message that you're available for more abuse... but with that disclaimer, what would happen if each of us who read this gathered the energy that comes with a sort of ahistorical forgiveness?
The place where Merton went, when his eyes become flowers for his brother's tomb, and his fasts become willows where his brother died, is the place where all things are held together, and where all things are being made new, that "holds all time, all change all circumstances, in Love's embrace."
Listen to John Paul in this sort of context and allow for the poetry to expand inside of you as a creative force and a balm.
This week I flew to Victoria, BC, Canada to be a part of a conference called The Resurrect Learning Party, by performing a concert, leading a bit of worship and doing a talk on the Mystical Heart of the Church. I hadn't left my family to do this sort of thing since my first born was 2, and he just turned 5 yesterday! It was good for them, it was good for me and helped me to practice trust.
The conference was held at this very thin time of year, to welcome and acknowledge those who've gone before us and to ask them to pray for us as we innovate and explore ways in which we can set the body free, in our communities, on the land, and through modalities like art and music. It was a group of about 80 people, from various denominations, who came together under the common bond of the Christ Mystery.
I got to meet an incredible liturgical songwriter named Lacey Brown from the Church of the Apostles in Seattle, whose musical act goes by the name of Poor Clare. I got to dialogue with folks who have started "Wild Church" communities (something my husband Ian and I are discussing for our land). I got to see dear friends, like my friend Travis Enright, who gave the whole conference an incredible shake up and paradigm shift, through his presentation on Journeying With Two World Views as a Cree Irish Anglican priest, who is comfortable with not only his indigenous tradition being present in his ministry, but also his Cree culture, which is not based in the "nuclear family" model. We prayed with tears, for the Tree of Life community in Pittsburgh, and we acknowledged all groups under the threat of destructive ideology. We prayed for the way forward with climate change.
There were many beautiful "misfits" with whom I always feel most at home, with incredible hearts and ideas for what church can look like, when it's not about being a cookie cutter colony of people, but much more varied and diverse.
When I spoke about the Mystical Heart of the Church, I wanted to point out a sort of chicken/egg problem we often find ourselves in, when coming up with solutions for inclusivity in the church. And that is, that if our philosophical starting point is separation of matter and spirit, we are scrambling from outside the paradigm of "connected and diverse" to almost enforcing welcome through our own strength and doing. But if the catholicity of the church, or the kind of monasticism that is imperishable, or incarnation is our starting point, as in who we already are, AND what we are traveling toward, it changes the game, because it liberates us from having the control to enforce equality from an idealogical place...
It is the Ground of our Being already. Matter and Spirit are one. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8: 38-39).
Thomas Merton once prayed to God: "Oh how far I have to go to rest in you in whom I've already arrived."
Carrying this reality under my feet, we migrated into a remarkable ritual space where the whole group held an All Souls Mass in the crypt of the Cathedral, downtown Victoria. We chanted the names of Saints, including Oscar Romero... Dorothy Day... Clare of Assisi... Saint Francis... We lit candles for the departed (I lit one especially welcoming Fr Thomas Keating), and when it came time to experience the beauty of an ecumenical eucharist, I whispered the words, "the body of Christ, re-membered". And it was real. It was the starting point (alpha) and the culmination (omega)... that the Ground of our Being is, always has been and ever shall be, God with us. But through the acts of unfathomable love here in the flesh... through bringing this metaphysical realm more deeply into being human and of the earth, healing is possible. Through lives lived, that have assumed the posture that welcomes being overtaken from the inside, by the "spark that belongs entirely to God and is never at our disposal" (Merton) and thus, by that which does not die, we are able to live more fully into exploring the curation of spaces of welcome and innovation.
I love that the "Resurrect Learning Party" held ritual in the crypt, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, who have gone before us, because without those who have gone before us, gathering tends to be empty and suspended, with no history, certainly sordid and complicit, but also beautiful and generative.
Today's song is What We Are, from the Point Vierge (Merton) album. I want to share this especially, because I have been engaged with innovating what the Christian church might look like moving forward. Even as I have done this, another imperative starting point, is to be actively sending my love and my very life to the Tree of Life Synagogue and to all places under threat of religious, racial or sexual oppression. Religion can be one of the most beautiful expressions on the planet, because it intuits that we are animated by a Spirit of Love, or that we are living in a interconnected Mystery, but when religion's starting point is separation, which has traditionally bred triumphalism, and that God will send all others from the "outside", to burn, it can be the most ugly, destructive, ways of being ever to exist on this planet. Christianity is absolutely without any doubt no exception.
