Brian Wilcox 'Dahlia-Flowered Zinnia'
The most important thing you can share with someone is not something - encouragement, comfort, advice, information, friendship, money, a compliment -, it is you. The Way entails our becoming the person others need us to share with them. One way of saying this, in a religious sense, is we need to become prayer.
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July 7, 2005 - in beginning as the new pastor of a Christian church, relating a visiting of persons unable to attend public worship due to age or illness ...
On this hot July day, we drive from house to house, visiting persons many call shut-ins: that is, persons unable to attend public worship due to health or age. We enter each home. I sit and hear the stories of these older saints. They were all born long before me. I have never seen them before, but I feel contentment, sitting, listening, and being with them. I listen to them, keep my eyes intent on them, reminding myself that is all I need to do. I resist any temptation to move into action mode.
In one home I am struck with a fresh joy, as I recall the words of one of my vows: Sacrament of the Present Moment. It dawns on me that being present with these persons, who need someone to listen to their stories about the past and their families, is fulfilling my contemplative vows.
As I, now, later reflect, one amazing thing about these saints today was not one was bitter or complained about their lot in life. Yet, each had major health challenges facing them or a spouse.
Through such moments of prayerful being with others, I realize more deeply that I never meet a stranger. I know that prayerfully being with is a different type of presence than just sharing a common space with another. Many persons can share a space, talk, and enjoy the company of another person. But, prayerfully being with is different.
After the visits today, I, also, realize that ministry, whether as a clergyperson are a layperson, is very simple. Ministry entails ongoing conversion to all persons, conversion consequent of our reconciliation to our Creator. Being reconciled to God, we can become reconciled to others. This reconciliation does not mean that we have been antagonistic to another. Rather, reconciliation can mean a movement to true intimacy of the heart with another. Again, this is more than sharing space with another.
Henri J. M. Nouwen writes of conversion to others. “Conversion to God … means," says Nouwen," a simultaneous conversion to the other people who live with you on this earth” (With Open Hands). So, whenever any human is with another in Loving Compassion, God is present, even when the name or title “God” is not acknowledged as present. Any such compassionate being with is, in the best sense, Christian, for to be Christian is to be Christlike.
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Prayerfully being with others does not mean praying silently or audibly when with them - though it does not exclude this. One can pray prayers and never be prayerful, and prayers will not be prayerful, unless the one praying is herself prayerful.
"Prayerful" means you radiate the Spirit of Prayer. You are not trying to be caring or compassionate or loving, you are this, for you have become this.
Being prayerful, "you" and "prayer" are united in Spirit. You live with such reverence for Life and others that you embody Grace through a silent, present posture of being.
Embodied prayerfulness is not a natural gift, this is a grace of persons who spend time alone with the Beloved, communing heart-with-heart in loving receptivity, so becoming prayer beyond prayers and praying. Through this time in the Light, in the sanctum of the heart, one slowly becomes prayer, not as a prayer or one who prays, but as Presence. And this effulgence of the Light is more impressive, for the one so filled manifests it un-selfconsciously.
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The Taoist philosopher Chuang-tzu (b. ca. 639 BCE) speaks of this contemplative embodiment of Life: "Full of radiance, she never shines bright; ..." This one is not an obtrusive, aggressive, or attention-seeking person. This one, being modest, shines the more, for she feels no need to impress others with her light. Her strength is in her humbleness, her love in her self-emptiness. When persons turn to her, they turn to the Way.
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(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
Quote of Chuang-tzu, from Chuang-tzu. The Tao of Perfect Happiness - Selections Annotated & Explained. Trans. and Ed. Livia Kohn.