'A Sunday Morning Walk... Deerfield, MA'
While the contemplative worships mostly in silence, this does not exclude passion. An underflow of hushed fervor draws one to sink deeper into the depths of Grace, to know the One more intimately. Surely, inner Prayerfulness does not exclude heartfelt, impassioned love.
A Buddhist nun made a wooden statue of Buddha and covered it with gold leaf. Years passed, and she was still taking the figure with her wherever she went. She joined a group of disciples at a small temple. There were many statues of Buddha, each with its altar. The nun began, as usual, burning incense daily to her Buddha figure. She became dismayed to discover that some smoke from her incense floated off to the altars of other disciples. So, she made a paper funnel through which smoke from her incense could go directly and wholly to her golden Buddha. This funneling blackened the nose of the Buddha image.
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In the blackened-nose Buddha story, we could see the nun in different ways, positive and negative. Why did she feel all her incense smoke must go only to her golden Buddha? Is her relationship to her image a contradiction of Buddhist teaching on non-attachment? Likely, most persons would see her devotion as extreme, even eccentric.
We can see the nun's devotion, also, as a sign of a robust and focused love. For her, the statute is the means of expressing a singular ardency. Her passion for Buddha was already reflected in her making the image by hand and covering it with gold.
While the nun's devotion might seem unreasonable, possibly we need such examples of singular devotion to remind us our zeal is often lacking. At least, such heartfelt love can remind us to keep ardent our passion. Perhaps, we need such witnesses to the extravagance of love.
As we deepen in the Life of Prayer, we find we rely less on feelings. Yet, feelings of love arise and dissipate still. Underlying silent Prayerfulness is subtle, passionate devotion and, so, deep-seated affection. Without such love, what motive do we have to surrender to the depths of Grace? Why would we disown our right to ourselves to the Beloved One?
Love, great love, underlies Prayerfulness. And better we beware of lacking this fervor of devotion than being considered extreme in our worship of Grace.
So, like rekindling the fire, we stimulate the burning in our hearts of the Fire of Love. How do we do this? One means is by loving Love Itself.
Within, too, all said here is our inclusion of the many ways persons worship, often based on their cultures. Persons worship in vastly different ways, including within particular spiritual traditions. Any sincere act of worship, one which may be foreign to us or appear naive to us, is an act of love. What matters in devotion is the posture of the heart above all else, is it not?
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.