In fact it may very well be the rule.
How can we not make the connection that the ideology that believes God will destroy others has something to do with current ideological violence?
Until we are willing to take the log out of our own eye, and make a FIERCE inventory of our tradition, we'd better stop pointing fingers anywhere else... and I mean anywhere else. No more "whataboutisms". Period.
May we live with humility and honesty about our tradition. May we hold it more lightly, even as we deepen into the message of incarnation that is all in all. As Bishop Tutu has rightly said, "God is not a Christian".
What does the church look like with this truth as the starting point?
Lord have mercy on us, for all the times we've stood on the philosophical plank of separation when trying to live out inclusivity. We hand this over and are overcome by what we already are everywhere and always...
"But what is it to realize that you are unbearably beautiful in the intimacy of the broken places, and you breathe that in and walk with it. You join God in being one with the endlessly precious nature of yourself. You can be one with the world in that way."
- James Finley
For the Sanctuary album, which explores the healing path, James Finley and I used the well-known form from the mystical lineage of Christianity: Purgation, Illumination and Union.
In each of these sections, the inner child shows up to give voice to the inner workings of hurt and of trauma, but also to give voice to how "precious as children" each of us are.
I don't always speak anecdotally in my writing, but for today, I would like to tell you a story. Hopefully it can be told in a universal way, connected to your story, and to all story.
Back in the early winter of 2010, I found myself in the throes of a pretty significant descent. A darkness had clouded every aspect of my personal and professional life and what would unfold over that time, would be a great letting go. The mythic flames that burned away most of what I thought was me, burned very hot, and there was much suffering. But through that journey, which was a journey all mixed up, of healing, of further trauma, of confusion, and discovery of imperishable clarity, the flame began to do something altogether different. One evening, after months of this great Unravelling, there was a fleeting moment in which the flame no longer burned me, because the flame was me.
During those initial gruelling months, I spent a week in silence at St Joseph Monastery, a silent, cloistered community of Passionist Nuns, in Kentucky. While there, I would go for walks outside and would find myself drawn toward the Stations of the Cross, but unable to bring myself to actually enter in to walk them. It wasn't because I was fighting some battle of unwillingness to follow the footsteps of Jesus. And it wasn't some "stubborn sinner's" resistance to surrender at the foot of the cross, but it was more because I was bruised, and tired of carrying the heavy burden that the death of Jesus was my fault. That I had killed him. I simply didn't want to walk the Stations because the whole reason I was at the monastery was to work through mountains of shame, and to release it, and open to transformation. I was not there to load shame back into the tender places by walking some half-sincere guilt trip, where I went through the motions of offering up quasi-confessional platitudes, in an attempt to flog the deadened sincerity I could barely feel about the whole business.
Then, nearing the last day of my stay at St. Joseph Monastery, I was standing at the entrance to the Stations, after ten considerations and ten turnabouts on my heal, walking away, utterly pissed off at just about everything, I saw one of the sisters on the lawn in the cloistered area, jumping with a jump rope. Two others were playing catch with gloves and a baseball. I heard laughter although all was still silent. Something about the maturity of these women (who no doubt have seen more than we might assume), engaged in childlike play, enabled the child in me, to take a few steps forward to gingerly attempt to walk the Stations.
I walked all 14 Stations that day and, what was shed, ironically, was the internal message that it was my fault that Jesus died. This led quite naturally into the extraordinary mystical epiphany that I had lived my whole life believing I needed to be protected from God. And by the time I reached the foot of the cross, I heard a palpable voice, which was a whisper, that I believe was the voice of God (but may very well have been my own adult voice):
"I love you as much as I love __________ and ________."
This Voice was speaking the names of my niece and nephew, who at the time, were 2 years old and newborn.
This encounter with the voice of the Mystery, was a small but integral baby step toward growing up enough, to come alongside my inner child and speak narratives of wholeness into her burdened heart, and begin a long spiritual journey, that I am still on.
Today my little girl says "I believe you."
