Oh Holy Weekend!
I know this was an Easter many of us will never forget. The beauty of the Easter Sunday, at least in Central Austin, was so incredible and refreshing after the rain of the past few days. Here are a few thoughts and ideas for practices to ease you into the new week. We hope you are finding practices that provide grounding in the midst of change, as we all work to find life-giving rhythms and craft a new sense of routine into our weeks.
Centering Prayer with an Eastertide focus:
Since Eastertide lasts 50 days, consider finding a word that you would like to hold as an intention particularly during this time and incorporate it into a Centering Prayer practice. Contemplative Outreach lays out the process of Centering Prayer simply and beautifully here. I haven’t had time to watch this recording myself yet, but was super excited to find this Zoom tutorial Contemplative Outreach recorded around facilitating meaningful prayer and other facilitated group experiences during the Pandemic. Perhaps it could be helpful for folks in our midst. If you try centering prayer and you like it, you can support and be supported by Contemplative Outreach right here in Austin by contacting or connecting with our local chapter, Heart of Texas Contemplative Outreach. The Contemplative Outreach website, and the brief workshop I took on Centering Prayer years ago, both suggest engaging in Centering Prayer twice a day, for 20 minutes each session. That is my #aspiration, but we all have to start somewhere, and my somewhere will likely be closer to 5 minutes, three times a day (no one tell Thomas Keating!).
Something we can do together, apart:
Last week I shared a link to a piece in The New Yorker by Catherine Ceb, and an excerpt from the article got me thinking:
“(My father) also handed out bulletins in the narthex and delivered the faithful to the altar for Communion, but my favorite of all the tasks he performed was ringing the bell, at the start of worship and at the end, but also near the middle of the service. Later in life, when I took a more meaningful interest in the liturgy and all its components—learning such wonderful things as why we share the peace before the Sacrament of Communion (so that we make peace with one another before God makes peace with us), and why the elements include water for weakening the wine (so that even the poor can bring an offering unto God)—it finally occurred to me to ask my pastor why we rang the bell when we did, during the Lord’s Prayer. In response, he asked if I could name any of the farmers who were not there for worship because of the harvest or recall any of the homebound who could no longer make it to services. We ring the bell for them, he told me, so that they know when we have gathered and when we are sent back into the world, and so that, no matter how far they are from the sanctuary, they can join us in reciting the words that Jesus taught us to pray. For almost as long as the Church has existed, bells have called Christians together when they have to be apart.”
The author goes on to name how, after moving to a large city, she learned to consider other sounds that were more frequent than church bells (like ambulance sirens) as a call to prayer. Consider what your own personal call to prayer will be over the next week or weeks, and try implementing it in your daily practice. Or connect with your community and covenant to a corporate call to prayer. Maybe it’s just the chimes on your phone set for three specific times a day, or maybe there’s an old, underused bell laying somewhere in a china cabinet (I’ve got one I brought my kids back as a souvenir from Indiana). If there are children in your house, they could probably come up with their own brilliant substitutes, and when in doubt, there is always the old glass-and-spoon (the thinner the glass, the clearer the sound). Perhaps it’s just the act of ringing the bell in solidarity, knowing that it’s calling people of faith together in spirit when our physical bodies must remain distanced, reminding us that we are not alone. Or maybe, like Catharine Ceb, it’s an environmental noise. Every time you hear bird song, or a helicopter, or a wind chime. Anything works that calls us to pay closer attention to the world around us and the time we are passing in it, inviting us to a more habitual and intentional prayer practice individually and together.
We are trucking along with these verses at my house but committing the poetry to memory is still a work in progress. This week’s poem is pretty epic, so perhaps consider zoning in on a few lines or a stanza. I’ve included an excerpt below:
This week’s verse: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)
This week’s poem: The very long, very rich, very intense “East Coker” by T.S. Eliot. Find a section of lines that resonate with you and commit them to memory. Here’s an excerpt, or you can read the whole (again, very long but very brilliant) poem here.
…There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
Easter joy and courage to you this week, and many blessings,