Some days she still gets too close, and I turn into her. Lord, have mercy.
It is a work in progress.
But it is all precious in its fragility. The whole nine yards. The full measure. The works.
In Encountering the Inner Child, (the first track on the album where the children's choir enters), James Finley says:
"I see something precious in you, that you are not yet able to see. Where we are right now, is you discovering with God's grace, the adult in you, that can join me in seeing that preciousness in you. Because the child inside right now, is waiting for you to see her. This is always risky, because she still holds power, and when she gets too close, you turn into her. And this is where you head back to shallow water again, to get your bearings, so that you can come back and be there for her."
Tender is this topic and much gentle care to you.
In the great Peace,
In 1934, due to the rise of the German Christian movement, the church in Germany had officially become the Reich Church.
A group of theologians who opposed the movement, gathered during a synod, in Barmen, Germany, to sign the Barmen Declaration, which was a document that withdrew the church's participation in towing the Nazi party line.
Swiss Reformed theologian Karl Barth drafted much of the declaration, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the signors, and all those who signed, saw it as an act of "divine obedience".
It is very important to be sensitive to the ways in which contemporary details are different from the details of that time, but it is also important for us to examine elemental similarities that should give us pause.
Here are just a few.
- The Barmen Declaration was drafted at a time when much in the day to day was still "normal" in comparison to the scope of horror that would eventually occur in Germany and around the world (we are still trauma carriers from that time... especially the descendants of holocaust survivors).
- The German Christian movement that became the Evangelische Reichskirche, was extremely anti-socialist and conservative in nature.
- Without the church aligning with the politics of Nazi Germany, the impetus for unspeakably unfettered power, would have been significantly lessened.
- Those who saw themselves as true Germans began to resent the "alien" Jews, who they saw as taking up space in their damaged economy.
- Those who sounded the warning in the early years, were seen as making a big deal out of nothing.
I was recently invited to compose and produce a song inspired by the Barmen Today: a Contemporary and Contemplative Declaration, which is a very well-crafted, ecumenical document written in the spirit of the original Barmen Declaration. It has been drafted and signed by leaders from varying faith traditions (and that is possibly what is most heartening to me... that today's declaration is "one deep calling to another", is a real beacon of hope.)
Why I believe the Barmen Today Declaration and the original declaration were drafted and signed in a similar spirit, is because when Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of the "secularization of the church" he was not worried about the church choosing to include those who had previously been excluded, he was worried about who the church was excluding, and who was exercising the authority to do so.
So this Sunday Song and Rumination is a call.
To listen to the song.
To read the Barmen Today Declaration.
To search your own heart.
And to consider signing. No matter where you are in the world.
I hope this song will serve the declaration and instill courage... as time moves forward, I can see this declaration is more deeply needed, than I can say I wish.
Also, here is a link to read the letter Fr Richard Rohr has written, in support of Barmen Today.
Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism.
Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.
- Oscar Romero
I follow a number of teachers that I respect very much. Some have already died, some are elders, some are younger, and some are blown out of proportion rock stars like Bono (say what we will, but he has done incredible humanitarian work and the subversion of Macphisto certainly has its place at the theological buffet.)
When I'm working out what it looks like to be non-dual, but present in the problems of the world, I certainly open to what Christ looks like in me, but I also keenly watch my teachers... because as they make very hard decisions about how to speak into the times, I know that the standard by which their careful, wise words and actions are voiced, is a standard that exists beyond tired, partisan arguments and remains anchored to the heart of God's dream (as Bishop Tutu calls it). They don't do it perfectly, and why they don't and never could, is because they have a welcoming practice for the fact that God's dream is unmoored in the oceanic universe of things and the world is messy - and often what gets demonized, if the "wrong-doer" is not in a position of power, is far more complex, once we are willing to humanize the situation. In other words... I trust the teacher who doesn't put a lot of stock in a facade of morals, and who warmly and patiently owns their own shortcomings, and simply isn't perfect. Or as James Finley says, "it isn't that the master is no longer confused, its just that they're no longer confused by their confusion."
Now more than ever, something to watch for, very keenly, is how quickly victims are twisted into being the culprit, rendering the victim's voice to be asphyxiated... and how quickly the culprit is made the victim, and rewarded with more power. This is gaslighting 101, and that is what it should be called, because it fuels the fires of violence; but it cannot be detected if all we're looking for is a veneer of individual morality dressed up in trustworthy skin and rational gender.
Today is the canonization of Oscar Romero. After 38 years, the Catholic church is officially canonizing the El Salvadorian bishop who to many, is an example of what the church set out to be: Christ's conscious presence in the world. When the El Salvadorian government was shifting toward an oligarchy (which eventually killed over 75,000 people, and displaced millions), Romero spoke out and was very openly present with the people whose government had very forcefully turned against them, so that the few had so much and the many had so little.
Romero was mortally wounded minutes after delivering a homily during Mass, in a small chapel in Divine Providence Hospital. The scripture reading for that homily was John 12:23-26 in which Jesus famously references the grain of wheat falling, to bear much fruit.
For those of us who are not officially Roman Catholic (and maybe for some official Catholics who need to brush up on their terminology!), Romero was beatified in 2015, allowing people near the places he worked and lived to venerate him publicly as a candidate for sainthood. Canonization is when the pope formally decrees that someone is a Saint. Today is the day when Pope Francis decrees Oscar Romero an official Saint in the church across the globe. For many around the world, especially Central and South Americans, San Romero has been San Romero long before this day, but the timing for this is still poignant, and very possibly, fruitful.
This standard I speak of, that I observe in my teachers, (and I count Saint Oscar among them)... is the standard that makes no sense in a culture that teaches us to win and overtake at any cost.
Here is what I've observed about these folks I respect, who live by a standard that is very different than mere partisan mud slinging:
1. they have a daily contemplative practice, usually comprised of the practice of letting go... of thoughts and hang-ups, that would otherwise wield subtle acts of violence on themselves and others, throughout the day
2. they know that in the desert, the presence of corporate evil (Macphisto?!) offered Jesus all of the power in the world, but Jesus passed the test, and chose instead to risk his life by eating with, befriending and giving voice, to the people who were not welcome at the tables of power (and had no say in how those tables were built) - including people of other faith traditions
3. they are willing to probe their own hearts, for the place that would say yes to all the power in the world, that would believe the trappings of their renown, which is the same place that would stone the prophets
4. they know that energy is powerful and how we spend it determines what fire gets fed
5. they don't allow individual sin to become a cheap decoy, and they hold themselves open to Holy Wisdom, so they might be shown the sin of oppression, and the lust for power-over others, wherever it shows up, but especially in their own group... which in this case, is the Western Christian church (* watch for this as we move forward... Bonhoeffer spoke of the "secularization' of the church. Many today read that word "secularization" in terms of what they see as individual sin... but a very, very key point to Bonhoeffer's use of that word, was to suggest that the German church was being used as a key vehicle for very powerful, corporate sin).
6. they have a sense of humour
7. they show up in their gifts and remember they are instruments of the breath of God
8. when in doubt, they remember that God is with the last and the least and wants them to rise and to shine
9. also when in doubt, they remember that God has set a Universal Mythic Realm at play, which topples towers that would enslave, (no matter whether those still in the tower are claiming persecution). God wants this tower toppled, certainly to free the captives, but also, because God desires for even the oppressor to become fully human, and knows they never will, so long as they have their false sense of security (or as Oscar Romero put it: "there are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried").
I chose the song Strange Islands (from Point Vierge: Thomas Merton's Journey in Song) for today's Sunday Song and Rumination, because the veneer of the perfectly lived, pearly-white teethed life in the tower, is beginning to show its bloody fangs out in the open. That we would be so foolishly swift to victimize and "saint" a powerful, elite, tantrum thrower (you fill in the blanks as to whom I am speaking of- because it would seem, there is more than one), but so painfully slow to canonize the courage of Oscar Romero, means that we are still falling, in order for the God-created Mythic Realm to bring a voice to the voiceless, and full humanity to the near-inhuman facade of morals, who refuses to look power in the eye, name it as a lie, lose that which is not there, and awaken to what alone always is.
In the song, you will hear the spoken word of James Finley saying:
what feels like negation,
is actually a liberation,
a liberation from a falsified consciousness
in which nothing is lost
except that which is not there
and nothing is gained except an awakening to what alone always is
You will hear the voice of Thomas Merton, warning his novices:
"this is one of the things our Lord came to reveal, is that human beings, especially when they are right, especially when they are holy, and especially when they are good, they can be terrible".
And finally you'll hear me sing these lyrics, from Thomas Merton's poem Strange Islands:
When in the soul of the serene disciple
With no more fathers to imitate
Poverty is a success
It is a small thing to say the roof is gone
he has not even a house
Stars as well as friends
Are angry with the noble ruin
In several directions
There is no longer any need of comment
It was a lucky wind
that blew away his halo with his cares
It was a lucky sea
that drowned his reputation
I was in my friend Steve Bell's studio yesterday producing a new song called Divine Obedience, which I will be sharing in the coming weeks. I was asked to write the song by the folks who drafted the Barmen Today Declaration, inspired by the Barmen Declaration drafted by Karl Barth and others (and signed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer) in 1934. More on this later.
It is a 2 1/2 hour drive back home from Steve's studio in Winnipeg, and I found myself singing "come with me to the palace of nowhere, where all the many things are one", and thought, the Sunday Song and Rumination for this week will be Palace of Nowhere.
This week is about cosmic hope.
The reason I have been so drawn to making music and incorporating spoken word with James Finley, is because he walks in a lineage of mystics who discovered that mysterious place that belongs entirely to God; and then spent their lives trying to poetically describe this place, of dignity, of magnitude, of small simplicity, of love... the core of who and Whose we are.
Thomas Merton called it the True Self.
Another way it can be described is that we are "breathers of the breath of God".
Or the Psalmist said, "Where can I go from your Spirit O God?"
James Finley quotes Bonaventure in this song too when he says (about God)... "whose circumference is nowhere and whose center is everywhere.* The entire quote in the song by James Finley is a passage from his classic book Merton's Palace of Nowhere.
It is remarkable! That we get to walk in moments of conscious incarnation (which is not the same as self reflective) is an immense gift!
As I keep my eyes open to the times, I get sad sometimes because as I see the Christian religion being defended a lot, I don't see an awareness of the incarnation we claim to believe in, very much. We still have to look the part of some overreaching and empty purity claim, and often spend our whole lives not being aware of the miracle of getting to be a unique iteration of Divine Reality.
The Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu (370-287 BC) said, "come with me to the palace of nowhere, where all the many things are one." He was one of Thomas Merton's most beloved Eastern philosophers, to the point where, after years of study, Merton wrote a modern version of Chuang Tzu's sayings and published a book called The Way of Chuang Tzu. Of course, in some circles this sparked threat, that a Christian monk would be reading something other than Christian writings, but as James Finley says in our album on Merton, "Merton recognized depth, wherever he found it".
I love the palace of nowhere phrase, because it doesn't confuse the many things as not many things, but it speaks to the Mystery at the heart of all of this, that makes each "scandal of the particular", one.
So in this track, you'll hear me singing the words of Chuang Tzu, you'll hear the spoken word of James Finley and then you'll hear audio of Thomas Merton speaking on the "kind of monasticism that cannot be extinguished" from the last talk he ever gave. At the end of that talk, he did a lunch, and then went up to his room, to have a bath, and he died of electrocution from a short in a fan. That these words were recorded, is a gift, and I am in gratitude to the Merton Legacy Trust and Now You Know Media for the use of the audio. Precious!
"God shows up disguised as your life." - Paula D'Arcy
"A false sense of security is the only kind there is." - Michael Meade
"Jesus is the living icon of this power-shift: God becoming powerless in Jesus." - Richard Rohr
"Move into the larger mind, for the kingdom is at hand." - Jesus (Matthew 3:2)
I picked up a copy of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale from my local bookstore this week. It was a strange week to read the novel, really. With the historical Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh event, with hundreds of thousands of women marching and crying out #EleNão (#NotHim) as the Brazilian presidential election looms in favour of a far-right misogynist, along with reading this dystopian novel about a future in which women have no power (like... most of history), I couldn't help but sort of freak out a bit.
So I want to talk about power-culture and hopefully, recovery, for this week's Sunday Song and Rumination and am going to share a song called Metanoia. The version you will hear is a live version from a concert.
Earlier this week I shared a meme that's been shared around social media lately, that says "she's someone's wife, mother, daughter, sister", which has been a common slogan to try and humanize a woman or girl who has been sexually assaulted. Only in the case of the meme I shared, the "'s wife, mother, daughter, sister" was scratched out and all that was left was "she's someone". I shared it because I think these basic context shifts are needed on so many levels, gender and race, certainly (especially) included. (As Dulcé Sloan said recently, as covered by Huff Post, "I don't have time to be a woman, I'm too busy being black." I believe you Dulcé.)
I found it compelling that the only men who commented on or shared this meme, were initiated men through Illuman, a men's rites of passage program founded by Fr. Richard Rohr. I have read Fr. Rohr's book Adam's Return, and I know that the men who commented and shared my post have gone through a ritual dying to themselves. In other words, they have found a recovery program, that helps them step down, from the power-culture, in which they were raised.
In many initiation cultures throughout history there has been the practice of what some call the death lodge, which is, going through a ritual process, usually while fasting alone in nature, of dying... before you die. One of Jesus' most famous quotes, comes from an Asia Minor mystery religion initiation practice, in which the young man would take a grain of wheat in his hand and symbolically plant it while out on his rite of passage. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit...
Whenever I see the face of someone who is on the path of descent but can't believe it is happening to them, I feel compassion, but I also feel their own internal relief and in that, I champion their relief. That somewhere in there, way deep down past all the "archys" (patriarchy, oligarchy, etc) they want to get caught. To get "crucified". To be liberated from the pretence, maybe. But I think it is more than that. I think it is Mythic. God shows up disguised as your life as Paula D'Arcy so perceptively said... and if you have to face the music... maybe somewhere in there, you are lucky that you had to. More lucky than that schmo who got away with whatever needed to be aired, whatever needed to be apologized for, or confessed. Because here's the thing... this is what Jesus was getting at all along... Jesus in the desert (get behind me patriarchy... I mean... Satan), Jesus with the woman at the well, seated so that he was lower than her (a beautiful political maneuver), Jesus standing with the Samaritan, someone outside of his own circle, Jesus appearing to his female disciples first after the resurrection.
This is the path.
In the case of the person who found themselves not in a position of power, but in a position of disempowerment, it is time for the woman at the well to stand, it is time for the disempowered to rise. Whatever the truth is about the Ford/Kavanaugh case (and as a survivor myself, like so many thousands, I felt like she was speaking for me, and I believe her), this is an opportunity for us to probe our own lives.
There was a simple little page in The Handmaid's Tale that really struck me, and I'd like to share it with you. It speaks to power and disempowerment in such an exigent way - giving the reader the experience of looking out from a place of disempowerment. To set it up for you: the protagonist, along with all the other women in her country, has recently had her bank accounts and credit cards frozen and has lost her job, because she is a woman.
That night, after I'd lost my job, Luke wanted me to make love. Why didn't I want to? Desperation alone should have driven me. But I still felt numbed. I could hardly even feel his hands on me.
What's the matter? he said.
I don't know, I said.
We still have ... he said. But he didn't go on to say what we still had. It occurred to me that he shouldn't be saying we, since nothing that I knew of had been taken away from him.
We still have each other, I said. It was true. Then why did I sound, even to myself, so indifferent?
He kissed me then, as if now I'd said that, things could get back to normal. But something had shifted, some balance. I felt shrunken, so that when he put his arms around me, gathering me up, I was small as a doll. I felt love going forward without me.
He doesn't mind this, I thought. He doesn't mind this at all. Maybe he even likes it. We are not each other's anymore. Instead, I am his. Unworthy, unjust, untrue. But that is what happened.
So Luke: what I'd like to ask you now, what I need to know is, Was I right? Because we never talked about it. By the time I could have done that, I was afraid to. I couldn't afford to lose you.
(Excerpt from The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, page 171)
I chose the song Metanoia, because although it is often translated generally as "repent", it can be more thoroughly translated as "move beyond your small mind" or, "move into the larger mind", which mirrors the grain of wheat passage and the posture Jesus took as a male, born in his time. I thought this was a passage of scripture that could be sung into the juvenile forum we often find ourselves in these days, as the Great Turning feels another whiplash of turbulence from the age that is passing away.
Christ and the Samaritan Woman, by Henryk Slemiradski 1890, Lviv National Art Gallery
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on an aspiring permaculture farm on the Canadian prairies.